Rules Column: Pat Campbell

What did my ball just hit and now what are the rules you need to follow

A couple of columns ago we looked at what happened when a ball in motion was deflected or stopped both accidentally and intentionally. The example focused primarily on what happened on the course other than the putting green. This time we will look at the situations that could occur on the putting green.

The easiest is two balls that collide when hit from off the green at the same time. Generally, golfers take care to wait their turn, but there are times that you don’t have a line of sight to see what other players are doing, and in an effort to respect pace of play, two players can end up hitting at the same time. If the balls collide off or on the green, they are played as they lie, no penalty to anyone.

The status changes when the balls have both been struck from a position on the green and then collide as in the photo.

The balls are replaced and the strokes are replayed. The original stroke is effectively erased from the players’ scores. If the players fail to replace the ball on the original spot, and instead play from the new location, they will be playing from the wrong place, which is the general penalty, two strokes in stroke play and loss of hole in match play.

If it is determined that the wrong place is a serious breach (think: one of the balls hangs on the lip of the hole for a tap in) it could result in a disqualification. Worse yet, if the deflected ball is holed and the stroke is not replayed the player will not have completed the hole. Should they tee off on the next hole, they are disqualified.

Any time you face a situation that you really aren’t sure what to do, complete the hole with two balls to protect yourself. Report it to the committee for a ruling to sort it all out.

There are other times that a ball on the green could be deliberately stopped or deflected. If it is by another player, he/she faces the general penalty. Repeated offences could result in disqualification for actions contrary to the spirit of the game. The player replays the stroke with the added advantage of having had a read of the line of play.

If the deflection or stoppage is by the player him/herself, such as impatiently tapping a moving ball into the hole, the result is the general penalty and the ball is holed.

In the rare occasion that the deflection or stoppage is by a spectator there is no penalty to anyone and again the player replays the stroke.

Once we get back to removing flagsticks, we’ll take a look at situations where the ball hits the flagstick or the hole liner or the person tending the flagstick.

Isn’t golf the most interesting game that you might ever play?

For more information, check out the rules videos at USGA/org/rules.