Rules Guy: Are players required to mark their balls on the greens when asked?

golfers putting on green

What do the rules say about refusing to mark a ball on the green?

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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.

Is it required to mark your ball when it’s on the green, whether it’s in the way of another player or not? Yesterday, I was playing with our golf pro, and he got so angry with another player because he didn’t mark his ball, even though it wasn’t in the pro’s line. The pro said that all the balls on the green must be marked … but my online research so far doesn’t seem to support that. —Liz Grebler, via email

This pro doesn’t sound like much of a people person — never mind that he is in the wrong, or at least partly in the wrong.

Under Rule 15.3, a ball at rest on the putting green only must be marked and lifted if it is interfering with play or helping another player; otherwise, there is no requirement to do so.

That said, a player can always request that you indeed mark your ball (again, if it can reasonably be deemed to be interfering or helping on the putting green) in which case you must accede to that request (making the request in essence a demand, but it sounds more polite the other way).

So, yes, the pro can make everyone mark his or her ball, but that’s not the same thing as declaring, “All balls on the green must be marked!” He might be better suited to a less customer-facing profession.

golfer marking ball
Rules Guy: Is it a penalty to adjust the alignment of your ball after lifting your mark?
By: Rules Guy

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

My fellow competitor marked his ball and picked it up. He then replaced his ball and putted without picking up his marker. I told him his ball was not in play because he left his marker in place, and thus had hit a wrong ball — he needed to replace his ball, with a two-stroke penalty. He said I was full of baloney. Is the ball in play if you don’t pick up your marker? —Robert Tarbox, via email

Truly, Robert, Rules Guy can’t stomach baloney, and alas you are both full of it.

The placing or removal of the ball marker has nothing to do with whether the ball is in or out of play. Bupkis.

In point of fact, it’s the act of lifting or replacing the ball that would change its status. That said, Rule 14.1 does prohibit playing a ball without first removing the ball marker, a breach for which your fellow competitor did deserve one penalty stroke (not two), even though it wasn’t a wrong ball.

He needs to change his ways, and you need to eat a bit of crow.

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