You’ve hit the perfect shot but, wait, someone points out an error. Do you get out of buying the drinks? Our Rules of Golf expert explains

It’s a 12,500-1 shot and a feat some players will never get to celebrate. So, imagine, you’ve done the improbable – you’ve made a hole-in-one – and the rules police strike up.

Joy quickly turned to consternation for Richard Pryor, who emailed this tale of woe: “I teed off on a par 3, it went in the hole – my first ever hole-in-one! But… I had placed my tee peg on the wrong side of the tee box marker so I didn’t play within the correct area.

“So I put a three on the scorecard. Subsequently, I have tried to find the correct rules and I don’t think we did it correctly. Can you clarify please?

“I assume it no longer counts as a hole-in-one?”

Rules of Golf explained: Our expert says…

I want to say this is the golfing equivalent of a no-ball wicket – but a hole-in-one is much rarer so it’s got to be far more agonising.

What you do in a random friendly knock, of course, is up to you but if we’re playing ‘strict rules’, as James Bond would say, then you’re very unlikely to be putting the ball on some sort of trophy plinth.

Rule 6.1b says a ball must be played from inside the teeing area and, in stroke play, the penalty for not doing this is two strokes.

Importantly for Richard, given what happened next, a player must “correct the mistake by playing a ball from the inside the teeing area”.

The ball played from outside the teeing area is not in play and Rule 6.1b (2) reveals “that stroke and any more strokes before the mistake is corrected (including strokes made and penalty strokes solely from playing that ball) do not count.

“If the player does not correct the mistake before making a stroke to begin another hole or, for the final hole of the round, before returning his or her scorecard, the player is disqualified.”

That’s settled then? Well, not quite.

There is a way – albeit incredibly improbable – that this hole-in-one might still count and it would depend entirely on the format being played and the generosity of an opponent.

For you see, in match play there is no penalty for playing a ball from outside the teeing area, but the opponent may cancel the stroke.

“If the opponent cancels the stroke, the player must play a ball from inside the teeing area and it is still his or her turn to play.”

But…

“If the opponent does not cancel the stroke, the stroke counts and the ball is in play and must be played as it lies.”

In this case, it’s in the hole. So if the opponent allows it, in some unbelievable show of sportsmanship, it would be a hole-in-one.

Would you dash your mate’s dreams of recording their first ace? What is it to be? Loss of hole, or loss of drink? You decide.

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.

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