Rules Guy: Can you be penalized for leaving your ball in the hole?

February 23, 2019

The Rules of Golf are tricky! Thankfully, we’ve got the guru. Our Rules Guy knows the book front to back. Got a question? He’s got all the answers.

A member of our regular foursome, who I’ll call Larry, has a habit of leaving his ball in the hole after holing out. Recently Tom — the player putting after Larry — had his own ball pop out as a result. Is Larry penalized? Does Tom count the stroke and file it under rub of the green, or can he retake his putt? Is Tom Penalized? Help!
—ROGER LANGE, UXBRIDGE, MASS.

Jason Raish

While Larry may be lazy, Tom is lax and must pay the price.

The ball in the hole can be removed by anyone, not just Larry, but there is no penalty for letting this sleeping dog lie. Tom gets no do-over — he counts his stroke and continues to play on. Presumably, next time he’ll fish out the offending orb or, better yet, demand that Lazy Larry do so.

Got a rules question? Of course you do! Whatever it may be, send yours to [email protected] and the question may be answered in an upcoming issue of GOLF. Until then, play by the Rules!