Marking and lifting the ball is a frequent occurrence during play. Here are nine reminders of the proper procedure.

  1. The ball marker must be an artificial object, not a leaf, a small branch or a darker green spot on the ground. It is okay to use the club head or even the player’s shoe as a marker when the ball is going to be quickly marked, lifted and replaced.
  2. It is most common to mark the spot of the ball by placing a marker behind the spot of the ball; however, it is okay to mark the side or to the front as long as the ball is replaced in the same spot.
  3. It is definitely NOT okay to place the ball marker in front of the ball and then replace the ball in front of the ball marker. Such procedure would be the general penalty, and repeatedly doing so should be a disqualification.
  4. Any time the ball is going to be replaced on the same spot, it must be marked. Failure to do so is a one stroke penalty. The most common example of this breach is a player whose ball is on the green reaching down to clean off a spot of dirt or remove a bit of grass or to align the ball in some manner. The rules require the ball to be marked if it is going to be touched in these and similar cases.
  5. A ball does not have to be marked if it is going to be dropped or placed in a new location. For example, if a player is taking relief from a cart path or a sprinkler head or taking relief under winter rules the ball does not have to be marked; however, it is sometimes a good idea to do so if there might be any doubt with any other player about the accuracy of the relief taken.
  6. A player may always lift her ball on the green if she thinks it might interfere with the landing area or direction of play or stance or swing of another player; however, a player may not lift her ball from any other area of the course for possible interference unless requested to do so by the other player about to play. Lifting the ball without a request is a one stroke penalty.
  7. If a ball is to be spanned on the green because the ball is on the line of another player about to putt, there is no required step by step procedure about how to do so. The only requirement is to get the ball back to where it belongs. So, it doesn’t matter if the spanning is from the ball or from the ball marker; just accurately reverse the process to guarantee the ball is back where it started. If the ball were to end up in the wrong place = General Penalty.
  8. In most cases when a ball is lifted it can be cleaned, but there are four times when it cannot be cleaned:
    a. To see if it is embedded or in a spot where relief might be available like on a hidden sprinkler head. If the player does get relief for an embed ball, NO CLEANING.
    b. To identify the ball. In the rare instance where the player’s id mark might be covered, that area of the ball may be cleaned.
    c. A ball lifted anywhere but on the green because it is interfering with the play of another player.
    d. To check if the ball is cut or cracked, a rare occurrence with the modern golf ball.
  9. A ball marker must be removed before the ball is played or the player incurs a one stroke penalty.

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