Rules Column: Patti Daskalos

Rules of the Game:

Know all the rules when your ball is on the green

As we discussed last month there are four specific areas of the golf course: The Teeing Area, The Putting Green, Bunkers, and Penalty Areas. Each specific area has its own set of privileges and restrictions. The Teeing Area has the most privileges and the least restrictions, followed closely by The Putting Green. Since we covered The Teeing Area previously – let’s take a closer look at the Putting Green Rule – and if any of you have grown to have a book-type interest in the Rules, you’ll find the Putting Green information in Rule 13.

What is the definition of a Putting Green? It is a specially prepared area for putting, which contains the hole into which the player tries to play a ball. A ball is on the Putting Green when ANY part of the ball touches the Putting Green, or the ball lies on or in anything (like a loose impediment or movable obstruction) and is inside the edge of the Putting Green. If your ball lies on a huge leaf, and the huge leaf is inside the edge of the Putting Green, or if your ball rolled into a Doritos bag that is sitting on the putting green, your ball is on the green. (I’ll talk about how to remedy the huge leaf and Doritos bag situations under the Rules of Golf in a later article). 

There are many things a golfer can do when their golf ball lies on the putting green that are not allowed elsewhere on the course. A player can mark, lift, and clean the ball. A player can remove loose sand or soil without penalty from the Putting Green—but be careful, this does not include the fringe or apron of the green. The fringe and apron are part of the General Area! A player can repair damage on a putting green without penalty to restore the green to its original condition.

Damage can be repaired using a tee, club, ball mark repair tool, or similar normal equipment. Damage includes things like ball marks, spike marks, scrapes, or dents from a flagstick, animal tracks such as hoof impressions from deer or other types of ungulates. You can even remove embedded acorns, stones, or hail and fix the dents caused by them. However, you are not allowed to fix natural wear, imperfections, bare areas, diseased or uneven growth.

No pulling out weeds! You also cannot fix irrigation, rain or other natural forces damage, or things caused by maintaining the putting green such as mowing marks or aeration holes.  And if you are going to fix the damage to a putting green, you must do so without unreasonably delaying play! 

Another special privilege on the Putting Green is that there is no penalty if a player, an opponent (match play) or another player you are golfing with accidently moves a player’s ball or ball marker on the putting green.

The key here is that the ball movement is accidental. If you are lining up a putt, or walking backwards and trip on your ball, drop your ball marker on your ball and the ball moves, or any other accidental movement, simply replace your ball (or ball marker) on its original or estimated spot and play on. 

However, read this next part carefully—IF natural forces (gravity, wind, rain) cause a ball on the putting green to move, what you do next depends upon if you have marked the spot of the ball, lifted, and replaced your ball. If you have marked the spot, lifted, and replaced your ball (even if the ball marker is no longer on the green) your ball OWNS that spot; if natural forces move your ball, then you move it back to the spot it owns. If you have NOT marked, lifted, and replaced your ball – it does not own a spot.

 If a big gust of wind blows your ball into the hole and you have not marked, lifted, and replaced—then congratulations—Mother Nature has holed your ball from your last stroke.

And if you have not marked, lifted, and replaced and aren’t lucky enough for the ball to be blown into the hole, or if natural forces move your ball farther from the hole, you must still play the ball from its new location!