Rules Guy: After hitting a bad shot, I discovered my ball was cracked. Now what?

What do the rules say about a golf ball that crack mid-hole?

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.

On my approach shot, the ball came off the clubface very dead, flying only halfway to the hole. Upon inspection, I found the ball to be cracked. What is the proper procedure for this situation? —Greg Steiger, Port Orchard, WA

Greg, are playing balatas from the 1970s again? It’s time to upgrade!

Rule 4.2c allows you to substitute a new ball for one that’s cracked. Now, had the ball broken into pieces — stop playing gutta perchas, people! — the stroke would not have counted under Rule 4.2b, and you would play a new ball from the spot of the previous stroke without penalty.

But, alas and alack, that’s not what happened. Replace that cracked orb with a fresh newbie and try to get it all the way to the dance floor this time.

line on golf ball
Rules Guy: If the line on my ball gets smudged, can I swap in a new ball mid-hole?
By: Rules Guy

For more ball-substitution guidance from our guru, read on …

My buddy and I were recently sitting out a lightning storm in the cart barn when he came up with a good question related to the One Ball rule. When play is suspended due to inclement weather (or any other reason, really), and the player marks his ball on the hole, does he have to finish the hole with the same ball once play resumes? —Joe Rizzo, Douglasville, Ga. 

It is a good question, and one with a simple answer: No. When the One Ball Local Rule is being used, under Rule 5.7(d), a player can replace a ball when resuming play, so long as it’s the same type and model as detailed by a single entry on the confirming ball list. It doesn’t even need to be the same number.

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