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Rules Throwback: Tough Putt? Try Being Stymied

By Jamie Wallace, USGA

| Jul 27, 2016


The stymie is one of the most famous, now-extinct Rules in the Rules of Golf. It was eliminated worldwide with the release of the first joint USGA and R&A Rules that went into effect in 1952. Prior to this, if one player’s ball on the putting green interfered with another player’s line of putt, the interfering ball could only be marked if the two balls were within 6 inches of each other. If they were more than 6 inches apart, there was no provision for marking the ball nearer the hole and the player simply had to play around or over the interfering ball. Leading up to the 1952 change, the USGA modified this Rule in 1938 to allow an interfering ball within 6 inches of the hole to be lifted regardless of the proximity to the other ball.

The score card shown below is from the 1934 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship and includes a measurement of the 6-inch distance requirement for stymies, which could be used if there was any doubt about whether a ball should or should not be marked. The video above shows the great Bob Jones demonstrating a few of the techniques for successfully negotiating a situation in which a ball interferes with a player’s line of putt.

The stymie is a great reminder of how the Rules of Golf have significantly changed and evolved over the years, and will continue to do so in the future.

Jamie Wallace is the manager of Rules education and digital content for the USGA. Email him at


Competitors in the 1934 U.S. Women's Amateur were able to use their score card to determine whether or not they could mark their golf balls. (USGA Archives)