Rules Guy: Are you allowed to touch your ball on the green after you lift your mark?
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I was called out for aligning my ball for a putt after placing my ball and then lifting my ball marker — that I cannot adjust the ball unless the marker is still in place, and if I were caught doing it again I’d be penalized. Yet in the R&A’s rule clarification 14.2c/1, the ball can be aligned in any way so long as its vertical distance to the ground remains the same, I don’t see any reference to a ball marker being required when lining up a putt. Can you clarify? — Mark O’Neill, via email
We can, and we will, forthwith. Sad to say, you were called out correctly. Rotating the ball is considered “lifting” under Rule 14.1, and you only get the right to lift the ball on the putting green after you mark it first.
So, if you rotate the ball when it isn’t marked you get one penalty stroke — since it didn’t change position you need not worry about replacing it. Please see Rule 14.1a.
The clarification you cited refers to how the ball actually gets replaced — you can replace the ball in almost any orientation; the aligning of the ball isn’t your issue here — but it doesn’t address whether or not the ball was marked when originally lifted, as that’s a separate issue.
In sum: mark it, Mark!
For more marking guidance from our guru, read on …
On the green, I rest my putter next to my ball with my left hand while adjusting the line on the ball itself with my right. Can I in fact legally use my putter to mark my ball during this adjustment? — Casper Ransborg, Denmark
Casper, you can.
Rule 14.1a gives you two ways to properly mark a golf ball: with a ball marker or holding a club on the ground next to the ball.
You could even hold the putter with your right hand and adjust the line on the ball with your left. Whatever makes you happy.
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