Monday, October 4, 2010

Ask Linda #244-Ball moves while repairing ball mark

Dear Linda,
I was playing a round of golf with some friends, came to a par 3 and hit my shot to within a foot. I marked my ball and repaired my ball mark, which was a few inches in front of my ball. I replaced my ball and picked up my marker, I tapped down the repair once more, and as I lifted my club I accidentally hit my ball. I hadn't addressed the ball yet. My friends said I incurred a penalty. I said I hadn't. Who is right?
Thank you,
Lou Lou

Dear Lou Lou,

You are (probably) right, Lou. If a player accidentally moves his ball or ball marker while he is in the process of repairing a ball mark on the green, there is no penalty and the ball or marker must be replaced [Rule 16-1c]. However, the movement of the ball must be directly attributable to the specific act of repairing the damage. For example, you would not be exempt from the one-stroke penalty for moving your ball in play if you were in the process of repairing a ball mark and your hat blew off and moved your ball. Or, in your case, you would be penalized if you accidentally moved your ball with your putter on your way to repairing the ball mark a second time.

There is a fine line between whether the ball was moved due to the repair or whether the ball was moved due to a careless swinging of the putter. From your account, it sounds like the ball mark was so close to the ball that you would be exempt from penalty for moving it as you lifted your putter upon completion of the repair. Had the ball mark been further away, your friends would be correct in pointing out that you would be assessed a penalty.

By the way, the ruling is the same with respect to marking and lifting a ball. If a ball or ball marker is accidentally moved while you are in the process of marking and lifting, there is no penalty [Rule 20-1]. However, if you were to reach into your pocket for your marker and accidentally drop it on the ball, causing it to move, you would incur a penalty stroke. You are not technically in the process of marking and lifting until you have bent down and begun to place your marker behind the ball.

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