Thursday, July 21, 2016

Ask Linda #1345-Adjust marked ball on green

Hello Linda -

Thank you so much for your blog. I've learned a lot from reading your clear explanations of rules situations. I am hoping that you can help answer a question about a rules interpretation that has caused a lot of discussion around our club.

Many times, I see players mark their ball on the green, lift, clean and replace it, without lifting their marker. They then step back and look at the putt from behind the ball, come back to their ball and adjust the alignment. At that point, they will lift their marker and putt. However, if I read Rule 20-4, it says, "A ball that has been replaced is in play whether or not the ball-marker has been removed." It would seem that in the scenario I describe above, the adjustment to the ball after it has been replaced is actually moving a ball in play. Yet, this seems to be a common sequence - I believe I have even seen the pros on TV adjust their balls after they have been replaced.

I have searched the rules and decisions, but have not found anything that addresses this situation directly. Our pro was telling us that as long as the marker is still in place, it is fine to move and adjust (even re-lift and re-clean). But that seems contrary to 20-4.

Can you please help clear this up for us? It would be most appreciated.
Thank you very much -
Lulu from Colorado

Dear Lulu,

Your pro is correct. As long as the position of the ball on the green is marked, you may lift it, clean it, or rotate it as often as you wish, provided you do not unduly delay play. The fact that the ball is in play once it is replaced in front of your marker does not deny your right under Rule 16-1 to realign or re-lift your still-marked ball.

The reason the Rules state that the ball is in play once it has been replaced (even though the marker has not been lifted) is so that players will understand that if the ball should subsequently move (e.g., blown by the wind), it must be played from its new location [Decision 20-4/1]. The player who mistakenly replaces and hits such a ball will incur a two-stroke penalty [Decision 18-2/7].

What you may not do is rotate your ball after you have lifted your marker. This violation will give you a one-stroke penalty under Rule 18-2 for purposely touching your ball [Decision 18-2/33].

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