Rules Guy: Is it legal to fix the edge of the hole before your group has finished putting?

damaged hole

What do the rules say about fixing the hole during play?

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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.

I was the first person in my foursome to putt. After holing out, I fixed the edge of the cup that someone had dinged with the flag. Another member of the group said I can’t do so until everyone in the foursome has finished putting. Is that true? — Betsy Walden, via email

It is, Betsy, both untrue and contrary to the spirit of our great game.

Under Rule 13.1c, damage to the hole may be repaired before or after players putt. Please, just don’t do it during a putt if there is intent to influence a ball in motion, which would fall afoul of Rule 11.3 and get you the general penalty of two strokes in stroke play and loss of hole in match play.

You don’t want to get dinged yourself, despite good intentions.

For more putting green-related guidance from our guru, read on …

Rules Guy: Are you allowed to touch your ball on the green after you lift your mark?
By: Rules Guy

My friend hit his approach shot long and left, the ball coming to rest on a practice putting green. It was impossible to putt from there with any hope of reaching the green — and our greenskeeper would skin a person alive if he discovered you’d taken a divot with a wedge from his practice area. Any remedy other than putting to an area where you could then safely use a wedge? — John S. Payne, via email

John, it sounds like club members might need to use a wedge to save their skin from this, er, deeply committed greenskeeper…

As it happens, not only is there a remedy, but your superintendent would be happy to know (if he or she doesn’t already) that you’re in fact required to take relief off of the practice putting green under Rule 13.1f.

The practice putting green is a wrong green, and as such you must take free relief so that you have no interference from it.

The procedure is to find the nearest point of complete relief in the same area of the course as where the ball originally lay — usually the general area, since a wrong green is part of the general area — and drop within one club-length no nearer the hole.

Need help unriddling the greens at your home course? Pick up a custom Green Book from 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.

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