Rules Guy: What do you do when two balls collide after being hit at the same time?

What do the rules say about two balls that collide when they've been hit at the same time?

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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 friendly game, two players were about equidistant from the hole, with one player chipping and the other putting. The player on the green hit his putt, and a second later the player off the green hit his flop shot. The putt was rolling and about 6 feet from the hole when the flopper landed and then collided with the other ball. Do the rules of outside agency apply, as they were outside agencies to each other? Does it matter who (barely) played first? That one shot was from off the green and one on? Should both shots be replayed? If not, should they be played from where they came to rest, or where they might have come to rest without the collision? Lastly, would the rules be different in match play vs stroke play?
— Elliot Funk, Santa Rosa, CA

Elliot, watch your language!

Since 2019, the correct term is “outside influence” rather than “outside agency.”

Nitpicking aside, you were very much on the right track — the rules of outside influence indeed apply, as each ball in motion is an outside influence vis-a-vis the other.

This means that neither player gets a penalty for the collision. That said, how each player must proceed differs because the strokes were made from different areas of the course.

Under Rule 11.1, and regardless of the competitive format, the player who was chipping from the general area, off the putting green, must play his ball as it lies when it comes to rest; the player who was putting from the putting green must replay the stroke.

Ball in air
Rules Guy: What happens when my first ball collides with my provisional?
By: Rules Guy

For more collision guidance from our guru, read on …

I was watching a Champions Tour event recently, and a player who shall remain nameless using a long (but presumably not anchored) putter missed a short putt. He dropped the flatstick in disgust, and it came very close to hitting his ball at rest. Had it done so, would there have been a penalty? — Mark Pozniak, Red Hook, N.Y.

Surely any broom-wielding holdout has suffered enough indignity, no? And, in fact, this disgusted one would have been in the clear regardless, as the relevant Rule, 13.1(d), turns on the question of whether the player accidentally caused the ball to move, not on whether he intended to drop the putter.

As contact clearly would have been accidental, he’d simply move the ball back to its original location with no penalty … and try to hole another shorty with his longy.

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Got a question about the Rules? Ask the Rules Guy! Send your queries, confusions and comments to rulesguy@golf.com. We promise he won’t throw the book at you.

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