Ask the Rules Guy: Can you fix a damaged hole mid-round?

Ask the Rules Guy, January 2014
Ask the Rules Guy

HOLE-Y INTENTIONS
Dear Rules Guy: During a recent round, everyone in my group was on the green. One guy noticed that the foursome in front of us had slightly damaged the hole when they replaced the flagstick. He fixed the back of the cup -- and another guy called a penalty on him! Did he break the rules?
-- Daniel Morris, Bluffton, S.C.

Though he had good intentions, the actions of Mr. Fix-It cost him two strokes, or loss of the hole in match play. In this specific case, Rule 16-1c lets you repair the hole only if it was damaged by a ball mark. The penalty results from touching the line of the putt (Rule 16-1a). If the damage is so extensive that the size of the hole has materially changed, you can contact the pro shop and have a member of your rules committee come out and make the repairs. Once your group has completed the hole, you can fix the damage for the next group, if you can do so quickly.
 

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