In the final round of the Memorial Tournament, Scott Langley’s putt on the 16th green came to rest on the lip of the cup. It appeared that the ball was still moving almost imperceptibly towards the hole. Langley walked half way to the hole, and paused for a considerable period of time, waiting for the ball to drop. He then approached the ball, and waited a while longer. Finally, the ball dropped into the hole.
Langley’s actions suggested a possible violation of Rule 16-2. When a ball is overhanging the lip of the hole, the player is allowed enough time to reach the hole “without unreasonable delay,” and an additional ten seconds, to determine whether the ball is at rest. If by then the ball has not fallen into the hole, it is “deemed” to be at rest. If the ball subsequently falls into the hole, the player is deemed to have holed out with his last stroke but must add a penalty stroke.
So, if your birdie putt hangs on the lip and you either unreasonably delay reaching the hole or wait for more than ten seconds, you score a par even if your ball ultimately drops into the hole. What constitutes “unreasonable delay” is a matter of interpretation; presumably you can’t get a hot dog and beer from the cart girl while waiting for your ball to drop.
Although it appeared that Langley did not approach the hole without unreasonable delay, the PGA Tour rules offi cial at the scene ruled that there was no violation of Rule 16-2. Some golfers might not be so generous if this situation arises in a competitive match in their club championship. But here’s a rule that helps you. Let’s say your second shot on a par-4 hole comes to rest on the green. You mark your ball about three feet above the hole on a downslope, and when it is your turn to putt you replace the ball. Before you address the ball to putt, it rolls into the hole. What result?
You might be surprised to learn that — provided that the ball was at rest when you replaced it — you record an eagle: you are deemed to have holed out with your last stroke. (Decision 20- 3d/1.) However, if you address the ball (take your stance), you will be deemed to have caused the ball to move and incur a 1-stroke penalty under Rule 18-2b, unless it is known or virtually certain that some external force (a gust of wind) caused the ball to move.
A ball is considered to be holed when it is at rest and the entire ball is below the lip of the hole. It is not required that it come to rest at the bottom of the cup. However, if a ball strikes the hole liner and bounces out, it is not holed because it has not come to rest.
Jack Ross completed an intensive USGA/PGA rules workshop. He also contributes rules articles to ESPN.com.