Rules Guy: My friend’s ball got stuck in his putter after his stroke. What now?

If you wagered that this is some kind of penalty, fork it over.

Christopher Lane

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.

My friend’s putter has a forked rear section. He hit a putt from off the green that popped in the air and lodged in the fork. Is there a penalty, and what should we have done? —Richard Barnes, Clarkston, Wash.

Assuming that the putter is, indeed, conforming, if your friend correctly followed the rules he wasn’t completely forked.

Per Rule 11.1b(1), when a ball in motion comes to rest atop (or, in this case, within) a moving outside influence, the player must drop the ball in a one-club-length relief area.

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That area is based on the spot immediately under where the ball first came to rest on that club and in the same area of the course, no nearer the hole. There’s no penalty.

A ball wedged in a putter … there’s a first time for everything.

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

I play right-handed. Recently, my ball stopped inches from a tree trunk. I considered turning my 4-iron upside down to hit the ball as a lefty but decided to play left-handed with the back of my putter. Allowed? — Dave Silkwood, Troutdale, Ore.

Man on green
Rules Guy: Is it legal to use my putter to mark my ball?
By: Rules Guy

Yes, Dave, it’s allowed — provided you didn’t push, scrape or scoop the ball with the head of whatever the club, per Rule 10.1a, lest you get the general penalty of two strokes in stroke play and loss of hole in match play.

A ball must be “fairly struck,” which thankfully isn’t the same as saying it must be well struck.

Without wishing to cast aspersions on your backhanded-putter skills, we hope you considered employing Rule 19.2 instead — sometimes penalty relief is the percentage play.

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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