April - 2009

A striped range ball and red and blue sharpie markers. Two of my favorite possessions. What the heck does that have to do with the Rules of Golf? Not much really, but just bear with me…

Last Saturday, playing with Leo Delaney, Robert Goto and John Troilo, one member of this group (O.K. I said I wouldn't name him- but his name's not John or Robert) hit the wrong ball. He likes to play fast and sometimes this can be to the detriment of his fine game. Part of the fun in golf is teasing your buddies when something like this comes up, and we were merciless! It got me thinking about how and why I mark my ball with large red and blue lines and in fact, I've done this for over twenty years. The one Rule of Golf where the penalty strokes can seem to endlessly add up, is when you play a wrong ball. Keep playing the wrong ball and you can (eventually) be disqualified. Taking steps to mark your ball so you can absolutely identify it is essential in avoiding this potential rules nightmare. The reason I started marking my ball with distinctive red and blue lines is because, years ago, during the club championship, I hit my drive into the trees on the right while playing the tenth hole. We couldn't find my ball, but soon realized there was a good chance the group playing on the first hole might have picked it up. When I asked the players on the first green, his friends, laughing, gave him up, and he pulled my ball out of his pocket! Guess he thought it was his lucky day. (the striped range ball)

Playing a ball with unique markings can at times come back to haunt you- Anyone who played golf at San Clemente over the years would have had the great fortune to meet Alan Cook. Dave Cook, Linda Cook and now Dave's son Chris are all carrying on the wonderful, warm family feeling that Alan instituted into the Pro shop many years ago. We all were blessed and lucky to have been around and get to know Alan Cook. Alan loved to joke and always brightened everyone's day. He was also quite clever and invented a little machine where he could hand-stripe any brand ball and make it one of his range balls. One day, (during a rare practice session for me) reaching into my bucket of range balls, there was my beautifully striped new ball that I had hit into the range only a week earlier! I kept it, and it reminds me of a wonderful man.

This would not be the last time for me that a wayward shot would somehow return to its original owner. Who hasn't hit a shot O.B. left on sixteen and had it returned? Thanks, Tom Evans. Bill Montgomery was so kind to immediately recognize my mark and promptly return my O.B. shot from the middle of the 6th fairway after it about took his head off while he was innocently hitting balls on the driving range. A few months ago, another treasure came back to me after spending two weeks in the cold, lonely bushes next to the road by the thirteenth hole, courtesy of Mr. Scott Moore. Scott's a rather famous artist so I immediately grabbed the opportunity and had him autograph that one! But the oddest occurrence happened recently while playing with my lovely wife Gail, which ties this whole story back to the Rules of Golf and being able to identify your ball in play. We were playing the 10th hole, and I hit my second shot slightly long and left, just off the green. Gail hit her shot left and a little further past mine. She arrived at her ball first, and said, "here's your ball, right next to mine". "What?-that can't be, my ball is right here, next to the green." When I walked up there, sure enough-my ball, with my markings! As we were trying to figure this out, a player quickly comes from the 12th fairway claiming his ball. When I mentioned to him that his ball used to me mine, he excitedly told us how well he had been playing with this brightly colored sphere that he had just found yesterday in the bushes next to the sixteenth hole. He offered to return it to me, but I quickly thanked him for his kindness and wished him well with his new 'lucky' ball… The lesson is, mark your ball so that you can positively identify it and never incur this nasty two-stroke penalty. And, who knows- somehow, oddly, you may in the strangest ways, see them again.

15-3. Wrong Ball

Stroke Play

If a competitor makes a stroke or strokes at a wrong ball, he incurs a penalty of two strokes.

The competitor must correct his mistake by playing the correct ball or by proceeding under the Rules. If he fails to correct his mistake before making a stroke on the next teeing ground or, in the case of the last hole of the round, fails to declare his intention to correct his mistake before leaving the putting green, he is disqualified.

strokes made by a competitor with a wrong ball do not count in his score. If the wrong ball belongs to another competitor, its owner must place a ball on the spot from which the wrong ball was first played.

Exception: There is no penalty if a competitor makes a stroke at a wrong ball that is moving in water in a water hazard. Any strokes made at a wrong ball moving in water in a water hazard do not count in the competitor's score.

(Lie of ball to be placed or replaced altered - see Rule 20-3b.) (Spot not determinable - see Rule 20-3c.)