Rules Corner

Rules Blog: Damaged Golf Balls

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Toledo, Ohio – With the technology of golf balls today, it is unusual to have a ball be taken out of play for damage.  This week at the U.S. Senior Open Championship, three balls have been taken out of play due to damage.

In round one, John Francisco hit a bunker shot on the third hole and cut his golf ball. During round two, Randy Haag had a ball that was out of round on the 10th hole and finally during the fourth round, James Rutledge’s ball was cracked while playing the ninth hole.

For a ball to be considered damaged, Rule 5-3 says it must be visibly cut, cracked or out of shape. A ball that has had its cover scraped by hitting a cart path or a tree is not considered damaged.

If a player wishes to lift his ball to inspect it for damage, he must first inform his marker or opponent or other fellow competitor. They can choose to watch the process at this point.

The location of the ball must be marked before the ball is lifted. The player may not clean the ball while inspecting it. Before the player can replace it, he must have agreement from the player he notified.

If the ball is not damaged, it must be replaced. If it is damaged, he may place another ball on the spot from which it was lifted.

If the player fails to follow the procedures above or lifts a ball with no reason to suspect it is damaged, he is penalized one stroke. If a player replaces a ball that is not damaged as described above and plays it, he would be penalized two strokes in stroke play or lose the hole in match play, but he would not receive the penalty for failing to following the procedure.

If a ball breaks into pieces as the result of a stroke, the stroke is cancelled and the player would play a ball to the spot from which the stroke was made.

Written by John Van der Borght, manager of Rules Communications for the USGA.


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