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ball overhanging hole

My ball is hanging over the hole – what do I do?

We’ve all left a putt so agonisingly short that it looks like it could fall into the hole at any moment. Our Rules of Golf expert explains how to proceed

 

If you don’t mind a bit of internet outrage from time to time, this one tends to get social media tapping away.

Let’s set the scene. Our hero putts and their ball stops agonisingly short of the hole. Will it drop, won’t it? It seems to be right on the edge forever.

It’s actually a position many of us find ourselves in time and time again – and it can be a shake of the head if we see players picking up a penalty in the pros.

It can be a bit complicated. Is it moving? What counts as moving? How long do you get? What happens if you take too long?

Yes, that’s an awful lot of questions. So let’s answer them and if you find yourself in such a spot, you’ll know how to proceed…

ball overhanging hole

Ball overhanging hole

Sometimes you need to flit around the rule book to find a complete answer but not here. Everything you could possibly need to know is neatly wrapped up in Rule 13.3 – Ball Overhanging Hole.

If any part of your ball is overhanging the lip, you are allowed a reasonable time to reach the hole and then a further 10 seconds to wait and see whether it will drop.

If it does, you’ve holed out with your previous stroke. But if it doesn’t, the ball is then treated as being at rest. From that point, it doesn’t matter whether it is oscillating or moving.

Should the ball then fall into the hole before it has been played, you are classed as having holed out with your previous stroke but you add one penalty stroke to your score for the hole.

What counts as “reasonable time” to reach the hole? A clarification to 13.3a says determining that “depends on the circumstances of the stroke and includes time for a player’s natural or spontaneous reaction to the ball not going into the hole”.

What if the ball is lifted, or moved, before the waiting time has finished?

Rule 13.3b says it must be replaced on the lip of the hole and the waiting time no longer applies.

If it’s deliberately moved by your opponent in match play, the rules say it’s holed under the previous stroke. If it’s deliberately moved or lifted by another player in stroke play, they’re going to get a two-shot penalty and the ball must be replaced on its original spot.

There’s one more thing to consider and, again, we must return to the clarifications. What happens if a ball that’s overhanging the hole moves when you take out the flagstick?

Did you cause it to move? If not, and the ball falls in, then Rule 13.3a applies. If it’s “known or virtually certain” that removing the flagstick caused the ball to move, replace it on the lip.

You won’t get penalised because the flagstick is classed as a movable obstruction.

Got a question for our expert?

Despite the changes to the Rules of Golf in 2019 and 2023, there are still some that leave us scratching our heads. I’ll try to help by featuring the best of your queries in this column.

What do you think about these ball overhanging hole rules? How many times have you found yourself in a spot where your ball was hanging over the hole? Let me know by leaving a comment on X.

Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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