I'm sure that you've seen this, too, but sometimes the exposed trench filled with stones gets overgrown leaving a faint depression. The existence of the stones just barely below the surface often can only be detected with a probe.
Of course, do what you like. However, you'll not get much sympathy nor change any minds here, simply because this is a Rules folder not a What Kind of White Belt Do You Wear folder. Most here choose to play by the Rules.
We can't really know given the facts presented. Rogolf's scenario is well within the realm of possibility, isn't it? It is not difficult to imagine the player rushing from the range to the first tee to make his starting time and failing to remove some nonconforming club like a Medicus from his bag. That's what caused me to guess only a 2 sp.
You're inclination is correct ... "may" means may not must. (There is such an animal as GUR from which play is prohibited, but that condition must be made known to the players in advance.) Secondly, I know you might feel gypped by the poor conditions but they're the same for all competitors.