When do the Rules of Golf permit a player to repair the damaged lip of a hole? The answer to this question may not be quite as simple as it sounds. Decision 16-1a/5 confirms that if a player touches the inside of a hole they are considered to have touched their line of putt in breach of Rule 16-1a, unless they are doing so to repair damage that was clearly made by a ball, as in the photo above. So, if the damage to the lip of the hole was made by a flagstick, due to strong winds or having been replaced in the hole sloppily, a player may not repair the damage before making their stroke.
Decision 16-1a/6 clarifies the correct procedure for a player that notices that a hole has been damaged other than by a ball;
Q. Prior to putting, a player discovers that the hole has been damaged. What is the proper procedure?It is recommended that players should only repair flagstick damage to the edge of a hole after all players in the group or match have completed play of the hole, similar to caring for the course by repairing spike marks near the hole as all players are leaving the putting green. The reason for this is that if the smoothing of any ragged edge to the hole is in any way intended to influence the movement of an opponent's, fellow-competitor's or partner's ball the player incurs a penalty of two strokes for breaching Rule 1-2.
A. If the damage is not clearly identifiable as a ball mark, then:
(a) If the damage is such that the proper dimensions of the hole have not been changed materially, the player should continue play without repairing the hole. If he touches the hole in such circumstances, a breach of Rule 16-1a occurs.
(b) If the proper dimensions of the hole have been changed materially, the player should request the Committee to have the hole repaired. If a member of the Committee is not readily available, the player may repair the damage, without penalty.
If a player repairs a materially damaged hole when a member of the Committee is readily available, he incurs a penalty for a breach of Rule 16-1a. (Revised)
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