Rules Guy: Does sliding your putter into place behind the ball constitute testing the surface?

Putter at address on green

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.

While standing over my ball when putting, I put the putter head on the ground on the far side of the ball, then slide it on the surface toward me into place. I think I started doing this to ensure I didn’t hit the ball when moving the putter into position. I was recently told my method is illegal, as I’m “testing the surface of the green,” which never occurred to me. Is this right?
— Mykel Lefkowitz, Los Angeles, Calif.

Mykel, Mykel, Mykel — is it so hard not to hit the ball when placing the putter behind it? Is this rigmarole really necessary?

The game surely makes much tougher physical demands. But we digress. As long as you’re not deliberately testing the surface by rubbing it, which would violate Rule 13.1e, there’s no rule being broken.

Hence, cleaning off mud, for example, isn’t a breach but rubbing one’s hand on the grass to see if a putt is with the grain or against it is.

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

Rules Guy: Is it legal to add a piece of tape to my putterhead?
By: Rules Guy

When I just need to tweak my ball’s alignment on the green, I’ll sometimes mark its position using my putter’s clubhead, kept in a fixed position. I do so primarily to speed up play. In a recent match, however, my partner freaked out, afraid that I would be called for a penalty. Is there any cause for concern? — David Shull, via email

While Rules Guy always applauds any effort to improve pace of play, you may be taking the notion that “every second counts” a bit far. How long does it take to fetch a marker from your pocket?

Regardless, you can tell your anxious partner to chill out, as the kids say. (Do they still say that?)

Rule 14.1 allows you to mark the ball in either of two ways: You can put a ball-marker right behind, or next to, the ball; or you can do the same holding a club on the ground. While most of us opt for the former, you do you. (Do the kids still say that, too?)

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