Rules Guy: I didn’t realize a mower damaged my ball until after I hit it. Can I replay the shot?

What do the rules say about mower damage?

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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.

One morning, the mowers were on the same hole as us. I drove the ball out of sight down the fairway. After reaching my drive, I shanked my second shot. Standing over my third, I saw that the mower had run over my ball following the drive, causing it to be severely damaged. Can I replace the ball before my third shot without penalty? Can I go back and replay my second shot with an undamaged ball? —Jobe Leonard, via email

Jobe, was this a foggy morning, was it a blind tee shot, or did you simply hit the ball so far that binoculars would have been needed to see where it landed?

Regardless, the answers to your questions are yes to the first and no to the second.

Under Rule 4.2c, if your ball is visibly cut you can substitute a new ball, but the mower was an outside influence. It likely caused your ball to move, but since you didn’t know that at the time the correct play was to play the ball as it lies, as Rule 9.6 requires knowledge or virtual certainty, and that didn’t exist here.

Disappointed golfer
Rules Guy: What do you do if your ball moves as you are preparing to address it?
By: Rules Guy

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

I came up about five feet short of the green on my approach shot, and the grass was short enough that I decided to putt. The problem: My buddy had also come up short, three feet ahead of my ball, directly in my putting line. I asked him to mark his ball. He refused, saying that you aren’t allowed to mark your ball anywhere but on the green. I asked him to play first. He refused again, claiming the rules dictated the farther ball be played first, while also admitting that he didn’t want to give me a read. I ended up chipping over his ball. But was he correct about the marking?

Please let me introduce you and your rather uncharitable buddy (lawyer, perchance?) to Rule 15.3b, which states that if a ball is interfering with one’s play, you have the right to have it lifted anywhere on the course.

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Bad Cards Fore Good Golfers (Vol 1)


Once you have made this request, the other player is obligated to lift the ball; in stroke play, he or she has the choice to play first rather than lift. He or she may not, however, plead the fifth.

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