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My drive ended up in a pine straw mulch area. When I got to the ball, I found it sitting atop another ball that was clearly plugged. Do I get relief, and if so, what exactly? — John Andrako, Richmond, Va.
John, an abandoned ball is a movable obstruction.
As such, according to Rule 15.2a(2), if your ball is directly on top of it and not lying on anything else, you take relief by lifting the ball, removing the movable obstruction, and dropping your ball within one club-length of the spot directly underneath where the ball originally lay on top of the obstruction (no nearer the hole in the same part of the course).
More likely, however, your ball is also touching another part of the course. If so, relief is to remove the abandoned ball, and when your ball inevitably moves, replace it, again under Rule 15.2a.
For more relief guidance from our guru, read on …
My partner’s ball lands outside the bunker on the edge of the lip of a trap. He walks into the trap without a club to assess his lie. While in the trap, the ball moves and rolls into the bunker. Does he play the ball without penalty as it now lies in the bunker; play it as it lies with a one-stroke penalty for causing the ball to move, or replace the ball in its original position without penalty? — Andy Loesberg, via email
The answer: It depends.
The standard for considering the player to be the cause of a ball’s movement is “known or virtually certain.” That’s, like, 95 percent or more for any math types out there.
This case doesn’t sound like it reaches that threshold, in which case natural forces become the cause of the ball having moved. So, under Rule 9.3, your partner plays from the new spot in the bunker.
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