A current fad in golf is to mark one’s golf ball with a poker chip or a poker chip sized ball marker. This brought up an interesting question with regards to “size” or “type” of object used to mark one’s golf ball. The Note to Rule 20 – 1 (Lifting and Marking) states that “the position of a ball to be lifted should be marked by placing a ball – marker, a small coin or other similar object immediately behind the ball.” A player asked me if they would be penalized for using a poker chip as a ball marker because it did not seem to fit by size under the “small coin or other similar object” outlined in the Note. My answer to player was no, you would not be penalized for using a poker chip as a marker.
The provision in the Note to Rule 20 – 1 is a recommendation of best practice, but there is no penalty for failing to act in accordance with the Note. Examples of methods of marking the position of a ball that are not recommended, but are permissible are as follows:
*placing the toe of a club at the side of or behind, the ball;
*using a tee;
*using a loose impediment;
*scratching a line, provided the putting green is not tested (Rule 16 – 1d) and a line for putting is not indicated (Rule 8 – 2b). As this practice may cause damage to the putting green, it is discouraged.
However, under Rule 20 -1 it is necessary to physically mark the position of the ball. Reference to an existing mark on the ground does not constitute marking the position of the ball. For example, it is not permissible to mark the position with reference to a blemish on the putting green.
Frank Guastella, PGA Rules Official Michigan Section PGA
Staff Writer, Mike Fay Golf
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