Rules Guy: Are you allowed to mark another player’s errant shot without their permission?

golfer at address

What do the rules say about marking a ball that interferes with your stance?

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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.

As I’m about to tee off on hole No. 6, a ball from No. 7 suddenly rolls up and comes to rest between my feet. Can I mark it, hit my drive and then replace it? —Glenn Cyr, Ridgeway, Ontario, Canada

If the progenitor of this wayward shot didn’t yell “Fore!” you may go so far as to surreptitiously pocket his ball…

Seriously, Glenn, this is a tricky one. The Rules don’t give you the authority to lift the ball — per Rule 14.1, authorization is the province of the player, his or her partner or anyone the player specifically authorizes.

That said, there’s no penalty to you if you do mark and lift it, since, according to Rule 9.6, you’re an outside influence with respect to that player and ball.

So, as the kids say, you do you.

ball in divot
Rules Guy: If your partner asks you to mark your ball in the fairway, do you have to replace it in their divot?
By: Rules Guy

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

A playing partner marked his ball that was near my putting line. Then he started to move the marker a putter-head away. I asked him not to move the marker — I secretly wanted to use his mark as a reference point for my putt — but he moved it anyway. Can he legally move his marker despite my request to the contrary?
—Leonard Smith, Tucson, AZ

Rules Guy is not a gambling man, Leonard, but if he had to wager, he’d say your opponent was in on your little “secret.”

Either way, though, he was well within his rights to give your ask the Heisman, as it were — under Rule 15.3c if a ball marker might help or interfere with play the player may indeed move it out of the way … whether you like it or not. Mark that down.

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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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