QIn match play, Player B is having a really bad hole. On a par-3, he hit his tee shot into a water hazard, took relief, and dumped another one in the hazard. Player A's ball is on the green with his first stroke. Player B gets in his cart, drives to the green, and just sits there. Player A, assuming that B is conceding the hole, picks up his ball. B objects and states that he did not concede A's next stroke. What's the ruling?
George (Myrtle Beach, SC)
ADecision 2-4/3 speaks of a very similar situation where Player B made an unclear statement that Player A assumed was a concession. The answer will be the same even though your situation is based on poor non-verbal communication.
The Decision says, "If B's statement could have reasonably led A to think his next stroke had been conceded, in equity (Rule 1-4), A should replace his ball as near as possible to where it lay, without penalty. Otherwise, A would incur a penalty stroke for lifting his ball without marking its position -- Rule 20-1 -- and he must replace his ball as near as possible to where it lay."
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From what you've described, A's assumption that B's behavior amounted to a concession sounds reasonable to me. Once B objected, I would have had A replace his ball and continue play without penalty.
Better communication would have prevented confusion in the first place. If A was unsure about B's intentions, he should have simply asked. It is okay to talk to an opponent after all. Don't be afraid to chat.