Rules Guy: My partner marked my ball and I played from the wrong spot. What now?

golfer marking ball

What do the rules say about accidentally playing from the wrong spot?

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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.

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

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.)

marking ball on green
Rules Guy: Can you refuse a playing partner’s request to leave your ball mark near their putting line?
By: Rules Guy

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

Recently, my ball was on the apron in front of a hole. As another player prepared to chip from several yards behind my ball, he asked me to mark. I told him I couldn’t due to my ball not being on the green. He said it was OK because he was requesting it. Is that correct? — Gaetano Lombardo, New York, N.Y.

In this crazy, mixed-up world, who can you trust when it comes to the Rules of Golf? At least this once, that guy you were playing with!

Though his explanation wasn’t perfect, it was essentially correct. Per Rule 15.3, another player may ask you to lift your ball if he or she reasonably believes that it might interfere with his or her play.

Absent that request, you cannot lift it for interference; however, upon such a request, you are required to mark and lift (or play first in stroke play) — refusal to do so would earn you the general penalty of two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play once their stroke is made. Note, however, that this is one of the times that you may not clean your ball after lifting it.

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