Rules Guy: Can my playing partner mark my ball without my consent?

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My tee shot landed in the first cut of rough. The next player to hit followed my path, with his shot winding up about 18 inches behind mine. He got to the balls first, marked mine, hit his shot, returned my ball to the spot where it landed, then moved on. Is that correct protocol? —Martin Vette, Yuba City, Calif. 

While Rules Guy applauds your fellow player’s obvious desire to keep things moving along at a lively clip, his actions are potentially troublesome. (Also, “moving on” ahead of one’s playing partner can be both rude and dangerous.)

In stroke play, this Rapid Roy isn’t penalized, because under Rule 9.6 there’s no penalty for an outside influence moving a player’s ball at rest. In match play, however, it’s a one-stroke penalty under Rule 9.5 for a player moving and lifting the opponent’s ball without authority, instead of following the strictures of Rule 15.3b and requesting the player mark and move a ball that is interfering with his play.

It is worth noting that all of the above is true on the putting green as well, where there is one anomaly: Per Exception 2 Rule 9.5b, in match play the opponent gets no penalty if he marks and lifts your ball in the mistaken belief that it is his own ball. Dare I say, don’t touch anyone else’s ball without express consent.

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