Rule 13 - Putting Greens

Purpose of Rule: Rule 13 is a specific Rule for putting greens. Putting greens are specially prepared for playing the ball along the ground and there is a flagstick for the hole on each putting green, so certain different Rules apply than for other areas of the course.

13.1  Actions Allowed or Required on Putting Greens

Purpose of Rule: This Rule allows the player to do things on the putting green that are normally not allowed off the putting green, such as being allowed to mark, lift, clean and replace a ball and to repair damage and remove sand and loose soil on the putting green. There is no penalty for accidentally causing a ball or ball-marker to move on the putting green.

a. When Ball Is on Putting Green

A ball is on the putting greenPutting Green: The area on the hole the player is playing that: when any part of the ball:

If part of the ball is both on the putting greenPutting Green: The area on the hole the player is playing that: and in another area of the courseAreas of the Course: The five defined areas that make up the course:, see Rule 2.2c.

b. Marking, Lifting and Cleaning Ball on Putting Green

A ball on the putting greenPutting Green: The area on the hole the player is playing that: may be lifted and cleaned (see Rule 14.1).

The spot of the ball must be markedMark: To show the spot where a ball is at rest by either: before it is lifted and the ball must be replacedReplace: To place a ball by setting it down and letting it go, with the intent for it to be in play. on its original spot (see Rule 14.2).

c. Improvements Allowed on Putting Green

During a roundRound: 18 or fewer holes played in the order set by the Committee. and while play is stopped under Rule 5.7a, a player may take these two actions on the putting greenPutting Green: The area on the hole the player is playing that:, no matter whether the ball is on or off the putting greenPutting Green: The area on the hole the player is playing that::

(1) Removal of Sand and Loose Soil. Sand and loose soil on the putting greenPutting Green: The area on the hole the player is playing that: (but not anywhere else on the courseCourse: The entire area of play within the edge of any boundaries set by the Committee:) may be removed without penalty.

(2) Repair of Damage. A player may repair damage on the putting greenPutting Green: The area on the hole the player is playing that: without penalty by taking reasonable actions to restore the putting greenPutting Green: The area on the hole the player is playing that: as nearly as possible to its original condition, but only:

But if the player improvesImprove: To alter one or more of the conditions affecting the stroke or other physical conditions affecting play so that a player gains a potential advantage for a stroke. the putting greenPutting Green: The area on the hole the player is playing that: by taking actions that exceed what is reasonable to restore the putting greenPutting Green: The area on the hole the player is playing that: to its original condition (such as by creating a pathway to the holeHole: The finishing point on the putting green for the hole being played:  or by using an object that is not allowed), the player gets the general penaltyGeneral Penalty: Loss of hole in match play or two penalty strokes in stroke play. for breach of Rule 8.1a.

“Damage on the putting greenPutting Green: The area on the hole the player is playing that: ” means any damage caused by a person or outside influenceOutside Influence: Any of these people or things that can affect what happens to a player’s ball or equipment or to the course:, such as:

[Clarification Available →]

But “damage on the putting greenPutting Green: The area on the hole the player is playing that: ” does not include any damage or conditions that result from:

d. When Ball or Ball-Marker Moves on Putting Green

There are two specific Rules for a ball or ball-markerBall-Marker: An artificial object when used to mark the spot of a ball to be lifted, such as a tee, a coin, an object made to be a ball-marker or another small piece of equipment. that movesMoved: When a ball at rest has left its original spot and come to rest on any other spot, and this can be seen by the naked eye (whether or not anyone actually sees it do so). on the putting greenPutting Green: The area on the hole the player is playing that:.

(1) No Penalty for Accidentally Causing Ball to Move. There is no penalty if the player, opponentOpponent: The person a player competes against in a match. The term opponent applies only in match play. or another player in stroke playStroke Play: A form of play where a player or side competes against all other players or sides in the competition. accidentally movesMoved: When a ball at rest has left its original spot and come to rest on any other spot, and this can be seen by the naked eye (whether or not anyone actually sees it do so). the player’s ball or ball-markerBall-Marker: An artificial object when used to mark the spot of a ball to be lifted, such as a tee, a coin, an object made to be a ball-marker or another small piece of equipment. on the putting greenPutting Green: The area on the hole the player is playing that:.

The player must:

Exception – Ball Must Be Played as It Lies When Ball Begins to Move During Backswing or Stroke and Stroke Is Made (see Rule 9.1b).

