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Short Course - Thoughts on Round 3"Ball at Rest Lifted or Moved"

The Practice Area: Introduction to Ball at Rest Lifted or Moved

The game of golf is a series of strokes on each hole starting from the teeing area and concluding when the ball is at rest in the bottom of the hole. Generally, the ball must be played as it lies after each stroke and may not be touched until the hole is completed. Sounds simple right? If only the game and its Rules were that simple!

Richard S. Tufts spoke to this in his 2nd great principle behind the Rules, which reads, “you put your ball in play at the start of the hole, play only your own ball and do not touch it until you lift it from the hole.”

You can learn more about the principles that form the foundation to the Rules of Golf in his classic writing, The Principles Behind the Rules of Golf, which the USGA rules team is currently in the final stages of revising to match the modernized Rules of Golf and hopes to have available in early 2021.

It’s this simple concept we’ll explore in the third round of The Short Course, primarily focusing on Rule 9. Keeping this principle in mind, you are generally expected to exercise caution around your ball in play, as well as your opponent’s ball in match play. And, if you cause your ball to move, you’ll almost always be required to replace it. We’ll see this theme repeat throughout this round. You’ll also learn about a number of exceptions that, though you still need to replace your ball before playing, will allow you to do so with getting a penalty stoke.

As you continue warming up, let’s move your attention away from that bucket of range balls for a moment. If you’ve played The Short Course before, you’ve likely heard us stress the importance of understanding the definitions in the Rules of Golf. The definition of “move” is perhaps the best example to offer up on this point. The Rules define a ball as having moved only when it leaves its original spot and comes to rest anywhere else (noting, that move could be vertically upwards or downwards or horizontal movement).

This also means that when the ball returns to its original spot, it has not moved. You’ve likely seen this during your own play, such as accidentally bumping your ball on the putting green and having it rock forward and then back, or when addressing your ball in the rough and your club compresses the grass at address and your ball drops slightly but rises back up to its original position when you remove your club. In both of these situations, while you might see your ball “move,” the Rules do not treat such as a ball as having “moved” because it did not come to rest in another spot.

Further, “moved” also includes an additional standard referred to as the naked eye standard, which can be summarized to mean that if a person with normal vision couldn’t have seen the ball move, it didn’t move. This is further explained in Interpretation Moved/2 and creates a buffer to protect golfers, who are limited in what they can see, from the constant advances in technology, especially as it relates to high-definition video.

Regrettably we didn’t include any questions on the naked eye standard in this round of the Short Course, but there was a great example during the PGA TOUR’s Memorial Tournament when the ball of Jon Rahm moved shortly before he made a stroke that provided a great example of how this standard can apply in the field (you can read more about this incident here).

Back to your warmup, there’s two key questions that have to be answered when dealing with a ball at rest moved situation. The first is whether the ball moved. And the second is whether that movement was known or virtual certainty to have occurred.

Knowledge or virtual certainty (sometimes called KVC by us Rules geeks) is another key definition, used in several places in the Rules, including twice in this topic. It is frequently misunderstood, and therefore often misapplied by golfers. Known or virtually certain is a very high standard for deciding what happened to a player’s ball such that there is either conclusive evidence that the event in question happened (like a witness saw it happen) or by using all readily available information, there is 95% certainty that is occurred. Knowledge or virtual certainty is not assuming or guessing what happened to the ball. In fact, it’s very much the opposite – it’s that there is little to no doubt what happened to the player’s ball.

If you do have knowledge or virtual certainty that your ball moved, the next question is what caused the ball to move? Here the Rules recognize only four possibilities (natural forces, you (the player), your opponent in match play, or an outside influence), and in the Short Course, your job will often be figure out from the facts what or who caused it to move. The answer to that will direct you to a specific sub-Rule in Rule 9 that tells you how to proceed, and whether there is a penalty.

In order to treat a ball as having been moved by the player, an opponent or outside influence, it must be known or virtually certain that was the cause (with one exception you’ll be sure to encounter on the Short Course). Otherwise, the Rules default to natural forces.

