What Happens? – Accidentally Moving A Ball In The Process Of Marking It!

Here is a rules of golf question I received on accidentally moving a ball in the process of marking it:


“A couple of days ago in a round of golf in our club champs, one of the players in the other pair asked his opponent to mark his ball, a putter-head span to the right. The player did what a lot of players do in marking the ball, namely put the putter head down alongside the ball and placed the marker at the heel of the putter.

This is a not-recommended method of ball marking, but provided it is done in reverse when replacing the ball, is okay as far as I am concerned.

In putting his putter down to span the marker, however, the player tapped his ball about an inch to the right. He replaced it and spanned it again, this time without incident.

Does he incur a penalty for knocking his ball ? Our club is somewhat divided on this, and I volunteered to email you and get a ruling.

Many thanks in anticipation.”


“There is no penalty for accidentally moving a ball in the process of marking.

Rule 20-1 states, ‘If a ball or ball-marker is accidentally moved in the process of lifting the ball under a Rule or marking its position, the ball or ball-marker must be replaced. There is no penalty, provided the movement of the ball or ball-marker is directly attributable to the specific act of marking the position of or lifting the ball.’

Decision 20-1/15 explains what is meant by the phrase ‘directly attributable to the specific act’ as follows; ‘the specific act of placing a ball-marker behind the ball, placing a club to the side of the ball, or lifting the ball such that the player’s hand, the placement of the ball-marker or the club, or the lifting of the ball causes the ball or the ball-marker to move.”

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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 “What Happens? – Accidentally Moving A Ball In The Process Of Marking It!”

  1. Barry Rhodes says:


    I am replying on behalf of Andy Brown and GolfSwingSecretsRevealed.com.

    A principle of the Rules of Golf is that a player is entitled to the lie which his stroke gave him. Accordingly, in equity (Rule 1-4) your opponent could not only have removed your divot lying against his ball, without penalty, but he could also have lifted and cleaned any grass or earth that was deposited on his ball as a result of your stroke. Decision 13-2/8.5 rules on similar circumstances.



  2. Andrew Sibiya says:

    Hi Andy,

    The opponents ball was hit approx 10 meters further than mine on the fairway after we tee off. I then took a short iron to further hit the ball to the green, in the process I took some devot (?), which then landed on top of the opponent’s ball. What is the ruling when they have to remove the chunk of grass form the ball?

    Warm regards,
    Andrew (RSA)

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