Rules & Etiquette Q&A: Anger Management

What are the rules implications for throwing clubs? For using them to line yourself up? To get a lodged ball out of a tree? We cover it all in this month’s Q&A.

By Genger Fahleson for Golf Digest Woman

Q: During a recent league match, a woman on the opposing team swore profusely after hitting bad shots and actually threw her club across the fairway. Is there a rule against such behavior?

A: There is no specific rule against throwing clubs or using foul language, but the USGA does have a Local Rule for Breach of Sportsmanship Code that allows organizations, leagues and clubs to revoke the playing privileges of or disqualify any player who intentionally offends others with unacceptable conduct (see Decisions 33-7/8 and US/33-8/101). If the behavior persists, ask your league coordinator or tournament committee to take action. And don’t forget, a good talking-to may get his attention.

Q: My ball lodged in the branches of a pine tree. One of my fellow-competitors swiped at the branches, and the ball fell out. Should I have been penalized?

A: If you weren’t involved in causing your ball to move, then neither you nor your fellow-competitor incur any penalty. But there’s a catch: You have to put the ball back in the tree (Rule 18-4, Ball at Rest Moved, and Decision 18-2a/28). After the ball is replaced, you can either hit it from where it sits (good luck with that) or deem it unplayable, take a penalty stroke and proceed under one of the three options available in Rule 28 (Ball Unplayable). The easiest option allows you to mark a spot on the ground directly underneath the ball in the tree, drop within two club-lengths of that spot but no nearer to the hole, and take a one-stroke penalty.

Q: Can you force the group behind you to wait while you’re looking for a ball?

A: While Decision 27/1.5 (Rule 27, Ball Lost or Out of Bounds; Provisional Ball) allows you to search for a lost ball for up to five minutes, that doesn’t mean the group behind you has to take a nap while you do. If the group behind you is looking at their watches, let them play through while you dig through the leaves for your ball. If they haven’t reached your group yet, keep searching. But only for five minutes.

Q: A player I know places a club on the ground in front of her feet to help position her body and aim when she sets up. Then she removes the club before hitting her shot. Is this allowed?

A: You can put every club in your bag on the ground to help you align a shot, as long as you pick them up before hitting. If you leave an alignment aid on the ground while swinging, you incur a two-stroke penalty or loss of hole in match play (Rule 8-2a, Advice; Indicating Line of Play, Decision 8-2a/1).

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