What are the odds? Two different shots, played from separate parts of the course, have landed together. It looks like a bit of a pickle but our Rules of Golf expert is here to advise
A real life example for you to ponder. One of the golf balls in this picture is mine!
In a fourball betterball, my partner and I both played our approach shots on the 3rd hole. Each of us missed the green and landed in the rough.
When we arrived, our balls were side by side – they were in fact touching – and, clearly, the question was: ‘What now?’
How would you proceed in this situation?
Golf ball interfering with play: What do the Rules of Golf say?
Before you all start shouting that the answer is easy, there are a couple of things you still need to be careful about.
Clearly, my ball, which was closest to the hole, is interfering with the play of my partner’s.
Rule 15.3b says interference exists when another player’s ball at rest might interfere with the area of intended stance or swing, is on or close to the line of play that there is a reason chance their ball in motion could hit that ball, or that it is close enough to distract a player in making their stroke.
So if my partner reasonably believes my ball may interfere with his play, as is obviously the case here, he can require me to mark the spot and lift the ball.
Note the word ‘require’. If he asks, I have to comply.
Here’s where it can get a bit sticky for me. When I lift the ball, I am not allowed to clean it.
And cleaning is a bit more specific than you might think. It’s not just wiping it down with my towel. Putting it in my pocket can be construed as cleaning if it rubs off any materials that were on it.
That’s why you’ll often see players holding their ball as if it’s diseased. They’re worried about being seen to clean the ball.
If I clean it, or fail to mark the spot before lifting the ball, I’ll pick up a penalty stroke.
What if my marker is then interfering? Rule 15.3c comes into play. As you’d expect, I can move that out of the way – or be required to do so – to a new spot “measured from its original spot, such as by using one or more clubhead-lengths”.
All with me so far?
My partner hits hit shot and I need to replace my ball on its original spot. Only that spot, as it was, is no longer there.
He hit a wedge and he’s completely destroyed the area where my ball had been. What now? Do I have to hit it out of a divot?
Now we move onto another rule, this time Rule 14.2d (2). This looks at where to replace the ball if the original lie is altered.
When it is anywhere except in sand, I have to replace the ball by placing it on the “nearest spot with a lie most similar to the original lie”.
That needs to be within a club length from its original spot, no nearer the hole, and in the same area of the course as that spot.
If I hadn’t been paying attention, and didn’t know what the original lie was, I must estimate and then replace the ball.
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? Have you experienced this golf ball interfering with play situation on the course? What did you do? Let me know on X.
We dive deep into the golf ball roll back plans!