Your ball is attracting the attention of another player. What if they move it or, worse, pick it up? Our Rules of Golf expert explains
A brand new TP5 or a shiny Pro V1 that’s straight out of the box – stumble across a golf ball and it is welcome treasure to a golfer who believes its owner has mislaid it.
But while discovering a such delights in the woods, or the bushes, is one thing, sometimes we can be a bit light-fingered – mistakenly or otherwise – when we see a ball in the rough or close to a fairway.
I’m sure all of you at some point have hit a shot, seen it land, but got to its position to find it nowhere to be seen. Maybe you spied a player in another group picking it up, or you merely suspect there has been some tomfoolery.
So if you find a random player fiddling with your ball – ahem – then here’s what the Rules of Golf say you can do…
Golf ball pick up rules: Ball lifted or moved by outside influence
Turn your rule books open to 9.6 – ‘Ball Lifted or Moved by Outside Influence’.
You need to know or be virtually certain it happened – seeing your ball being shifted clearly qualifies – but if your ball is lifted or moved by an outside influence, which includes another player in stroke play, there is no penalty.
You need to replace the ball on its original spot. But you can estimate and use reasonable judgement if that isn’t known – as would be the case if you’re watching someone making eyes at it from 200 yards away.
What if they’ve nicked your ball? Firstly, restrain yourself. But never fear. This rule applies whether or not your ball has been found.
Now, you might have felt the bit about known or virtually certain at the start of this section was a little weird. After all, you’ve watched someone make off with your precious Titleist.
But what if you merely harboured suspicions? In that case, if it’s not known, or virtually certain, the ball was lifted or moved by an outside influence – and you couldn’t find it – then you’d have no other option but to take stroke-and-distance relief.
Here’s one other question for you. What if someone has moved your ball to a different spot, but you only found out about it after you’ve played the ball. Have you not then played from the wrong place?
A clarification to Rule 9.6 says you haven’t fallen foul because you did not know what had happened before you made the stroke.
Have a question for our Rules of Golf expert?
Despite the changes to the Rules of Golf at the beginning of 2019, 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 golf ball pick up rules? Let me know by leaving a comment on X.
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