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PLAYING A WRONG BALL: GENERAL

15/1

Stroke Misses Wrong Ball

Q.A player swings at and misses a wrong ball. What is the ruling?

A.Since the player made a stroke with a wrong ball, he lost the hole in match play (Rule 15-3a) or incurred a two-stroke penalty in stroke play (Rule 15-3b).

15/2

Player's Stroke at Own Ball Dislodges Concealed Ball

Q.A player plays a stroke with his own ball in the rough and also hits an old abandoned ball which was hidden beneath his ball. Since he struck the hidden ball, did he play a wrong ball?

A.No. The player played a stroke with his own ball, not with the hidden ball. Since he did not play a stroke with the hidden ball, Rule 15-3 is not applicable. The player must play his ball as it lies.

Related Decision:

7-2/7 Practice Swing Dislodges Concealed Ball.

15/3

Player Plays Stroke at Part of Abandoned Ball Which Had Broken into Pieces

Q.A ball had broken into pieces and had been abandoned. Part of it was lying in heavy grass. A player mistook the part for his ball in play and played a stroke with it. The player asserts that part of a ball is not a ball and, therefore, that he has not played a wrong ball. Is the player correct?

A.No. Since the player made a stroke with a wrong ball, he lost the hole in match play (Rule 15-3a) or incurred a two-stroke penalty in stroke play (Rule 15-3b).

15/4

Player Lifts Ball, Sets It Aside and Plays It from Where Set Aside

Q.A player marks the position of his ball on the putting green, lifts the ball and sets it aside. By mistake, he putts the ball from the spot at which he set it aside. What is the ruling?

A.When a ball is lifted under Rule 20-1, it is out of play – see Definition of "Ball in Play." When the player played a stroke with his ball while it was out of play, he played a wrong ball (Rule 15-3).

In match play, the player lost the hole (Rule 15-3a).

In stroke play, he incurred a penalty of two strokes and was required to correct the error before playing from the next tee; otherwise, he would be disqualified (Rule 15-3b).

Related Decisions:

15-3b/3 Fellow-Competitor Lifts Competitor's Ball and Sets It Aside; Competitor Plays Ball from Where Set Aside.

20-4/2 Ball Lifted by Player from Putting Green and Placed by Caddie Behind Ball-Marker.

15/5

Original Ball Found and Played After Another Ball Put into Play

Q.A player unable to find his ball after a brief search drops another ball (Ball B) under Rule 27-1 and plays it. His original ball is then found within five minutes after search for it began. The player lifted Ball B and continued to play with the original ball. Was this correct?

A.No. When the player put the substituted ball into play at the spot of the previous stroke with the intent to play a ball under Rule 27-1, he proceeded under an applicable Rule. Therefore, Rule 20-6 does not apply, and he must continue with the substituted ball (see Decision 27-1/2). The original ball was lost when Ball B was dropped under Rule 27-1 (see Definition of "Lost Ball").

When the player lifted Ball B, he incurred a penalty of one stroke under Rule 18-2a. When he made a stroke with the original ball after it was out of play, he played a wrong ball (see Definitions of "Ball in Play" and "Wrong Ball") and incurred a penalty of loss of hole in match play or an additional penalty of two strokes in stroke play (Rule 15-3). In stroke play, the player would be disqualified if, before playing from the next teeing ground, he did not correct his error (Rule 15-3b).

Related Decisions:

27/8 Ball Found After Search Exceeding Five Minutes Is Then Played.

27-1/2.3 Original Ball Found Within Five-Minute Search Period After Another Ball Dropped (at spot from which original last played); Original Ball Played.

27-2b/5 Original Ball Played After Provisional Ball Played from Point Nearer Hole Than Original Ball Is Likely to Be.

15/6

Stroke Played with Ball Lying Out of Bounds

Q.A player plays a stroke at his ball which is lying out of bounds. What is the ruling?

A.A ball lying out of bounds is no longer in play and thus is a wrong ball – see Definitions of "Ball in Play" and "Wrong Ball." Accordingly, in match play, the player loses the hole. In stroke play, he incurs a two-stroke penalty and must proceed under Rule 27-1, incurring the additional one-stroke penalty prescribed in that Rule.

