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ball accidentally moved on putting green

A trolley on the loose causes havoc – how do the Rules sort this out?

The situation our emailer describes may be bizarre, but what happens if you’ve accidentally caused your ball to move on the green? Our expert gets stuck in

 

This sounds like something straight out of Caddyshack so thanks to Chris Wilkins for his very entertaining email.

“A player has addressed the ball on the putting green and is about to start their stroke when one of their playing partners shouts that there is an electric trolley ‘loose’ and running down the fairway.

“The player looks up in confusion and, at the same time, ‘accidentally’ hits what was a four-foot putt, 30 feet past the hole.

“Does the shot count and the ball must be played again from where it lies, or can the ball be replaced under no penalty? This actually happened in a ladies’ fourball at the club.”

Am I the only one left wondering what the fate of the trolley was? Did it end up water-bound like in one of those social media memes?

If you wonder why this aspect has caught my eye, it’s because the rules issue itself – despite the bizarre scenario – is an easy question to answer. So, without further ado…

Ball accidentally moved on putting green

A stroke is the forward movement of the club made to strike the ball. There must be intent. There clearly isn’t here. So it’s not a ‘shot’.

Is there a problem with the ball moving? As along as it’s accidentally – as Chris explains in his correspondence – then no.

Rule 13.1d says there is no penalty if a player, opponent, or another player in stroke play accidentally moves the player’s ball or ball-marker on the putting green.

It doesn’t matter how that ball was moved if it was accidental.

You simply replace the ball on its original spot – estimate if the exact position isn’t known – and carry on.

Where you can come unstuck is if you don’t replace it. You must put it back. If you play a stroke from the new position, you’ll get the general penalty (loss of hole in match play or two strokes in stroke play) for playing from a wrong place.

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.

Have you had a bizarre rules experience like this out on the course? What do you think about this accidentally moving a ball on the putting green rule? Get in touch and tell me all about it 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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