Friday, 22 March 2013

Marking a Ball on the Putting Green

Photo: Golf.About.com














Marking a ball on the putting green seems like a simple process that shouldn’t cause too many Rules issues, but it is worth considering what is permitted and what is not.

•    Lifting a ball from the putting green without marking its position first incurs a penalty of one stroke, Rule 16-1b.

A ball on the putting green may be marked, lifted and cleaned at any time, except that a ball that might influence the movement of the ball in motion must not be lifted.
•    The position of the ball must be marked before it is lifted.
•    There is no limit to the number of times that a player may mark and lift their ball from the putting green, providing they do not unduly delay play.
•    Before making their putt the player must replace their ball at the exact spot from where it was lifted.
•    A ball to be lifted under the Rules may be lifted by the player, their partner or another person authorisd by them, Rule 20-1.
•    If a ball is accidentally moved while it is being marked there is no penalty, provided the movement of the ball, or the ball-marker, is directly attributable to the specific act of marking the ball’s position or lifting it, Rule 20-1.
 
However, moving your ball-marker by accidentally dropping your ball or equipment (e.g. glove or cap) on it is not considered to be directly attributable to the act of marking the ball and incurs a penalty of one stroke, Decision 20-1/15. See this link for detail of Ian Poulter breaching this Rule in 2010.
•    When marking a ball before lifting it the player should use a small coin or other similar object as a ball-marker immediately and they should place it immediately behind the ball. 
Note that there is no penalty if a player uses some other object to mark their ball (e.g their putter head, a tee or a loose impediment), providing it is physically marked; it is not sufficient to use an existing mark on the ground to mark the position of a ball, Decision 20-1/16. 
Also, there is no penalty if the ball-marker is placed other than behind the ball, providing you do replace the ball in the correct position later. Naturally, the traditional method is to place the marker behind the ball and I strongly recommend that all golfers use this method to avoid confusion.
•    If the ball-marker interferes with the play, stance or stroke of another player, it should be placed one or more clubhead-lengths to one side. There is no restriction as to how a ball is marked to the side. Providing the ball is accurately replaced at the same spot by reversing the exact steps used to move it to the side.
•    If a ball is replaced at a spot on the putting green other than where it was lifted from and subsequently played from this wrong place, the player incurs a penalty of two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play, Rule 20-7.

Good golfing,






Have you checked out my three quizzes on the Rules of Golf; General, Match Play and Juniors. Click here for details.


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

 

66 comments:

Mike said...

Hi Barry,
in a matchplay competition yesterday, my partner & one of our opponents both chipped to 4' from the hole, several inches apart. After I had my shot, & we were waiting for the other opponent to have his, I noticed there was only one marker 4' from the hole. When queried, the opponent said "I had a tee in the ground as a marker, but pulled it out because it was on my partner's line; there's my mark, that hole in the ground"....??!!
I was pretty sure that was illegal, but didn't want to upset the "friendly" match we were having (our golf club against another). My partner putted first, missed, gave the opponent the line, & he holed. Luckily I halved him, & equally luckily we won 2/1.
Two questions: did they lose that hole because of the illegal marking?
If we had drawn, or lost by one hole, could we have asked that that hole (the 14th) be re-scored as a win for us, or is it too late once we'd proceeded to the next hole?
Cheers!

Barry Rhodes said...

Mike,

The player lost the hole for a breach of Rule 20-1. Part of the answer to Decision 20-1/16 states;

However, under Rule 20-1 it is necessary to physically mark the position of the ball. Reference to an existing mark on the ground does not constitute marking the position of a ball.

Barry

vwerner57 said...

If a ball is in the line of someone else's putt, the ball is usually marked and then the marker is moved. I have seen people line up a spot with their putter head while the ball is still on the green and then place the mark a putter head length from the ball, returning it, of course, before the putt. Does this constitute correctly marking their ball?

Barry Rhodes said...

vwerner,

Yes, this method of marking a ball to the side is acceptable; the important factor is that the ball is accurately marked and subsequently replaced in the same place. This is from Decision 20-1/16;

When moving a ball or ball-marker to the side to prevent it from interfering with another player's stance or stroke, the player may measure from the side of the ball or ball-marker. In order to accurately replace the ball on the spot from which it was lifted, the steps used to move the ball or ball-marker to the side should be reversed.

Barry

Anonymous said...

Dear Barry,

In a match, a player used a tee to mark the position of his ball. When requested to replace it with a proper ball-marker because it was in an opponents line of play, the player put a ball-marker without first replacing his ball. Was the player in breach of rule 20-1?
Vincent

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

Providing the ball was replaced in the correct position (i.e. taking into account the very small difference between where the tee marked the ball and where the ball-marker was placed against the tee) no Rule was breached.

