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Should I change my ball to my partner's new divot? Rules Guy

What are the rules about changing the ball to a new divot after marking a partner?

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The Rules of Golf are tricky! Thank you, we have a guru. Our Rules Guy knows the book front to back. Have a question? You have all the answers.

When we got to our drives, my playing partner and I found that our golf balls were touching each other and lined up perfectly towards the hole. My ball was in front, so I marked it. His method made a big difference; changing my ball from its original position would mean being in this newly formed divot. I said I have the right to get off for free, he said I don't. Who was right? —Brick Rigden, Parkville, Mo.

In short, anyway.

Under Rule 14.2d, you were entitled to relief but not relief.

When you lift to be distracted, you had to replace the ball … but if the lie of the ball that needs to be changed is changed, you have to change it in a certain way. That is, by changing it to a nearby lie that is more similar to the original lie that is within one club length of the specified area, not near the hole and on the same course.

(Your situation, we'll note, often happens in dorms, but the process is the same.) We hope this information doesn't hit you like a ton of bricks, Brick!

For more ball placement guidance from our guru, read on…

The player hits his drive on the fairway. When he talks his ball to get his second shot, his foot is in a deep divot left by the previous team. He spots a bunch of grass a few yards ahead, retrieves it and puts it in the divot, then plays his shot. By improving his standing, has he broken the rules? —John Alario, Staten Island, NY

Cruelly, he did that. Changing divots is proper behavior but doing so in this instance violates one of the basic rules of golf, which is to play the course the way you find it.

hand putting golf ball

Rules Guy: If it is legal to put the ball instead of throwing it?


Rules Guy

Rule 8.1a prohibits improving any condition that affects the stroke – here, the position of the target – by certain actions, one of which is to change the ground by placing a divot in the hole of the divot.

You get our sympathy and the standard penalty of two strokes in stroke play and the loss of a hole in match play.

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Have a question about the Rules? Ask the Rules Guy! Send your questions, confusion and comments to [email protected]. We promise he won't throw a letter at you.

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