Are You Clear On Rule 20-1?

This week I received an interesting question about what happens when a ball marker sticks to your putter. Weird I know, but you’ll be happy to know The Rules of Golf have every possibility covered! :


“I have a question for you, this actually happened to me. I think it’s an interesting one.

I was playing at my home course when I came onto the green (which one it really doesn’t matter). I proceeded to mark the ball with a plastic marker and since the marker was on the line of another player and it was a little above the grass I pressed down the marker with the putter.

So far so good, the problem happened when I lifted the putter with the ball marker stuck to it!

Needless to say everybody was surprised (me first of course).

What is the ruling in this case?

I proceeded to put the putter with the ball marker stuck to it, down as close as possible to where it originally was and carefully remove the ball marker from the putter without lifting it. No penalty stroke. Was I right?”


“No penalty was incurred. Decision 20-1/6 rules illustrates similar circumstances:

A player marked the position of his ball with a coin, lifted the ball and pressed down the coin with the sole of his putter. He walked to the edge of the green and then noticed that the coin had stuck to the sole of the putter. What is the ruling?

A. this case, the movement of the ball-marker was directly attributable to the specific act of marking the position of the ball.

Accordingly, no penalty is incurred and the ball or the ball-marker must be replaced. If the spot where the ball or ball-marker lay is not known, it must be placed as near as possible to where it lay but not nearer the hole (Rule 20-3c).”

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Disclaimer: Whilst every attempt has been made to ensure the accuracy and reliability of this information on the Rules of Golf I am human and have been known to be wrong! Neither I, nor anyone connected with, shall be held responsible for any losses caused by reliance upon the accuracy or reliability of such information. Readers should refer to the full text of the rules and decisions as published in the official publications of the R&A and the USGA, The Rules of Golf 2008-2011 and Decisions on the Rules of Golf 2008-2009.

2 Responses to “Are You Clear On Rule 20-1?”

  1. Barry Rhodes says:


    No, there is no penalty for a player pressing down a ball-marker, whether it is on his own line of putt, a fellow competitor’s or an opponent’s. Decision 20-1/15.5 relates to changing the lie of a player’ own line of putt;

    Q. A player marks the position of his ball, and as a result of the act of marking, there is a change in the lie of the ball. Is the player required to restore the lie he had before marking the position of the ball?

    A. No. The act of placing a marker may result in some change in the lie of the ball, for example, from grass being depressed by the weight of the marker, or grains of sand being moved in the placement or removal of a marker. Such occurrences may improve or worsen the lie of the ball, and the player must accept the result.

    If the player attempted to restore the lie under these circumstances, or if the lie was improved from actions which exceeded what was necessary to the process of marking, he would be subject to penalty under Rule 13-2.

    Also, Decision 20-1/6.5 states that there is no penalty if a player’s ball-marker on the green is pressed down by an opponent as Rule 18-3b does not apply to ball-markers.



  2. GEOFF NEWTON says:

    Relating to the above story re accidently picking up his marker on his putter.

    Would he not of infringed a rule buy pressing down the marker thus improving the line of his opponents putt?

    Instead should he not have moved the marker to the side one putter head length or more?

    As I believe you can not press down on the line except to repair pitch marks.

    Which one would he be ?

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