Rules Guy: Can I use debris on the green as a backstop when I'm putting? (

I was playing a match the other day and had a slick downhill putt to win a hole. If the putt doesn’t hit the hole, it will roll off the green. Wind had deposited some debris — leaves and sticks — near the hole, which I decided to keep in place, since they might slow the ball down in the event my putt missed. As my putt rolled toward the cup, it became apparent that it would indeed miss. My opponent rushed in to clear the debris, and sure enough my ball rolled back into the fairway. I don’t believe I broke a rule, as I didn’t place the items there. Did my opponent?

—Daryle Peterson, Pompton Plains, N.J.

It’s like Oscar Madison and Felix Unger had a golf match! (Google it, kids.)

You, Oscar/Daryle, are indeed in the clear, since a player is entitled to play the course as he finds it. Yes, even if he’s leaving loose impediments in place to act as a potential backstop. Meanwhile, Felix has breached Rule 11.3 — you can’t take action to deliberately affect what’s happening with a ball once it’s in motion. The penalty? Loss of hole … and 40 lashes with a feather duster!

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