Rules Guy: Is it illegal to putt without picking up your ball marker?

golfer marking ball

Can you make a putt without picking up the marker that marked your 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.

My fellow competitor marked his ball and picked it up. He then replaced his ball and putted without picking up his marker. I told him his ball was not in play because he left his marker in place, and thus had hit a wrong ball — he needed to replace his ball, with a two-stroke penalty. He said I was full of baloney. Is the ball in play if you don’t pick up your marker? — Robert Tarbox, via email

Truly, Robert, Rules Guy can’t stomach baloney, and alas you are both full of it.

The placing or removal of the ball marker has nothing to do with whether the ball is in or out of play. Bupkis.

In point of fact, it’s the act of lifting or replacing the ball that would change its status. That said, Rule 14.1 does prohibit playing a ball without first removing the ball marker, a breach for which your fellow competitor did deserve one penalty stroke (not two), even though it wasn’t a wrong ball.

player touching ball on green
Rules Guy: Are you allowed to touch your ball on the green after you lift your mark?
By: Rules Guy

He needs to change his ways, and you need to eat a bit of crow.

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

I know that you can use a golf tee as a ball marker. Are you also allowed to use it as an alignment aid for your putt — that is, align it with a line on the golf ball? Obviously, the tee gets removed prior to the putt. — Tony Nguyen, via email

The answer is yes…with a caveat.

You’re in the clear so long as the tee doesn’t also include features specifically designed to be used to align the golf ball since — depending on the dimensions — that could turn the tee into an alignment device, and using it to align the ball in that way would be a breach of Rule 4.3a.

A tee designed as a tee used in the manner you describe, however, does not breach any rules. You’re an innovator.

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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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