Rules School: What happens if an outside force moves your ball on the green?

Rule 13.1 goes over the rules of the putting green.

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If you’ve ever played on harshly sloped greens or in whipping winds, you know the fear of having a ball roll off the putting surface. Just when you think you’ve hit a good shot, the ball gathers momentum and runs away from the hole into an impossible spot. Play Pinehurst No. 2 and you’ll quickly understand the feeling.

Luckily, under the updated Rules of Golf, there is some reprieve is you face this fate. In this week’s edition of Rules School, we explain what you should do if your ball moves on the putting green.

Scenario: Your ball moves on the putting green because of an outside force, such as wind or gravity.

Old rule: Play the ball as it lies. You did not get to replace your ball if it moved on the green, no matter when it happened.

New rule: Under Rule 13.1d, you have some protections if the ball is moved by an outside force, depending on when it moved. If your ball moved after it had been marked and replaced, you may replace it to its original spot. But if the ball moved before you marked and replaced it, the ball must be played from its new spot.

According to the USGA, “when a ball at rest is moved by natural forces such as the wind, it is normally played as it lies because its movement is considered a continuation of the previous stroke, as no person or object affected where the ball lies. But when the moved ball had already been lifted and replaced, the connection to the previous stroke is no longer obvious.”

So next time you hit a shot into a precarious spot on the greens, hurry and mark it — it might just save you some strokes.


Zephyr Melton Editor

Zephyr Melton is an assistant editor for where he spends his days blogging, producing and editing. Prior to joining the team at, he attended the University of Texas followed by stops with Team USA, the Green Bay Packers and the PGA Tour. He assists on all things instruction and covers amateur and women’s golf.