There are no restrictions on how a ball may be lifted so long as the ball is not lifted in a way that deliberately tests the putting green (Rule 13.1e).
For example, after the spot of the ball is marked on the putting green, the player may lift the ball with the back of the putter or may move it to the side with a club.
Rule 14.1a uses “right behind” and “right next to” to ensure the spot of a lifted ball is marked with sufficient accuracy for the player to replace it in the right spot.
A ball may be marked in any position around the ball so long as it is marked right next to it, and this includes placing a ball-marker in front of or to the side of the ball.
When a player is applying any of the four Rules mentioned in Rule 14.1c where cleaning is not allowed, there are acts that the player should avoid because, despite there being no intention to clean the ball, the act itself may result in the ball being cleaned.
For example, if a player lifts his or her ball that has grass or other debris sticking to it and throws it to his or her caddie who catches it with a towel, it is likely that some of the grass or other debris will be removed, meaning the ball has been cleaned. Similarly, if the player places that ball in his or her pocket or drops it onto the ground, these acts could result in some of the grass or other debris being removed from that ball, meaning that it has been cleaned.
However, if the player takes these actions after lifting a ball that was known to be clean before it was lifted, the player does not get a penalty because the ball was not cleaned.
When a player drops a ball when the Rules require him or her to replace the ball, the ball has been replaced in a wrong way. If the player replaces the ball in a wrong way, but on the required spot (this includes if the player drops the ball and it comes to rest on the required spot), he or she gets one penalty stroke if the ball is played without correcting the mistake under Rule 14.5 (Correcting Mistake Made in Substituting, Replacing, Dropping or Placing Ball).
But if the player has dropped a ball and that ball comes to rest somewhere other than on the required spot, he or she gets the general penalty for playing from a wrong place if the ball is played without correcting the mistake.
In stroke play, a player moves his or her ball during search and is required to replace the ball without penalty. Instead of replacing the ball on the original or the estimated spot, the player drops the ball on that spot, the ball bounces and comes to rest on another spot, and he or she plays the ball from there. The player has replaced the ball in a wrong way and has also played from a wrong place.
Because the player’s breaches of the Rules were a combination of a procedural breach (replacing the ball in a wrong way under Rule 14.2b(2)) and playing from a wrong place in breach of Rule 14.7a, the player gets a total of two penalty strokes under Rule 14.7a (see Rule 1.3c(4) – Applying Penalties to Multiple Breaches of the Rules).
When replacing a lifted ball on a spot, the Rules are concerned about only the location. The ball may be aligned in any way when being replaced (such as by lining up a trademark) so long as the ball’s vertical distance to the ground remains the same.
For example, when using a Rule that does not allow cleaning, the player lifts his or her ball and there is a piece of mud sticking to it. The ball may be aligned in any way when replacing it on the original spot (such as by rotating the interfering mud towards the hole).
However, the player is not allowed to replace the ball in an alignment so the ball rests on the mud unless that was its position before it was lifted. The “spot” of the ball includes its vertical location relative to the ground.
Exception 1 to Rule 15.1a makes clear that, before replacing a ball, the player must not remove a loose impediment that, if moved when the ball was at rest, would have been likely to cause the ball to move. But there are situations where a loose impediment may move either when the ball is being lifted or before it is replaced, and the player is not required to put the loose impediment back before or after replacing the ball.
A player marks and lifts his or her ball in the general area after being requested to do so as it interferes with another player’s play. As a result of lifting the ball, a loose twig lying against the ball is moved. The player is not required to put the twig back when the ball is replaced.
A player marks and lifts his or her ball in a bunker to see if it is cut. While the ball is lifted, a leaf that had been just behind the ball-marker is moved away by the wind. The player is not required to put the leaf back when the ball is replaced.
If a player’s lie is altered when his or her ball is lifted or moved and must be replaced, the altered lie might be the nearest spot with a lie most similar to the player’s original lie, and the player may be required to play the ball from the altered lie.
For example, a player’s ball comes to rest in a divot hole in the fairway. Thinking it is his or her ball, another player plays the ball, making the divot hole a little deeper. If there is no other similar divot hole within one clublength, the nearest spot with the lie most similar to the original lie would be a spot in the deepened divot hole.
