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