Rules Guy: After I holed out, my partner told me she moved and marked my ball. What now?

Jordan Spieth of the United States marks his ball on the first green during the first round of the TOUR Championship at East Lake Golf Club on August 24, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia.

What do the rules say about a playing partner who marks and moves your ball and forgets to tell you?

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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.

I played a blind shot from a deep greenside bunker onto the green, then raked the sand. Eventually, I got to my ball, missed the resulting putt and tapped in. Walking off the green, I noticed a stray ball marker. Turns out one of my playing partners forgot to tell me she’d marked my ball and moved it from her line. Should I have been allowed to replace my ball at the proper spot and replay from there? Also, any penalties and, if so, to whom? —Terry Christensen, via email

In stroke play, the other player is an outside influence, and there is no penalty to anyone for the ball being moved. File it under: Stuff happens.

Since you had no knowledge or virtual certainty that an outside influence moved your ball— see Rule 9.2b(2) if you’re inclined — you proceeded correctly, not from a wrong place, and the ball is holed. No replace, no replay, no nada.

For more marking guidance from our guru, read on …

golfers putting on green
Rules Guy: Are players required to mark their balls on the greens when asked?
By: Rules Guy

I was called out for aligning my ball for a putt after lifting my ball marker and told that if I were caught doing it again I’d be penalized. Yet per 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, Kildare, Ireland

Sad to say, you were called out correctly. Never mind that “vertical distance to the ground” is a head scratcher, even for Rules Guy.

The clarification is a misdirection — it has nothing to do with why you’re getting a penalty. You breached the rules by “lifting,” which includes rotating, without first marking your ball. That’s right: 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. In sum: Mark it, Mark!

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