Sprinkler in line of putt! Hold the pole to tap in?

Sometimes when I play golf with a group, a situation will come up about the real rules of golf. While we don't have enough at stake to stress over a few strokes and a few dollars here and there, most of us want to learn and want to do things the right way. If I am unsure of something that happened out on the course, I usually check it out with USGA Rules and Decisions when I get home.  (Yes, it's true... I DO have to question everything! Not a flaw, in my opinion, it's just who I am.)  Some websites I find useful are:  http://www.barryrhodes.com

I thought it might be helpful to share my research occasionally, so here goes!
Situation #1: I'm putting from off the green, and a sprinkler is in the line of my putt. Can I move my ball?
No. A sprinkler would be an immovable obstruction, so would fall under Rule 24-2, which states that a player gets free relief if her ball liesinoronthe obstruction, or if the obstruction interferes with her stance or swing. Interference on the line of play isnotinterference under this rule.
However... Local Rules often tweak 24-2 to say that if the obstruction is within two club-lengths of the green, and the ball is within two club-lengths of the obstruction, then free relief may be had. Also, a tournamentCommitteewould also be allowed to permit relief. (Appendix I, Part A, 5d).
So that was interesting. I've seen it played that way, even on TV, but I never knew the rule!
Situation #2: My chip puts me a few inches from the hole. Am I allowed to hold the flagstick with one hand while I tap in my ball with the other?
Yes, surprisingly! Rule 17 covers flagstick issues, and the basic rule is that a player may have the flagstick attended, removed, or held up before making her stroke from anywhere on the course. The other main idea here is the two-stroke penalty if your ball hits the flagstick.
So it is not a breach of the rules to hold the pole with one hand while making your putt with the other, as long as your ball doesn't hit the stick.  (USGA Decision17-1/5)
In practice, this is never ever done, perhaps because of the risk of messing up your putt or accidentally letting the ball touch the stick. It is permissible, but not necessarily smart.
Thanks for listening, and let me know if you have a situation that you'd like me to research!

Harsh Lessons - March 1

The thing about my new Women's Club is that some groups I've played with are super casual about rules, as if we are just out playing a friendly round (which we are, but there's still a little money on the line), and some members are super strict and play by the Real Rules of Golf. This bothers me, because if there is a competition going on, everyone should be playing the same game! 

Being as I'm the new kid on the block, I probably won't say anything, yet.

ANYhow, yesterday I played with one of the sticklers...

The course is still a mess from the constant rain in January and February, and my ball ended up in the side of a bunker where the rain had created a deep crevasse. Had we been playing a "friendly" round, we reasonably could have called it a free drop (in the bunker, of course), like it would be for standing water. But NO! In the Real Rules of Golf, I can either play it as it lies, or I can call it unplayable (Rule 28) and add one stroke.

"The player may deem her ball unplayable at any place on the course,  except when the ball is in a water hazard. The player is the sole judge as to whether her ball is unplayable."
If I deem my ball unplayable, I take a one stroke penalty, and I have three choices:
1)  Play a ball from where I last played the original ball,
2)  Drop a ball behind the point where the ball lay, keeping that point directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind that point the ball may be dropped (except in a bunker, it must be dropped in the bunker); or
3)  Drop a ball within two club-lengths of the spot where the ball lay, not nearer the hole (and in a bunker, must be dropped in the bunker).