Lee Hodges picked up a PGA Championship penalty after his ball overhung the hole and took too long to drop. Viewers complained it was still moving when it finally fell but, as our Rules of Golf expert explains, it made no difference

When is a ball not moving? When you’ve reached the hole and it overhangs the cup for more than 10 seconds.  

If that sounds like a particularly bad riddle, let me explain. Lee Hodges picked up a one stroke penalty during the third round of the PGA Championship after his putt to save par at the 17th hole at Oak Hill hung precariously on the lip of the hole.

Having walked up behind the hole, a statement from the PGA Championship rules committee said he then waited more than 10 seconds.

“The ball then fell into the hole, after the 10-second limit provided for in the Rule. As a result, Hodges received a one-stroke penalty, under Rule 13.3a, and the ball was holed”.

All very straightforward and a textbook application of the rule. But it still had social media deriding the decision as dumb and “the worst rule in golf”.

There was a source for their ire. Some viewers considered the ball was still moving. Hodges’ playing partner, Jordan Spieth, certainly thought so too, saying “I think it’s gonna go.”

But there’s a key part of Rule 13.3a that armchair viewers may have missed. It is that once the player has reached the hole and when the 10 seconds have elapsed, if the ball hasn’t fallen into the hole in this time it is treated as being at rest.

From that point, it doesn’t matter at all if the ball is still moving. It’s irrelevant.

Once those 10 seconds are up, so is the opportunity for the ball to fall into the hole. You’re not hitting a moving ball – even if it is oscillating, wobbling, or shifting off its spot – because the rules no longer consider it to be a moving ball.

You can, of course, argue over whether that time limit is sufficient. When you think about it, though, there is a very good reason for having a limit and then treating the ball as coming to rest.

Otherwise, you could theoretically spend ages hovering over a ball hoping it will finally fall into the cup.

So when the ball doesn’t fall into the hole in the waiting time, it is at rest. If gravity then takes over, the player has holed out with their previous stroke but gets one penalty shot added to their score.

What do you think of the ball overhanging hole in golf rule? Has it ever happened to you on the golf course? Let me know with a tweet.

Have a question for our Rules of Golf expert?

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.

You can read all of Steve’s Rules of Golf explained columns here.

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. Steve is currently playing: Driver: TaylorMade Stealth 2 3-Wood: TaylorMade Stealth 2 Hybrids: TaylorMade Stealth 2 Irons: TaylorMade Stealth 5-A Wedge Wedges: TaylorMade Hi-Toe 54 and 58 Putter: Sik Sho Ball: TaylorMade TP5

Handicap: 11.3

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