Rules Guy: If you accidentally drive over your ball, can you take free relief?

embedded ball

What do the rules say about taking free relief when you run over your own ball?

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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.

In a stroke-play event, driving through the rough looking for my ball, I accidently drove over my ball, embedding it. Do I get a free drop, or not? What if I hadn’t been the driver — would that have changed things? —John Trebble, Waterdown, Ontario, Canada

Accident forgiveness isn’t just a selling point for car insurance companies — the Rules of Golf have a place for it, too.

Under Rule 9.4b, if this happened while you were expressly in the process of looking for your ball, you aren’t penalized one stroke; if you were merely oblivious, you are. (If you weren’t the driver, you’re in the clear, as is the driver, assuming no malfeasant intent.)

Either way, per Rule 14.2d, you get to take your ball out of the altered lie and replace the ball in the nearest lie most similar to the original within one club-length of the original spot, no nearer the hole and in the same area of the course.

Next time, please consider parking in the fairway and looking for the ball in the rough on foot.  

golf cart driving
Rules Guy: What do you do when your ball lands on a golf cart that drives away?
By: Rules Guy

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

Beautiful sunny day, match play. I drive up next to my ball in the fairway, and the shadow from my cart is over my ball. My opponent tells me I need to move my cart, that the shadow over the ball was improving my lie. Is he joking? He is not. I move my cart and play on. Is he right — or crazy? —Daniel Kramer, Scottsdale, Ariz.

So, your opponent threw shade at you, eh?

Let’s put it this way, Daniel: He’s half-right, at least in the rules sense. “Shading” the ball isn’t improving the lie, which relates to Rule 8.1.

But a player can’t deliberately position an object for the purpose of blocking sunlight; doing so breaches Rule 10.2b(5) [see interpretation 10.2b(5)1] and garners the general penalty of two strokes in stroke play and loss of hole in match play. If you didn’t deliberately put the cart there for that purpose, there’s no breach under this rule.

In the future, though, find a parking spot farther away from your ball — a little more exercise never hurt anyone.

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.

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