Wednesday, 17 October 2012

When a Ball Must Be Marked Before Lifting

This week, I received a few queries from recipients of my ‘How Many Strokes?’ weekly email series, who thought that I had missed counting a penalty for a player who did not mark their ball before lifting it when taking free relief from an immovable obstruction. Many golfers are surprised when they learn that the Rules of Golf do not require that a ball is marked before lifting when taking relief under the Rules.

Of course, there are some occasions when the position of a ball must be marked before it is lifted;

  • Anywhere on the putting green, Rule 16-1b. (Exception: if the player is taking relief from an immovable obstruction on the putting green).
  • To determine if it is unfit for play, Rule 5-3.
  • For identification, Rule 12-2.
  • Because it is assisting or interfering with play, Rule 22.
In the above circumstances, if a ball is not marked the player incurs a penalty of one stroke and the ball must be replaced. If it is not replaced, the player incurs the general penalty (two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play) for breach of this Rule, but there is no additional penalty under Rule 20-1.

Conversely, the position of a ball does not have to be marked before it is lifted;

  • When it has been deemed unplayable, Rule 28.
  • When taking relief from an immovable obstruction, Rule 24-2b.
  • When taking relief from an abnormal ground condition, Rule 25-1b.
  • When taking relief from a water hazard, Rule 26-1.
(Edit 17th October: My thanks to a subscriber for providing this easy to remember principle; if you will be returning the ball to the same spot, it must be marked before being lifted; if you will be dropping the ball to a new spot, marking is not required.)

Having identified those circumstances where a player is not required by the Rules to mark their ball before lifting it, let me make it perfectly clear that it is good practice to do so, in order that the referee, marker of fellow competitor can be assured that the ensuing drop is within the prescribed area. However, it is a ‘should’ rather than a ‘must’.

Good golfing,

For a number of reasons, I have now decided not to re-publish my ‘999 Questions’ book in hard copy (bad experience with the publishers, inconvenience of stocking, high postal charges, daily trips to post office, etc.) However, my main reason is that the acceptance of ‘999 Updated Questions on the Rules of Golf 2012 -2015’, as an eBook has exceeded my expectations. You can purchase the Kindle version through Amazon, but if you purchase through this link, for the same price I will send you both a pdf file (all computers) and a Mobipocket file (Kindle, iPad, Blackberry, smart phone or other compatible device). I am pleased to say that although some readers were unsure as to whether they would be able to transfer the downloadable file onto their various devices, every one of them has been able to do so. Check it out here – it will help you get a better understanding of the Rules.

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2012 and may not be copied without permission.


ff said...

Dear Barry,

I have a golf rule problem with my golf partner with regard to who must place the wrong it the OWNER (or his partner )of the wrong, or the person who HIT the wrong ball.

1) Rule 15 3(b) says the OWNER of the ball MUST PLACE a ball on the spot from which the wrong ball was first played.

But then, at the bottom of the ruling it says "PLACING AND REPLACING - see RULE 20-3)

So does that mean that when placing and replacing the wrong ball, Rule 20-3 applies, and NOT Rule 15-3b.

(2) The in the Decisions on the Rules of Golf under 20-3a/0.5
(Whether Player Himself must place or replace the ball)

The answer is YES.. to the question, "Does RULE 30-3a OVERRIDE OTHER RULES that imply that the player himself must place or replace the ball.

So, when it comes to placing the wrong ball, which rule applies (a) is it Rule 15-3b ie ONLY the OWNER of the ball


Rule 20-3a ie could be either the Owner, his partner or the player who hit the wrong ball.

Please advise.


Barry Rhodes said...


I have noticed this apparent anomaly myself. In my opinion, Decision 20-3a/0.5 makes it clear that when a ball has been wrongly played by another player, a ball may be replaced on that spot where it was wrongly played from by (i) the person who lifted or moved the ball, (ii) the player, or (iii) the player’s partner. Decision 20-3a/0.5 states:
Q. Rule 20-3a provides that, in some instances, a person other than the player may place or replace the player's ball. On the other hand, other Rules, e.g., Rule 12-2, state that the player must place or replace the ball. Does Rule 20-3a override other Rules that imply that the player himself must place or replace the ball?
A. Yes.