Understanding Golf Rule Decision 16-1d/5

Every week I see a limited knowledge of the Rules of Golf leading to incorrect decisions, here is one recent example:


“How are you? I have a question regarding a rules decision. In our social club competion the winner was penalized 2 shots for testing the green.

What he did was to rub his dirt covered ball on the green to clean it (because the green was wet) just before he putted. Was this a valid penalty?”


“Decision 16-1d/5 deals with this circumstance;

Q. May a player clean his ball by rubbing it on the putting green?

A. Yes, provided the act is not for the purpose of testing the surface of the putting green. It is recommended that a ball be cleaned in other ways to eliminate any question as to the player’s intentions.

It would seem that your committee was wrong in penalising the player, unless they had some good reason to suspect that his intent was to test the surface of the green. There are many circumstances like this where a partial knowledge of the Rules leads to wrong decisions.

Others are, that knocking a leaf down in a practice swing, rolling a fellow competitor’s ball back across the green to him, or entering a clubhouse during a round, always incur a penalty. Not so.”

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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 GolfSwingSecretsRevealed.com, 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 “Understanding Golf Rule Decision 16-1d/5”

  1. Barry Rhodes says:


    You seem to be unaware that every two years the R&A and USGA publish ‘Decisions on the Rules of Golf’ that are intended to clarify matters that may not be entirely clear from the Rules of Golf. My reference to Decision 16-1d/5 was taken directly from this book, which can be accessed online at http://www.usga.org/playing/rules/books/rules.html . While you are there please check out Decisions 13-2/22, 16-1d/1, and 6-8a/3, which are the authoritative decisions on the other three points I made. You have reinforced my statement that there are many circumstances where a partial knowledge of the Rules leads to wrong decisions.


    Barry Rhodes

  2. Robert Pratt says:

    From Rules of Golf ’08 – ’11

    Rule 16-1.d (there is no 5): ‘During the stipulated round, a player must not test the surface of any putting green by rolling a ball or roughening or scraping the surface.’
    This seems to allow ‘ball wiping’ but not ball rolling, especially since a player may gain advantage if he /she were to return another player’s ball by rolling prior to making his/her own put. IMO

    Rule 13-2:’A player must not improve or allow to be improved the area of his intended stance or swing by moving,bending or breaking anything growing or fixed, unless in faily taking his/her stance or making a stroke or the backward movement of his/her club for a stroke and the stroke is made.’
    This does not seem to allow your ‘knocking a leaf down in a practice swing.’ IMO

    I enjoy your postings, especially the rules queries, but surely, notwithstanding your disclaimer, your ‘rules statements’ should be correct, otherwise it would be very confusing for all. Personally, I have found several ‘anolomies’ still present in the R&A 2008 edition…which does not instill confidence.

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