England Golf Rules Q & A: December 2014

News & Tour

England Golf's rules expert Toby Thorne has the answers to your tricky questions

Are you allowed to rake the bunker and replace the ball if it lands in a mark left by a previous user?

Why do amateurs have to hit shots from pitch marks in the middle of the fairway?

Can you repair spike marks left on the green by other players?

These three questions can be answered together: golf is a game where you play the ball as it lies and play the course as you find it.

The rules of golf cover a principle that is known as etiquette, which explains how important it is to show consideration to other players on the course. If every player made every effort to care for the course then it would make the game even more enjoyable and avoid situations such as the ball coming to rest in someone else’s footprint in a bunker, divot hole or poorly-repaired divot hole.

Once a player has made a stroke at their ball, then they should repair any damage to the course, and then these and other similar imperfections on the course will be reduced.

Once a player has made a stroke, they should repair any damage. It’s worth remembering that a player can be disqualified for a serious breach of etiquette.

How do you mark a putt correctly?

Unfortunately the rules of golf do not permit a player to keep the ball in position by holding or wedging it in place.

The recommended way to mark a ball on the green is to use a ball marker and place this behind the ball. Then the ball can be lifted and cleaned.

While not recommended, there is no penalty if the ball is marked by placing the toe of a putter behind or to the side of the ball or using a tee peg or even a twig, leaf or other loose impediment. However, a mark on the ground can not be used as the position of the ball needs to be physically marked. Once the ball has been replaced, it is in play, even if the marker is still in place.

Did I incur a penalty?

The rake had prevented my ball rolling into a bunker – I couldn’t move the rake without it happening. So I hit my shot and struck the rake.

There is no penalty. You chose not to take relief from a movable obstruction and made a stroke to the rake to move the ball.

Bunker rakes

Surely a rake should sit outside a bunker? It’s bad enough going in to a bunker, only to find the rake is at the lip with your ball against it. Where is the correct place to store a rake – in a bunker or next to it?

This is a question where you will find different answers at different courses. From a rules point of view, it is recommended that rakes should be left outside of bunkers, where they are least likely to affect the movement of the ball.

3 quick rulings

Flattening Grass
Flattening the grass or rough behind a ball is against the rules (13-2). Whether this is done by pressing the club down or by stepping on the grass behind the ball, improving your lie is not allowed.

Tee Height
In 2004 a restriction on tee height was implemented in the USGA’s rules revisions. A tee must now be no longer than four inches (101.6mm) and it must not be designed or manufactured in such a way that it could indicate the line of play or influence the movement of the ball.

Tree Escape
If you find yourself stuck behind a tree, you may be forced to play left-handed. However, if your left-handed shot forces you to stand on a cart path or immovable obstruction, you are able to take relief. After the free drop – within a club length of the nearest point of relief – the shot can then be played right-handed, as normal.

Send any queries to letters@sportspub.co.uk

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