A multitude of rules come into play when on or in the vicinity of the green. Let’s take a look at some the most commonly recurring situations:
Line of Putt. It is impermissible to straddle the line of putt, or place a foot on the line of putt (or an extension of the line of putt behind the ball) while putting. An exception applies if you’re attempting to avoid stepping on another player’s line of putt. Generally, you may not touch the line of putt, unless performing tasks such as removing loose impediments, lifting and replacing the ball, and repairing ball marks. Your caddie or partner may indicate the line of putt, provided that he does not (i) touch the green; (ii) place a mark on the green; or (iii) provide any assistance during the stroke. In addition, your caddie or partner may not stand on the extension of the line of putt behind the ball while you’re putting.
Ball Marks/Loose Impediments. You may remove loose impediments (leaves, twigs, soil, sand), and repair ball marks (but not spike marks or other damage) on your line of putt, whether your ball is on or off the green. However, you may not brush away dew, frost, or casual water. (You are entitled to relief from casual water on your line of putt when your ball lies on the green.) Note for you hardy winter golfers: snow and ice may be treated as either casual water or loose impediments.
Deflections. If your ball strikes or deflects off another ball, you must play it as it lies, and the ball you struck must be replaced. If you played from the green, you incur a 2-stroke penalty. No penalty applies if you played from off the green, including the fringe.
Movement of Ball on Green. Generally, you incur a 1-stroke penalty if you cause your ball at rest to move, and must replace the ball. However, no penalty applies if the movement is incidental to marking, lifting, and replacing your ball, moving loose impediments, repairing a ball mark, or measuring. If your ball moves after you have addressed it (taken your stance and grounded your putter) you are deemed to have caused the ball to move, even if the movement was caused by wind or gravity. (The USGA and R&A are reconsidering this rule.)
Concession of Putts. A putt may never be conceded in stroke play. In match play, if a player concedes an opponent’s putt, his opponent is deemed to have holed out on with his next stroke. A concession may not be declined or withdrawn. So, if you concede a putt and your opponent proceeds to putt and misses, it has no effect. (In a four-ball match, a player may not putt out after a concession if it would assist his partner with a putt.)
Jack Ross completed an intensive PGA/USGA rules workshop and has officiated at state amateur competitions. Rules inquiries may be directed to email@example.com