Hopefully, you’ve taken in the definitions and concepts covered during your practice sessions and can reinforce that knowledge on the front nine. You’re likely to need it all once you make the turn. Good luck and play well, your group is next on the tee.


The Starting Area and Front Nine (Questions 1-9)

Hole 1

Question: Believing that your ball lies on the putting green, you mark its spot and lift the ball. You then realize that the ball was not on the putting green. What is the ruling?

(a) There is no penalty and the ball must be replaced.
(b) There is no penalty so long as you did not clean the lifted ball and the ball must be replaced.
(c) You get one penalty stroke and the ball must be replaced.
(d) You get two penalty strokes in stroke play and the ball must be replaced.


There’s little question here as to what caused the ball to move (you). It’s what happens next that you’ll need to know. When your ball comes to rest on the putting green, you can always mark and lift your ball. But that doesn’t apply if you mistakenly think your ball is on the putting green. Operating in Rule 9.4, you’ll get one penalty stroke and must replace the ball.

Throughout this Round, you’ll see a lot of references to Rule 14. Rule 14 can be thought of as the “how to” section in the Rules – it provides the  procedures for you interactions with a ball. In Rule 9, marking, lifting, placing and replacing is used repeatedly, so we’ll regularly reference those procedures. As an example, when you see “replace,” Rule 14.2 is where you’ll find out how to do that in accordance with the Rules. If you’re using the USGA Rules of Golf App, you can just click the link, or if you’re using the published book, Rule 14 is a good one to bookmark.


Hole 2

Question: In which one of the following situations do you not get a penalty?

(a) When attempting to mark the spot of your ball on the putting green, you drop your ball-marker on the ball, causing it to move.
(b) You lift your ball from the putting green but forget to mark its spot first.
(c) In preparing to make a stroke at your ball in the fairway, you accidentally move it with your clubhead.
(d) While your ball lies in the general area, you deliberately touch it with your club, but it doesn’t move.


Careful reading is needed to pick up on the many subtle differences this question is posing. If you can see them all, you’ll have seen you avoid the one penalty stroke under Rule 9.4b (Penalty for Lifting or Deliberately Touching Ball or Causing it Move) for only one of these actions. Either Exception 3 or 4 to Rule 9.4b will free you from a penalty in Option A. The putting green is a special place with many additional rights and privileges that you don’t have elsewhere on the course, including not getting a penalty for accidentally causing the ball to move.

Exception 4 to Rule 9.4b will be frequently referenced in the round and allows you to proceed and apply the Rules knowing that accidentally causing your ball to move will not cost you a stroke.

What about the other three choices?

Option B at first glance seems to fall under Exception 3 for accidental movement on the putting green, but what is the accident here? Lifting the ball or forgetting to mark its position before doing so? It was no accident that your ball was moved, and failing to mark the spot, even if accidentally or out of forgetfulness will cost you a penalty stroke.

Option C is a textbook example of accidentally causing your ball to move by failing to exercise enough caution, noting as well that your ball is not on the putting green so you can’t take advantage of Exception 3.

In Option D, while you didn’t cause the ball to move, you did deliberately touch the ball in play, and this breaches the basic principle of not touching or moving the ball until the hole is completed, and is clearly prohibited by the open statement of Rule 9.4b.


Hole 3

Question: Your approach shot comes to rest on the putting green, 15 feet from the hole. Another player’s approach shot then hits and moves your ball to a spot 20 feet from the hole and you see this happen. The other player plays from where his ball came to rest, and you also play your ball from where it came to rest (20 feet from the hole). What is the ruling?

(a) You proceeded correctly and get no penalty.
(b) You get one penalty stroke in both match play and stroke play.
(c) In match play you lose the hole, and in stroke play you get two penalty strokes.
(d) In stroke play, you get two penalty strokes and must play from the original spot before starting play of the next hole. If not, you are disqualified.


If you played Round 2 of the Short Course (where we covered Ball in Motion Stopped or Deflected), you should know that the other player will play his or her ball from where it came to rest, without penalty. But enough about the other player, this question is about YOU.

