OK to use another players ball as “backstop”!

Hi all!

As always when a professional player get in touch with the Rules of Golf during a round, some people question how reasonable the Rules are.

This has happened once again again – this time about whether or not it is fair, that there is no penalty (outside the Putting Green) for using another players ball on the Putting Green as a back-stop.

1) Video.
First, watch this video about the situation in question:

Note, that the ball would have rolled well beyond the hole had it not been stopped by the ball on the Putting Green.

2) The Rules of Golf.
Rule 19-5a states, that in stroke play your ball (A) is not allowed to strike another players ball (B) at rest on the Putting Green – the penalty is two penalty strokes (no penalty in Match play).

This, however, only applies when your ball (A) is lying on the Putting Green (i.e. both balls were lying on the Putting Green). There is not any Rule (in the Rules book) specific addressing what the Rule is outside the Putting Green.

There is only one Decision (22/6) helping in this matter, and it says:


In stroke play, B’s ball lies just off the putting green. A’s ball lies near the hole in a position to serve as a backstop for B’s ball. B requests A not to lift his ball. Is such a request proper?


No. If A and B agree not to lift a ball that might assist B, both players are disqualified under Rule 22-1.


Thus Decision 22/6 states, that if there is an agreement, they will both be disqualified.

But if there is no agreement, there are no (direct) instructions in the rules as to how to solve the matter.

3) Equity!
What should we do, then, when a matter is not directly solved in the Rules of Golf? Well, our friend Rule 1-4 helps us: We have to solve it in accordance with equity!

What is “equity” then in the backstop situation?

Well that is unknown 🙂 We have to make a decision in each case.

In the situation above (and all the other situations alike), no penalty has been given by the Rules officials. It therefore seems that – in a situation without the above mentioned agreement – there is a consensus among rules experts, that there is no penalty for using another ball as a backstop.

In other words: It is completely OK!

4) Is that fair?
As always I find it annoying that the fairness of a Golf rule is discussed just because a professional player gets a “confrontation” with it. But whether or not it is fair to allow a player to use another players ball as a backstop, I am not sure.

Feel free to write your opinion below.


PS: By the way please also watch Zach Johnsons great birdie below:

PS PS: What about Louis Oosthuizen’s hole in one in The Masters (below)!

  1. Sander Vallaots says


    This situation is covered by two rules 19-5a (ball deflected by another ball) and 18-5 (ball at rest moved by another ball). They both apply simultaneously for the players whose balls were involved.

    You will not find a Decision for this situation because it is a clear Rules case.

    The ball which was deflected by another ball at rest is always played as it lies and the ball at rest which was moved will always be replaced where it lied (see also notes because the ball might be lost in water, rough, out of bounds etc after being moved or the exact spot might not be known any more when you see it happen from the distance).

    Stroke play adds one additional constraint – if both balls lied on the putting green then the player is additionally penalised 2 strokes who hit anoter ball. It is the players responsibility to ask all other interfering balls to be marked.

    It is easy to remeber actually – if the number of strokes determine your position on the leaderboard (stroke play) you get additional penalty for being careless when both balls were on the putting green. Better position on the leaderboard is the advantage you get from the field if you do not add the penalties.

    If it is a matter between you and your opponent and whatever you do on the course does not influence how others stand on the leaderboard (match play) you will not be additionaly penalised.

    The core difference between stroke olay and match play – player vs player or player vs the field

  2. […] I have written a blog about the subject some time ago – you can read it on this link. […]

  3. Dr. Beepers says

    Read decision 22/7. The referee can intervene.


    In “match play” not “stroke” can I intentionally use my partner’s ball for my advantage when I am “off the green” and he is on it? I.E. tell my partner to mark his ball (so we know where the spot is) but leave ball where it is on the green.

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