If the player or opponentOpponent: The person a player competes against in a match. The term opponent applies only in match play. deliberately lifts the player’s ball or ball-markerBall-Marker: An artificial object when used to mark the spot of a ball to be lifted, such as a tee, a coin, an object made to be a ball-marker or another small piece of equipment. on the putting greenPutting Green: The area on the hole the player is playing that:, see Rule 9.4 or 9.5 to find out if there is a penalty.

(2) When to Replace Ball Moved by Natural Forces. If natural forcesNatural Forces: The effects of nature such as wind, water or when something happens for no apparent reason because of the effects of gravity. cause a player’s ball on the putting greenPutting Green: The area on the hole the player is playing that: to moveMoved: When a ball at rest has left its original spot and come to rest on any other spot, and this can be seen by the naked eye (whether or not anyone actually sees it do so)., where the player must play from next depends on whether the ball had already been lifted and replacedReplace: To place a ball by setting it down and letting it go, with the intent for it to be in play. on its original spot:

e. No Deliberate Testing of Greens

During a roundRound: 18 or fewer holes played in the order set by the Committee. and while play is stopped under Rule 5.7a, a player must not deliberately take either of these actions to test the putting greenPutting Green: The area on the hole the player is playing that: or a wrong greenWrong Green: Any green on the course other than the putting green for the hole the player is playing. Wrong greens include::

Exception – Testing Greens When Between Two Holes: Between two holes, a player may rub the surface or roll a ball on the putting greenPutting Green: The area on the hole the player is playing that: of the hole just completed and on any practice green (see Rule 5.5b).

Penalty for Testing the Putting GreenPutting Green: The area on the hole the player is playing that: or a Wrong GreenWrong Green: Any green on the course other than the putting green for the hole the player is playing. Wrong greens include: in Breach of Rule 13.1e: General PenaltyGeneral Penalty: Loss of hole in match play or two penalty strokes in stroke play..

If multiple Rule breaches result from a single act or related acts, see Rule 1.3c(4).

See Committee Procedures, Section 8; Model Local Rule I-2  (the CommitteeCommittee: The person or group in charge of the competition or the course. may adopt a Local Rule prohibiting a player from rolling a ball on the putting greenPutting Green: The area on the hole the player is playing that: of the hole just completed.)

f. Relief Must Be Taken from Wrong Green

(1) Meaning of Interference by Wrong Green. Interference under this Rule exists when:

(2) Relief Must Be Taken. When there is interference by a wrong greenWrong Green: Any green on the course other than the putting green for the hole the player is playing. Wrong greens include:, a player must not play the ball as it lies.

Instead, the player must take free relief by droppingDrop: To hold the ball and let go of it so that it falls through the air, with the intent for the ball to be in play. the original ball or another ball in this relief areaRelief Area: The area where a player must drop a ball when taking relief under a Rule. Each relief Rule requires the player to use a specific relief area whose size and location are based on these three factors: (see Rule 14.3):

(3) No Relief Where Clearly Unreasonable. There is no relief under Rule 13.1f if interference exists only because the player chooses a club, type of stanceStance: The position of a player’s feet and body in preparing for and making a stroke. or swing or direction of play that is clearly unreasonable under the circumstances.

See Committee Procedures, Section 8; Model Local Rule D-3  (the CommitteeCommittee: The person or group in charge of the competition or the course. may adopt a Local Rule denying relief from a wrong greenWrong Green: Any green on the course other than the putting green for the hole the player is playing. Wrong greens include: that only interferes with the area of intended stanceStance: The position of a player’s feet and body in preparing for and making a stroke.).

Penalty for Playing Incorrectly SubstitutedSubstitute: To change the ball the player is using to play a hole by having another ball become the ball in play. Ball or Playing Ball from a Wrong PlaceWrong Place: Any place on the course other than where the player is required or allowed to play his or her ball under the Rules. in Breach of Rule 13.1: General PenaltyGeneral Penalty: Loss of hole in match play or two penalty strokes in stroke play. under Rule 6.3b: or 14.7a.

If multiple Rule breaches result from a single act or related acts, see Rule 1.3c(4).

13.2  The Flagstick

Purpose of Rule: This Rule covers the player’s choices for dealing with the flagstick. The player may leave the flagstick in the hole or have it removed (which includes having someone attend the flagstick and remove it after the ball is played), but must decide before making a stroke. There is normally no penalty if a ball in motion hits the flagstick.

