Rules Guy: My partner’s ball was in my way, but he refused to mark it. Is this legal?

Two golf balls on the putting green. Shallow DOF. The ball in the foreground is in focus

What do you do if a playing partner won't mark their ball when asked?

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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.

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? —Name withheld, via e-mail

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.

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.

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

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By: Rules Guy

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.

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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.)

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