Related Decision:

33-8/43 Stroke Played from Environmentally-Sensitive Area.

15/6.5

Ball Changed During Play of Hole to Aid Identification

Q.A and B realized after playing their tee shots on a par-5 hole that they were playing balls with identical markings. Based on the location of both tee shots, A knew which ball was his. To avoid subsequent confusion, A lifted his ball before playing his second shot, substituted a ball with different markings and played out the hole. Is this permissible?

A.No. A was not entitled to substitute a ball.

In match play, A loses the hole – Rule 15-2.

In stroke play, A incurs the general penalty of two strokes under Rule 18 for incorrectly substituting a ball, but there is no additional penalty for lifting the ball without authority (see Rule 15-2 and the penalty statement under Rule 18).

Other Decisions related to whether multiple penalties apply: See "Multiple Penalty Situations" in the Index.

15/7

Wrong Ball Played in Belief It Is Provisional or Second Ball

Q.A player, thinking his original ball may be lost or out of bounds, plays a provisional ball under Rule 27-2a. Before reaching the place where his original ball is likely to be, he plays a wrong ball, believing it is his provisional ball. He then finds his original ball in bounds and, correctly, abandons the provisional ball. Does the player incur a penalty under Rule 15-3 for playing a wrong ball, even though that wrong ball was played in mistake for a provisional ball which never became the ball in play?

A.Yes. Although a penalty incurred in play of a provisional ball is normally canceled if the provisional ball has to be abandoned under Rule 27-2c (e.g., a one-stroke penalty under Rule 18-2b if the provisional ball moves after being addressed), this does not apply when the penalty is for playing a wrong ball.

The same ruling would apply if a competitor played a wrong ball in the belief that it was a second ball played under Rule 3-3 (Doubt as to Procedure in Stroke Play) or Rule 20-7c (Serious Breach of Playing from a Wrong Place in Stroke Play). However, in similar circumstances, there would have been no penalty under Rule 15-3b if the competitor had first holed out with his ball in play and then played a stroke with a wrong ball when proceeding under Rule 3-3 or 20-7c.

Related Decision:

20-7c/5 Competitor Plays Second Ball Under Rule 20-7c; Clarification of "Penalty Strokes Incurred Solely by Playing the Ball Ruled Not to Count."

15/8

Ball Played Under Rule for Ball Lost in Ground Under Repair After Another Ball Played Under Stroke-and-Distance Procedure

Q.A player's ball was lost in ground under repair. He played another ball under Rule 27-1. The player then realized that Rule 25-1c provides for relief without penalty for a ball in ground under repair that cannot be found. He decided to proceed under that Rule, lifted the ball played under Rule 27-1, dropped another ball in accordance with Rule 25-1c and played out the hole. What is the ruling?

A.The ball played under Rule 27-1 was the player's ball in play and he should have continued with that ball. The player, having put another ball into play under Rule 27-1, was no longer entitled to proceed under Rule 25-1c. Therefore, when he lifted his ball in play, dropped another ball elsewhere under Rule 25-1c and played it, he was in breach of Rule 18 (for lifting his ball in play and failing to replace it) and Rule 15-2 (for wrongly substituting a ball).

In match play, he loses the hole – Rule 15-2 or Rule 18.

In stroke play, in addition to the stroke-and-distance penalty incurred when he proceeded under Rule 27-1, the player incurs the general penalty of two strokes under Rule 18 for lifting his ball in play and failing to replace it, but there is no additional penalty for incorrectly substituting a ball (see Rule 15-2 and the penalty statement under Rule 18).

Related Decisions:

18-2a/8.5 Ball Played from Ground Under Repair Abandoned and Relief Taken Under Ground Under Repair Rule.

20-7c/4 Competitor's Ball Played by Fellow-Competitor; Competitor Substitutes Another Ball at Wrong Place, Plays It and Then Abandons It and Plays Out Original Ball From Right Place.