When following Rule 14.2e, there is a possibility that the only spot in the same area of the course where the ball will stay at rest when placed is nearer the hole. In such circumstances, the player must take penalty relief under an allowed Rule.
The player is not allowed to push the ball into the ground to ensure it stays on a spot (see 8.2b/1).
For example, a player’s ball comes to rest on the downslope of a bunker against a rake and, in removing the rake, the ball moves. The player attempts to replace the ball as required, but it does not stay. He or she then follows the procedure of Rule 14.2e with no success and finds that there are no other spots to try in that bunker that are not nearer the hole.
In this case, the player must take unplayable ball relief either by using stroke and distance for one penalty stroke (Rule 19.2a) or back-on-the-line relief outside the bunker for two penalty strokes (Rule 19.3b).
When a player’s ball must be replaced on its original spot, the player does not need to replace the ball if he or she wishes to take relief under a Rule or play the ball from another place.
For example, if a player’s ball at rest in a penalty area is moved by an outside influence (Rule 9.6), the player does not need to replace the ball before taking relief from the penalty area.
He or she may replace the ball and then take relief from the penalty area or may directly take relief from the penalty area.
Rule 14.3b(2) and the Definition of “drop” require a player to drop a ball from a location at the player’s knee height when in a standing position. But, while the ball must fall through the air in order to be dropped (rather than placed), the ball will not always fall the distance of the player’s knee to the ground.
For example, the player has interference from an abnormal course condition, and the player’s relief area is on a steep slope. If the player is positioned with his or her feet near the bottom of the slope and is facing up the slope to drop the ball, it may be that the ball will only fall a short distance when dropped, despite being dropped from knee height.
A player drops a ball in the right way, but the ball is accidentally stopped by the player’s foot or equipment (such as a tee that is marking the relief area) and comes to rest in the relief area. There is no penalty, the player has completed taking relief and must play the ball as it lies.
If the ball then moves when the player moves his foot or the equipment, the player must replace the ball as required by Rule 9.4 but gets no penalty as the ball’s movement was a result of reasonable actions taken in taking relief under a Rule (see Exception 4 to Rule 9.4 – Accidental Movement Anywhere Except on Putting Green While Applying Rule).
If a player must complete the dropping procedure by placing a ball using Rules 14.2b(2) and 14.2e, this might result in the player placing the ball outside the relief area.
For example, if the player drops the ball for a second time in the right way near the edge of the relief area and it comes to rest outside the relief area, he or she must place a ball on the spot it first touched the ground after the second drop. But, if the placed ball does not stay on that spot after two attempts, the nearest spot not nearer the hole where the ball will stay at rest might be inside or outside the relief area.
If a player must complete the dropping procedure by placing a ball using Rules 14.2b(2) and 14.2e, this might result in the player attempting to place a ball other than on the ground.
For example, if the player is dropping into a bush in the relief area, and with both drops the ball comes to rest outside the relief area, Rule 14.3c(2) provides that he or she must place a ball on the spot it first touched the ground after the second drop. If the ball first struck the bush when dropped for the second time, the “ground” includes the bush, and the player must attempt to place the ball where it first struck the bush. But, if the placed ball does not stay on that spot after two attempts, the player must place the ball on the nearest spot not nearer the hole where the ball will stay at rest, subject to the limits in Rule 14.2e.
A player’s relief area includes tall grass, bushes or other growing things in it. If a player’s dropped ball comes to rest in a bad lie in the relief area, it has still come to rest in the relief area.
For example, a player drops his or her ball in the right way and it stays in a bush in the relief area. The bush is part of the relief area and, therefore, the ball is in play and the player is not allowed to drop again under Rule 14.3c.
In dropping a ball under a relief Rule, the player may drop a ball in a no play zone so long as that no play zone is part of the relief area. However, the player must then take relief under the Rule that applies.
For example, a player may take relief from a penalty area and drop a ball in a no play zone in an abnormal course condition. But, after the dropped ball comes to rest in the relief area required by Rule 17 (Penalty Area Relief), the player must take relief under Rule 16.1f.
