Golf Rules: Do This While You’re Putting and You’ll Lose The Hole!

Do this while you’re putting and you’ll lose the hole!

(In a recent survey of our readers, golfers let me know they want more info about the rules of golf. Here’s one you might encounter.)

I was in a match play tournament last month against a formidable opponent. I did a very stupid thing which nearly cost me the match.

golf puttHere’s the story: I reached the green in two on the tenth hole — a par 4. I missed my first putt as the ball knicked the right edge of the hole, ran around the lip and stopped, just hanging on to the back edge but not dropping. I asked my opponent if I could finish. She agreed. I then reached across the hole and tapped the ball into the cup for a par. Right? No way. My opponent challenged me and declared I had actually lost the hole.

What did I do wrong? Was it reaching over the hole with my putter and tapping the ball in? I thought that was ok, and said so.

So What Was The Problem?

The problem was that as I reached across the hole, my feet moved and my right foot ended up crossing the line of putt!!! A violation of Rule 16-1e.

e. Standing Astride or on Line of Putt

The player must not make a stroke on the putting green from a stance astride, or with either foot touching, the line of putt or an extension of that line behind the ball.

Exception: There is no penalty if the stance is inadvertently taken on or astride the line of putt (or an extension of that line behind the ball) or is taken to avoid standing on another player’s line of putt or prospective line of putt.

I checked with our local pro later and he agreed with my opponent, although I still find the exception to the rule confusing. How easy is it to have a foot step on the line of putt when you’re reaching across to hit the ball?

Do This And You Can Forget The Rule!

So I lost the hole. But it won’t happen again. Here’s my solution for both you and me: Always take your normal stance when you putt. If you never do that “easy reach across the hole and tap in putt” then your feet can’t be astride the line or touch the line. Watch the pros on the weekend tournaments. They almost always take the time to take a normal stance and address the ball before they putt, no matter how short the putt is. Doing that takes away any chance of violating the rule.

By the way, I still won the match but only by 1. Lucky me.

So what do you think? Have you ever broken this rule? Have you ever called anyone on it? Add your comment in the space below and let me know what you think.

  6 comments for “Golf Rules: Do This While You’re Putting and You’ll Lose The Hole!

  1. Virgil
    June 2, 2016 at 1:13 pm

    Actually, according to the PGA:
    Rule 16-1

    Reaching Across Hole to Tap in Short Putt

    Q. A player reaches across the hole to tap in a short putt (the hole is between the player and the ball). Is this a breach of Rule 16-1e, Standing Astride or on the Line of Putt?

    A. No. The line of putt does not extend beyond the hole. There is no penalty for making a stroke in this manner, provided the ball is fairly struck at and not raked into the hole. (Definition of “Line of Putt” and Rule 16-1e).

    • Virgil
      June 2, 2016 at 1:16 pm

      Ah wait! – my apologies – I misinterpreted the error in the putting and you were not referencing the stroke but the stance.

      Yes! You are correct!

      And frankly – I think it is a bit disrespectful to finish a hole in this manner. Your advice – “Always take your normal stance when you putt” is perfect and honors the game and the other members you are playing with!

  2. Jeanne Concannon
    September 1, 2015 at 8:48 am

    I have heard you could and couldn’t reach across to tap in the ball in the hole. Now I know why it’s not a smart thing to do. Thanks for the clarification.

    • September 1, 2015 at 4:21 pm

      It’s one of those things…. better to be safe than sorry. There are opponents who will “forgive” the breach of rules… but others who will certainly call you on it. Why take a chance?!

      • Mickey Green
        December 1, 2015 at 8:00 am

        But Pat, am I correct in saying, yes you can ” forgive ” a breach of the rules, but if for some reason a discussion takes place about the incident then the penalty has to be applied.
        Rule 1-3
        Rule 1-3/4 decisions
        As Gail Rogers says. You must stay silent .

        • December 1, 2015 at 9:30 am

          If you are playing a friendly game then I believe the players can agree to “forgive” a breach, just to keep play moving… However, if you are playing in a tournament, or in a quota contest (where you are competing against other players for a prize0 then the best way to handle a dispute is to call in one of the tournament officials for a decision. If there is no tournament official nearby, wait till you get to the clubhouse and ask the club pro. Their decision should be final.

          I play in a lot of tournaments and unless a rule question is handled BEFORE the tournament begins, i.e. lift, clean and place or a local rule is allowed because of ground under repair, unusual standing water on the course, etc. then a group of golfers cannot arbitrarily decide to forgive a breach of the rules.

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