Russell Henley was a high-profile casualty but, in the new 2023 Rules of Golf, offenders of this Local Rule won’t be hammered quite as hard. Check out our overview of golf's one ball rule and changes that you need to be aware of.

2023 Rules of Golf

Golf One Ball Rule

Remember when Russell Henley went from hero to zero – from contention to a weekend off – in the time it took to view a small dash on a ball?

It was the 2019 Mayakoba Golf Classic and the multi-time PGA Tour winner had just set the seal on a second-round 69 to follow an opening 66.

While signing for fans in the aftermath, Henley realised one of his balls was different to the Titleist Pro V1x he normally used.

“It was a small dash, a different way it was marked that would have been easy to overlook,” said Tour rules official Brad Fabel, after Henley had told them about the problem.

He’d fallen foul of golf’s ‘one-ball rule’, a Model Local Rule and which is frequently used in the professional game and in elite amateur competitions.

It prevents players from using balls with different characteristics during a round and allows committees to require that a player uses only a single type of ball that’s on a conforming list.

Basically, you have to use the same make, brand, and model of ball with which you started the round.

It might surprise you just how strict that rule is. Each individual listing is considered a different ball. Different coloured balls, which might be the same brand and have identical markings, are also considered different balls.

Henley didn’t know how the rogue offender got into his bag, but he was penalised for using it on the ninth through 12 holes – getting hit with a two-shot penalty for each breach. It took him from a 69 to a 77 and he missed the cut.

It could have been worse. Had he discovered he was using the ball during the round and hadn’t stopped before playing from the next teeing area, he would have been disqualified.

And while that ultimate penalty still exists in the revised rule that’s included in the 2023 Rules of Golf, perhaps R&A and USGA rules chiefs took pity on the unusual situation Henley found himself in.

Because they’ve changed the sanction a player will now receive. From January 1, the one-ball rule will now see players have to add one stroke, rather than two, for each hole where they fall foul of the law.

Had this been the case in 2019, Henley would have comfortably made the cut. And who knows what could have happened at the weekend?

But now anyone else who comes to grief in this unusual way in a competition will only have to suffer half the agony from now on.

What do you think of this change to the one-ball rule? Tweet me and let me know.

More on the 2023 Rules of Golf update

We’ve painstakingly been through every update to make sure you have everything you need to know about the biggest changes, from penalties in Stableford, handicaps on scorecards, back-on-the-line relief, and much, much more.

Rules of Golf podcast

Steve Carroll and Tom Irwin sat down to discuss the 2023 updates on the From the Clubhouse podcast.

Listen in the player below, or on your preferred podcast platform.

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 23 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former captain and committee member, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the national Tournament Administrators and Referee's Seminar. He has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying and the PGA Fourball Championship. A member of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap.

Handicap: 10.9

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