Your ball at rest was moved by another ball, and that other ball in motion is an outside influence. Once again, the Rules require you to replace your ball when it has been moved.

If you had replaced it before playing, because it was moved by an outside influence, there would not have been a penalty. However, by playing from where the ball came to rest, you breached Rule 9.6 and played from a wrong place. That earns you a general penalty, and in this case, since you didn’t get a significant advantage by playing from the wrong place, you don’t have to correct the mistake – just play on and make your way to Hole 4.


Hole 4

Question: True or False: When your ball has been moved and you are required to replace it on its original spot, you get a penalty if you lift it from the new location without first marking its spot.

(a) True
(b) False


As mentioned on Hole 1, it’s impossible to get through this round without referencing Rule 14. Rule 14.1a has the routine required for marking the spot of the ball, but that routine is only required when the ball is going back on the spot that you lifted it from. In this case, you are lifting the ball from “spot B” to replace it on “spot A” (the original spot the ball was moved from) so there’s no requirement to mark the ball before doing so. Get the ball back on the right spot and play on.


Hole 5

Question: In Four-Ball, you see a ball in the general area that you believe to be a stray ball. You lift that ball and then realize it is your partner’s ball. What is the ruling?

(a) There is no penalty to you or your partner and the ball must be replaced.
(b) You get one penalty stroke and the ball must be replaced.
(c) Your partner gets one penalty stroke and the ball must be replaced.


Ah … the ever-important principle of choosing your partner wisely! You are responsible for the actions your partner takes in relation to your ball and vice versa.

Here, your partner is on the hook for one penalty stroke because you accidentally lifted his or her ball. And of course, the ball must be replaced. As a bonus insight, the ball may be replaced by either you or your partner.

You may have noted that your careful reading of Rule 9 didn’t say anything about your partner. That’s because Rules 1-20 are written without reference to partners or other forms of play, so when you see Four-Ball or any other form of play (including team competitions), you’ll need to take a look to Rules 21-24, which modify Rules 1-20 as needed for these other forms of play.


Hole 6

Question: In stroke play, you and your partner are walking together to your tee shots. As your partner is approaching his ball in the rough, he accidentally kicks and moves your ball a few inches. Believing that the requirement to replace the moved ball is like other relief procedures, you replace another ball on the estimated spot and make your next stroke. How many penalty strokes do you get, if any?

(a) 0
(b) 1
(c) 2
(d) 3


Hole 6 starts off feeling very similar to Hole 5. You get one penalty stroke because your partner caused your ball to moved and you’re required to replace your ball (based on your actions on Hole 5, we’ll leave it to you two to determine if your partner’s actions were really an accident and whether it’s time to call truce...).

When the Rules require the ball to be replaced on the original spot, the original ball must be used (Rule 14.2a). By using another ball when you could have easily used the original (the question makes it clear that it was right there), you’ve upgraded the one penalty stroke you would have received to the general penalty.

Rule 1.3c(4) provides guidance on how the Rules work when there’s been multiple breaches. In this case, causing the ball to move is a procedural breach and using another ball is a substitution breach. In this situation, because you had two related breaches, you earned a quantity discount – congratulations!

You only get two penalty strokes (the general penalty) in stroke play. You may have heard this referred to as 1+2=2 in the past and this fits into Rule 1.3c(4) under “Combined Procedural and Substitution/ Wrong Place Breaches.” 


Hole 7

Question: Before playing your approach shot from the general area, you decide to change clubs. You toss the club you were holding toward your golf bag, but the club strikes the bag and then strikes and moves your ball. What is the ruling?

(a) There is no penalty and the ball must be replaced.
(b) You get one penalty stroke and the ball must be replaced.
(c) In stroke play, you get two penalty strokes and the ball must be replaced.


On Hole 7 you’ll need to refer back to one of the key questions from the practice area –  what caused the ball to move? By tossing the club towards your ball, it was you that caused your ball to move. That earns you one penalty stroke and requires your ball to be replaced.

Keep this in mind as you prepare to make the turn. It may seem simple now, but things can change quickly on the Back Nine. 


