He should have known better. Whenever sand/dirt is in play and it’s not obvious, I always ask an official. Plus the rules were all over the place and I always read that local rules sheet before I play.
That being said, the rules of golf are ridiculous and penal. My problem with this particular ruling is the official there is not obligated to say anything unless he is asked. The rules of golf are so complicated, even top flight officials need a special book of rulings.
It’s like trying to do your taxes and deal with the IRS without a CPA or tax attorney.
I know several officials that volunteer their services when they think their might be an issue, while others sneak around hoping to nail players with a penalty.
I know there are many that are going to criticize my point of view, but until you experience an issue with the rules in a big time situation, it’s like a man discussing the pain of childbirth.
Here is a personal story. The day I almost got banned from golf.
During a Nationwide event, I almost let my bad temper get the best of me. I was playing decent on Saturday after making the cut and I had chance to finish top 25 and get in the next event.
On my 11th hole I hit a drive left into a bush and had to take an unplayable lie. I measured my 2 club lengths and saw I needed all of it to have a clear shot. I tried to drop my ball as far out as possible and it landed outside the two club lengths.
I picked the ball up and was about to take my second drop, when an official I didn’t recognize jumped out from behind the bush and yelled at me, “why did you pick that ball up, it was in play?”
I informed Nurse Ratchett that the ball landed outside the two club lengths and I needed to drop again. He nodded his head and I dropped again. This time the drop went closer to the hole, so I picked my ball up and placed it where the second drop landed…as per the rules of golf, or so I thought.
I looked at the official and said, “OK?” assuming I was asking him if my ball was in play properly. He gave me no response and walked away.
I hit the ball on the green and two putted for a bogey. The head of Nationwide officials drives up to me and tells me I have been assessed a two stroke penalty for playing from the wrong spot. Apparently, the first drop that landed outside the two club lengths is treated as if it never existed and I was required to take another drop before I placed it.
I first asked the head of Nationwide officials who this eggnog was that was in my grill. He told me he was a visiting USGA official. I then told him I could not be penalized because said official told me my ball was in play properly and you can’t be penalized for doing what an official tells you.
The head of officials agreed and pulled away. He comes back two holes later and asks me exactly what I said. I rehashed the incident. I was then informed that saying “OK?” does not constitute asking if my ball was in play properly and the USGA official, who was hiding behind the bush, is not obliged to tell me anything unless I specifically ask if my ball is in play properly. The head of officials apologized to me profusely, but there was nothing he could do.
Needless to say I was angry and I shot a million the last few holes and was now out of contention. After I putted out on 18 I had to be physically restrained by another official and my caddy because I was off the give this USGA official what for. Actually I was going to kick his ass…literally.
I yelled to him, “even if you see me tomorrow cheating on purpose, I suggest you stay away from me.”
…and he did.