Lesson 2 of 4
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March – Week 2 – Rules

JGS December 30, 2020

Following on from the putting techniques that Tim took us all through last week, this week we are going to focus on some rules about putting, specifically the putting green. This information is correct at the date of publishing (8th March 2021) and may change over time as the rules of golf are updated

Putting Greens

Actions Allowed or Required on Putting Greens

 Purpose: This Rule allows the player to do things on the putting green that are normally not allowed off the putting green, such as being allowed to mark, lift, clean and replace a ball and to repair damage and remove sand and loose soil on the putting green. There is no penalty for accidentally causing a ball or ball-marker to move on the putting green.

When Ball Is on Putting Green

A ball is on the putting green when any part of the ball:

  • Touches the putting green, or 
  • Lies on or in anything (such as a loose impediment or an obstruction) and is inside the edge of the putting green.

Marking, Lifting and Cleaning Ball on Putting Green

A ball on the putting green may be lifted and cleaned

The spot of the ball must be marked before it is lifted and the ball must be replaced on its original spot

Improvements Allowed on Putting Green

During a round and while play is stopped under Rule 5.7a, a player may take these two actions on the putting green, no matter whether the ball is on or off the putting green:

(1) Removal of Sand and Loose Soil. Sand and loose soil on the putting green (but not anywhere else on the course) may be removed without penalty.

(2) Repair of Damage. A player may repair damage on the putting green without penalty by taking reasonable actions to restore the putting green as nearly as possible to its original condition, but only:

  • By using his or her hand, foot or other part of the body or a normal ball-mark repair tool, tee, club or similar item of normal equipment, and
  • Without unreasonably delaying play (see Rule 5.6a).

But if the player improves the putting green by taking actions that exceed what is reasonable to restore the putting green to its original condition (such as by creating a pathway to the hole or by using an object that is not allowed), the player gets the general penalty for breach of Rule 8.1a.

“Damage on the putting green” means any damage caused by a person or outside influence, such as:

  • Ball marks, shoe damage (such as spike marks) and scrapes or indentations caused by equipment or a flagstick,
  • Old hole plugs, turf plugs, seams of cut turf and scrapes or indentations from maintenance tools or vehicles,
  • Animal tracks or hoof indentations, and
  • Embedded objects (such as a stone, acorn or tee).

But “damage on the putting green” does not include any damage or conditions that result from:

  • Normal practices for maintaining the overall condition of the putting green (such as aeration holes and grooves from vertical mowing),
  • Irrigation or rain or other natural forces,
  • Natural surface imperfections (such as weeds or areas of bare, diseased or uneven growth), or
  • Natural wear of the hole.

When Ball or Ball-Marker Moves on Putting Green

There are two specific Rules for a ball or ball-marker that moves on the putting green. 

(1) No Penalty for Accidentally Causing Ball to Move. There is no penalty if the player, opponent or another player in stroke play accidentally moves the player’s ball or ball-marker on the putting green.

The player must:

  • Replace the ball on its original spot (which if not known must be estimated) (see Rule 14.2), or
  • Place a ball-marker to mark that original spot.

Exception – Ball Must Be Played as It Lies When Ball Begins to Move During Backswing or Stroke and Stroke Is Made (see Rule 9.1b).

If the player or opponent deliberately lifts the player’s ball or ball-marker on the putting green, see Rule 9.4 or Rule 9.5 to find out if there is a penalty.

When Ball or Ball-Marker Moves on Putting Green

There are two specific Rules for a ball or ball-marker that moves on the putting green. 

(1) No Penalty for Accidentally Causing Ball to Move. There is no penalty if the player, opponent or another player in stroke play accidentally moves the player’s ball or ball-marker on the putting green.

The player must:

  • Replace the ball on its original spot (which if not known must be estimated) (see Rule 14.2), or
  • Place a ball-marker to mark that original spot.

Exception – Ball Must Be Played as It Lies When Ball Begins to Move During Backswing or Stroke and Stroke Is Made (see Rule 9.1b).

If the player or opponent deliberately lifts the player’s ball or ball-marker on the putting green, see Rule 9.4 or Rule 9.5 to find out if there is a penalty.

(2) When to Replace Ball Moved by Natural Forces. If natural forces cause a player’s ball on the putting green to move, where the player must play from next depends on whether the ball had already been lifted and replaced on its original spot:

  • Ball Already Lifted and Replaced. The ball must be replaced on its original spot (which if not known must be estimated) (see Rule 14.2), even though it was moved by natural forces and not by the player, the opponent or an outside influence (see Rule 9.3, Exception).
  • Ball Not Already Lifted and Replaced. The ball must be played from its new spot (see Rule 9.3).

No Deliberate Testing of Greens

During a round and while play is stopped under Rule 5.7a, a player must not deliberately take either of these actions to test the putting green or a wrong green:

  • Rub the surface, or
  • Roll a ball.