Hole 8

Question: In match play, your opponent plays from a greenside bunker, and the ball comes to rest three feet from the hole and on your line of play. While your opponent is raking the bunker, you mark and lift his ball without authority. What is the ruling?

(a) There is no penalty and the ball must be replaced.
(b) You get one penalty stroke and the ball must be replaced.
(c) You lose the hole.


You’ve probably already caught on that there are a number of important differences in the Rules between match play and stroke play. This is based on Tufts first working principle (again referencing The Principles Behind the Rules of Golf), which states, “in match play, only you and your partner are involved, but in stroke play every competitor in the field has an interest in the results of your play.” This first part of this principle gives your opponent’s ball a special status and means you’ll want to take extra care when around it, and in most situations, you may not move or touch it. This is one of those cases, and because you didn’t have his or her authority to lift it, you’ll need to add one penalty stroke to your score.


Hole 9

Question: True or False: During your backswing for a stroke from the fairway, your ball starts to move, but you continue your swing and make the stroke. If you make your next stroke from where the ball came to rest after playing the moving ball, instead of replaying the stroke, you get the general penalty for playing from a wrong place. 

(a) True
(b) False


The Rules recognize that this great game creates an uncountable number of unexpected occurrences and Hole 9 serves as a just one example. You’ve learned repeatedly over the first 8 holes that a ball that is moved is always replaced. Here though on the 9th hole, your ball moves after you begin your backswing and you continue on and complete making your stroke.

This is a rare exception where there’s no requirement to replace the ball because it can all happens so quickly – thus the Rules don’t require the ball to be replaced (this situation even allows you to play a moving ball without penalty!).

Because there’s no requirement to replace, you haven’t played from a wrong place (also, while the question doesn’t ask this of you … you’ll know you are prepared for the challenge coming on the back nine if you know whether or not you get a penalty stroke if you had caused that movement). 


Making the Turn and the Back Nine (Questions 10-18)

As you walk to the 10th tee, there’s a sign informing you that course maintenance had to modify their normal routine today and that you should expect slightly faster green speeds on the back nine…

Hole 10

Question: In stroke play, your ball comes to rest above and near a steep slope on the putting green. Without your authorization or knowledge, your caddie marks the spot of and lifts your ball, cleans it, and replaces it on its original spot. A gust of wind causes your ball at rest to move down the slope and it comes to rest on a different part of the putting green. Without marking the ball’s spot in the new location, you lift it and try to replace it on its original spot but it won’t come to rest. You try to replace it a second time, without success. Rather than moving away from the original spot to find the nearest spot where your ball will come to rest, you try to replace it on the original spot for a third time and, this time, the ball stays at rest. You then make a stroke from that spot, the original spot where it first came to rest on the putting green. How many penalty strokes do you get, if any?

(a) 0
(b) 1
(c) 2
(d) 3


When you get to the putting green, you can immediately tell the putting green is running a bit faster, as you are forced to think through a number of unusual happenings.

Your caddie can always mark, lift and clean your ball on the putting green (remember, the putting green is a special place where you can always lift your ball so this specific act is treated different from the many other actions your caddie must first have your permission or authorization to do – see Rule 10.3b.).  And, since your caddie lifted it, he or she can replace it too.

Your ball now “owns the spot” because it’s been lifted or moved from that spot. Therefore, even though it moves due to the wind (a natural force) it owns the spot and you’ll need to replace back on the original spot before you play.

When the ball doesn’t stay on the original spot, you did the right thing trying a second time and now must find the nearest spot where the ball will stay at rest. A quick reading of Rule 14.2e might have you thinking that trying a third time on the same spot isn’t the right procedure, but it’s pretty hard to get closer to the original spot than the original spot … right?!?

All said, no penalties and ready for more Back Nine fun. 


Hole 11

Question: Which one of the following is true regarding the replacement of your ball under the Rules?

(a) The original ball must always be used.
(b) Regardless of who moved your ball, your partner may always replace it.
(c) If you make a stroke at your ball after it is replaced by someone who is not allowed, you lose the hole in match play.
(d) You may replace your ball on its original spot by rolling it into position with a club.