25-1c/2 Ball Dropped and Played Under Ground Under Repair Rule in Absence of Knowledge or Virtual Certainty That Original Ball in Ground Under Repair.

15/9

Ball Thrown into Bounds by Outside Agency and Played; Caddie Aware of Action of Outside Agency

Q.A's ball was found lying in bounds and A played a shot towards the green. Then a man appeared and said that A's ball had come to rest out of bounds in his garden. He said he had thrown it onto the course and had told A's caddie what he had done. The caddie had not reported this to A. What is the ruling?

A.Under Rule 6-1, A is responsible for his caddie's failure to tell him what the man had said.

A's ball was no longer the ball in play when it came to rest out of bounds. Therefore, it was a wrong ball – see Definitions of "Ball in Play" and "Wrong Ball." When A made a stroke with the wrong ball, he incurred the penalty prescribed in Rule 15-3 and, in stroke play, was obliged to proceed under Rule 27-1.

15/10

Ball Thrown into Bounds by Outside Agency and Played; Neither Player Nor His Caddie Aware of Action of Outside Agency

Q.Decision 15/9 states that, if an outside agency throws a player's ball back onto the course from out of bounds and advises the player's caddie to this effect, the player is penalized for playing a wrong ball if he plays the ball from its position in bounds. What would be the ruling if neither the player nor his caddie knew the player's ball had been thrown back onto the course?

A.In match play, in equity (Rule 1-4), there would be no penalty for playing a wrong ball (Rule 15-3). If the player learns of the actions of the outside agency after playing the wrong ball, but before the opponent makes another stroke or takes some action (e.g., picks up or concedes the player's next stroke) that the opponent might not have taken if the wrong ball had not been played, then the player must correct his mistake and proceed correctly. If the player learns of the mistake later than this, he must proceed with the wrong ball without penalty and the score with the wrong ball must count.

In stroke play, in equity (Rule 1-4), there would be no penalty for playing a wrong ball (Rule 15-3). If the player discovers before playing from the next teeing ground that the original ball was out of bounds, he must go back and proceed under Rule 27-1. If the discovery is not made until later than this, the score with the wrong ball stands.

Related Decisions:

18-1/3 Player Unaware Ball Moved by Outside Agency Does Not Replace Ball.

18-5/3 Competitor and Fellow-Competitor Unaware Ball Moved by Fellow-Competitor's Ball Until After Completion of Hole.

15/11

Wrong Ball Hit Out of Bounds; Another Ball Played Under Rule 27-1; Original Ball Then Found Nearby

Q.A player plays what he believes to be his ball and hits it out of bounds. He plays another ball under Rule 27-1 and then discovers that the ball he hit out of bounds was a wrong ball and that his original ball is lying in bounds. What is the ruling?

A.In match play, the player loses the hole for playing a wrong ball (Rule 15-3a).

In stroke play, the ball the player hit out of bounds was a wrong ball, and the ball played under Rule 27-1 was a continuation of the play of that wrong ball. The player incurred a penalty of two strokes under Rule 15-3b and he was obliged to hole out with his original ball.

Related Decisions:

15-3b/2 Play of Two Different Wrong Balls Between Strokes with Ball in Play.

26/6 Ball Assumed to Be in Water Hazard Found Outside Hazard After Another Ball Played Under Stroke-and-Distance Procedure.

15/12

Stray Ball Found Out of Bounds Played Under Stroke-and-Distance Procedure; Original Ball Then Found in Bounds

Q.A player finds a ball out of bounds, thinks it is his original ball, plays it at the spot from which the original ball was played and then finds his original ball in bounds. What is the ruling?

A.The original ball is lost and the ball found out of bounds is in play under penalty of stroke and distance. See Rule 27-1a.

15/13

Stray Ball Dropped Under Unplayable Ball Rule But Not Played

Q.A player finds a ball he believes is his original ball, deems it unplayable and drops it under Rule 28b or c. He then discovers that the ball is not his but is, in fact, a stray ball. What is the ruling?

