Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Marking Position of Ball during Play of a Hole

A question that some amateur golfers seem to have a problem with is which Rules situations require the position of a ball to be marked and which do not? An easy rule of thumb to assist you with this question is that when the ball is to be replaced at the same spot it was lifted from, it must be marked before it is touched.  

The ball has to be marked before being touched:
  • On the putting green, Rule 16-1b. 
  • For identification, Rule 12-2. Note that this is one of the most frequently breached Rules; you are not permitted to touch your ball in play to positively identify it without marking it first, even if you merely rotate the ball on its spot and do not lift it. 
  • Ball assisting play, Rule 22-1. Note that the ball-marker does not have to remain immediately behind where the ball was at rest. In order to avoid mental interference to the other player while the stroke is being made, once the ball-marker has been placed where the ball was at rest the player might measure one or two club-heads to the side, or even a club-length to the side, providing the routine is accurately reversed when it is being replaced. 
  • Ball interfering with play, Rule 22-2. (Note same as above). 
  • To determine whether relief under a Rule is available (e.g. whether a ball is embedded, or unfit for play), Rule 5-3 and Decision 20-1/0. (This bullet point was edited 13th July 2017.)
If a ball is not marked when the Rules require that it must be, the player incurs a penalty of one stroke and the ball must be replaced. If it is not accurately replaced before the next stroke is made at it, the penalty increases to two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play, for playing from the wrong place, but there is no additional penalty under Rule 20-1. So, for example, there is no additional penalty if the ball was lifted because it was interfering with play of another ball, and then placed (or dropped) and played from a wrong place.

A ball does not have to be marked:

  • When it has been deemed unplayable, Rule 28. 
  • When relief is being taken from an immovable obstruction, Rule 24-2. 
  • When relief is being taken from a (lateral) water hazard, Rule 26-1. 
  • When relief is being taken from an abnormal ground condition, which includes ground under repair, casual water and hole, cast or runway made by a burrowing animal, Rule 25-1. 
  • When relief is being taken from a wrong putting green, Rule 25-2. 
  • Under some Local Rules, e.g. relief from a staked tree.
There are occasions when the Rules do not require that the position of a ball is marked, but when it might be advisable to do so:
  • Moving a movable obstruction, Rule 24-1. Note that if a ball moves while a movable obstruction is being moved it must be replaced, so it may be advisable, though not required by the Rules, to mark its position before removing the obstruction.
A ball to be lifted under the Rules may be lifted by the player, his partner or another person authorised by the player. In all these cases the player is responsible for any breach of the Rules, including not marking its position when the Rules require that it must be marked.

Of course you do not have to bother remembering any of the above regarding marking a ball before lifting it. If you take the precaution of always marking the ball before touching it you will avoid any penalty for getting it wrong.

Jon Rahm Marking Incident
At the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open in Portstewart last Sunday there was another marking and replacing Rules incident. It involved the latest Spanish golfing sensation and runaway winner, Jon Rahm. For a detailed explanation of the ruling by European Tour chief referee, Andy McPhee, click on this Sky Sports video link. I am not going to comment any further, other than to say that I supported the Lexi Thompson ruling last April and now support this Jon Rahm ruling.

Good golfing,


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Unknown said...

This can easily be fixed by a change to the rules which I recommended in my response to the "New Rules" questionnaire recently. Namely:

A ball on the putting green may be moved (once) up to 10cm/two ball widths, not nearer the hole when being replaced. This gets over this silly situation, the Lexi incident, the aeration hole problem and the ball resting in its own or another pitchmark. We all hate it when our ball stops in a pitchmark or aeration hole on the green (most clubs do't bother to issue the optional local rule in this situation). It is very hard to perfectly repair a recent pitchmark such that you are not disadvantaged, especially if your ball has just embedded in a wet green. I suspect many golfers just quietly move their ball a little to the side. Why not make this clearly legal?



Unknown said...

Sky Sports video links cannot be seen in my country (Finland) but I would like to know what happened with Jon Rahm. Any possibility to arrange a video in Youtube or similar?

Barry Rhodes said...


Do you ever Google? I easily found several links to the Rahm incident, including this one, which includes an interview with Andy McFee; http://www.golf.com/tour-news/2017/07/09/brandel-chamblee-jon-rahm-broke-rule-he-should-have-been-penalized


Unknown said...

I wish the USGA and the R&A would rule on this. If the Europe tour was right, I am not going to mark my ball on the side every time and than put it in front every time and just say, opps.

Barry Rhodes said...


There is no need for any further clarification on this issue from the Ruling Bodioes. Listen carefully to the explanation given by Andy McFee, European Tour chief referee, at the link I provided above.

If you follow the practice that you are describing you will clearly be breaching Rule 20-1, incurring a penalty of two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play on each occasion. In my experience, most Committees would probably then sanction you by suspending you from competition play, for cheating.


Anonymous said...

Hi Barry,
I wonder whether a player can use alignment line on the ball and aim to the line of play that he wishes to play (like on the green) when replacing the ball off the green(like on the fringe)

Barry Rhodes said...


Aligning a ball using markings on it is a common practice amongst many players, including tournament Pros. You may align a ball anywhere on the course where the Rules permit it to be placed, except that you may not tee the ball up on mud that is adhering to the ball.