Been a bit clumsy on the putting surface and moved your ball? Our Rules of Golf expert breaks down what happens next
My golf, which can be variable at the best of times, has this odd quirk. My putting stroke has a waggle. I do it instinctively – maybe I’m just trying to relieve the tension of missing another 18-incher – but it does give rise to episodes of clumsiness.
So when I dug back into the NCG Rules vaults and found this email, I knew instinctively where the sender was coming from…
“What is the ruling if a ball is accidentally moved on the putting green BEFORE IT IS MARKED by: a player intending to putt out without marking but accidentally moves the ball during address; or a player or opponent accidentally kicking the ball before it is marked?”
Ball moves on green: What happens if it’s accidental?
Let us open our Rule Books to 13.1d (1) where the answer is revealed. It says “there is no penalty if the player, opponent or another player in stroke play accidentally moves the player’s ball or ball-marker on the green”.
It adds the player must replace the ball on its original spot, which if not known must be estimated, or place a ball-marker to mark that original spot.
Before the rules were updated in 2023, there used to be an interpretation in the Official Guide that laid out examples of what could be classed as accidental movement.
These included dropping a coin or a club which hit the ball and caused it to move; unintentionally kicking the ball, dropping something onto it, or pressing down on a ball-marker.
Though they are no longer written down in that guide, the sentiment still applies. It doesn’t matter how you do it, if you accidentally move a ball or ball-marker on the putting green there is no penalty.
But do remember to put your ball back where it was if it’s accidentally moved.
Because if you don’t, you will be penalised and it will be a chunky two shots, or loss of hole in match play, for playing from the wrong place.
Got a question for our 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? Have you accidentally moved a ball in this way? How was it resolved? Let me know on X.
We dive deep into the golf ball roll back plans!