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ball moves on putting green

Can I rotate my ball on the green without marking it?

You know what happens if you lift a ball on the green without marking it. But what if you just want to move it round to line it up? Here’s what the rules say

 

Let’s play another episode of ‘daft things I see golfers do on the course’. This wouldn’t be No. 1, but in the Top 10 countdown of stupid ways to pick up a penalty, this is always a contender in a club competition.

Is it ignorance, or is it laziness? Who knows? But I’ve had plenty of chats about this with playing partners over the years.

Here’s what happens: Your ball is on the green and it’s your turn to putt. Without first marking the ball, you rotate it, or spin it, so you can line up the arrow on the ball with the hole.

You know you have to mark the position of a ball when you lift it but, hey, you didn’t lift it! And it hasn’t moved from its spot either!

Aren’t you clever? No, I am afraid you are not. So why can’t you get away without marking a golf ball? Let’s dive in…

marking a golf ball

Marking a golf ball rules: Why you must mark your ball on the green before rotating it

Rule 9.4b, the one ominously titled Penalty for Lifting or Deliberately Touching Ball or Causing It to Move, should set you on notice.

But it is the clarification to this rule that’s incredibly specific about the situation we’ve described.

It says when the ball in play is deliberately touched by the player, even if it doesn’t move, then a penalty stroke is coming under Rule 9.4b.

Here’s the clincher…

“A player gets one penalty stroke if they: Without first marking the ball’s spot, rotate the ball on the putting green to line up the trademark with the hole, even if the ball remains on the same spot”.

If only you’d just marked it first.

“If the player had marked the ball before touching or rotating it, there would have been no penalty”.

You have been warned. Just employ your ball marker!

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 marking a golf ball 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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