A.When the player dropped the stray ball, it became a substituted ball. However, the player was not entitled to proceed under Rule 28b or c without finding the original ball. Since a stroke has not been made with the substituted ball, the player is entitled to correct his error under Rule 20-6 by abandoning the substituted ball and resuming search for the original ball. If the player's ball is lost, the player must proceed under Rule 27-1.

15/14

Ball in Bunker Deemed Unplayable, Dropped in Bunker and Played; Ball Then Discovered to Be Stray Ball

Q.A player, believing that a ball lying very badly in a bunker is his ball, deems it unplayable, drops it in the bunker and plays it out. He then discovers that the ball he has played is not his original ball. Has he played a wrong ball?

A.No. The procedures in Rules 28b and 28c may not be applied except with reference to the position of the player's ball in play, and this must first be found and identified (see Decision 28/1). Before proceeding under option b or c of Rule 28, the player should ensure he is doing so with reference to his ball in play. The player was permitted to identify the ball following the procedure in Rule 12-2 or, having lifted it under Rule 28, could have inspected the ball to verify that it was his ball in play. In this case, the ball dropped and played by the player was not his original ball; it was a substituted ball. Since the location of the original ball was not known at the time the substituted ball was dropped, he was required to proceed under Rule 27-1. As the substituted ball was not dropped at the spot required by Rule 27-1, he played from a wrong place (see Decision 28/15).

In match play, he incurred a penalty of loss of hole (Rule 20-7b).

In stroke play, he incurred a penalty of one stroke under Rule 27-1 and an additional penalty of two strokes under Rule 20-7c for playing from a wrong place. If the breach was a serious one, he is subject to disqualification unless he corrected his error as provided in Rule 20-7c.

Decisions related to 15/13 and 15/14:

20-7c/3 Ball Believed to Be Lost in Bunker; Competitor Drops Another Ball in Bunker and Plays It; Original Ball Then Found Outside Bunker.

28/14 Stray Ball Deemed Unplayable Played Under Stroke-and-Distance Procedure; Original Ball Then Found.

Other Decisions related to Rule 15: See "Substituted Ball" and "Wrong Ball" in the Index.

CHANGING OR EXCHANGING BALLS

15-1/1

Balls Inadvertently Exchanged by Players Between Holes

Q.After completion of a hole, the balls of A and B were inadvertently exchanged and A played B's ball from the next teeing ground. Did A play a wrong ball?

A.No. A ball played from the teeing ground into the hole is not a wrong ball, even if it does not belong to the player – see Definitions of "Ball in Play" and "Wrong Ball."

15-1/2

Balls Inadvertently Exchanged by Competitors at Unknown Place

Q.In stroke play, it was discovered after play of a hole that A had holed out with B's ball and vice versa. Both A and B were certain that they had holed out at this hole with the balls they played from the teeing ground. Thus, it was concluded that they had exchanged balls during play of a previous hole or between two holes. What is the ruling?

A.If it cannot be established that the balls were exchanged during play of a hole, A and B should be given the benefit of the doubt and it should be assumed that the balls were inadvertently exchanged between play of two holes, in which case no penalty would be imposed.

15-1/2.5

Balls Inadvertently Exchanged by Players After One Ball Struck and Moved the Other; One Player Substitutes Balls

Q.A plays to the putting green, and his ball strikes and moves the ball of his opponent or fellow-competitor, B, which was lying on the green. Both balls come to rest on the green. B, acting under Rules 18-5 and 20-3c, lifts A's ball by mistake and places it as near as possible to where his (B's) ball lay before it was moved. B holes out with A's ball. Without having lifted B's ball, A then, by mistake, holes out with B's ball. What is the ruling?

A.A has played a wrong ball, whereas B has substituted another ball when not so permitted.

In match play, B incurred a penalty stroke for lifting A's ball without authority (Rule 18-3b) and was required to inform A of that penalty stroke (Rule 9-2b). However, B lost the hole when he played A's ball (Rules 15-2 and 18-5). A's subsequent play of a wrong ball is irrelevant.

In stroke play, B incurs a penalty of two strokes (Rules 15-2 and 18-5). A incurs a penalty of two strokes, must retrieve his ball from B, replace it on the spot from which B had lifted it and hole out with it before playing from the next teeing ground; otherwise A is disqualified (Rule 15-3b).

