My mate says a hole can be placed on the green only where it’s flat for at least a foot and a half around the cup. Is that true? B. Fisher, Bunbury, WA

We hope you didn’t have a bet riding on this, because your mate is mostly correct. The USGA, for example, recommends that “an area two to three feet in radius around the hole should be as nearly level as possible and of uniform grade. In no case should holes be located in tricky places, or on sharp slopes, where a ball can gather speed. A player above the hole should be able to stop the ball at the hole.” The USGA also prefers hole locations that can hold the typical approach shot. That’s why you rarely see the US PGA Tour put a cup closer than four paces from the edge of a green; it’s too severe. On Masters Sunday in 2015, only one cup was closer than five paces (the par-5 second). If you don’t want to admit defeat, just remember that there’s no such thing as an illegal hole location. The USGA “recommends” but doesn’t mandate spots. Hole placements are typically picked by the superintendent. Pray he got a good night’s sleep.

What’s the shelf life of golf balls that are stored in a cool, dry place? R. stockton, Cape Schanck, Vic

We never seem to have them long enough to find out. In fact, if you don’t mind dusting off a few of the sleeves you seem to be hoarding, we’d appreciate the donation. Titleist says its balls are still good after five years. If you’re wondering about a ball you scooped out of a pond, it depends on how long it was submerged. We once tested the average driving distance of two-piece balls that had been underwater. Balls submerged for more than eight days lost five metres on a centre-face strike. Conversely, today’s multilayer tour-quality balls stored in your garage for long periods should be fine.

Is it bad etiquette to keep my mates’ scores? I never bring it up. I’d just like to know.  ‘Finchy’, Sydney, NSW

We’re assuming you want your real name kept out of this, but if you prefer to be called “Finchy,” we also have to assume you’re at a higher risk of getting slapped for reasons beyond secretly keeping your mates’ scores. Why the covert operation? It’s perfectly acceptable to offer to keep other players’ scores and then ask for them at the conclusion of each hole.

But if there’s no cash on the line, and someone in your group doesn’t want his or her score kept, you’re going to be smack bang in Awkwardville if you’re caught doing it. Golf scores are a private matter.

Now what?

  • A tee marker was uprooted,so I stuck it back in the ground and teed off. Penalty?

Possibly not, but we wouldn’t recommend doing that again. Let course officials (the “Committee”) sort it out. If you were deemed to have gained an advantage by playing from the place you determined to be the teeing ground, the stroke-play penalty is two shots. In match play, if you and your opponent disagree where to tee from, you can make a claim before either of you play from the next teeing ground, and the Committee would resolve the dispute. It’s the same if you had left the marker  and estimated the teeing ground.

  • New grips?
    Every 40 rounds.
  • New golf shoes?
    Every 15 rounds.
  • New beer?
    Every three holes.

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