Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Wind Is Not an Outside Agency

It has been a few years since I blogged about what players must do when the wind moves their ball in play (see 6th April 2009). When I saw this short video of Dudley Hart’s misfortune in his first round of the Valero Texas Open at TPC San Antonio last week, I knew that I couldn’t miss the opportunity to cover the subject again.
(If you are receiving this blog by email you can view the incident on my blog page.)
The most important thing for players to remember when their ball is moved by wind, casual water of some other element (earthquake!) is that there is no penalty and they must play the ball from where it comes to rest. Neither wind nor water is an outside agency. An easy, but irreverent way to remember this, is that if a player moves their ball it has to be replaced and they incur a penalty of one stroke; whereas if ‘God’ moves their ball it has to be played from where it comes to rest and there is no penalty. If the player mistakenly replaces their ball where it was before it was moved by wind they incur a penalty of two strokes for playing from the wrong place (penalty statement under Rule 18).

There are some other relevant points for me to mention on this subject;

  • If a player had replaced their ball at their ball-marker when the wind moved it, they must still play their ball from where it rolls to, even though the ball-marker is still in place (Decision 20-4/1). 
  • Under Rule 20-4, a ball is in play when it is replaced, whether or not the object used to mark its position has been removed. However, when a ball-marker marking the position of a lifted ball is moved by the wind, the ball-marker must be replaced without penalty (Decision 20-1/10.5).
  • If an object being moved by the wind moves a ball at rest (e.g. a paper bag), the object is an outside agency. So, Rule 18-1 applies and the ball must be replaced without penalty (Decision 18-1/6).
David Frost Penalised for Dropping His Ball
Despite incurring a one stroke penalty for dropping his ball on his penultimate hole, 55-year-old South African, David Frost, went on to win the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic by one stroke on Sunday. Frost was penalised after the coin marking his ball on the 17th green moved when he accidentally dropped the ball on it. Long-time readers of this blog will remember that Ian Poulter incurred the same penalty in November 2010 (click here to read that blog).

Here are some of Frost’s post round comments regarding the incident;

"I marked the ball and as I picked it up, the ball just kind of slipped out of my hand, and it fell on my coin and it just moved the coin by…., it just moved the coin. I knew exactly where it was so I just had to scoot it back and I didn't think there was a penalty at all because I knew exactly where it was. There is some kind of Rule that says in the act of marking the ball if you drop your coin, something like that, but they told me that I dropped the ball, which is an act of negligence and I had to incur a one-stroke penalty, which I’m like, `You've got to be kidding me. Last year I get disqualified, this year I get a one-shot penalty.' It’s kind of frustrating, because, you know, you play by the Rules and you know when something, you know an act of nature like that happens, unfortunately the Rule prevails and well, luckily for me in the end it didn't make any difference and I'm happy Lehman didn't meet me in a playoff."
The “some kind of Rule” Frost referred to is Decision 20-1/15, which I copied in the aforementioned blog. Oh, by the way, the ruling has nothing to do with an "act of nature", Frost was penalised because he dropped his ball on his ball-marker and moved it!

Good golfing,


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tonyzed said...

One has to remember that Frost has previous. He is never wrong - it is the Rule that is unfair. The most famous example of his run in with the rules was at Carnoustie and it is up there on the web at


Barry Rhodes said...


Thanks for drawing my attention to this interesting example of how the Exception to Rule 24-2 works (or doesn't work, depending on whose side you are on!)


Anonymous said...

I'm in the habit of using my ball to tap my ball-marker down. I recently heard of someone's marker sticking to their ball, and being lifted away with it. I presume this breaches the same rule and I need to change this habit?

Barry Rhodes said...


Decision 20-1/6 clarifies that the act that you describe does not incur a penalty, because the movement of the ball-marker was directly attributable to the specific act of marking the position of the ball. The ball or ball-marker must be replaced.


JNT said...

Hi Barry, glad tidings from Bangalore, India. My query is on 'ball in play'. Under 20-4, a ball is in play once it has been replaced on the green, regardless of whether the marker has/hasn't been lifted. This would imply that if I were to accidentally move the ball when the marker is on the green, I would have to replace it at its original place and this would result in a 1 stroke penalty. Now take a situation where a player aligns the ball and replaces it. The ball is now in play, even if the marker hasn't been lifted. The player steps back a few paces, and after checking decides that his alignment is incorrect. He goes back and realigns the ball. Is he not actually causing a 'ball in play' to move? If so, why is there no penalty? Your clarification would be appreciated. regards, JNT

Barry Rhodes said...


When a player purposely touches their ball at their ball-marker it is out of play; when they release the ball at the ball-marker it is back in play. See my blog dated 21st January for more information on this subject.