Rules Guy: What is the penalty for accidentally using your playing partner’s club off the tee?

What do you do if you accidentally use your playing partner's driver off the tee instead of your own?

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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.

In a stroke-play competition, Player A inadvertently pulls Player B’s driver out of B’s bag and makes a stroke from the teeing area. Realizing the mistake, A hands the club to B and declares it out of play, then replays the stroke with his own driver. He abandons the first ball and winds up making a 5 with the second ball. What is his score for the hole? —Johnny Williams, Tampa Bay, FL

Something similar once happened to Rules Guy with a pair of identical-twin sisters on a tournament committee, but this is not the forum for such matters ….

Even if you had less than 14 clubs, you’re not allowed to use a club selected for play by another player on the course. In essence, you get two penalty strokes for the breach of Rule 4.1b.

Then, when you played again from the teeing area, you were actually playing under stroke and distance. Before the 4.1b penalty, that stroke with your own driver was actually your third shot, plus whatever else it took to get the ball into the hole, plus two more for the 4.1b penalty.

To review: 1 (stroke with wrong club); 2 (penalty stroke under stroke and distance); 3 (stroke with correct club from teeing area); 4, 5, 6, 7 (four more strokes to complete the hole); 8, 9 (penalty strokes under 4.1b). And with that, Rules Guy is off to take a nap. We are exhausted.

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

My ball settled into thick rough a few yards in front of the green. I identified it and moved away as my opponent played his pitch shot. He bladed it, and his ball struck my ball, which popped up and returned to its original position. His ball caromed into a greenside bunker. I played my pitch shot onto the green; he went to play the bunker shot — and discovered that it was not his ball but mine, while I had mistakenly played his ball! We decided that he should play the ball from the bunker and then just switch back our balls. Was that correct? —Eric Bjankini, via email

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

In two words, heavens no. Consider, my good Mr. Bjankini: Why should your opponent play the wrong ball from the wrong place?

In match play, under Rule 6.3c, you lose the hole once you play the wrong ball — end of story.

In stroke play, things get a bit more complex. You get a two-stroke penalty and need to replay your shot from that original spot, only with the correct ball. Your fellow competitor also needs to place his ball in that spot and play from there as well, only without penalty, since he’s done nothing untoward (other than blade his prior shot).

As to what order you play in, since you’re both in the same spot, that’s for you two to work out.

And as to the lie potentially changing after the first player goes, Rule 14.2d has you covered. If the lie is altered before replacing the ball, the second player will place the ball on the nearest spot with a lie most similar to the original lie within one club length of the original spot, no nearer the hole and still in the general area.

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

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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