You’ve hit the perfect shot, it’s sailed into the hole only to strike the insert in the cup and bounce away. Is it holed in a Covid world? Our Rules of Golf expert considers the problem

The problem with foam is it has this rather annoying tendency of deflecting anything that comes into its path.

We’ve accepted all kinds of compromises as we’ve returned to golf in the midst of a pandemic, but the way our holes are now lined – so we don’t have to reach our hands all the way in to pick the ball out – has still led to plenty of golfing agony.

Throughout the last few months, social media has revealed a litany of players who’ve suffered near misses as their shots tantalisingly bounce in and then out of the cup.

And while some clubs are finding other ways to deal with it, many are still utilising the simple foam noodle. That has, naturally, led to some of you turning to me to ask whether the ball was, in fact, holed at any point.

The short answer is no.

What do the Rules of Golf say?

And here’s the long answer.

In response to the new world we all find ourselves in, the R&A issued some temporary provisions to help us get round as safely as possible.

On the hole and flagsticks, they require on course setup: “A method of inserting the hole liner to be used that means all of the ball does not fall below the surface of the putting green and can be easily retrieved by handling the ball only”.

Turning later to the rules implications of that, they add “the ball is considered holed if any part of it is below the surface of the putting green”.

For qualifying scores, those that count for handicap, CONGU say “the ball is considered holed if any part of the ball is below the surface of the putting green, even if not lodged against the flagstick”.

So why isn’t the ball holed then in this case?

Although the entirety of the ball doesn’t have to be below the surface of the cup, the definition of what is classed as holed hasn’t changed.

The key in that definition is the phrase “when a ball is at rest in the hole”.

Get out the 500-plus page Official Guide to the Rules of Golf (or make it easier on yourself by viewing it on the R&A’s rules app) and you’ll also find an interpretation that neatly explains everything.

It says: “The words ‘at rest’ in the definition of holed are used to make it clear that if a ball falls into the hole and bounces out, it is not holed.”

So close, I’m afraid, but no cigar…

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