KNOW THE RULES
Get it right on the course more often with our monthly R&A masterclass
all marks or pitchmarks can always be repaired on the green, but if they are not on the green, beware, as 17-year-old Won Jun Lee discovered in US Open sectional qualifying this year. Shona McRae, R&A assistant director – Rules, explains…
Ball marks (often referred to as pitch-marks) leave unsightly marks and, more importantly, cause damage that can last for weeks. The Rules permit ball marks on the putting green to be repaired, whether or not the player’s ball lies on the putting green (Rule 16-1c), and repairing them as soon as possible is important to help prevent any long-term damage.
However, pitch-marks often occur elsewhere, in particular on the apron or fringe of the green after a player has just missed with a short approach, especially when the ground is soft. This
Bwas the situation amateur Won Jun Lee found himself in during US Open sectional qualifying at Timuquana Country Club in Florida this June.
Lee decided to repair the pitch-mark his ball had made on the fringe of the 11th green during the second round. As a result of soft ground conditions, his ball had pitched, jumped forward and come to rest in front of the pronounced pitch-mark. As the pitchmark was on the fringe and not on the green itself, Lee was not entitled to repair it as doing so would improve his area of intended swing.
A player is prohibited from taking actions to improve his lie, line of play, area of intended stance or swing or any other area covered by Rule 13-2. ‘Improve’ means to change for the better, whereby the player creates a potential advantage with respect to the position or lie of the ball, area of intended stance or swing or line of play.
Actions such as moving, bending or breaking anything growing or fixed, or creating or eliminating irregularities of surface, can all result in a potential advantage depending on the circumstances. When Lee repaired the pitch-mark behind his ball, he eliminated the raised ground caused by the pitch-mark – an area he was about to swing the club over – and was consequently in breach of Rule 13-2.
It is worth noting that had the pitch-mark been created after the player’s ball had come to rest, for example by another player, in equity, Lee would have been entitled to repair the ball mark. A player is entitled to the lie which his stroke gave him.
Waiting to repair the damage until after he played would have saved Lee. Unfortunately, the two-stroke penalty resulted in him posting a two-round total of 139, missing out on the play-off for the qualifying spot by one stroke.
Pitch-marks on the putting green may be repaired regardless of the position of the ball
Pitch-marks through the green may only be repaired if it doesn’t improve for the stroke
If the pitchmark was created after the ball came to rest, e.g. by someone else’s ball, it may be repaired