Ask the Rules Guy: Who’s Penalized When One Ball Hits Another?

March 4, 2015

Dear Rules Guy: During a match, my buddy and I found our drives sitting right next to each other in the fairway. My friend hit first, but he shanked his shot so badly that it struck my ball, sending it into the nearby water hazard. His shot stopped in the fairway. How do we settle this conundrum?

—Bill Delp, Wadsworth, Ill.

It sounds like the only kind of golf your friend is good at is cart golf. The penalty is on him. Per Decision 18-3b/1, in match play, your pal should have asked you to mark your ball before he hit his shot, because it was “reasonably foreseeable” that he might hit your ball with his stroke. Because he didn’t, his errant shot costs him a penalty stroke. You get to replace your ball in its former spot, while he plays his next shot from the spot where his ricoshank ended up.


Mr. Rules Guru: My ball marker is about two inches in diameter, which I admit is larger than normal. My playing partner makes fun of me, calling it “the pizza pan” and a “land mine,” and insists that it’s illegal. Is he right? Please don’t make me stop using my beloved marker!

—Michael Roith, Fridley, Minn.

Out of curiosity, Michael, do you wear a 10-gallon bucket hat and use six-inch-long tees? While your bag-tag-size ball marker is hardly petite, it’s perfectly legal. Rule 20-1 suggests marking your ball with a “small coin or other similar object.” The Rules place no limit on the size, so go big with your marker if it makes you happy. Just remember to move your manhole cover to the side if it’s in your partner’s line.


Hey Rules Guy: In a recent round, I tapped in my gimme, but before I could remove my ball from the cup, the guy I was playing with drained his 30-footer! His ball came to rest right on top of mine, settling just below the lip of the hole. Is there a penalty for either of us?

—Rob Denniston, Littleton, Colo.

I’m all for a brisk pace of play, but your playing partner is taking the issue a bit too seriously. A holed putt is defined as a ball at rest within the circumference of the hole, with the entire ball below the level of the lip. Since your ball was at rest in the hole before your fellow competitor hit his putt, there’s no penalty for you or him.


Rules Man: On a par 3, my partner double-hit his tee shot, which duck-hooked out of bounds. He felt he should re-tee for his fourth, but shouldn’t he be hitting 5, when you add in the extra hit?

—David Shelby, Tazewell, Tenn.

A double-hit duck hook that goes O.B.? Who’s his swing coach, T.C. Chen? Per Rule 14-4, no matter how many times a ball is hit during the swing, the penalty is one stroke. So let’s add it up: one stroke for your partner’s tee shot, another one (not two) for the double-hit penalty, plus a third for stroke and distance. He’s hitting 4 off the tee.

Got a Rules question? Of course you do! Whatever it may be, send yours to and the question may be answered in an upcoming issue of Golf Magazine. Until then, play by the Rules!

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