Rules Corner

Ball Overhanging Lip Of The Hole

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John Van der Borght, USGA

Lake Orion – On the sixth hole of the second round of the U.S. Senior Open Tom Watson had a 7-foot putt from the right of the hole. His putt ran up to the lip and appeared to stop. As he started forward to tap it in, the ball fell into the hole.

How long could Watson wait for his ball to fall into the hole?

Rule 16-2 says that if any part of the ball is overhanging the hole, the player is allowed enough time to reach the hole without unreasonable delay and an additional 10 seconds to determine if the ball is at rest. If the ball falls in before that point, the ball is holed. If the ball has not fallen into the hole by that time, it is deemed to be at rest.

At this point if it falls in on its own, the ball is considered holed, but the player must add a penalty of one stroke. This is exactly the same result as if the player tapped the ball in.  Therefore, after 10 seconds, there is no benefit for the player to wait any longer and the player should just tap it in.

The term “reach the hole without unreasonable delay” allows a variable amount of time for the player. In Watson’s case, he was only 7 feet from the hole. The Rule would allow some amount of reaction and then he should walk to the hole. Once there, the clock would start on the 10 seconds. Watson had barely started toward the hole when the ball fell in.

If the shot was from the fairway, 150 yards away, it might take the player a minute or two to reach the hole. If he had to wait for other players to play it might be even longer. Regardless of where the shot was played from, if the ball is overhanging the hole, the player can reach the hole and wait 10 seconds.

John Van der Borght is a manager of Rules education. For more information on the Rules of Golf, go to the Rules of Golf page at or watch the Rules of Golf videos at


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