Answers to clarify dropping and marking

Contributing Columnist

Questions relating to dropping and re-dropping, marking and re-marking, always arise on the golf course and create confusion. Most answers to these problems appear in Rule 20 in the Rules of Golf and in the Decisions on the Rules of Golf. The following questions and answers should prove interesting:


While playing in a casual weekend stroke play event, Jack finds his drive has come to rest on a sprinkler head in the fairway. He knows he is entitled to drop the ball within one club length of the nearest point of relief, no nearer the hole, without penalty. Jack bends down and marks his ball, and while still in his crouch, he picks it up and gently drops it so that it comes to rest within the approved area. Did Jack do the correct thing?

No, he did not. In accordance with the Rules, there is only one way to drop a ball. He should have stood erect, held the ball at shoulder height and arm’s length, and then dropped it. There is no instance in which a player can casually drop a ball while still in his crouch, even within the approved area. If Jack, before playing his next stroke, realizes his mistake and drops the ball correctly, there is no penalty. Otherwise he incurs a one-stroke penalty (Rule 20-2a).


Let’s suppose Jack drops correctly, however in the process of doing so, the ball hits his shoe but still comes to rest within one club length distance. Must he re-drop the ball?

Yes. Going back to Rule 20-2a, it clearly states that if a ball, when dropped, touches any person or the equipment of any player, it must be re-dropped. In these circumstances it can be dropped and re-dropped an nlimited number of times, without penalty, until done correctly.


Dave’s ball lies on Vince’s line of putt on the green, so Vince asks Dave to mark it. Dave places a plastic marker behind his ball, then lifts it and moves the marker one club length away. He then presses down on the marker with his putter, and later notices that in the act of tamping it down, the marker adhered to the bottom of his putter. Has Dave incurred a penalty?

No, since he moved his marker in the process of marking his ball. All Dave has to do is replace his marker as near as possible to the spot from which it was moved (Rule 20-3c).


On a different hole, Dave’s ball comes to rest a few feet in front of Vince’s ball on the putting green, but not on his line of putt. Dave chooses tmark the position of his ball by sticking a tee into the ground directly behind his ball. Vince reminds Dave that he must use a small coin, ball marker or similar object. Is Vince correct?

No, while Rule 20-1 recommends the use of a small coin, ball marker or similar object to mark the position of a ball to be lifted, it is only advice, and there is no penalty for using another method or object (Decision 20-1/16). The Decision, in fact, lists several other methods that are often used in the act of marking that are perfectly acceptable, though not recommended.

Let us suppose that Dave went ahead and used a tee to mark the position of his ball, but Vince hit his putt slightly off-line and the ball was deflected by Dave’s tee. Does either player incur a penalty?

No. Although Vince could have asked Dave to use another type of marker or asked Dave to move his tee farther away from the line of putt, there is no penalty since the tee was not Dave’s “equipment” (see Definition of “equipment”) and Vince must play his ball as it lies (Definition 20-1/17).

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