Rules Guy: Is it legal to help a partner line up a putt in a better-ball tournament?

What do the rules say about assisting a partner during a team match?

What do the rules say about assisting a partner during a team match?

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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.

Our member-member tournament is a partners’ better ball. Apparently, one team had a player lining up the ball on her partner’s putts. What?! Is that really legal? —Shay Ballard, Prescott, Ariz.

Shay, you’ll forgive Rules Guy for his perplexity at your distress. Partners are… partners. They’re supposed to work together. Thus, unsurprisingly, this maneuver is absolutely permitted.

Under Rule 23.5, in partner forms of play, the partner may take any action with the player’s ball that the player is allowed to do. This includes replacing the ball and, so long as the ball is marked at the time, rotating it so that it is aligned as desired on the putting green. Yes!

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

Player 1 marks Player 2’s ball on the green and moves the ball to another place on the green without advising Player 2 what he has done. Player 2 then unwittingly putts from the wrong spot. What, if any, penalties apply? This situation occurred to me not long ago, and our pro advised that Player 1 should incur a two-shot penalty but on second thought wasn’t too sure. —David Lauer, via email

Rules Guy: Is it legal for my partner to smooth the sand in my bunker?
By: Rules Guy

We will assume this occurred in stroke play. First, a caveat: the ruling would be the same if Player 1 had simply moved the ball (crazy, but it happens) instead of marking, lifting and tossing the ball aside, although it changes how the ruling comes about. But we digress.

In stroke play, Player 1 is an outside influence in this scenario, and there was no penalty for moving the ball even though they were not allowed to do so under the Rules.

Since Player 2 was unaware that the ball was in a wrong place (or, if marked and lifted, taken out of play), said player isn’t penalized and must continue on with the ball played from the wrong-but-now-right place.

Please see Clarification 9.6/3 or 9.6/4. (Regarding match play, the short answer is that it’s generally a one-stroke penalty to Player 1, though it can escalate to loss of hole.)

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