Hole 11, aptly names 3 myths and one truth, and tests your ability to distinguish that fact from those fictions. If there is one thing to by weary of, it’s the use of the word always when talking about the Rules, and immediately puts a target on one of the first two Options.

For Option A, a quick read of Rule 14.2a will make clear that the original ball doesn’t always have to be used. While this is true in most situations you’ll encounter during a round (even here on the Short Course), the Rules do provide a few common sense exceptions that let you use another ball.

In Option B, well this is an always you can trust, because your partner can do pretty much anything that you can. And in this case, your partner can always replace your ball, even if he or she wasn’t the one who lifted in the first place.

Option C, speaks to one of the most common rules myths – that one-stroke penalties only exist in stroke play. The truth is that there are a number of one-stroke penalties in match play too, this being one of them.

Finally, Option D focuses on the “how to” of replacing a ball. To properly replace (or place) a ball, it needs to be set down with your hand and on the correct spot. If you roll it back with your club, even if you get it to the right spot, you have failed to properly replace the ball. 


Hole 12

Question: Your ball comes to rest in a position where you have interference from ground under repair and are allowed relief under Rule 16.1b. You mark the spot of your ball and lift it to take relief, and then realize the relief area is under a bush. Which one of the following actions would result in you not getting one penalty stroke under Rule 9.4?

(a) Replace the ball on the original spot.
(b) Replace the ball on the original spot and then take unplayable ball relief (Rule 19.2).
(c) Without first replacing the ball, take back-on-the-line unplayable ball relief (Rule 19.2b) using the spot where the original ball lay as the reference point.
(d) Without first replacing the ball or dropping it in the relief area, take stroke-and-distance relief.


Every seasoned referee has come upon a player seeking rules help, only to wish they had arrived sooner in seeing there are no good relief options as the player smiles meekly having already lifted the ball (doesn’t it seem that our Short Course referees end up in that situation all the time??).

Fortunately, they all have a good understanding of Interpretation 9.4b/6, which provides helpful guidance to determine which Option will avoid a penalty stroke under Rule 9.4b.

Options A and B both result in a one penalty stroke under Rule 9.4. To avoid penalty here, you need to continue on and complete cart path relief under Rule 16.1. By not doing so, you are no longer allowed to lift the ball, and the Exceptions to Rule 9.4 no longer apply – unfortunately that penalty stroke does. Further, in Option B, you’ll need to add another penalty stroke when you decide to take unplayable relief.

Option C has a similar outcome to Option B in that you’ll end up with a penalty under Rule 9.4b and an additional penalty stroke for later deciding to take unplayable ball relief under Rule 19b. If you had decided to take unplayable relief before lifting the ball, you could have avoided the Rule 9.4b penalty. Unfortunately, that’s not what you did, so you’ll need to add two.

That leaves just Option D, where your dear friend, stroke-and-distance relief always seems to provide a way out. As has been noted before, always is rare in the Rules, but stroke and distance is, in fact, always an option.

That, however, doesn’t provide the full story as to why this option is available without getting a penalty under Rule 9.4, whereas the other two unplayable ball relief option don’t keep score the same way.

The difference with stroke-and-distance relief involves two points. The first is that you were allowed to lift your ball in the first place (because you had interference from an abnormal course condition). The second, is that regardless of whether you continued taking relief from the cart path under Rule 16.1, or directly took stroke-and-distance relief, you don’t need to establish a new reference point … the spot of your last stroke is fixed either way. Because of these two important points, you may proceed back to where you last played form without the additional one-stroke penalty.


Hole 13

Question: Your approach shot comes to rest on the putting green ten feet from the hole. As you are approaching your ball to mark its spot, a gust of wind moves your ball and it comes to rest down a slope and away from the hole where you are now faced with a more difficult putt. You ask your caddie to throw you a towel so you can clean your ball, but it comes up short and the wind blows your towel into your ball, causing it to move a few inches farther from the hole. Knowing that wind is a natural force, you play the ball from its new location. What is the ruling?

