Has sand splashed all over your ball? Did a pitch mark from another shot land right on your line? Our Rules of Golf expert considers your options when you’re faced with worsened conditions

You’ve hit a lovely shot. It’s got a nice lie. Now your playing partner’s hit theirs and deposited all sorts of stuff all over your golf ball. Do you have to put up with that? No, you don’t! Here’s how the Rules of Golf, and Rule 8.1d specifically, can help with restoring worsened conditions…

Is restoring worsened conditions allowed?

Let’s look at a specific example. Your ball is in the fringe, your buddy’s is in a bunker. As they hit it out of the trap, sand sprays all over your once pearly Pro V1.

You know that Rule 8.1a says you can’t remove sand and loose soil from the general area if it improves the conditions affecting the stroke, so what can do you? Your lie has changed, and it was nothing to do with you.

You can call on Rule 8.1d, which covers restoring conditions worsened after the ball came to rest.

How does it work?

If your conditions affecting the stroke – which include your lie, area of intended stance and swing, line of play, or, if you’re taking a drop, the relief area – are worsened by any person (not you, obviously!), an animal or artificial object, then you are allowed to restore the original conditions “as nearly as possible”.

You can mark the spot of the ball and lift, clean, and replace it on its original spot “if it is reasonable to do so to restore the original conditions or if material ended up on the ball when the conditions were worsened”.

What kind of things count?

An interpretation to Rule 8.1d gives some welcome examples of when restoration is allowed. They include:

  • If your line of play in the general area is worsened by a pitch-mark made by a ball played after yours came to rest
  • If your lie, or stance, or swing was made worse when a player’s stroke created a divot or put sand, soil, grass, or any material around your ball
  • If two balls are close to each other in a bunker and one player’s stance or swing – while taking their shot – makes your conditions worse.

What if I can’t restore those original conditions?

You don’t have to restore them, for a start. You are allowed to do so, and without penalty, but you are not required to do so.

But if you can’t easily restore those original conditions? What then?

You lift and replace the ball on the nearest spot – not nearer the hole, of course – that has the “most similar conditions affecting the stroke”, is within one-club length of the original spot and is in the same area of the course as that spot.

When am I not allowed to do it?

Well, you won’t be able to restore those conditions if you are the one responsible for worsening them in the first place. As ever, be careful around your ball.

But you also can’t go restoring if natural forces, such as wind or water, did the damage or if your conditions were worsened by a natural object. Loose impediments would be the most obvious example.

So, as another interpretation to Rule 8.1d states, if a branch fell from a tree and altered your lie, without causing the ball to move, you’d be stuck with it.

Have a question for our Rules of Golf expert?

Despite the simplification of the Rules of Golf at the beginning of 2019, there is still plenty in the rule book that leaves us scratching our heads. As I’ve passed the R&A’s Level 3 rules exam with distinction, I’ll try to help as much as possible. If there’s a subject, you’d like me to get into, why not tweet me? You can also look up our weekly Rules of Golf explained column.

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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