15-1/3

Hole at Which Wrong Ball Played Unknown

Q.A player discovers after the 6th hole that he is not playing the ball with which he started the round. He does not know when he first played the different ball. What is the ruling in:

(a) stroke play?

(b) match play when:

  • (i)  he has won every hole?
  • (ii)  he has lost every hole?
  • (iii)  he has won 4 holes, lost 1 hole and halved 1 hole?
  • (iv)  he has lost 4 holes, won 1 hole and halved 1 hole?

A.The Committee must determine whether the different ball is a wrong ball or not and give the player the benefit of any doubt – see Decision 15-1/2. Thus, if the different ball might have been put into play under a Rule or if the player might have put the different ball into play at the start of a hole, the Committee should rule in favor of the player and the player incurs no penalty in either match play or stroke play.

If, however, the conclusion is that a wrong ball has been played:

(a) in stroke play, the player is disqualified, unless the conclusion is that the wrong ball was played at the 6th hole and the player rectifies his mistake as prescribed in Rule 15-3b.

(b) in match play, the Committee must determine on a balance of probabilities the hole at which the wrong ball was played and the player loses the hole, the state of the match being adjusted accordingly, if necessary. If it is impossible to determine the hole at which the wrong ball was played, in equity (Rule 1-4):

  • (i)  the player loses one of the holes which he had won and becomes 4 up instead of 6 up.
  • (ii)  the player remains 6 down.
  • (iii)  the player becomes one hole worse off, i.e., he becomes 2 up instead of 3 up.
  • (iv)  as in (iii), i.e., he becomes 4 down instead of 3 down.

15-1/4

Players Inadvertently Exchange Balls Recovered from Water Hazard

Q.A and B played into a water hazard at approximately the same spot. One caddie was authorized to retrieve both balls and he handed A's ball to B and B's ball to A. Each player dropped the ball handed to him behind the hazard under Rule 26-1b and played to the green. On reaching the green, they discovered the exchange of balls. Should they be penalized under Rule 15-2?

A.No. Rule 26-1b authorizes the player to drop "a ball." Accordingly, the substitution of another ball is permissible.

Other Decisions related to Rule 15-1: See "Exchanging Balls" in the Index.

SUBSTITUTED BALL

15-2/1

Player Substitutes Another Ball on Putting Green Because Original Ball Thrown to Caddie for Cleaning Came to Rest in Lake

Q.A player, whose ball was on the putting green, marked the ball's position, lifted it and threw it to his caddie for cleaning. The caddie failed to catch the ball and it went into a lake and could not be retrieved. The player holed out with another ball. Should he be penalized under Rule 15-2?

A.Yes. Rule 16-1b, under which the ball was lifted, does not permit substitution of another ball. Accordingly, the player incurred a penalty of loss of hole in match play or two strokes in stroke play.

Related Decisions:

5-3/3.5 Player Lifts Ball on Putting Green, Throws Ball into Lake and Then Announces That Ball Is Unfit for Play.

18-2a/13.5 Ball Lifted and Thrown into Pond in Anger.

15-2/2

Player Mistakenly Substitutes Another Ball on Putting Green; Error Discovered Before Stroke Played

Q.A player marks the position of his ball on the putting green and lifts the ball. By mistake he places another ball on the spot from which his original ball was lifted. He discovers his error before playing his next stroke, places his original ball on the spot from which it was lifted and holes out with it. What is the ruling?

A.There is no penalty. The player corrected the error and did not make a stroke with the other ball. Therefore, a penalty under Rule 15-2 was not applicable. Further, the other ball effectively marked the position of his original ball. So a penalty under Rule 20-1 was not applicable.

Related Decisions:

20-1/5 Competitor's Ball Lifted Without Authority by Fellow-Competitor's Caddie Who Subsequently Substitutes Another Ball Which Competitor Plays.

20-6/3 Ball Mistakenly Substituted When Dropped; Correction of Error.