Barry

Anonymous said...

Dear Barry was playing golf today stepped on a mates marker and was told it's a two shot penalty is this true

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

Oh dear! Did you ask them to give you the Rule number? There is no penalty for accidentally moving a fellow competitor's ball, let alone their ball-marker. Of course, it has to be replaced. Tell the person to check out Rule 18-4.

Regards,

Barry

Anonymous said...

Are you allowed to swivel or rotate your ball as it lies on the green, without marking it, for example to have the putting line on it visible?

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

No! The action that you describe incurs a penalty of one stroke for purposely touching a ball in play, Rule 18-2a. A ball must be marked on the putting green before it is touched, Rule 16-1b.

Barry

Anonymous said...

In a four-ball match, I was putting from off the green and my partner was on the green near the hole and pin high. I told him to leave his ball without marking it. Our opponent said to mark it, and that his request took precedence over mine. My partner marked his ball. Was this necessary and correct?

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

Your opponent was correct. Part of Rule 22-1 states;

"if a player considers that a ball might assist any other player, he may:
a. Lift the ball if it is his ball; or
b. Have any other ball lifted."


I recommend that you also read my blog titled, 'Using a Ball as a Backstop', dated 18th August 2012.

Barry

Dee said...

Barry, today I noticed a competitor placing their putter behind the ball, standing behind the ball/putter head, and realigning (moving) the ball with their hand. I know you can use the toe of the putter to mark the ball to clean or realign it; however, with the clarification of "addressing the ball," I thought the putter was grounded (and, thus, at address) so the player realigning the ball would be "moving a ball in play." Can you help clarify? Thanks so much. Dee

Barry Rhodes said...

Dee,

I understand the point that you are making, but a player is permitted to move their ball when its position has been marked with a putter head, (though this practice should be avoided. I cannot envisage a situation where it would not be obvious as to whether a player is addressing their ball prior to making a stroke, or marking their ball with a view to lifting, cleaning or aligning it.

Barry

Rowland Buckland said...

Dear Mr Rhodes,
I play in France and it is a habit for many french players to mark the position of their ball on the green by scratching an arrow on the surface if the green with a tee peg, is this acceptable?

Barry Rhodes said...

Rowland,

This method of marking a ball does not incur a penalty, though in my opinion, it should!

Please do everything you can to stop this practice, which can cause unacceptable damage to the putting green.

Barry

Dave Murphy said...

Barry
My brother marks his ball using two markers when asked to move his ball off the putting line of another player I.e. He marks the ball off the line then puts a second marker beside the first in order that he will remember to put the original marker back.
I find the use of the two markers very off putting when taking my stroke as it catches my eyeline. I have asked him to use some other method but he has refused on the basis that he is not in breach of any rule.
While I believe that he is correct and that is no rule breach, I have pointed out that I consider it a breach of etiquette to refuse to accept my request given that I have said that it is upsetting my putting strike.
Your opinion would be appreciated !
Regards
Dave

Barry Rhodes said...

Dave,

I think that your brother is being unreasonable. Whilst I do not think that it would worry me to see two ball markers close to my line of putt, the fact that you say that it does put you off, you have asked him to desist from his unusual practice and he has refused, is certainly poor etiquette, though probably not serious enough to warrant a Committee penalising him. Perhaps you could point out that there are many acceptable ways to remind yourself to replace your ball where it was originally at rest on the putting green; for example, I hold my putter upside down, by the head, until it is my turn to putt.

Barry

Kieran Carmody said...

I was playing golf last Friday on the eight green when one of my playing partners putted
I noticed his ball heading for my ball I marked my ball is that a penalty

Barry Rhodes said...

Kieran,

Yes, you incurred a penalty of two strokes, under Rule 16-1b, if lifting your ball might have influenced the movement of your partner's ball. The same penalty applies if it was a fellow competitor and not your partner.

Barry

Anonymous said...

Playing match play today. Evidently, my ball mark was in my opponent's way when putting. Without asking me to move it, she moved my marker, using her club to measure. Any loss of stroke, point for her moving my marker without asking? My ball was not on the green....in my hand.

Barry Rhodes said...

Aonymous,

The ruling here is different in match play than in stroke play. Your opponent did incur a penalty of one stroke for moving your ball-marker without authorisation, Rule 18-3.

Barry

Sandeep said...

