Rules Guy: If your partner asks you to mark your ball in the fairway, do you have to replace it in their divot?

What do the rules say about replacing a ball in a divot?

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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.

Upon reaching our drives, my playing partner and I found that our golf balls were touching and perfectly lined up toward the hole. My ball was in front, so I marked it. His approach produced a massive divot; to replace my ball in its original spot would have meant being in this newly created divot. I claimed I was entitled to a free drop, he said I wasn’t. Who was right? —Brick Rigden, Parkville, Mo.

In a word, neither.

Under Rule 14.2d, you were entitled to relief but not a drop.

When you lifted for interference, you were required to replace the ball…but when the lie of a ball to be replaced is altered, you must replace it in a specific way. Namely, by replacing it on the nearest spot with a lie most similar to the original lie that’s within one club-length of said spot, no nearer the hole and in the same area of the course.

(Your scenario, we will note, more commonly occurs in bunkers, but the process is the same.) We hope this info doesn’t hit you like a ton of bricks, Brick!

Paul Casey tosses ball
Rules Guy: Can a caddie replace a ball after it’s been marked by the player?
By: Rules Guy

For more replacement guidance from our guru, read on …

We were playing with the “lift, clean and place” local rule in effect. A player in my foursome was in the fairway and started to roll the ball with his clubhead before realizing that it’s lift, not roll. He proceeded to mark his ball and go through the procedure correctly. But had the player committed a violation by first touching the ball with his club? —Dudley Campbell, Scottsdale, Ariz.

There may be no erasers on golf pencils, but there’s a very handy one in the Rules of Golf. Dudley, say hello to Rule 14.5, aka the “Eraser” rule. (No, Rules Guy didn’t make up that nickname; it’s a real thing.)

This rule allows for correcting without penalty a mistake in dropping, placing, replacing or substituting a ball, as long as it’s done prior to the player making the next stroke. So, while it is in fact required to use your hand when placing a ball, in this instance, since the mistake was corrected, it falls under “no harm, no foul.”

Had it not been corrected, the sanction would have been one penalty stroke for replacing in a wrong way.

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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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