|Marking a ball with the putter head should be avoided|
As I was watching a fellow competitor clean mud from his ball, by rubbing it on the putting green surface beside his ball-marker, I started to think of other bad practices that are sometimes witnessed on the golf course, which do not incur a penalty, but should definitely be discouraged. Here are a few that I have thought of;
- Cleaning a ball by rubbing it on the putting green. This is permitted (Decision 16-1d/5), providing the act is not for the purpose of testing the surface of the putting green. However, it is recommended that a ball be cleaned in other ways to eliminate any question as to the player's intentions.
- Using a putter head, a tee or a loose impediment to mark a ball on the putting green (Decision 20-1/16). Players should always use a coin, ball-marker or other similar object for this purpose.
- Placing a club, usually a putter, in front of a ball when addressing it. Even though this unusual pre-shot routine means that the player is touching their line of putt on the putting green, it does not incur a penalty. Rule 16-1(ii) specifically permits this action, providing the player does not press anything down. If they do press their club down on the ground as they address their ball they incur a penalty under Rule 13-2.
- Standing behind a fellow competitor while he makes his stroke. Again this action does not breach any Rule, but it is extremely poor etiquette. Players should never stand close to or directly behind the line of play, or directly behind the hole, when a fellow competitor or opponent is about to play.
- Not entering the player’s score on the score card after each hole when acting as their marker. Some markers only update the card every 3rd/4th hole, or even wait until the end of a round. There is no penalty for this, but the Rules say that the marker should check the score with the competitor and record it at the end of each hole (Rule 6-6a).
- An even worse practice than the one above is when one player marks all the cards for the group, including his own scores. Perhaps surprisingly, this does not breach any Rule of Golf, but in my opinion Committees should introduce their own club regulation to prohibit this lazy and potentially inaccurate practice.
- Not marking the nearest point of relief or club-lengths when taking relief. The Rules do not require that these limits are marked, but it is best to do so to ensure that it is obvious that the drop is made within the permitted limits.
- Not marking your ball when lifting it to take relief. Rule 20-1 means that players only need to mark a ball before lifting it if they are going to have to replace it at the same spot (unless a Local Rule does require marking before lifting, e.g. ‘Preferred Lies’). However, always marking your ball before lifting it under the Rules is a good habit that could avoid an unnecessary penalty.
- Not putting recognisable identification marks on each ball played. Time and again players find that they are not able to positively identify their ball in play. Rule 12-2 states that each player should put an identification mark on his ball.
- Playing out a hole in a Stableford competition when no points can be scored. Although Rule 7-2 confirms that strokes made in continuing the play of a hole, the result of which has been decided, are not practice strokes, players should avoid doing so, especially if it could delay the play of others in any way (Rule 6-7).
- The same Rule 6-7 could be applied to players who spend time in retrieving abandoned balls from water hazards. This can be frustrating to fellow golfers and should be avoided during competitive rounds.
- (Edit 17th January 2014: Thanks to Neville from Australia for this addition) Golfers are usually careful about not stepping on another player's line of putt or through-line, yet they have a habit of leaning on their putter. Using your putter as a crutch when removing the ball from the hole must create a small irregularity in the putting surface, especially if you use the toe of the putter.
- Using a putter to lift a ball out of the hole, as it may damage the lip of the hole.
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