Dear Barry,
An opponent chipped onto the green, and his ball stopped close to the pin. Then my partner chipped, and his ball rolled and hit the opponents ball lying on the green, and it was further rolled into the cup. A discussion ensued on whether the opponent should have marked his ball on the green, as a matter of courtesy or not. Please comment.

Barry Rhodes said...

Sandeep,

The circumstance that you describe has nothing to do with matters of courtesy. The opponent could have marked and lifted his ball if he thought that it might be of advantage to the player putting, who also had the right to have the ball lifted if they thought that it was going to interfere with the path of their ball.

I recommend that you read my blog titled, 'Using a Ball as a Backstop', dated 18th August, 2012.

Barry

Allan Dyer said...

If I mark my ball out of the line of another players putt without asking for his approval do I incurr a penalty stroke?

Barry Rhodes said...

Allan,

There is no penalty for marking your ball to the side on the putting green without being requested to do so, as you are still accurately marking the position of your ball, before lifting it, but it is good etiquette to ask your fellow competitor, or opponent, before doing so.

Barry

Anonymous said...

Is there a penalty for placing marker more than one inch behind the ball . similarly is there a penalty if the marker touches the ball

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

Placing a ball-marker more than an inch behind the ball probably incurs a penalty. Decision 20-1/20 rules that a ball-marker consistently placed two inches behind a ball does incur a penalty as the ball cannot be considered to have been marked with sufficient accuracy. In my opinion, this is true of a ball that is marked anything over an inch from where it lies. There is no penalty if the ball-marker touches the ball when it is marked.

Barry

Unknown said...

A competitor hit their put & it rolled way off line & hit my ball which was not marked. He assessed a 2 stroke penalty on me, for not marking my ball. I thought my ball should have been replaced where it was without penalty. Is there an obligation for a player to mark their ball.

Barry Rhodes said...

Unknown,

Your fellow competitor was talking rubbish. They were the player that incurred the penalty of two strokes in stroke play, assuming that they putted from on the putting green. You were correct in that your ball had to be replaced where it was when it was moved by the other ball. They had to play their ball from where it came to rest.

Barry

Anonymous said...

Once a ball is marked is a penalty incurred if you tap the marker down with the ball or a putter to ensure that it is flat/flush?
Thanks.

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

This part of Rule 16-1 shows that there is no penalty for tapping down a ball-marker;

a. Touching Line of Putt
The line of putt must not be touched except:...
...(v) in pressing down a ball-marker


Barry

Johann said...

Hi Barry. Was playing match play today on a course with a local rule that allows moving your ball within the distance of a club. I marked my ball on the fairway, lifted it and placed it but didn't remove my mark yet. I didn't quite like the spot I chose, so with the mark still there, I lifted my ball again and intended to find a better spot. Then my opponent claimed I was not allowed to lift my ball again even though my mark was still there and that should lose the hole as a result. Was he right?

Barry Rhodes said...

Johann,

Your opponent was almost certainly nearly correct. A definitive ruling can only be determined by rreference to the Local Rule permitting Preferred Lies, but if this is correctly written the ball is in play and cannot be touched again without penalty when it has been placed within the permitted area.

Barry

HLM said...

Hi Barry
What is the ruling if a player marks a ball on the putting green, lifts the marker then puts there finger on the ball but does not move it. Does this action incur a penalty? It happened to a member of a team - she cannot explain why she touched the ball but was penalised by her opponent. I cannot find anything in the rules to cover this incident.
Heather

Barry Rhodes said...

Heather,

Purposely touching an unmarked ball on a putting green does incur a penalty of one stroke, Rule 18-2(i).

Barry

Anonymous said...

Par 3. I hit my ball on the green. I stop to talk with cute cart girl. When I get to the green, I mark my ball some 45 feet away from the hole. Line up my putt and drain a big bender for a deuce! As I return from a couple of high fives, it is noticed that there is an extra mark on the green. That's when my buddy remembers that he marked my ball and moved it while I was talking to the cart girl. So when I got to the green I marked the the ball in the wrong position. They then told me I have to re-putt from the from the original position (negating by awesome putt) So I re-putt and re-drain the now 44ft big bender.For a Deuce again (face). or so I thought. They then tell me it's a 2 stroke penalty for hitting from the wrong spot. Is all of this true. Or is someone just looking to get hurt! jk

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

The score with the ball holed from the correct place stands and no penalty was incurred. See Decision 15-3b/3.

Barry

Unknown said...

When playing in high wind conditions where I have a concern that the wind will cause the ball to move, am I permitted to mark my ball to the side and to then putt while the ball is still marked in an effort to avoid penalty ahould the wind move my ball?

