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Golfer hits ball from rough

I hit my ball and two came out!

It’s a more common scenario than you might expect. Our Rules of Golf guru explains what happens next

 

Sometimes I need to hold my hands up. This potential wrong ball in golf situation, described over email by Evan Cantor, has popped up a few times in various different guises in my inbox over the last few months…

“During stroke play, I hit my ball into the rough. When I located my ball, the logo, number, and my personal marking were visible so I correctly identified my ball without disturbing it.

“When I hit my shot from the rough I also hit – with the same swing – another, second ball, that was directly under my ball. This second ball was not mine nor visible prior to my hitting it due to my ball being above it and the grass of the rough being around it.”

Yet I’ve not addressed it, dear reader. Why? Because I couldn’t quite seem to locate the answer when rolling round the rule book. It does happen. So what’s the answer?

Is this a case of hitting a wrong ball in golf?

So I’m grateful to the USGA Rules team, for coming to the rescue after someone popped a similar scene, this time in a penalty area, into their online Facebook Rules of Golf discussion group.

wrong ball in golf

Some of you may be wondering whether you faced a sanction here. Evan thought it might be two-strokes for hitting a wrong ball.

But this is what the USGA had to say about the similar scenario: “No penalty. The player only intended to strike his own ball and therefore a stroke was not made at the unknown abandoned wrong ball.”

Let’s see if we can figure this out a bit further. A stray ball is defined in the rules as a wrong ball, yet an abandoned ball is also a movable obstruction.

But the definition of stroke is the “forward movement of the club made to strike the ball”. There is intent there and a clarification to the definition says as much: “starts the downswing with a club intending to strike the ball”.

So the hidden, abandoned, ball would be classed as a wrong ball if a stroke was made at it. That’s not what has happened here. The stroke has been made at the player’s own ball.

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 wrong ball in golf 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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