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During the fourth playoff hole on the 18th green during the CME Group Tour Championship, it appeared that Carlota Ciganda may have dropped her unplayable ball illegally. Don't the drop(s) have to be at least shoulder high and both her drops were below the legal height. Why no penalty as the official was there during the drops?

A ball to be dropped under the Rules must be dropped standing erect, holding the ball at shoulder height and with the arm extended.  After watching the video from the fourth playoff hole of the CME Group Tour Championship, Carlota Ciganda, while taking relief from a lateral water hazard, drops the ball correctly the first time and it rolls back into the hazard.  Under the Rules of Golf a re-drop is required in that instance.  When Carlota drops her ball the second time, her arm does appear to be lower than shoulder height.  The official did not see her arm position as he was focused on where the ball would first strike a part of the course for the ultimate placing of the ball.  Because the player was acting on the instructions of an official, no penalty would be incurred by the player in that situation.  If an official was not present and the player proceeded exactly the same way, played her shot and then the error was discovered, she would have incurred a penalty of one stroke.  If she discovered the error before playing the shot, under Rule 20-6 she would have been allowed to re-drop the ball with no penalty.

Can the ball be touched by the putter shaft when marked on the green?

The answer to this question, assuming the player’s ball is “in play” with the marker behind the ball, she can touch the ball purposely with the club, which includes the shaft, only in the act of addressing the ball.  If the ball is touched by the club accidentally and not moved there would be no penalty.  If the ball was moved by touching the ball accidentally with the club, there would be a penalty unless the movement of the ball was due to one of the circumstances listed under Rule 18-2 (ii).

When on the putting green and the ball is marked, picked up and cleaned then replaced is the ball in play when replaced or when the marker is removed?

The answer to the question is in Rule 20-4.  The Rule states specifically that if a ball has been lifted, it is again in play when it has been dropped or placed.  The specific scenario you ask about lies in Decision 20-4/1, where they go on to explain that a ball replaced is “in play” whether or not the object used to mark its position has been removed. 

Rules Review – Ball Unplayable

In the case a wayward stroke finds its way into the desert but remains on the course (in bounds) in a difficult lie among the rocks and debris, you might decide that playing the ball is not reasonable or even impossible.

Rather than play the ball as it lies, the rules allow you to deem your ball unplayable anywhere on the course except in a water hazard. If you decide to deem your ball unplayable, there are three options available to you within Rule 28 – Ball Unplayable, under penalty of one stroke:

  • Drop a ball within two club-lengths of the spot where the ball lay, no nearer to the hole. However, you should be careful to examine the area where you are considering this drop. Assuming a proper drop, the ball could roll into another unplayable position or could roll back to the same spot from which you just deemed it unplayable. In either case, you would have to play the ball as it lies or deem it unplayable again.
  • Drop a ball behind the point where the ball lay, keeping that point directly between the hole and the spot where you are going to drop, with no limit to how far behind that point the ball may be dropped. Again, study the area where you want to drop.
  • Proceed under stroke and distance and play a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played. This could be the safest option, depending upon your circumstances.
Be sure to review the options carefully and the possible consequences of each. As always, one of the Tournament Operations staff will be able to come to the scene if needed to help you to understand all of the options.

Mike Waldron
Manager, Rules and Competition

We saw an interview that Paula Creamer did with the Golf Channel after her first round in the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic. She spoke of her lucky ball marker that was given to her and it was shaped as a high heel. Did she use the heel or the toe of the marker on the greens? It is my understanding that a round object is the only acceptable item to be used as a ball marker because there is no question as to the placement. I believe her lucky marker is illegal, but that is my understanding of the rule.  What is the correct ruling?

The question regarding Rule 20-1, Lifting and Marking.  The Note under Rule 20-1 states, “The position of a ball to be lifted should be marked by placing a ball-marker, a small coin or other similar object immediately behind the ball.”  The key word in that statement is “should”, meaning that it is recommended but not required.  Decisions 20-1/16, 20-1/17, 20-1/19 and 20-1/20 go on to explain all the acceptable and non-acceptable methods of marking the position of the ball.  After reading those Decisions you’ll find that tees, ball mark repair tools and Paula Creamer’s “high heel” ball marker are perfectly legal and their use are not infractions of the Rules.

During the second round of play during the 2013 Solheim Cup, an official made a ruling for the European team playing foursomes.  The ball was in a bunker and one member of the European team hit the ball; it lodged in a plant in the bunker and was declared unplayable.  The European team was allowed to remove the ball from the bunker and play the next shot keeping the point where the ball was unplayable between them and the pin (option c).  I thought that the ball had to remain in the bunker under these circumstances.  Even though the ball may not have been lying on the sand in the bunker, it was within the confines of the bunker and bunker definition is vertically down.  Could you please clarify?  Was the ruling correct?

When the European team hit the ball into the plant that was within the confines of the bunker, the ball was no longer touching the sand.  Within the definition of a Bunker in the Rules of Golf is:  The margin of a bunker extends vertically downwards, but not upwards.   A ball is in a bunker when it lies in or any part of it touches the bunkerBecause the margins of a bunker do not extend vertically upward, a ball could lie in a plant or tree and be overhanging the bunker and not be “in the bunker” based on the Rules of Golf.


The ball did not lie in the bunker when it came to rest in the plant, it lay through the green but overhanging the bunker.  Consequently, when the European team decided to proceed under Rule 28, Ball Unplayable, they were allowed to drop the ball outside the bunker (option b) under that Rule.  Decisions 13/3 and 28/9 will also help to understand:

13/3 Ball on Edge of Bunker Overhanging Sand

Q.  Is a ball in a bunker if it lies on the edge of the bunker overhanging, but not touching, the sand?

A.  No. The margin of a bunker, unlike that of a water hazard, does not extend vertically upwards.


28/9 Ball Lying on Grass-Covered Ground Within Bunker Deemed Unplayable

Q.  A player's ball is lying on grass-covered ground within a bunker. The player deems the ball unplayable and elects to drop it under Rule 28b. Must he drop it in the bunker?

A.  No. Grass-covered ground within a bunker is not part of the bunker. Accordingly, the player may drop the ball behind the bunker.

During an event a player A accidentally kicked a divot (which had been replaced) from its position in the ground when taking her stance.  Clearly it was in taking her stance and not in her line of play.  There was a discussion on if the divot needed to be replaced and if she would be penalized but I never heard the ruling.  What is the correct ruling?

As Player A was walking into her stance, she moved a replaced divot and immediately called for a Ruling.  The Rule involved is 13-2, Improving Lie, Area of Intended Stance or Swing, or Line of Play.  The divot that was moved by Player A did not improve the lie of her ball, did not improve where she was going to stand to play the stroke and did not improve the area in which she intended to swing her golf club.  Therefore, Player A did not incur a penalty in that situation.  The key to these rulings is to ask a question, what was improved.  Since we know you have a Decisions book, look at Decisions 13-2/0.5, 13-2/5, 13-2/6 and 13-2/7.  After that, I think you'll have a better understanding of the Rule and be ready to use it on your friends in your next round of golf.

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