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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, April 6, 2006

Playing 'wrong ball' is no joke

 •  14-year-old leaves Hilo for 'love of the game'

Advertiser Staff

2005 Hawai'i golf calendar
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The Advertiser, with help from Ko Olina director of golf Greg Nichols, is offering this feature on the rules of golf. If you have a question regarding the rules of golf e-mail cmurayama@honoluluadvertiser.com.

Nichols recommends readers go to Play GolfAmerica.com for information on golf programs in their area. For additional rules information, ask your local Aloha Section PGA professional or go online to www.USGA.org.

PGA Tour pro Duffy Waldorf is known for playing with a golf ball colorfully decorated by one of his young daughters.

Besides being artistically pleasing, his chances of ever accidentally playing someone else's ball or what is known as a "wrong ball" are remote.

A wrong ball is defined as being any ball other than the player's ball in play, provisional ball or a second ball played under the appropriate rule.

It is a player's responsibility to play the proper ball and the player must be able to identify his ball.

The rules recommend that the player put an identification mark on his or her ball for that purpose.

If a player happens to play a wrong ball, the penalty is severe loss of hole in match play and a two-stroke penalty in stroke play.

Additionally, in stroke play, if the player does not correct his or her mistake and hole out with the correct ball, the penalty is even harsher disqualification.

In general, a player must hole out with the ball that he or she started with from the teeing ground, unless the ball is lost, hit out-of-bounds or the player substitutes another ball, whether or not the substituted ball is permitted.

A player may substitute a ball when proceeding under a rule that permits the player to do so.

An example would be making a substitution for a damaged ball or a ball lost or hit out of bounds.

If a player incorrectly substitutes a ball when the rules do not permit himor her to do so, then the substituted ball is not a wrong ball but becomes the ball in play and the player incurs the penalty prescribed by the applicable rule.

I once played in a match where one of the partners on our opponents' side (unnamed to protect the innocent) played a wrong ball on the 10th hole of the match.

His partner proceeded to berate the player unmercifully but with plenty of humor for such a careless mistake since now he was on his own against us.

He made a big deal about how to mark his ball and then to always identify it before playing a stroke. We ended up winning the hole.

As fate would have it, later in the match, the same player who had scolded his partner ended up playing a wrong ball himself out of deep rough next to the green that cost his team the hole and ultimately the match.

You could hear everyone's laughter but his all the way back to the clubhouse.

It certainly pays to know the rules but it's also important to be considerate when someone inadvertently breaks a rule.

You never know when you might find yourself in the same situation. After all, golf is supposed to be a game of etiquette.