(a) You proceeded correctly and get no penalty.
(b) You get one penalty stroke.
(c) You get the general penalty.


Here on Hole 13 you demonstrated a good understanding in knowing that wind is a natural force, however the Rules don’t give your caddie a pass for that poor toss of your towel. This situation comes down to cause and effect and the timing involved.

You and your caddie saw the towel come up short of the target, with the wind blowing it into your ball.  So, you’ll want to ensure you replace your ball before making your next stroke. Having failed to do this, you earned the general penalty.

Extra credit to those of you who were scratching your head thinking that there’s no way to know whether Rule 9.4 or 9.6 applied here (that fact set was deliberately left vague noting it isn’t necessary to correctly answer the question and, after all, you are playing the Back Nine…). The following extra info should close that loop.

Let’s start with the status of the towel in the context of Rule 9. It is an outside influence (which is covered under Rule 9.6), as is anything that your caddie might throw your way.

Next, the following phrase that is included in the question, “but it comes up short and the wind blows your towel into your ball” can be read in two very different ways.

The first would be that the towel came up short of reaching you and it was blown directly into your ball. This would be the equivalent of your caddie dropping the towel directly onto your ball – in basic terms, your caddie should have been more careful and Rule 9.4 would apply.

The other way you could have read that phrase was that the terrible towel toss first came to rest on the putting green, and only then the wind blew the towel toward your ball and moved it. In this reading, Rule 9.6 would apply (and Interpretation 9.6/1 helps to make that clear).

Repeating from earlier, because you failed to replace your ball before you played, it is not necessary to know which of these Rules applied to correctly answer the question, but it’s the extra information here in our “Thoughts on the Round” that we hope gives you a better understanding of when to blame your caddie and when you can give him or her a pass.


Hole 14

Question: Your tee shot comes to rest in a muddy portion of a red penalty area. While walking toward your ball, you see the turtle move your ball and it rolls down into the water. Although it would be both easy and quick to get your ball, you replace a different ball on the spot it was moved from to avoid getting your shoes dirty. While setting up to make your stroke, you have second thoughts about playing from the mud. Instead you decide to take penalty area relief. After taking relief, you play the ball onto the putting green and then complete the hole in two more strokes. What is your score for the hole?

(a) 4
(b) 5
(c) 6
(d) 7


There’s a lot going on in the penalty area on 14th hole (and if you played Round 2, you may have noticed our 🐢 friend seems to call this part of the course home) and we’ll start by reminding you of what was covered back on Hole 11, where we normally need to replace the original ball, but sometimes the Rules let us substitute.

In this case because your original ball can be quickly and easily retrieved, you must use the original ball in operating under Rule 9.6.

But what triggers the penalty for substituting a ball when not allowed? It’s not just the act of replacing another ball. This incorrect substitution is a procedural breach in which Rule 14.5 gives you the opportunity to fix up until you make a stroke, and your “second thought” about playing that incorrectly substituted ball also saves you the general penalty.

To understand this, you’ll need to dig a little deeper than the Rules, noting Interpretation 14.2/1 makes it clear that when you decide to take relief under a Rule, the replacement requirement under Rule 9 is not required – you can instead jump right into the other relief procedure.

So to add ‘em up correctly on Hole 14, you can forget about anything in Rule 9 (and that incorrect substitution), and just be sure to count all your talent strokes, and also that penalty stroke for taking penalty area relief, which makes your score on the hole 14 a five. 


Hole 15

Question: True or False: Your ball comes to rest in the fairway and you carefully set your bag down near your ball. While determining the yardage for your next shot, your bag falls over and moves your ball. You get no penalty for your ball being moved and are required to replace it on its original spot.

(a) True
(b) False


On Hole 15, you’re reminded that anytime a ball at rest moves, the answer to, “what caused the ball to move?” is of critical importance. While the answer here might seem simple – it was your bag that moved it – this question gives you a good opportunity to appreciate how interconnected the Rules are. As you’ve learned previously, Rule 9.2 only recognizes four things that can be responsible for moving a ball at rest.