When a ball is placed or replaced on the ground, it needs to be determined whether it was put down with the intent of putting it in play.
For example, the player marks the ball on the putting green by placing a coin right behind the ball, lifts the ball and gives it to his or her caddie to have it cleaned. The caddie then places the ball right behind or right next to the coin (not on the ball’s original spot) to help the player read the line of play from the other side of the hole. The ball is not in play as the caddie did not place the ball with the intention of putting it in play.
In this case, the ball is not in play until it is repositioned with the intention of replacing the ball as required by Rule 14.2. If the player makes a stroke at the ball while it is out of play, the player would be playing a wrong ball.
The dropping procedure in Rule 14.3 means that there is an element of uncertainty when taking relief under a Rule. It is not in the spirit of the game to test how a dropped ball will react.
For example, in taking relief from a cart part (immovable obstruction), a player determines his or her relief area and realizes that the ball may roll and come to rest in a bush in the relief area. Knowing that the dropped ball would not be in play without intent, the player test drops a ball in one side of the relief area to see if it rolls into the bush.
Since this act is contrary to the spirit of the game, the Committee is justified in disqualifying the player under Rule 1.2a (Serious Misconduct).
When a player is required to drop a ball a second time after using back‑on-the-line relief under Rule 16.1c(2) (Abnormal Course Condition Relief), Rule 17.1d(2) (Penalty Area Relief), or Rule 19.2b or Rule 19.3b (Unplayable Ball Relief), he or she is required to drop again under the back-on-the-line relief option in the relevant Rule. But, when dropping for the second time, the player is allowed to change reference points so that the relief area is nearer to or farther from the hole.
For example, a player’s ball comes to rest in a penalty area and he or she chooses to take back-on-the-line relief. The player picks a reference point and drops the ball in the right way, but it rolls out of the relief area. When the player drops again under back-on-the-line relief, he or she may choose a different reference point that is nearer or farther from the hole.
When a player’s relief area is located in more than one area of the course and he or she is required to drop again under that relief option, the player may drop in a different area of the course within the same relief area.
For example, a player chooses to take unplayable ball relief under Rule 19.2c (Lateral Relief) and his or her relief area is partially in the general area and partially in a bunker. The player’s drop first touches the bunker in the relief area and comes to rest in the general area or outside the entire relief area, so the player must drop again. When doing so, he or she may drop the ball in the general area portion of the relief area.
When a player’s ball comes to rest in an area where play is not allowed, the player must take relief under the appropriate Rule. In stroke play, if the player plays the ball from that area (such as a no play zone or wrong green) the player gets two penalty strokes for each stroke made from that area.
For example, a player’s ball comes to rest in a no play zone within a penalty area. The player enters the no play zone and makes a stroke at the ball, which moves only a few yards and remains in the no play zone. The player then makes another stroke at the ball and it comes to rest outside the no play zone.
Each stroke counts, and the player gets the general penalty under Rule 14.7 for playing from a wrong place for each stroke made from the no play zone for a total of four penalty strokes. The player is required to play out the hole with the ball played from the no play zone, unless it was a serious breach. For a serious breach, the player must correct the mistake (see Rule 14.7b).
When a player is taking relief from interference by an abnormal course condition, he or she is required to take relief from all interference from that condition. If the ball is dropped at a spot or comes to rest in a spot where the player has any type of interference from that condition, the ball is in a wrong place.
For example, a player’s ball comes to rest on a cart path and the player decides to take relief. He or she estimates the nearest point of complete relief using the club that would have been used to play the ball from the cart path. Having measured the relief area from that point, the player drops a ball that comes to rest in the relief area and makes a stroke, hitting the cart path during the stroke. Because the cart path was in the player’s area of intended swing, the player still had interference. Therefore, he or she did not properly determine the relief area and gets the general penalty for playing from a wrong place.
However, if the player had interference from the condition because, for example he or she decided to play in a different direction or his or her feet slipped when making the stroke and altered the intended swing, the player would not be considered to have played from a wrong place.