The first concerns dropping from a cart path. My understanding has always been that in order to get relief from a cart path, it has to be artificially paved -- gravel and hard ground (that serve the function of cart paths) don't count. At my course all cart paths are indeed paved, so there's no question. But occasionally I will play another course with gravel paths or areas of hard ground around the green, and when I question a player taking relief, they say "local rule." I guess the course owners/managers can make a local rule for just about anything, but does this make sense? I can understand the desire to drop from gravel because of the potential for damaging a club, but hard ground wouldn't pose a problem. If you're that far off the fairway, you deserve the lie you get if it's on hard ground. Your thoughts?
Second question -- I'm playing in a senior tournament a few years ago, and the first tee times are at 7:45 am. Even though the course is technically closed to outside play until the tournament groups are all out of the way, the management makes a last-minute decision to make a few extra bucks and allow a foursome of knuckleheads to go off at 7:30 with the reminder to "repair ball marks and rake the bunkers." Apparently offended by this, the knuckleheads purposely leave huge footprints in the bunkers, creating problems for the tournament groups behind. As soon as management finds out what is going on, they escort the knuckleheads off the course. But in the interim, a guy in my group finds his ball in a 6-inch crater in the bunker. He calls for a ruling, and the rules official allows a drop in a different part of the bunker, no closer to the hole. No problem for me, but the two other guys in the group didn't agree and believed it was just his bad luck. The rules committee called it "abnormal ground conditions," which is a phrase I found in the rule book, but not in connection to a bunker. Agree or disagree with the ruling?