You should start by excluding which of the four things are clearly not responsible.

  • Your opponent (or his or her caddie): There’s no mention of any other players here (nor any mention of match play), so you can exclude an opponent (or his or her caddie) and Rule 9.5.
  • You or your caddie: You carefully set your bag down and you were getting your yardage when it fell over and moved your ball. So, we can also exclude Rule 9.4. If you are thinking you still bear some responsibility, know that had you dropped your bag on your ball, you would be considered to have caused it to move, but this question is drafted to create space (or time) between your placement of your bag and it subsequently falling over so it is your bag and not you that caused your ball to move. In between the facts of this question and you dropping your bag directly on your ball is the tipping point and there’s not a black and white line defined by the Rules. There is a nuance here that will at times require a committee’s judgment to decide if you are responsible, but that’s not the case here.

That leaves two other possible reasons for your ball’s movement: natural forces (Rule 9.3) or an outside influence (Rule 9.6). Interpretation 9.6/1 will help you figure out which of these two things will apply, noting that Rule 9.6 applies if wind causes an outside influence (in this question your golf bag) to move your ball.

In this case, while there’s no mention of wind, gravity (which is also a natural force) clearly factored into your bag falling over and can be substituted into the Interpretation to give the same result.

That gets us to Option A – True – because when your ball is moved by an outside influence there’s no penalty and the ball must be replaced.


Hole 16

Question: Your tee shot comes to rest in the general area next to a pine cone and near a sprinkler control box. You have a reasonable but risky shot over a penalty area in playing toward the green. While simulating your swing to see if you have interference from the sprinkler control box, your club accidentally hits the pine cone and causes your ball to move. You replace the ball on the spot it was moved from without replacing the pine cone next to it. The wind changes direction, so you decide to chip out into the fairway instead of playing toward the green. You hit your next shot onto the green and complete the hole in two more strokes. What is your score for the hole?

(a) 5
(b) 6
(c) 7
(d) 8


Counting up your “talent strokes” here gets to five, which also happens to be the correct answer (Option A).

The facts included in this question requires you to ignore two significant red herrings.

The first, is when you accidentally caused your ball to move. There’s no question it was your actions that caused your ball to move, so Rule 9.4 applies and your ball will need to be replaced before you play.

However, knowing if you get a penalty requires a good understanding of how Exception 4 to Rule 9.4b is applied. A reading of two important Interpretations (Interpretation 9.4b/4 and 9.4b/5) will quickly get you up to speed to ensure you don’t also include a penalty in your score because your actions occurred “while” taking “reasonable actions” in determining if relief is available.

The second is whether or not you need to replace the pine cone next to your ball. This takes you to Exception 1 to Rule 15.1a, which notes that when a ball needs to be replaced, there are times when loose impediments may not be removed. But it also makes clear that the Exception does not apply to a loose impediment moved when a ball is moved. Such is the case for that pine cone.


Hole 17

Question: In which one of the following do you get the general penalty for not replacing your ball, when information concerning the ball’s movement only becomes known to you or your caddie after the ball has been played?

(a) Your caddie marks the spot of your ball, lifts it and replaces it on the putting green. As your caddie is walking away and you are looking at your scorecard, neither of you notice that a gust of wind moved your ball a short distance.
(b) While you are looking at your yardage book, your caddie is removing a gallery stake about 30 feet away from your ball. In removing the stake, the rope connected to it becomes loose, drops to the ground, and hits and moves your ball. Neither you nor your caddie were aware the ball moved.
(c) After playing from the tee and while walking with your caddie to your ball, you are not aware a spectator had lifted your ball from the rough where it came to rest and tossed it into the fairway.
(d) While your opponent is searching for your ball and without you or your caddie noticing, the opponent moved your ball a short distance.


Hole 17 highlights a key part in the purpose statement of Rule 9: “players should take care when near any ball at rest, and a player who causes his or her ball to move … will normally get a penalty.”

