I hit an approach shot inside my buddy on the green, so I marked my ball with a poker chip and went to get out of his way. Realizing I was about to step on his line, I moved again, and I kicked my marker all the way to the other side of the green. I had a pretty good idea of where it had been, so I just picked up my poker chip and put it down as close as I could to where I originally placed it. My friend wasn’t having any of it though, saying that I should be penalized for moving my marker. I know I’ve seen pros accidently move their marks before, so I figured that as long as the movement was unintentional. Isn’t that true?
— Ben Dickerson, via e-mail
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but in this case your buddy was dead on, and you were off the mark. According to Decision 20-1/5.5, a player who moves his ball marker before replacing his ball incurs a penalty of one stroke under Rule 20-1. The pros that you were thinking of likely moved their markers while in the act of lifting the ball or marking its position, which is the proverbial exception to the Rule. Other not taking the penalty stroke, however, you did everything right—you should have replaced the ball as close as possible to its original position, no nearer to the hole (Rule 20-3c).