This Rule applies to a ball played from anywhere on the courseCourse: The entire area of play within the edge of any boundaries set by the Committee:, whether on or off the putting greenPutting Green: The area on the hole the player is playing that:.

a. Leaving Flagstick in Hole

(1) Player May Leave Flagstick in Hole. The player may make a strokeStroke: The forward movement of the club made to strike the ball. with the flagstickFlagstick: A movable pole provided by the Committee that is placed in the hole to show players where the hole is. The flagstick includes the flag and any other material or objects attached to the pole. left in the holeHole: The finishing point on the putting green for the hole being played:, so that it is possible for the ball in motion to hit the flagstickFlagstick: A movable pole provided by the Committee that is placed in the hole to show players where the hole is. The flagstick includes the flag and any other material or objects attached to the pole..

The player must decide this before making the strokeStroke: The forward movement of the club made to strike the ball., by either:

In either case:

(2) No Penalty If Ball Hits Flagstick Left in Hole. If the player makes a strokeStroke: The forward movement of the club made to strike the ball. with the flagstickFlagstick: A movable pole provided by the Committee that is placed in the hole to show players where the hole is. The flagstick includes the flag and any other material or objects attached to the pole. left in the holeHole: The finishing point on the putting green for the hole being played: and the ball in motion then hits the flagstickFlagstick: A movable pole provided by the Committee that is placed in the hole to show players where the hole is. The flagstick includes the flag and any other material or objects attached to the pole.:

  • There is no penalty (except as provided in (1)), and

  • The ball must be played as it lies.

(3) Limitation on Player Moving or Removing Flagstick in Hole While Ball Is in Motion. After making a strokeStroke: The forward movement of the club made to strike the ball. with the flagstickFlagstick: A movable pole provided by the Committee that is placed in the hole to show players where the hole is. The flagstick includes the flag and any other material or objects attached to the pole. left in the holeHole: The finishing point on the putting green for the hole being played::

(4) Limitation on Other Players Moving or Removing Flagstick When Player Has Decided to Leave It in Hole. When the player has left the flagstickFlagstick: A movable pole provided by the Committee that is placed in the hole to show players where the hole is. The flagstick includes the flag and any other material or objects attached to the pole. in the holeHole: The finishing point on the putting green for the hole being played: and has not authorized anyone to attend the flagstickFlagstick: A movable pole provided by the Committee that is placed in the hole to show players where the hole is. The flagstick includes the flag and any other material or objects attached to the pole. (see Rule 13.2b(1)), another player must not deliberately move or remove the flagstickFlagstick: A movable pole provided by the Committee that is placed in the hole to show players where the hole is. The flagstick includes the flag and any other material or objects attached to the pole. to affect where the player’s ball in motion might come to rest.

See Rule 22.2 (in FoursomesFoursomes (also known as “Alternate Shot”): A form of play where two partners compete as a side by playing one ball in alternating order on each hole., either partnerPartner: A player who competes together with another player as a side, in either match play or stroke play. may act for the sideSide: Two or more partners competing as a single unit in a round in match play or stroke play. and action by the partnerPartner: A player who competes together with another player as a side, in either match play or stroke play. is treated as action of the player); 23.5 (in Four-BallFour-Ball: A form of play where sides of two partners compete, with each player playing his or her own ball. A side’s score for a hole is the lower score of the two partners on that hole., either partnerPartner: A player who competes together with another player as a side, in either match play or stroke play. may act for the sideSide: Two or more partners competing as a single unit in a round in match play or stroke play. and action by the partnerPartner: A player who competes together with another player as a side, in either match play or stroke play. concerning the player’s ball or equipmentEquipment: Anything used, worn, held or carried by the player or the player’s caddie. is treated as action of the player).

b. Removing Flagstick from Hole

(1) Player May Have Flagstick Removed from Hole. The player may make a strokeStroke: The forward movement of the club made to strike the ball. with the flagstickFlagstick: A movable pole provided by the Committee that is placed in the hole to show players where the hole is. The flagstick includes the flag and any other material or objects attached to the pole. removed from the holeHole: The finishing point on the putting green for the hole being played:, so that his or her ball in motion will not hit the flagstickFlagstick: A movable pole provided by the Committee that is placed in the hole to show players where the hole is. The flagstick includes the flag and any other material or objects attached to the pole. in the holeHole: The finishing point on the putting green for the hole being played:.

