There are a lot of things on a golf course that can deflect your
ball while it is in motion. The Rules, as it pertains to “accidental
deflections,” is an area that has become significantly easier to understand and
apply since the Rules were revised in 2019.
The most common outcome is you will simply play your ball as it
lies with no penalty.
However, there are some exceptions when playing your ball as it
lies is not an option. It’s important to note that some Local Rules might
change where you play your ball from.
Generally speaking, whenever you play your ball from the Teeing
Area, General Area, Bunker or Penalty Area, a ball that is accidentally
deflected while in motion is played as it lies from where it comes to rest with
no penalty. When the stroke is made from anywhere except the putting green,
this will always be true, with one exception.
If your ball comes to rest on a person, a living animal or moving
outside influence, you will not play it as it lies. In this case, you would be
required to take free relief by dropping the original ball or another ball in a
one club-length relief area measured from the spot directly under where your
ball came to rest on the person, living animal or moving outside influence.
For example: If you hit your ball and it comes to rest in the back
of a golf cart that was moving, you must follow these steps:
1) Estimate the spot where the ball first came to rest on the golf
2) Find the spot directly under where your ball first came to rest
on the golf cart (this is your reference point).
3) Drop the original ball or another ball in a one club-length
relief area from the reference point.
When a stroke is made from the putting green and the ball is
accidentally deflected while in motion, the answer is not as simple as play the
ball where it comes to rest. The putting green is considered a special place
where a lot of special Rules apply, and deflections are no different. There are
several cases when you play your ball from the putting green and, because it
accidentally hits something or someone, the stroke will not count and must be
replayed. This is true if your ball accidentally hits any person, a living
animal or a movable obstruction (with some exceptions).
Starting with the premise that you will play your ball as it lies
when it is accidentally deflected, let’s take a look at some examples:
If your ball hits any loose impediment (such as a leaf, twig or
acorn), you will play the ball as it lies. In both match play and stroke play,
if your ball hits another ball in play that is at rest on the putting green,
you will always play it as it lies (although a penalty will apply in stroke
As mentioned earlier, the putting green is a special place with
special Rules, and there are many times where your stroke will not count. Some
common examples are: If your ball accidentally hits a club that was lying on
the green, another ball that is in motion on the green, a flagstick that you
place somewhere to stop your ball, or a living worm that is on the putting
green, your stroke does not count and you must replace the original ball or
another ball on the original spot and play again.
Although these examples show that your ball will generally be
played from where it comes to rest after it accidentally hits something or
someone, this is not always the case. As we saw above, the Rules often include
exceptions, which are usually put in place for the sake of fairness. To learn
more, check out Rule 11 in
the 2019 Rules of Golf.
more on the Rules, click here.