Rules Guy: What do you do when you find your ball sitting on top of another lost ball?

What do you do when you find your ball sitting on top of another?

Getty Images

The Rules of Golf are tricky! Thankfully, we’ve got the guru. Our Rules Guy knows the book front to back. Got a question? He’s got all the answers.

My tee shot landed in some deep rough and had to mark my ball to identify it. When I lifted what was indeed my ball, it was sitting on top of another, lost ball. Our group had no idea what to do.
—Dave MacPherson, St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada

Apologies in advance, Dave, but sometimes the answers to rules questions turn on fine margins. This is one such case.

people searching for a lost ball
Rules Corner: How do I proceed when searching for a lost ball?
By: GOLF Editors

That abandoned ball is an obstruction, and a movable one so long as it can be removed without unreasonable delay or causing damage to the course. The question then becomes whether your ball was atop/astride the other ball but also on the ground, or wholly balanced atop the other ball not touching the ground.

If the former, you put your ball back as required and then remove the abandoned ball — assuming your ball moves because of that removal, per Rule 15.2 you just put it back on its original spot with no penalty.

If the latter, per Rule 15.2(2) you remove the obstruction and then drop your ball in a one club-length relief area based on the spot underneath where your ball sat atop the abandoned ball, no nearer the hole and in the same area of the course.

Need help unriddling the greens at your home course? Pick up a custom Green Book from 8 AM Golf affiliate Golf Logix.

Got a question about the Rules? Ask the Rules Guy! Send your queries, confusions and comments to We promise he won’t throw the book at you.

Pro shop

Shop our selection of game-improvement gear

Explore GOLF’s Pro Shop
generic profile image