Further there are very few “hidden rules” in the Interpretations, noting our general messaging for their purpose is to provide guidance as to how to apply the Rules. Interpretation 9.2a/2 is a rare “rule maker” and it makes clear that if your (or your caddie’s) actions cause your ball to move, Rule 9.4 applies even if you do not have knowledge or virtually certainty of that occurrence.

Armed with this important additional information, Hole 17 is pretty straightforward, noting that Option B is the only option in which you or your caddie were the cause of the movement. Not replacing before making your next stroke would earn you the general penalty.

In all other options, because it is not known or virtually certain that your ball was moved when you made the next stroke, your ball is treated as having not moved and did not need to be replaced. 


Hole 18

Question: In which one of the following do you get one penalty stroke for lifting or moving your ball or ball-marker?

(a) You mark the spot of and lift your ball from a bunker because it interfered with another player’s stance. The other player played and in doing so, worsened your lie, but did not move the ball-marker. You carefully try to re-create your original lie, but in doing so, you accidentally move the ball-marker.
(b) Instead of using a coin, you mark the spot of your ball on the putting green with a tee and lift the ball. While another player’s ball is in motion, you lift the tee because you thought that the other player’s ball might hit it.
(c) After the Committee has suspended play due to darkness, you mark the spot of your ball in tall rough with a tee and lift your ball. Prior to resuming play the next morning and while trying to relocate the tee, you accidentally kick the tee, moving it a short distance.
(d) Your putt for a three stops just short of the hole and you believe your partner has a short putt left for a four. Frustrated, you swing your club at your ball and knock it off the putting green. Your partner misses his putt, taps-in and says, correctly, “that’s six.” You suddenly realize you were mistaken about your partner’s score, so you replace your ball next to the hole and hole out.


Though we send our Short Course through multiple levels of review, both amongst rules team staff and some extraordinarily generous volunteers, Hole 18, unfortunately and apologetically, has one-and-a-half correct answers … when this was brought to our attention it immediately reminded us of a  phrase that the rules community often leans on in times like these:

There are only two types of referees. Those who have made a mistake and those who will. We now place ourselves in the former group.

While Option D clearly results in one penalty stroke under Rule 9.4 (because striking the ball in frustration was not an accident), our error was in leaving a key piece of information out of Option A – were you asked to lift your ball because it interfered with the other player? While we intended that answer to be yes, it’s not stated in the answer. As a result, both D and A were credited as correct answers.

With that said, Option B was where we thought we would garner the most debate. In part because it  was a challenge simply to figure out which Rule applies. You did take a deliberate action to influence the movement of a ball in motion, and if you played the last round of the Short Course, you should be having some flashbacks to Rule 11. In Rule 11.3, the Exception allows any ball at rest and in play on the putting green to be lifted at any time, while ball-markers are specifically excluded. That action earns you a general penalty (loss of hole in match play or two strokes in stroke play) under Rule 11.3 and with the question specifically asking in which of the Options do you get one penalty stroke, that would seem to exclude Option B.

However, what about the penalty for lifting your ball-marker? Normally, that would be one-penalty stroke under Rule 9.7b, but you need to look at the totality of what has happened here and visit our good friend Rule 1.3c(4), which is keen on providing a quantity discount. That’s the case here, where your single act (lifting your tee) resulted in multiple breaches (Rule 9.7 and its one penalty stroke and Rule 11.3 and its general penalty) and only the higher-level penalty applies.

Finally, in Option C, the fact that your tee is moved during a suspension of play does not change the outcome. Note that Rule 9.1 starts with a statement that all of Rule 9 applies both during a round and while play is stopped under Rule 5.7d.

Rule 9.7 covers the movement of a ball-marker, which your tee is in this situation, and the Exception to Rule 9.7b notes that situations where you are not penalized for moving your ball also apply to your ball-marker. Looking back to Rule 9.4b, there is not penalty if your ball is accidentally moved during search, so there’s also no penalty here. 


Scoring Area and Final Thoughts

Thanks for playing this third round of the Short Course on ball at rest lifted or moved. Hopefully, this round has helped you better understand and highlight the many repeated patterns and standards and the many key definitions and terms used to when a ball at rest is moved.