Ever tried placing a golf ball when there is a slope involved? It’s pretty tough to curb gravity and yet there are many Rules of Golf which require a ball to be replaced on a spot after it has been lifted and moved.
If it’s proving unwilling to stay there, you can quickly find yourself in a muddle out on the golf course. Luckily, Rule 14.2e, and an assortment of clarifications found in the Official Guide to the Rules of Golf, spell out what you need to do if you’re faced with a ball that just won’t behave.
What happens when a ball doesn’t stay on its original spot?
If you try to replace a ball and it doesn’t stay on its original spot, then you must try again. If it still won’t stay there, Rule 14.2e allows you to place it on the “nearest spot where the ball will stay at rest”.
There are some limits to this. That spot can’t be nearer the hole. And if the ball was in the general area, the nearest spot has to also be in the general area. The same applies to a ball that’s in a bunker – it must be in the same bunker – a penalty area or the putting green.
If you’ve been dropping a ball first, before trying to place it, you might also have worked out that finding that nearest spot might also mean it’s placed outside of the relief area.
Can I line up the ball when replacing it?
If you’ve replaced a ball on the green, you’ll know the answer to this but a clarification to Rule 14.2c says that when “replacing a lifted ball on a spot, the Rules are concerned only about the location. The ball may be aligned in any way when being replaced (such as by lining up a trademark) so long as the ball’s vertical distance to the ground remains the same”.
What if that spot is closer to the hole?
It can’t be. If the only spot you can get the ball to stay at rest when placed is nearer to the hole, a clarification to Rule 14.2e says that “in such circumstances, the player must take penalty relief under an allowed rule.”
It gives the example of a ball in a bunker that’s resting against a rake. When the rake is shifted, the ball moves. The player tries to replace the ball, but it won’t stay in place and there are no spots they can try that aren’t closer to the hole.
Here, it says the player must take unplayable ball relief using either stroke-and-distance (going back and playing from where the last shot was hit) for a penalty stroke, or back-on-the-line relief outside of the bunker for two penalty shots.
Can I push the ball into the ground when replacing it?
I’ve seen a couple of players do this one on a green. They just press a little firmly and hope their ball will stay in on the spot. But they can’t do it. An earlier clarification to Rule 14.2c states you’ve got to follow the procedure for when a ball won’t stay on its original spot “rather than push the ball into the ground”. You’ll have played from the wrong place if you do, and will pick up the general penalty (two shots or loss of hole in match play), if you don’t first correct the mistake.
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Despite the simplification of the Rules of Golf, there are still some that leave us scratching our heads. And as I’ve passed the R&A’s Level 3 rules exam with distinction, I’ll try to help by featuring the best in this column.
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