Barry Rhodes said...

Unknown,

The action that you describe is permitted by the Rules of Golf, but has no effect. If the wind causes your ball to move no penalty is incurred and the ball must be played from where it comes to rest, even if the ball-marker still marks where the ball was previously at rest. See my blog dated 15th March 2015, 'Wind Is Not an Outside Agency'.

Barry

brian brennan said...

Hi all , my friend today marked his ball on the green ( the wind was blowing hard ) . After cleaning his ball and replacing the ball he then removed his marker . At that stage his cap blew of his head and he had to run after it . On his way back to the green the ball started to move back towards him . My I ask what the rule is ? Brian .

Barry Rhodes said...

Brian,

The player must play the ball from where it came to after been moved there by the wind, which is not an outside agency, even though the ball marker still marked where it had originally come to rest. Check my blog dated Tuesday 31st March 2015.

Barry

Anonymous said...

Definitely irregular, but may a player mark his ball with a finger, or foot, while briefly lifting and wiping the ball on his trouser leg and then replacing the ball? (D20-1/16 appears to allow use of an 'object'.)

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

Yes, a player may mark their ball with anything physical. However, the player will incur a penalty if they lift their finger or foot while they are cleaning their ball.

Barry

Rob Kruse said...

Barry recently in a friendly game I was informed that I had marked my ball incorrectly. My ball was in the line of another member of our group and I was asked to make sure the mark was one putter head to the right. I had not yet marked my ball with a coin at this point and proceeded to pick a spot to line my putter head up with. I moved the ball one putter head then marked with a coin. I reversed the process when it was my turn to putt and ensured that the ball was replaced to it's initial location. I was informed that you mark with a coin first, then move the coin the putter head. While I thought that my group member was correct initially, I do not think that now. Any insight?

Barry Rhodes said...

Rob,

You are correct. The Rules do not specify how a ball is marked to the side, provided when it is replaced the procedure is accurately reversed so that the ball is returned to the spot where it had originally had come to rest.

Barry

Anonymous said...

Hi Barry,
Love the blogs
Two questions if I may, apologies if they've been covered elsewhere.
1) when a player is marking his ball on the green, puts his coin down correctly and just before he picks up the ball, the wind topples the ball an inch or so. Does he move the marker to the new ball position or pick up his ball and eventually replace it where he had the coin down ? It happened to me and I wasn't sure either way so just gave myself no score on the hole (stableford).

2) this one might seem a little ocd ! But when a player is replacing his ball on the green (in the normal way), obviously he places it back in the position it was originally in. I'm just wondering, I'm sure there are many occasions when the ball isn't absolutely exactly on the same spot, like maybe half a millimetre out, or half a blade of grass one way or the other (through no fault of the player), I appreciate this sounds silly, and real life must apply, but is there anything anywhere about just how exact you need to be, or does your best effort suffice ? Now I'm not talking about half a centimetre or anything crazy, just the tiny minuscule variations that may occur.

Many thanks

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

1) When the wind moves a ball in play the player has to play the ball from where it is moved to. So, in the circumstance that you describe, the player must move the ball-marker to the new position of the ball.

2) The player must try and replace the ball at the exact position where it was lifted from; this is obviously their best estimate. So, if a ball has come to rest in an aeration hole on the putting green and there is no Local Rule providing relief, the player must replace their ball in the same hole.

Barry

Kieran Carmody said...

My partners was standing in g.u.r but his ball was not in g.u.r he wanted a free drop I refused was I correct

Barry Rhodes said...

Kieran,

No you were wrong! GUR is an abnormal gropund condition, as is casual water. Would you expect to have to stand ankle deep in a deep puddle, to play a stroke at a ball lying outside that puddle?

Barry

Unknown said...

Is it ethical to place and align my ball to be ready for putting, when it's not my turn to play?? By the way, my ball is not in anyone's line of play

Barry Rhodes said...

Unknown,

There is certainly no breach of any Rule in the action that you describe and many golfers, including me, see this as one way to speed up the slow play that can spoil the game. However, if the player whose turn it is to putt says that it distracts them, then it is good etiquette to wait until they have putted. Obviously you can still assess your putt while waiting to replace your ball.

Barry

Johnny N said...

Hi Barry,
My 4 some this past weekend play 2 man scramble and 2 man best ball (4ball). I know Scrambles are not covered by USGA so we let pretty much anything go.

My question was in the best ball. My opponents did something interesting while on the putting green. One guy (presumably better at reading) was actually placing the ball down for his partner before and helping to adjust his body before putting. They did this in scramble also, but that seemed more reasonable for that format.

