Rules to Play By 4 Things to Know

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Editor's note: Each week, Ray Herzog, a rules expert from the San Diego Golf Academy in Orlando, Fla., will be answering reader-submitted questions involving the Rules of Golf. Look for Ray's Q&A every Thursday on GOLFCHANNEL.com.
 
If, during play, lead tape from, in this case a driver/or putter, becomes dislodged or accidentally removed, (I AM aware that you cannot replace with fresh tape), BUT if you leave the club as is (less the original tape) can the club be legally continued to be played with for the balance of the round? OR must you declare the club non-conforming from that point to rounds end and not use at all, avoiding penalty or DQ? -- Jeff Kirkland, Mt. Pleasant, SC
 
Jeff,
 
The answer to your question about lead tape being removed from the golf club during play can be found in Rule No. 4 (Clubs). 4-2 deals with Playing Characteristics Changed and Foreign Material. The first question a rules official would ask you is: How was the tape removed from the club? The answer they would want to hear is: In normal course of play.
 
If the tape falls off during a practice swing or a stroke at your golf ball, you are allowed to do one of two things. You can use the club in its damaged state for the remainder of the round or restore the club to its previous condition. When restoring the club, you can try to re-apply the tape that fell off or apply new tape. If you are using new tape, every effort should be made to restore the club, as nearly as possible, to its previous condition.
 
If the tape is removed other than in normal course of play, the club may not be used for the remainder of the round. The penalty for using the club again during the round would be disqualification.
 
Everyone thinks you cannot apply new tape to the club during the round. If you need to see it in writing, the answer can be found in The Decisions on The Rules of Golf, 4-2/0.5.
-- Ray
 
I had a long putt and had one of the foursome attend the stick. As the ball approached the hole he pulled the flagstick. The stick stuck to the cup and he ended up raising the cup itself above the putting surface. My ball hit the cup and remained within a tap-in away. It would have obviously (gone) in. We werent sure what the call was. I just played the shot from where it ended up and considered it a two putt. Whats the call? -- Art Williams
 
Art,
 
It is amazing how many people have asked me the exact same question you have. The rule book defines the hole-liner as an outside agency. So in this case, a ball in motion was deflected or stopped by an outside agency. If you look in your rule book under 19-1, it will tell you to play the ball as it lies when this happens. Congratulations, Art; you made the correct ruling.
 
You might have been upset with the person attending the flagstick that day because he cost you a stroke, but in reality he might have saved you one. If the flagstick was stuck in the hole and the hole-liner did not come out of the hole, your putt would have struck the flagstick. The penalty for striking an attended flagstick is two strokes. So in the long run, it all depends on if you are a glass half full or glass half empty guy; either way you made the correct call.
-- Ray
 
Hi Ray,
 
A member of my club changes balls between holes. He'll play a performance ball (Pro V1) on par 3s and then switch to a distance ball (Noodle) on par 5s and long par 4s. He says you can change a ball during a hole if it's damaged (scuffed) and anytime between holes. (i.e. after finishing one and before starting the next). Is this true? Seems unfair (yes, he usually takes my $$$). -- Mark, Honolulu, Hawaii

 
Mark,
 
There are two separate questions that I would like to answer for you:
 
1. Can you change types of golf balls between holes?
 
The answer is yes. He is allowed to change types of golf balls. The only time you cannot do this is when the One Ball Condition is in effect. The One Ball condition can be found in the back of the rule book in Appendix 1. PGA TOUR events use the one ball rule; most country clubs do no apply this condition. He is not breaking any rules yet.
 
2. Can you change a ball during a hole if its damaged?
 
The term you used in your question was scuffed. If your friends golf ball is scuffed because he keeps bouncing it off of the cart path, it is not considered damaged. Rule 5-3 deals with a ball unfit for play. It states:
 
A ball is unfit for play if it is visibly cut, cracked, or out of shape. A ball is not unfit for play if its surface is scratched or scraped
 
Since your friends ball was just scuffed, he cannot take it out of play during play of the hole; he has to wait until he holes out. Mark, I did noticed you live in Honolulu, so if you need me to come out and explain this rule to your buddy in person, I am an email away.
-- Ray
 
This ruling has bothered me for a long time. Quite a few years back (Craig Stadler) was disqualified for putting a handkerchief down when he had to hit out from under a tree. He did not want to get his pants dirty. They said that he was building a stance. My question is when a player takes off his shoes and socks isnt he also building a stance? -- Rich Patrick
 
Rich,
 
Rule 13-3 deals with Building a Stance. I think everyone who saw Craig Stadler get a two-stroke penalty for kneeling on the towel agrees with you. That ruling seemed to be unfair. Would it be fair for me to back my golf cart under a tree limb, stand on the bumper, and try to hit my ball that was stuck in a branch, probably not. The rule book defines a towel as equipment just like my golf cart. So when Craig knelt on the towel, it was like me standing on the bumper. We both were building a stance.
 
The last part of your question referred to taking off your shoes and socks as building a stance. That is a question I have never heard before. I discussed it with some of my students in our advanced rules class this week and we decided that taking off your shoes and socks would actually be un-building a stance. There is nothing in the rule book that prohibits you from un-building a stance.
 
Thank you for your questions,
Ray Herzog
 
Email your Rules of Golf questions to Ray