Rules Corner

Wrong Putting Green, Almost

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OMAHA, Neb. – David Frost’s first swing of the 2013 U.S. Senior Open wasn’t what he had in mind. Starting on the 494-yard, par-4 10th hole, Frost hooked his drive sharply left toward the adjacent  11th hole.  When he reached the ball, he realized it had come to rest on the fringe of the 11th green. 

David Frost left a small divot on the fringe of the 11th green while playing a shot to No. 10 on Thursday. (USGA/David Staebler)  

The Rules of Golf define a Wrong Putting Green as “any putting green other than that of the hole being played” and Rule 25-3b (Wrong Putting Green) says in part, “If a player’s ball lies on a wrong putting green, he must not play the ball as it lies. He must take relief…”  A long time ago, the golf Rule-makers decided it was a bad idea to have divots taken from putting greens. This Rule is one of the very few in golf in which a player is penalized for playing the ball as it lies.

In Frost’s case, however, his ball wasn’t on the putting green; it was on the fringe of the putting green. He asked the referee walking with his group, David Decker, a member of the USGA Regional Affairs Committee from Bethlehem, Pa., with more than a decade of officiating experience, if he could play his ball as it lies. Decker replied, “Yes.” Frost then observed that he would have to stand on the green to play the shot. Decker let him know that standing on a wrong putting green was not considered interference by the Rules.

Rule 25-3a defines interference from a wrong putting green as, “when a ball is on the wrong putting green,” and goes on to clarify that “interference to a player’s stance … is not, of itself, interference under this Rule.”

Frost stood on the putting green and played the ball from the fringe, taking a divot in the process, which broke into pieces and was not able to be replaced. Before leaving the area, Frost carefully filled the divot hole with some sand from the bunker pictured in the photograph below. Though his first two shots of the championship were quite out of the ordinary, he went on to par the holeFor more information on the Rules of Golf, go to the Rules of Golf page at or watch the Rules of Golf Explained videos at

Written by David Staebler, director of Rules Education for the USGA. Email him at


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