Sunday, 27 June 2010

Causing Your Ball to Move – Rule 18-2

In most circumstances, when a golfer accidentally moves their ball that is in play there is a penalty of one stroke under Rule 18-2 and the ball has to be replaced. For example, this includes;
  • Treading on, or kicking their ball while searching for it in most situations – but see the first exception below.
  • Striking their ball as they make a practice stroke.
  • Dropping a glove, towel, club or other equipment on their ball.

The same is true when a player picks up their ball when they are not entitled to under the Rules. For example;

  • When their ball is on the apron and not on the putting green.
  • When identifying their ball without following the correct procedure (click here for my blog on this subject).
  • When they think that a hole has been won in match play and it has not.
  • When they forget that it is a strokes competition in which they must hole out (or be disqualified).
  • When they mistakenly think that it is not the ball that they have been playing with on that hole.
  • When they think that they are entitled to relief and they are not.
  • When the wind or gravity has moved their ball and they wrongly assume that it must be replaced.

However, it is important to remember that there are seven exceptions listed in Rule 18-2a, where no penalty is incurred when a player causes their ball in play to be moved. They are;

  • In searching for a ball in a hazard covered by loose impediments or sand, for a ball in an obstruction or abnormal ground condition or for a ball believed to be in water in a water hazard - Rule 12-1. (This Rules was changed in January 2012 and the penalty is now the same as for causing a ball to move through the green.)
  • In repairing a hole plug or ball mark - Rule 16-1c
  • In measuring - Rule 18-6
  • In lifting a ball under a Rule - Rule 20-1
  • In placing or replacing a ball under a Rule - Rule 20-3a
  • In removing a loose impediment on the putting green - Rule 23-1
  • In removing movable obstructions - Rule 24-1.

Remember, that the provisions and exceptions to Rule 18-2a also apply when the player’s caddie, or partner in a four-ball or foursomes, causes the player’s ball to move.

I will cover the rulings that apply when somebody else moves your ball in play in a separate blog.

Until then, good golfing,

Barry Rhodes

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KSUCivilEngr said...

Under Rule 18, if a ball is accidentally moved by the player (let's say he kicks the ball in the rough while searching for it), he incurs a one stroke penalty and must replace the ball, correct? Based on that scenario I have two questions: 1) What happens if the player does not know the specific spot where the ball was impacted? 2) If the player didn't see the ball until it was impacted, how can the lie be determined? 3) If the ball is not replaced and the player makes a stroke, then the breach of the rule penalty of two additional strokes are applied?

Barry Rhodes said...


Yes, there is a one stroke penalty for accidentally moving your ball in play.

To answer your questions;
1. If the spot where the ball was at rest is not determinable the ball must be dropped (not placed) as near as possible to the spot where it originally lay, Rule 20-3c.
2. See above.
3. If the player does not replace the ball where it was before they moved it they incur a two stroke penalty for playing from the wrong place, but this cancels the original one stroke penalty for moving the ball in play.


adrazan said...

Pin in hole and golfer putts and ball lodges between pin and hole amd doesn't drop
What is the rule?

The Secretary said...

Hi Barry

What is the ruling if your opponents (matchplay) or fellow playing partners (typical Saturday morning competition) kick the ball when searching...can you replace with no penalty?

The Secretary

AKA Gavin

Barry Rhodes said...


In both cases, providing the ball is moved accidentally during search, there is no penalty and the ball must be replaced (Rules 18-3a and Rule 18-4). However, in match play a penalty of one stroke is incurred if an opponent's ball is moved other than during search (Rule 18-3b).


Anonymous said...

Hi Barry,

If a player in a competition kicks his ball in frustration and then immediately replaces it in its original position before taking his next shot is it just a one shot penalty under rule 18-2. Only reference to this type of incident that can be found on the internet is:

Kind Regards


Barry Rhodes said...


Yes that is correct, the same penalty as accidentally moving your ball and replacing it (Rule 18-2a). Of course, the deliberate act of moving your ball in play to get a better shot, as in the article that you refer to, is a different matter altogether.


Larry D Reiner said...

If while on the putting green, my putter accidentally moves the ball at address, but the ball moves back into its original position, does that constitute a penalty stroke?

Barry Rhodes said...


No penalty was incurred in the circumstances that you describe. The Definition of Moved states,

A ball is deemed to have “moved’’ if it leaves its position and comes to rest in any other place.


Dan Moore said...

In a two person best ball competition, I'm searching for my ball in the rough and come across another one in the rough. Thinking that it has some poor soul's lost ball, I pick it and pocket it.

It turns out that the ball belongs to me partner, and it was replaced to the location from where it was found.

If I understand rule 18-2 correctly, my partner (not me) incurs a one stroke penalty. Correct?

Oops sorry, I thought that I had learned a long time ago to not pick up ANY ball from the course, now here may be yet another lesson learned. ...let 'em lie as they are!

Thank you,


Barry Rhodes said...


Correct, your partner incurs the penalty and you do not. The ball must be replaced at the spot that it was lifted from.


Anonymous said...

Hi Barry,
In a stableford competition, what is the rule of your opponent kicks your ball by accident? Do you get a penalty or your opponent and replace it??

Barry Rhodes said...


There are no opponents in Stableford, which is a stroke play (not match play) competition; there are fellow competitors. There is no penalty when a fellow competitor moves your ball in play whether it is accidentally or purposely (e.g. marking it on a green). Rule 18-4. The moved ball must be replaced.

I covered this subject in my blog of 12th August 2010.