Exception – Testing Greens When between Two Holes: Between two holes, a player may rub the surface or roll a ball on the putting green of the hole just completed and on any practice green (see Rule 5.5b).

Penalty for Testing the Putting Green or a Wrong Green in Breach of Rule 13.1e: General Penalty

If multiple Rule breaches result from a single act or related acts, see Rule 1.3c(4).

See Committee Procedures, Section 8Model Local Rule I-2 (the Committee may adopt a Local Rule prohibiting a player from rolling a ball on the putting green of the hole just completed.)

Relief Must Be Taken from Wrong Green

(1) Meaning of Interference by Wrong Green. Interference under this Rule exists when:

  • Any part of the player’s ball touches a wrong green or lies on or in anything (such as a loose impediment or an obstruction) and is inside the edge of a wrong green, or
  • A wrong green physically interferes with the player’s area of intended stance or area of intended swing.

(2) Relief Must Be Taken. When there is interference by a wrong green, a player must not play the ball as it lies.

Instead, the player must take free relief by dropping the original ball or another ball in this relief area (see Rule 14.3):

  • Reference Point: The nearest point of complete relief in the same area of the course where the original ball came to rest.
  • Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: One club-length, but with these limits:
  • Limits on Location of Relief Area: 
    • Must be in the same area of the course as the reference point,
    • Must not be nearer the hole than the reference point, and 
    • There must be complete relief from all interference by the wrong green.

(3) No Relief When Clearly Unreasonable. There is no relief under Rule 13.1f if interference exists only because the player chooses a club, type of stance or swing or direction of play that is clearly unreasonable under the circumstances.

See Committee Procedures, Section 8Model Local Rule D-3 (the Committee may adopt a Local Rule denying relief from a wrong green that only interferes with the area of intended stance).

Penalty for Playing Incorrectly Substituted Ball or Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 13.1: General Penalty under Rule 6.3b or 14.7a.

If multiple Rule breaches result from a single act or related acts, see Rule 1.3c(4).

FREE RELIEF FROM WRONG GREEN
When there is interference by a wrong green, free relief must be taken. The diagram assumes a right-handed player. Ball A lies on the wrong green, and the nearest point of complete relief for Ball A is at P1, which must be in the same area of the course where the original ball came to rest (in this case, the general area).The relief area is one club-length from the reference point, is not nearer to the hole than the reference point and must be in the same area of the course where the original ball came to rest. The player must take complete relief from the wrong green.

The Flagstick

Purpose: This Rule covers the player’s choices for dealing with the flagstick. The player may leave the flagstick in the hole or have it removed (which includes having someone attend the flagstick and remove it after the ball is played), but must decide before making a stroke. There is normally no penalty if a ball in motion hits the flagstick.

This Rule applies to a ball played from anywhere on the course, whether on or off the putting green.

Leaving Flagstick in Hole

(1) Player May Leave Flagstick in Hole. The player may make a stroke with the flagstick left in the hole, so that it is possible for the ball in motion to hit the flagstick.

The player must decide this before making the stroke, by either:

  • Leaving the flagstick where it is in the hole or moving it so that it is centred in the hole and leaving it there, or 
  • Having a removed flagstick put back in the hole.

In either case:

  • The player must not try to gain an advantage by deliberately moving the flagstick to a position other than centred in the hole. 
  • If the player does so and the ball in motion then hits the flagstick, he or she gets the general penalty.

(2) No Penalty If Ball Hits Flagstick Left in Hole. If the player makes a stroke with the flagstick left in the hole and the ball in motion then hits the flagstick:

  • There is no penalty (except as provided in (1)), and
  • The ball must be played as it lies.

(3) Limitation on Player Moving or Removing Flagstick in Hole While Ball Is in Motion. After making a stroke with the flagstick left in the hole: 

  • The player and his or her caddie must not deliberately move or remove the flagstick to affect where the player’s ball in motion might come to rest (such as to avoid having the ball hit the flagstick). If this is done, the player gets the general penalty.
  • But there is no penalty if the player has the flagstick in the hole moved or removed for any other reason, such as when he or she reasonably believes that the ball in motion will not hit the flagstick before coming to rest. 

(4) Limitation on Other Players Moving or Removing Flagstick When Player Has Decided to Leave It in Hole. When the player has left the flagstick in the hole and has not authorized anyone to attend the flagstick (see Rule 13.2b(1)), another player must not deliberately move or remove the flagstick to affect where the player’s ball in motion might come to rest.

  • If another player or his or her caddie does so before or during the stroke and the player makes the stroke without being aware of this, or does so while the player’s ball is in motion after the stroke, that other player gets the general penalty
  • But there is no penalty if the other player or his or her caddie moves or removes the flagstick for any other reason, such as when he or she:
    • Reasonably believes that the player’s ball in motion will not hit the flagstick before coming to rest, or 
    • Is not aware that the player is about to play or that the player’s ball is in motion. 