Is this legal per 20-3? Seems like it may be legal.

Thanks!
Johnny

Barry Rhodes said...

Johnny,

Yes, a ball to be placed under the Rules must be placed by the player or his partner, Rule 20-3. A player may also align their partner for a stroke, providing they move away from a position on or close to an extension of the line of play or line of putt behind the ball before the stroke is made.

Barry

Chris Dyer said...

Hi Barry
A new member to my club asked if it was okay to mark his ball which was off the putting surface by sticking a tee in the ground. He was told it was okay off the putting surface but if he did it on the green he would incur a 2 stroke penalty. I disputed this quoting 20-1/16. A number of members who have been playing a lot longer than me supported this saying that marking a ball in this way is deemed to be testing the putting surface. A teemay be used but must be laid on the ground. If this is the case surely repairing a pitch mark should carry the same penalty. Can a tee be placed in the ground to mark the ball without penalty?
Chris

Barry Rhodes said...

Chris,

This is a common misunderstanding about the Rules of Golf. A player does not breach any Rule by using a tee stuck in the putting green to mark the position of their ball (though it is a practice that is not recommended). You can point out to the doubters that Decision 20-1/16 does not place any restriction on how a tee is used to mark a ball. No doubt they will respond by saying that the player is testing the surface of the putting green, but you can point out that relevant part of Rule 16-1d states;

During the stipulated round, a player must not test the surface of any putting green by rolling a ball or roughening or scraping the surface.

Barry

Bryan said...

Hi Barry
A new member told me that he was told you don't have to mark your ball on the putting green if it in the path of another ball being putted on the green. Even if the player about to putt requests it to be marked. What Rule refers to this situation, so I can let my friend know?
Bryan

Barry Rhodes said...

Bryan,

You do not have to mark your ball on a putting green. However if a player considers that another ball may interfere with his play, he may have it lifted, Rule 22-2. In stroke play, a player required to lift his ball may play first rather than lift the ball.

A player who refuses to lift their ball when asked to do so should be disqualified by the Committee for a serious breach of etiquette.

Barry



Tom said...

A member at a local club said the pros are required (I think he said they have a "special rule") to mark and pick up their ball on the putting green when someone else is putting. I am almost positive this is incorrect. Am I right? Thanks!

Barry Rhodes said...

Tom,

There is no such Rule, but it is good etiquette, which ever player should follow. Mark, lift and clean your ball while another player is putting, so that your ball is not a distraction to them and you are ready to replace your ball and make your putt as soon as it is your turn.

Barry

George said...

Hi Barry,
I often see fellow competitors replace their ball on the putting green, leave the ball marker in place, step back to have a look at the line of their putt and then return to the ball to align a mark on their ball with the line of the putt. Should they incur a penalty of one stroke for purposely touching a ball in play, given that Rule 20-4 says that a ball that has been replaced is in play whether or not the ball marker has been removed? If so, how can they avoid this? Do they have to replace and align the ball all in one motion without releasing the ball from their grasp? Or do they have to pick up their marker after first replacing the ball and then re-mark the ball before aligning it?
Many thanks for your awesome blogs.
George

Barry Rhodes said...

George,

I addressed this question in another "awesome blog" (thanks!) Status of Ball on Putting Green, dated Thursday, 21 January 2016. http://www.barryrhodes.com/2013/03/marking-ball-on-putting-green.html.

Barry

FionaJane said...

Hi Barry. Can you guide us in who can replace a marked and lifted ball on the green. The player, partner or opponent can mark and lift the ball, who must replace the ball. Is it only the person who lifted it?

Barry Rhodes said...

FionaJane,

Part of Rule 20-3a states;

A ball to be replaced under the Rules must be replaced by any one of the following: (i) the person who lifted or moved the ball, (ii) the player, or (iii) the player's partner.

I cannot simplify that wording!

Regards,

Barry

Anonymous said...

Hi Barry, i have 2 questions.
A) are there any rules specofically defining the shape or size of a ball marker??
B) if a ball on the green is marked, lifted, cleaned, and then put in my pocket until replacing. Must it be r ed placed by the exact ball? Or is any ball in your pocket fine- match play and medal play please, if different ??

Thanks !!!

Best,

Fred

Barry Rhodes said...

Fred,

A) No, anything can be used to mark a ball, providing it is physically marked, see Decision 20-1/16.

B) Yes, the same ball that has been marked and lifted must be replaced, or there is a penalty of two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play, for incorrectly substituting a ball, Rules 20-1 and 15-2.

Barry