Monday, May 16, 2016

Ask Linda #1305-Scratch surface on green to mark ball

Dear Linda,

Thanks very much for your continuation of the explanations of the rules.

We have a problem here in the south of France with some golfers who don't use a ball marker or coin to mark their ball on the green but scratch an arrow or cross in the grass. This annoys many of us especially when the marks are on our line. I realize that the method of marking in the Rules is only a recommendation but wonder if I can penalize them under Rule 16-1d for Testing Surface. We would really like to outlaw this system, which makes a mess of the green.

Lou from France

Dear Lou,

The Rules recommend that a player use a ball-marker, a small coin, or something similar to mark the position of a ball [Rule 20-1, Note]. However, this is not a requirement. There are other methods of marking a ball that are not recommended, but nevertheless are permissible, such as placing the toe of a club at the side of or behind the ball, using a tee or a loose impediment, and scratching a line [Decision 20-1/16].

This last method (scratching a line) is particularly discouraged for the following reasons:
• The player may be testing the surface of the green (violation of Rule 16-1d).
• The mark may be construed as indicating a line for putting (violation of Rule 8-2b).
• The surface of the green may be damaged.

I would add that doing anything that might damage the green is very poor etiquette. You should do everything possible to break players of this lazy and potentially destructive habit. If it appears that they are testing the surface of the green, you may certainly impose the two-stroke/loss-of-hole penalty provided in Rule 16-1d. Perhaps you might first try a positive appeal, such as: “Please use a small coin or marker to mark your ball on the putting green as a courtesy to the green staff and your fellow golfers.” Write this request (or a similar one) next to a basket of free ball-markers where players register.

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