Mark
That Ball

Source GolfDigest.com November 2006. Illustration by Joseph Taylor.


Mark That Ball - Knowing when you can lift your ball

or have a player's lifted is vital.

  • Any ball that will be lifted then replaced - for instance, when you're cleaning a ball on the green or implementing a rule - must be marked.

    The US Golf Association recommends marking the position by placing a coin or similar small object immediately behind the ball, but there is no rule about what a player uses to mark, except that a blemish on the green does not constitute a proper mark.

  • Decision 20-1/19 in the Decisions on the Rules of Golf requires a mark to be placed as close to the ball as possible. It doesn't have to be behind the ball - it can be on the side or in front – but you can't mark two inches away, improve your line, or press anything down if you mark in front of the ball. The penalty for any of these violations is one-stroke.

  • There's no penalty for accidentally moving the ball while attempting to mark or lift it. Just replace it.


  • If it's your turn to play, you can require another player to mark and lift a ball anywhere on the course. You can also ask a player to move a marker so it won't interfere with your stance, stroke or play.

    The USGA recommends it be moved one or more clubhead lengths from its original spot.

  • A ball deflected by a mark - such as a tee stuck in the ground - must be played as it lies with no penalty to either the player or the marker.

  • Picking up a marker without replacing the ball is one stroke penalty. The ball must be replaced before play can continue.

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