Been a bit clumsy on the putting surface and moved your ball? Our Rules of Golf expert breaks down what happens next

My golf, which can be variable at the best of times, has this odd quirk. My putting stroke has a waggle. I do it instinctively – maybe I’m just trying to relieve the tension of missing another 18-incher – but it does give rise to episodes of clumsiness.

So when Charles Ince emailed me this question, I instinctively knew where he was coming from…

“What is the ruling if a ball is accidentally moved on the putting green BEFORE IT IS MARKED by: a player intending to putt out without marking but accidentally moves the ball during address; or a player or opponent accidentally kicking the ball before it is marked?”

Rules of golf explained: Our expert says…

Let us open our Rule Books to 13.1d (1) where the answer is revealed. It says “there is no penalty if the player, opponent or another player in stroke play accidentally moves the player’s ball or ball-marker on the green”.

It adds that the player must replace the ball on its original spot, which if not known must be estimated, or place a ball-marker to mark that original spot.

Now, the more sceptical among you might be willing to debate what is classed as ‘accidentally’.

Firstly, have a bit more faith in your fellow player. But, secondly and seriously, the Rules are way ahead of you.

There’s an interpretation to 13.1d (1) that lays out some examples of actions causing accidental movement.

These are:

  • The player takes normal actions near the ball before attempting a stroke, such as practice swings near the ball or addressing the ball by placing the putter on the ground near the ball
  • The player drops a coin or a club, hitting the ball and causing it to move
  • The partner or opponent of the player, or one of their caddies, unintentionally moves the ball or ball-marker, such as kicking the ball, dropping something on the ball, or by pressing down the ball-marker
  • The player inadvertently steps on the ball-marker and it sticks to the bottom of his or her shoe

Notice it doesn’t say anything about the ball needing to be marked beforehand. That would come into play if the ball had been moved by natural forces.

But remember to put your ball back where it was if it’s accidentally moved.

If you don’t, you will be penalised and it will be a chunky two shots, or loss of hole in match play, for playing from the wrong place.

Have a question for our Rules of Golf expert?

Despite the simplification of the Rules of Golf at the beginning of 2019, there are still some that leave us scratching our heads. And as I’ve passed the R&A’s level 2 rules exam with distinction, I am more than happy to help.

Click here for the full Rules of Golf explained archive and details of how to submit a question to our expert.

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