Rules Guy: Can I move an object like a rake if it causes my ball to move?

What do the rules say about moving an object that will move your ball also?

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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 ball has rolled up against a rake near the trap. Moving the rake will cause my ball to move, and I can’t play it as it lies. What do I do? —Peter Merlin, via email

What kind of Merlin can’t cast a spell to move a rake such that a golf ball won’t move?!? Apologies, Peter, couldn’t resist. This is among Rules Guy’s most-received queries.

bad lie in bunker
Rules Guy: When a course has removed bunker rakes, can you smooth the sand under your ball before hitting?
By: Rules Guy

Under Rule 15.2, you simply move the rake and if the ball moves you put it back where it was — no penalty. (It’s not a bad idea to mark the ball first, but this isn’t required.)

To anticipate the common follow-up, what if it’s on a slope and the ball won’t stay where you replace it? Under Rule 14.2e, you must try a second time.

If it still won’t sit still, you’re going to find the nearest spot no nearer the hole in the same area of the course where the ball will indeed stay at rest. (N.B.: Had the ball started on the putting green, the nearest spot could also be in the general area.) Abracadabra!

For more movement guidance from our guru, read on …

My partner’s ball lands outside the bunker on the edge of the lip of a trap. He walks into the trap without a club to assess his lie. While in the trap, the ball moves and rolls into the bunker. Does he play the ball without penalty as it now lies in the bunker; play it as it lies with a one-stroke penalty for causing the ball to move; or replace the ball in its original position without penalty? 
—Andy Loesberg, via email 

The answer is: It depends.

The standard for considering the player to be the cause of a ball’s movement is “known or virtually certain.” That’s, like, 95 percent or more for any math types out there.

This case doesn’t sound like it reaches that threshold, in which case natural forces become the cause of the ball having moved. So, under Rule 9.3, your partner plays from the new spot in the bunker.

Need help unriddling the greens at your home course? Pick up a custom Green Book from 8AM Golf affiliate GolfLogix.

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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