15-2/3

Competitor Mistakenly Substitutes Another Ball on Putting Green; Error Discovered After Stroke Played from Next Teeing Ground

Q.A competitor in stroke play lifted his ball on the putting green and by mistake replaced it with another ball. He holed out and drove off the next tee. What is the ruling?

A.The competitor incurs a penalty of two strokes (Rule 15-2).

15-2/4

Competitor Who Lifts His Ball and Fellow-Competitor's Ball Inadvertently Exchanges Balls When Replacing Them

Q.In stroke play, A's ball and B's ball are in the same area on the putting green. A marks the position of, and lifts, both balls with B's consent. When A replaces them, they are inadvertently exchanged and A putts out, from the right place, with B's ball and vice versa. What is the ruling?

A.Each player is penalized two strokes under Rule 15-2.

As B authorized A to lift and replace his ball, B cannot be exempted from penalty (Rules 20-1 and 20-3a).

Other Decisions related to Rule 15-2: See "Substituted Ball" in the Index.

WRONG BALL: MATCH PLAY

Decisions related to Rule 15-3a: See "Wrong Ball: match play" in the Index.

WRONG BALL: STROKE PLAY

15-3b/1

Competitor Plays Wrong Ball and Loses It; Wrong Ball May Have Been Fellow-Competitor's Ball

Q.In stroke play, A and B drive into the same area in the rough. B finds a ball and hits it into the middle of a deep water hazard. A finds a ball that turns out to be B's ball. No other ball is found in the area, so presumably B played A's ball. B incurs a penalty of two strokes under Rule 15-3b and must play his own ball. What is the proper procedure for A?

A.As it was virtually certain that B played A's ball, A must place another ball at the spot from which B played the wrong ball, without penalty – Rule 15-3b.

Related Decision:

27/6 Player Unable to Find His Ball Because Another Player Played It.

15-3b/2

Play of Two Different Wrong Balls Between Strokes with Ball in Play

Q.In stroke play, a competitor plays a wrong ball to a putting green. He discovers his error and returns to the spot from which the wrong ball was played. He finds another ball and plays it to the green. He then discovers that he has played another wrong ball. Is the penalty two strokes or four strokes?

A.Four strokes. The competitor's discovery that he had played a wrong ball is an intervening event that breaks the relationship between the two strokes. The subsequent playing of another wrong ball is therefore an unrelated act. Accordingly, the player is separately penalized for play of each wrong ball, under Principle 6 of Decision 1-4/12 and Decision 1-4/13.

Related Decisions:

15/11 Wrong Ball Hit Out of Bounds; Another Ball Played Under Rule 27-1; Original Ball Then Found Nearby.

26/6 Ball Assumed to Be in Water Hazard Found Outside Hazard After Another Ball Played Under Stroke-and-Distance Procedure.

Other Decisions related to whether multiple penalties apply: See "Multiple Penalty Situations" in the Index.

15-3b/3

Fellow-Competitor Lifts Competitor's Ball and Sets It Aside; Competitor Plays Ball from Where Set Aside

Q.In stroke play, B marked the position of A's ball on the putting green, lifted it and placed it nearby on the green. A failed to replace the ball. He putted it from where it lay and holed out. The error was then discovered. What is the ruling?

A.When a ball is lifted, it is out of play – see Definition of "Ball in Play." When A played a stroke with his ball which was out of play, he played a wrong ball.

If A knew that B had lifted his ball, he incurred a penalty of two strokes under Rule 15-3b and was required to replace his ball on the correct spot and play out the hole.

If A did not know that B had lifted his ball, A could not be penalized for playing a wrong ball. If he became aware of the mistake before playing from the next tee, he was required to replace his ball on the correct spot, without penalty, and complete the hole. If he learned of the mistake after playing from the next tee, the score with the wrong ball would stand and there would be no penalty.

Related Decisions:

15/4 Player Lifts Ball, Sets It Aside and Plays It from Where Set Aside.

20-4/2 Ball Lifted by Player from Putting Green and Placed by Caddie Behind Ball-Marker.

Other Decisions related to Rule 15-3: See "Wrong Ball" in the Index.

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