Rules Guy: What do you do when someone’s ball comes to rest on your body?

Tour players hit shots into galleries all the time. But what happens when a ball lands on a person during a recreational round?

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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 was tending the flag with my hand behind my back, facing away from the fairway approach. Suddenly, I heard a thud and felt a ball land in the crook of my left little finger and the flag. What should I have done in this situation? What I did was to just drop the ball straight down and walk away. I told the apologetic golfer what I had done and left the stroke question to their foursome. 
—Tom McCumsey, Bremerton, Wash.

Kudos to you and your self-control, Tom, for not taking that flagstick and, well, you know, impaling this accurate but awful golfer …. Not even a “Fore!”???

An illustration from 1934 features a group dealing with a "stymie" situation.
Rules Guy: Can I mark the ball of a player who hit into me and is in the way?
By: Rules Guy

As to the rules of the situation, what you did was fine. As to the player, there is no penalty, etiquette breach notwithstanding; because the ball accidentally came to rest on someone, there’s no penalty to anyone and the ball needs to be placed under the estimated spot where it came to rest, per Rule 11.1 and Exception 1 to Rule 11.1b.

In this case, given that your hand was holding the flag, the ball should have been placed on the lip of the hole. Not to be vindictive, but Rules Guy hopes it was for a tap-in triple-bogey, not a birdie.

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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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