Reader: You're wrong about that rule!
The debate and discussion around the Camilo Villegas' disqualification
in Hawaii is an apt occasion to print a challenge by a New Mexico reader to a recent Golf Digest Rules page. (You see, we get challenged by "viewers" all the time). The answer to question about bending or breaking branches while taking one's stance drew this rebuke:
Question No. 4 asks, If your ball is next to a bush, are you penalized for backing into the bush, bending and breaking several branches? Your answer is "No, it is OK to follow the least intrusive course of action in taking your stance. It's OK to bend, move or break anything that's growing or fixed (Decision 13-2/1)." But Rule 13-2/1 states a player must not improve his lie or allow it to be improved by any of the following actions. Bullet point 2: "moving, bending or breaking anything growing or fixed." The answer should be, "Yes, you will be penalized for backing into a bush, bending and breaking several branches."
Skip Haines, Placitas, New Mexico
We asked Ron Kaspriske, editor of the Rules page, to respond:
Sorry it took so long to get back to you, but I’ve been out of town. To answer your question, it is permissible to bend or break branches in the process of fairly taking your stance. The word “fairly” is explained in detail in Decision 13-2/1 and goes on to say it allows the player to do “what is reasonably necessary” to take a stance. This includes backing into a branch, even if it causes the branch to bend of break. It’s listed in examples of fairly taking your stance. Sorry for the confusion, but our answer is correct. Ron Kaspriske
There are times, not often it seems, when the rules work for you. Thanks for the question.