Friday, 23 February 2018

Ruling Please - Ball Overhanging Hole

After posting a blog on the incident shown in this photo, the R&A issued their official ruling, which contradicted mine! Apologies to those of you that had already received my blog by email. This is what The R&A have now posted on their Facebook account;

"It's got golfers talking around the globe. Here's our Ruling:

It's a very rare situation, but the R&A received a similar question 30 years ago. The answer given, which we would still apply, was as follows:

On the putting green, if the player's removal of a loose impediment causes the ball to move, the ball is replaced without penalty. As replacement of the ball would be impossible in this case, in equity (Rule 1-4), the ball is considered to be holed with the previous stroke."

New World Handicapping System
Unlike the Rules of Golf, which are unified across the world, there are currently a range of different handicapping systems used by national golfing bodies and I do not have any expertise in this area. I therefore welcome the news that the way golfers around the world will calculate their handicaps is set to be transformed by a new system developed by the USGA and The R&A, with key features designed to provide all golfers with a consistent measure of playing ability. The new World Handicap System will be implemented in 2020, one year after the modernised Rules of Golf are scheduled to come into operation, following an extensive review of systems administered by six of the existing handicapping authorities.    

You can find out more about the main features of the new system at this USGA link.

Good golfing,

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Jeff Kohlman said...

My first answer to the ball overhangs hole question was that it is analogous to Decision 16/3 regarding ball embedded in side of hole and should be placed on lip. I don't know if the R&A equity ruling was published or was made before or after Decision 16/3. But if the guiding principle of Equity in Rule 1 is to treat like situations alike, the argument can be made that the ball should be considered holed or should be placed on the lip in both cases.

Barry Rhodes said...


I don't disagree with you, but the principle of Rule 1-4 is,

"If any point in dispute is not covered by the Rules, the decision should be made in accordance with equity."

In my opinion, an equity ruling is not appropriate to this incident, as the ball in the photo is not holed within the Definition of Holed, and the R&A ruling means that the player may pick up their ball without fulfilling the requirement of Rule 3-2, which is;

If a competitor fails to hole out at any hole and does not correct his mistake before he makes a stroke on the next teeing ground or, in the case of the last hole of the round, before he leaves the putting green, he is disqualified.


Anonymous said...

Maybe the ruling is a little unclear. If you interpret it as though the player is first expected to remove the loose impediment to see what happens to the ball, then assume that in this case the ball falls into and comes to rest in the hole then you can apply the "replacement would be impossible" aspect of the ruling.
i.e. It is not necessarily saying that you can assume the ball will fall into the hole and therefore you can pick up the ball without first removing the impediment.

Barry Rhodes said...


My understanding is that the USGA ruling on the circumstance of this photo relies on the fact that there is no way that the ball could be replaced, as it is over the hole, not resting on the lip. In this particular instance, the ball is holed and the player may pick it up and move on. If if was possible to replace the ball at rest where it lay on the lip of the hole then this ruling would not apply.


Anonymous said...

Hi Barry,

Maybe we need a ruling on the ruling. It does start by saying "... if the player's removal of a loose impediment causes the ball to move ..." which I could reasonably interpret as meaning you are expected to remove the loose impediment first.

I think I will play it safe and advise my fellow competitors to remove the loose impediment first in the extremely unlikely event I witness this situation.


Barry Rhodes said...


No, 'playing it safe' is to acknowledge this official ruling received from the USGA, whether we agree with it, or not!