Rules of golf ball at rest moved – Rule 18-2

At some stage in most rounds you will find yourself looking for your ball somewhere on the golf course. But what happens if you move your ball by accident when searching for it by treading on it, kicking it accidentally with your foot or hitting it with a club as you probe for it in the long grass?

You certainly need to proceed with caution, for if you start swishing around ever more frenetically with either foot or club and then move your ball in the process, you will only be adding to both your frustration levels and your score.

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Unfortunately, if you, your partner or your caddie do stand on your ball, kick it, or hit it with a club while searching for it, you will be deemed to have moved your ball at rest (unless you could prove otherwise) in breach of Rule 18-2, for which there is a penalty of one stroke.

You will be penalised if your move your ball with a club when searching for it, even if accidentally. Photo: Kenny smith

It’s not just when searching either – it could be as simple as walking backwards towards your ball as you eye up a shot and absent-mindedly brushing it with your foot.

Wherever the ‘ball at rest movement’ occurs, the one thing you must then do is replace the ball in its original spot before playing your next shot. Out in the open, this should be relatively straightforward, but it may be a less precise science in thick rough. If you’re uncertain, don’t panic – you just need to estimate the spot and replace your ball as near as possible to that spot.

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Should you have moved the ball with your club while swishing about, that would not count as an additional stroke, as a stroke requires intention on your part to strike at and move the ball, rather than mere accidental contact.

So always exercise a prudent degree of caution when searching for your ball to avoid making a potentially bad situation even worse. And always take care when moving about near where your ball is lying to avoid a costly error.

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One piece of good news came via a new Local Rule made available to Committees from January 1, 2017, which, if adopted, eliminates the penalty for any accidental movement of your ball on the putting green only, not everywhere on the course.

If that new Local Rule is in force and you accidentally kick your ball when wandering around near it on the putting green, you will no longer be penalised, although you must remember to replace your ball in its original spot before playing your next shot. But remember, this is only a Local Rule, so if it hasn’t been adopted where you’re competing, the one-stroke penalty still applies even on the putting green.