Q: In match play, if your ball is near an immovable obstruction and you think it will interfere with your swing, but your opponent disagrees, what options do you have?
- Beth (Myrtle Beach)
A: Beth, many people would suggest that you play two balls under Rule 3-3 "Doubt as to Procedure." Unfortunately, this Rule may only be used in stroke play. If you played a second ball in match play, it would be deemed a wrong ball. The penalty would be a loss of hole. See Decision 3-3/9.
So, you have two options. You can call for a rules official and let him or her make the decision. If an official is not available within a reasonable time, Rule 2-5 "Match Play Doubt as to Procedure; Disputes and Claims" requires you to continue the match without delay. Therefore, if you feel strongly about the immovable obstruction's interference, you can take relief, let your opponent make a claim, play out the hole, and ask an official later. Your opponent must notify you (i) they're making a claim, (ii) of the facts of the situation, and (iii) they want a ruling. The claim must be made before any player in the match plays from the next teeing ground or, in the case of the last hole of the match, before all players in the match leave the putting green.
If your opponent won the hole even after you took relief, there's not much point in seeking a ruling. However, if you won or halved the hole, then your opponent should take it to the Committee. If an official later states that you deserved relief from the obstruction, the hole's result stands. If the official states that there was no interference, your opponent wins the hole. You'll have to decide if this is a chance you're willing to take or not.