I received a question this week asking if you may leave a ball in place as a ‘backstop’ when making a stroke from just off the putting green. This is an issue for many players and I will attempt to clarify the various situations here, using different scenarios, most of which are covered by Rule 22, Ball Assisting or Interfering with Play.
In all the scenarios below B’s ball lies just to the side of the hole in a position where it could act as a ‘backstop’ for A’s next stroke (as in the photo).
In stroke play, where no comment has been made by any player in the group about the position of B’s ball:
a) A plays his ball from just off the putting green. There is no penalty whether or not A’s ball moves B’s ball. B’s ball must be replaced if it is moved.In match play, where no comment has been made by any player in the group about the position of B’s ball:
b) A putts from on the putting green. A incurs a penalty of two strokes if his ball moves B’s ball (Rule 19-5). B’s ball must be replaced.
c) A plays his ball from just off the putting green. There is no penalty whether or not A’s ball moves B’s ball. B’s ball must be replaced if it is moved.Note that in the above scenarios the ruling is the same whether A and B are partners (four-balls or foursomes) or fellow competitors (singles).
d) A putts from on the putting green. There is no penalty whether or not A’s ball moves B’s ball. B’s ball must be replaced if it is moved. (Rule 19-5).
e) In stroke play, if A requests B to leave his ball where it is and B complies, or if B gives any indication to A that he will leave his ball where it is so as to assist A, both players are disqualified. Decision 22-6;With regard to scenarios a) to d) above, except when a ball is in motion, if a player considers that a ball might assist any other player, he may lift the ball if it is his ball, or have any other ball lifted, Rule 22-1. In my opinion, it is incumbent on a fellow competitor to require that a ball is lifted if it could be of advantage to any other player in the group who is playing from on the putting green, or close to it.
Q. In stroke play, B's ball lies just off the putting green. A's ball lies near the hole in a position to serve as a backstop for B's ball. B requests A not to lift his ball. Is such a request proper?f) In match play, where there is no requirement to protect the interests of other competitors, it is up to the opponent(s) to request that the ball is lifted and so there is no penalty if partners agree to leave a ball as a backstop.
A. No. If A and B agree not to lift a ball that might assist B, both players are disqualified under Rule 22-1.
The disqualification penalty applies if the Committee determines that competitors have agreed not to lift a ball that might assist any competitor.
Some readers may be questioning why no penalty is incurred in scenario d) above, as this is a little known part of match play Rules. Rule 19-5a states;
If a player’s ball in motion after a stroke is deflected or stopped by a ball in play and at rest, the player must play his ball as it lies. In match play, there is no penalty. In stroke play, there is no penalty, unless both balls lay on the putting green prior to the stroke, in which case the player incurs a penalty of two strokes.
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