Thursday, 21 January 2016

Status of Ball on Putting Green

In a previous blog  I confirmed that when a ball is moved by wind the player must play the ball from where it comes to rest, even if their ball-marker still marks its original position, because wind is not an outside agency, Definition of Outside Agency. Also, I have previously clarified that a player is not penalised if they forget to remove their ball-marker before making a putt, providing they are not using the marker to assist their line of putt. This is because part of Rule 8-2b states;
A mark must not be placed anywhere for the purpose of indicating a line of putt.
Another oft asked question concerns the status of a ball that is on a putting green against the ball-marker that marked its position. Part of Rule 16-1b states;
A ball on the putting green may be lifted and, if desired, cleaned. The position of the ball must be marked before it is lifted and the ball must be replaced (see Rule 20-1).
The question that some players have is whether a ball that has been replaced at the ball-marker is in play even if the ball-marker has not been removed. The short answer is that it is. There is no restriction as to how many times a player may mark, lift, clean and replace their ball on a putting green. So, when a ball is replaced at a ball-marker it is in play, even if the ball-marker is not removed, but as soon as the player touches it again, perhaps to align it, it is out of play and as soon as they let go of it, at rest against the ball-marker, it is back in play, etc.. Whether the ball marker is removed or not is not relevant to whether the ball is in play.

Lost Ball-Marker:
Here is an interesting question which I had not thought about before;

“Having marked my ball on the green with a fairly transparent green marker I couldn’t find it when it came to my turn to putt. If I couldn’t find it within 5 minutes is it a lost ball situation?”

I have to admit that I had to resort to the Decisions book (the revised edition is now available to purchase at this link) to work out the answer to this seemingly simple query. Decision 20-1/5.5 does not deal with this exact circumstance, but I believe that the principle in the answer is relevant;

Q. A player marked the position of his ball on the putting green and lifted the ball. When it was the player's turn to play, he could not find his ball-marker. Subsequently, he found the ball-marker stuck to the sole of his shoe. He concluded that he had accidentally stepped on it while assisting his partner in lining up a putt. What is the ruling?

A. The player incurs a penalty stroke under Rule 20-1 which requires that the position of a ball be marked before it is lifted, and contemplates that the ball-marker will remain in position until the ball is replaced. The player must place the ball as near as possible to its original position but not nearer the hole - Rule 20-3c.
Under the last paragraph of Rule 20-1, a player is exempt from penalty if his ball-marker is accidentally moved in the process of lifting the ball or marking its position. In this case the ball-marker was not moved during such process.

So, returning to the original question, if the player cannot find their ball-marker they incur a penalty of one stroke and they must estimate where their ball was at rest before being marked and place the ball there, ensuring that it is not placed nearer to the hole. In other words, the player should err on the side of caution when estimating the place to replace their ball, to ensure that they are not taking an unfair advantage. Note that there is no five minute time allowance in The Rules relating to a player searching for a ball-marker. Depending on the circumstances, it is probable that a player who does spend several minutes looking for their ball-marker should incur the general penalty under Rule 6-7, for undue delay.

(Edit 22nd January 2015: I have received a few comments from Rules enthusiasts that do not share my opinion that the player who lost their ball-marker on the putting green should be penalised one stroke, although there is unanimity that they are penalised one stroke if they cause their ball-marker to move, other than in the specific action of marking or lifting their ball. I must admit that I now have doubts as to the ruling, but offer this as something for you to think about. If a player was silly enough to mark their ball with a leaf, or a twig (which is permissible under the Rules), and when they returned to where they thought their ball had been marked they could not distinguish which leaf or twig was the marker, should they be permitted to just estimate where it had been marked and replace their ball without penalty?)