Removing Flagstick from Hole

(1) Player May Have Flagstick Removed from Hole. The player may make a stroke with the flagstick removed from the hole, so that his or her ball in motion will not hit the flagstick in the hole. 

The player must decide this before making the stroke, by either:

  • Having the flagstick removed from the hole before playing the ball, or
  • Authorizing someone to attend the flagstick, which means to remove it by:
    • First holding the flagstick in, above or next to the hole before and during the stroke to show the player where the hole is, and 
    • Then removing the flagstick after the stroke is made.

The player is treated as having authorized the flagstick to be attended if: 

  • The player’s caddie is holding the flagstick in, above or next to the hole or is standing right next to the hole when the stroke is made, even if the player is not aware the caddie is doing so, 
  • The player asks any other person to attend the flagstick and that person does so, or 
  • The player sees any other person holding the flagstick in, above or next to the hole or standing right next to the hole, and the player makes the stroke without asking that person to move away or to leave the flagstick in the hole.

(2) What to Do If Ball Hits Flagstick or Person Attending Flagstick. If the player’s ball in motion hits a flagstick that the player had decided to have removed under (1), or hits the person who is attending the flagstick (or anything the person is holding), what happens depends on whether this was accidental or deliberate:

  • Ball Accidentally Hits Flagstick or Person Who Removed or Is Attending It. If the player’s ball in motion accidentally hits the flagstick or the person who removed or is attending it (or anything the person is holding), there is no penalty and the ball must be played as it lies.
  • Ball Deliberately Deflected or Stopped by Person Attending Flagstick. If the person who is attending the flagstick deliberately deflects or stops the player’s ball in motion, Rule 11.2c applies:
    • Where Ball Is Played from. The player must not play the ball as it lies and instead must take relief under Rule 11.2c.
    • When Penalty Applies. If the person who deliberately deflected or stopped the ball was a player or his or her caddie, that player gets the general penalty for a breach of Rule 11.2.

For purposes of this Rule, “deliberately deflected or stopped” means the same thing as in Rule 11.2a, and includes when the player’s ball in motion hits:

  • A removed flagstick that was deliberately positioned or left in a particular place on the ground so that it might deflect or stop the ball,
  • An attended flagstick that the person deliberately failed to remove from the hole or to move out of the way of the ball, or
  • The person who attended or removed the flagstick (or anything the person was holding), when he or she deliberately failed to move out of the way of the ball.

Exception – Restrictions on Deliberately Moving Flagstick to Affect a Ball in Motion (see Rule 11.3).

Ball Resting Against Flagstick in Hole

If a player’s ball comes to rest against the flagstick left in the hole:

  • If any part of the ball is in the hole below the surface of the putting green, the ball is treated as holed even if the entire ball is not below the surface.
  • If no part of the ball is in the hole below the surface of the putting green:
    • The ball is not holed and must be played as it lies. 
    • If the flagstick is removed and the ball moves (whether it falls into the hole or moves away from the hole), there is no penalty and the ball must be replaced on the lip of the hole (see Rule 14.2).

Penalty for Playing Incorrectly Substituted Ball or Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 13.2c: General Penalty under Rule 6.3b or 14.7a.

If multiple Rule breaches result from a single act or related acts, see Rule 1.3c(4).

In stroke play, the player is disqualified if he or she fails to hole out as required under Rule 3.3c.

Ball Overhanging Hole

Waiting Time to See If Ball Overhanging Hole Will Fall into Hole

If any part of a player’s ball overhangs the lip of the hole:

  • The player is allowed a reasonable time to reach the hole and ten more seconds to wait to see whether the ball will fall into the hole.
  • If the ball falls into the hole in this waiting time, the player has holed out with the previous stroke.
  • If the ball does not fall into the hole in this waiting time:
    • The ball is treated as being at rest. 
    • If the ball then falls into the hole before it is played, the player has holed out with the previous stroke, but gets one penalty stroke added to the score for the hole.

What to Do If Ball Overhanging Hole Is Lifted or Moved Before Waiting Time Has Ended

If a ball overhanging the hole is lifted or moved before the waiting time under Rule 13.3a has ended, the ball is treated as having come to rest:

  • The ball must be replaced on the lip of the hole (see Rule 14.2), and 
  • The waiting time under Rule 13.3a no longer applies to the ball. (See Rule 9.3 for what to do if the replaced ball is then moved by natural forces.)

If the opponent in match play or another player in stroke play deliberately lifts or moves the player’s ball overhanging the hole before the waiting time has ended:

  • In match play, the player’s ball is treated as holed with the previous stroke, and there is no penalty to the opponent under Rule 11.2b.
  • In stroke play, the player who lifted or moved the ball gets the general penalty (two penalty strokes). The ball must be replaced on the lip of the hole (see Rule 14.2).