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