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Can I clean my golf ball?

Am I allowed to use the green to clean my ball?

Trying to move some clutter but worried about testing the putting surface? Our Rules of Golf guru is on hand with all you need to know

 

There are some actions on the green that are just a no-no. In golf’s rules Monopoly, they are do not pass Go and go directly to jail.

You’ll get into trouble, for instance, if you are trying to discover information about how a ball might roll on a putting surface.

But what if you find yourself in Terry Collins’ situation? He emailed to ask: “I have been told recently that if after you have marked and lifted your ball on the green you then proceed to wipe your ball on the green itself in order to clean it you will incur a two-shot penalty. Is this true?”

So what’s the score then? Is using the putting green to shift a bit of mud from your ball going to end in tears? Let’s find out.

cleaning your golf ball

Is cleaning your golf ball on the green allowed?

If this one was against the rules, I’d have been in trouble too many times to count over the years.

It is true that you must not deliberately test the putting green and Rule 13.1e says these actions include rubbing the surface or rolling a ball. The sanction for doing so is the general penalty – so two shots in stroke play and loss of hole in match play.

But it’s the word “deliberately” that forms the basis of the rule and essentially answers Terry’s question.

Are you purposely testing the green when cleaning some debris off your ball?

A clarification to Rule 13.1e goes into some examples about what would, and wouldn’t, be deliberately testing a putting green.

If you roughen up, or scrape the green, to find out which way the grain is going, then take yourselves off to golf rules prison.

But here’s an action that is not a breach: “A player rubs a ball on the putting green to clean off mud.”

Let’s all celebrate. My honour – along with many of yours, I would suspect – is still intact.

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 of these cleaning your golf ball rules? 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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