The player must decide this before making the strokeStroke: The forward movement of the club made to strike the ball., by either:

The player is treated as having authorized the flagstickFlagstick: A movable pole provided by the Committee that is placed in the hole to show players where the hole is. The flagstick includes the flag and any other material or objects attached to the pole. to be attended if:

(2) What to Do If Ball Hits Flagstick or Person Attending Flagstick. If the player’s ball in motion hits a flagstickFlagstick: A movable pole provided by the Committee that is placed in the hole to show players where the hole is. The flagstick includes the flag and any other material or objects attached to the pole. that the player had decided to have removed under (1), or hits the person who is attending the flagstickFlagstick: A movable pole provided by the Committee that is placed in the hole to show players where the hole is. The flagstick includes the flag and any other material or objects attached to the pole. (or anything the person is holding), what happens depends on whether this was accidental or deliberate:

For purposes of this Rule, “deliberately deflected or stopped” means the same thing as in Rule 11.2a, and includes when the player’s ball in motion hits:

Exception – Restrictions on Deliberately Moving Flagstick to Affect a Ball in Motion (see Rule 11.3).

See Rule 22.2 (in FoursomesFoursomes (also known as “Alternate Shot”): A form of play where two partners compete as a side by playing one ball in alternating order on each hole., either partnerPartner: A player who competes together with another player as a side, in either match play or stroke play. may act for the sideSide: Two or more partners competing as a single unit in a round in match play or stroke play. and action by the partnerPartner: A player who competes together with another player as a side, in either match play or stroke play. is treated as action of the player); 23.5 (in Four-BallFour-Ball: A form of play where sides of two partners compete, with each player playing his or her own ball. A side’s score for a hole is the lower score of the two partners on that hole., either partnerPartner: A player who competes together with another player as a side, in either match play or stroke play. may act for the sideSide: Two or more partners competing as a single unit in a round in match play or stroke play. and action by the partnerPartner: A player who competes together with another player as a side, in either match play or stroke play. concerning the player’s ball or equipmentEquipment: Anything used, worn, held or carried by the player or the player’s caddie. is treated as action of the player).

c. Ball Resting Against Flagstick in Hole

If a player’s ball comes to rest against the flagstickFlagstick: A movable pole provided by the Committee that is placed in the hole to show players where the hole is. The flagstick includes the flag and any other material or objects attached to the pole. left in the holeHole: The finishing point on the putting green for the hole being played::

Penalty for Playing Incorrectly SubstitutedSubstitute: To change the ball the player is using to play a hole by having another ball become the ball in play. Ball or Playing Ball from a Wrong PlaceWrong Place: Any place on the course other than where the player is required or allowed to play his or her ball under the Rules. in Breach of Rule 13.2c: General PenaltyGeneral Penalty: Loss of hole in match play or two penalty strokes in stroke play. under Rule 6.3b: or 14.7a: .

If multiple Rule breaches result from a single act or related acts, see Rule 1.3c(4).

In stroke playStroke Play: A form of play where a player or side competes against all other players or sides in the competition., the player is disqualified if he or she fails to hole outHoled: When a ball is at rest in the hole after a stroke and the entire ball is below the surface of the putting green. as required under Rule 3.3c.

13.3  Ball Overhanging Hole

a. Waiting Time to See If Ball Overhanging Hole Will Fall into Hole

If any part of a player’s ball overhangs the lip of the holeHole: The finishing point on the putting green for the hole being played::

b. What to Do If Ball Overhanging Hole Is Lifted or Moved Before Waiting Time Has Ended

If a ball overhanging the holeHole: The finishing point on the putting green for the hole being played: is lifted or movedMoved: When a ball at rest has left its original spot and come to rest on any other spot, and this can be seen by the naked eye (whether or not anyone actually sees it do so). before the waiting time under Rule 13.3a has ended, the ball is treated as having come to rest:

If the opponentOpponent: The person a player competes against in a match. The term opponent applies only in match play. in match playMatch Play: A form of play where a player or side plays directly against an opponent or opposing side in a head-to-head match of one or more rounds: or another player in stroke playStroke Play: A form of play where a player or side competes against all other players or sides in the competition. deliberately lifts or movesMoved: When a ball at rest has left its original spot and come to rest on any other spot, and this can be seen by the naked eye (whether or not anyone actually sees it do so). the player’s ball overhanging the holeHole: The finishing point on the putting green for the hole being played: before the waiting time has ended: