June 3, 2023


What do the rules say about taking relief from your own ball mark from off the green?

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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.

My wedge approach landed on the fringe, created a huge ball mark, popped out of it, and came to rest an inch behind the mark. Naturally, that mark was directly on my line to the hole. I’d have preferred to putt the ball, but the depth of the mark made that impossible… unless I can fix the mark before making my stroke. The approach never touched the green — does that make a difference? —Joe Scopel, Maryland 

Indeed, it does make a difference, Joe — if the pitch mark were on the green then you could fix it … but it isn’t, so you can’t.

Please refer to Rule 8.1; you are not allowed to eliminate irregularities that improve your conditions affecting the stroke — in this case, the line of play. You’ll have to take your chances putting or chipping over it … or, we suppose, go around it, but that would just be kind of sad.


golf ball in tree

Rules Guy: Can you take free relief if your ball lodges into a tree marked as ground under repair?

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Rules Guy



For more ball-mark-related guidance from our guru, read on …

My pal’s approach shot landed a foot short and right of the hole and spun back to 10 feet. It left a big pitch mark, which he didn’t repair. Naturally, he pushed his putt off line, and the mark rerouted his ball into the cup. Unfair! Do the Rules require you to repair a ball mark? —Kevin McNees, via email 

If this were the basketball shooting game H-O-R-S-E (yes, RG knows his hoops, too), this player would have been required to call “bank” beforehand for the shot to count.

Alas, not so in golf. While repairing a pitch mark is obviously encouraged behavior, and anyone can repair anyone else’s pitch mark on the putting green, your playing partner was simply playing the course as he found it. As they also say on the hardwood, “No harm, no foul.”

Need help unriddling the greens at your home course? Pick up a custom Green Book from 8 AM Golf affiliate Golf Logix.

Got a question about the Rules? Ask the Rules Guy! Send your queries, confusions and comments to rulesguy@golf.com. We promise he won’t throw the book at you.

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