March 13, 2008

Golf Guru

Things every golfer should know

Q: A friend's tee shot hung on the lip of the hole. He walked over, cast his shadow on the ball, and it fell in within 10 seconds. His partner said it wasn't an ace because his shadow caused the grass to shrink, which made the ball fall in. True?

-- Fred Jufiar / Frankfort, N.Y.

A: Your friend has remarkable powers if he can indeed make grass shrink. People with lawns would love to hire him. If it were true, it's possible he might fall foul of Rule 1-2 (Exerting Influence on Ball), which says golfers can't take "any action to influence the position or the movement of a ball" (except through usual means such as hitting it).

But this would be just as implausible as penalizing Tiger Woods for his seemingly psychic power of making a putt swerve into the cup. Your friend's ball toppled in within the 10 seconds he's allowed to determine if the ball is at rest (Rule 16-2), so it was indeed a hole-in-one. Drinks all round! Make mine a double.

Q: Is there a rule about spitting on the green after holing a putt? Such behavior could leave a mess.

-- Art Cecil / Baltimore

A: The Golf Guru has occasionally had the misfortune of playing golf with serial expectorators -- those hawking, drooling, spattering wretches, often cigar smokers, who can't seem to utter a sentence without a loud accompanying bodily ejection. I have always vowed never to play with them again.

Spitting anywhere on the course is a reprehensible act, an affront to your playing partners, to fellow golfers, to you and me, to Old Tom Morris, Young Tom Morris, and to the game. Spitting into the hole is even worse. It's borderline pathological. And it's what a spitting-mad Sergio Garcia did in a tournament a year ago after three-putting the 13th green at Doral. You can watch it on YouTube. "It's not a big deal," Garcia said afterward.

It's not like spitting is rare in sports, but you know what? It's a big deal. Maybe making it a criminal offense -- as it is in Singapore -- is going a bit far, but public spitters nevertheless deserve to be censured. There's nothing in golf's rule book on spitting, but it is a gross violation of the game's etiquette. Literally.

Send questions (with name and hometown) to the Golf Guru.