Good golfing,


As I recently mentioned, I now intend to blog every two weeks rather than weekly, unless something really interesting happens at a Tour event that I cannot let pass. However, many readers will continue to receive my separate Rhodes Rules School emails every week; I am just starting the 4th series. If you are not yet subscribed and would like to improve your knowledge and understanding of the Rules of Golf, then click on this link to subscribe  or click on this link for more information.
The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2016 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Dropping a Ball on a Putting Green

Ball located within putting green; Doonbeg and Riviera
I am starting the New Year by addressing the often heard myth that within the Rules of Golf there is no occasion where a ball may be dropped on a putting green. In fact, there are six different Rules that permit a ball to be dropped directly onto a putting green. However, most players are unlikely to encounter any of these situations, so this blog will definitely be of more interest to Rules enthusiasts than to the average weekend golfer.

This is my overview of the six occasions when a ball may be dropped on a putting green. You may find it useful to have a Rule book handy to reference the Rule numbers.

Rules 28b and 28c:
If a player has deemed their ball unplayable and there is an area on a putting green that meets the requirements of either option b or option c of Rule 28, they may drop their ball there. Note that I have said a putting green, which means that it is not necessarily the putting green of the hole being played. If a ball is dropped and comes to rest on a different putting green the player would then have to follow the procedure in Rule 25-3, Wrong Putting Green, as a ball may not be played from this place.

In fact, Decision 28/11, describes a situation that allows a player to drop a ball on a putting green, the only time that this action is referred to in the Decisions on the Rules of Golf 2016-2017.

Q. A player's ball is eight feet off the ground, lodged in a tree. The player deems the ball unplayable. May the player proceed under option c of Rule 28 which permits him to drop a ball within two club-lengths of where his ball lay unplayable?

A. Yes. The player would be entitled to drop a ball within two club-lengths of the point on the ground immediately below the place where the ball lay in the tree. In some instances this may allow the player to drop a ball on a putting green.
Rules 26-1b and Rule 26-1c:
There are many courses where the margin of a lateral water hazard runs close to a putting green. This could mean that the permitted area of drop is on the putting green of either the hole being played, or another putting green. In these cases the player may drop the ball on the putting green, in fact they may not place a ball on the putting green, as the Rules do not permit. As above, a ball dropped on a wrong putting green that comes to rest on it must then be lifted and dropped according to Rule 25-3.

R25-1b(ii)b and 25-1c(ii):
These are undoubtedly the strangest situations in which a player may drop a ball on a putting green. They relate to the extremely unusual circumstance where there is a bunker located within a putting green and there is either interference from an abnormal ground condition, typically casual water, or the ball is lost in an abnormal ground condition. If these circumstances prevail, and the player chooses to drop outside the bunker under penalty of one stroke keeping the point where the ball lay directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind the bunker the ball may be dropped, it could mean dropping on the putting green.

Note that a player may not drop on a putting green under R27-1a, Ball Lost, or R26-1a, Water Hazards, as they both refer back to Rule 20-5, Making Next Stroke from Where Previous Stroke Was Made, part (d) of which states that the ball must be placed if it was last played from anywhere on a putting green.

(Edit: 6th January 2016: My attention has been drawn to three other possible situations where a ball may be dropped on a putting green; Rules 24-2b(ii)(b), 24-3b(ii), and Decisions 1-4/9 and 1-4/10, all of which are similar situations to Rule 25-1b(ii)b where the player’s chooses to take relief for a ball that they do not want to play from a bunker. Edit: 6th July 2016: Another reader has drawn my attention to Decision 18-1/5, where a boy is seen running away from the putting green and throws back the ball that he had just lifted from the green.)
Thanks for reading this far. I promise that my next blog will be on a Rule that is encountered more often. Incidentally, my blogs will now be two-weekly rather than weekly, unless something really interesting happens at a Tour event that I cannot let pass.

Good golfing,

I am pleased to report that my eBook and eDocuments have now been updated for the amendments that became effective on 1st January. They can each be purchased at my Rhodes Rules School web site.

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2016 and may not be copied without permission.