Sunday, 4 July 2010

Purposely Touching Your Ball in Play

In my last blog I discussed the consequences of accidentally causing your ball in play to move. One of the most common breaches of the Rules that I witness is related to this subject. It is when a player purposely touches their ball while it is in play. This often happens when a ball lies in long grass and the player wants to ensure that it is theirs before they make a stroke at it. Instead of following the procedure set down in Rule 12-2 they bend down and rotate their ball until they can see their identification mark or the brand and number that they are playing. This action incurs a penalty of one stroke. A player may not touch their ball in these circumstances unless they announce their intention to their opponent(s) in match play, or marker or fellow competitor in stroke play, and then mark the position of their ball before touching it. The player must mark the position of their ball to avoid a penalty even if they do not actually lift the ball when they touch it (Decision 12-2/2).

Note that there is no penalty when a player accidentally touches their ball while removing a loose impediment lying close to it, providing the ball does not move (Decision 18-2a/31).

Of course, a ball at rest on a putting green may be lifted and cleaned without notifying anyone else, but again it must be marked first. If a player rotates their ball on the putting green to line-up the trademark with the hole, without marking it, they still incur the one stroke penalty for touching the ball other than as provided for in Rule 18-2a. Under Rules 16-1b and 20-1, a ball on the putting green may be lifted (or touched and rotated) only after its position has been marked (Decision 18-2a/33).

You will sometimes hear golfers claim that touching a ball with the clubhead incurs a penalty. This is not correct. Providing the ball does not move there is nothing in the Rules to prohibit this. In fact, Decision 13-4/12 confirms that even in a bunker or water hazard there is no penalty if a player accidentally touches their ball with their clubhead, providing it does not move.

Good golfing,

Barry Rhodes

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