Rules Guy: What do you do when a free club-length of relief ends up on a cart path?

What do the rules say about relief ending up on a cart path?

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The Rules of Golf are tricky! Thankfully, we’ve got the guru. Our Rules Guy knows the book front to back. Got a question? He’s got all the answers.

Due to rain, our club decided to use preferred lies during the club championship. On the 4th hole, a competitor took the one-club length relief allowed under the Local Rule for preferred lies, then claimed relief from a cart path that now interfered with his stance. His original lie was behind a tree, and the relief provided him a clearer path to the green. Was he clever or all wet? — Paul Hinz, Sartell, Minn.

Paul, this is precisely why the Rules recommend that preferred lies not be used in the entire general area and instead be limited just to parts of the general area cut to fairway height or less — otherwise, there is definite potential for a player to sashay out of golf jail.

If the Committee indeed enacted the Local Rule in the entire general area, once the player uses his free club-length and then has interference from an abnormal course condition such as a cart path, he would be allowed to take relief under Rule 16.1b.

Once finished doing so, he could then prefer his lie under the Local Rule again if so desired. We thus prefer that the Local Rule be done in the recommended fashion.

golf cart driving
Rules Guy: What do you do when your ball lands on a golf cart that drives away?
By: Rules Guy

For more cart-path guidance from our guru, read on …

In a junior event, one of my competitors hit his tee shot in the rough, where an unsuspecting grandmother/ spectator ran over it with her golf cart, causing the ball to be severely embedded. We elected to give him a free drop, concluding that the embedded ball rule applied. Afterward, though, we wondered if we should have proceeded using the outside agency rule instead. Did we apply the right rule? — Ryan O’Rourke, West Bloomfield, Mich.

Like Whitney Houston, Rules Guy believes the children are our future. And he commends you, Ryan, for your deep interest in the rules and wishes you success in your competitive undertakings.

As it happens, your second-guessing is justified. To be embedded, the ball needs to be in its own pitch mark as a result of the previous stroke, per Rule 16.3.

Instead, Rule 9.6 applies, meaning no penalty and replace the ball — and then, because the lie was altered, Rule 14.2d tells you how to replace it. That’s in the nearest lie most similar to the original lie within one club length of the ball, no nearer the hole and in the same area of the course as the ball’s original spot.

Remember Whitney’s advice too: Never walk in anyone’s shadow. (Google it, or ask your parents.)

Need help unriddling the greens at your home course? Pick up a custom Green Book from 8 AM Golf affiliate Golf Logix.

Got a question about the Rules? Ask the Rules Guy! Send your queries, confusions and comments to We promise he won’t throw the book at you.

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