Can a player be penalized for moving his ball in a hazard?

Published 07/03/2011 07:20:00

Carl hits his tee shot into a water hazard. While using a club to probe for his ball in the water, he accidentally kicks the ball, which is actually lying in long grass on the bank.

Is there a penalty?

Carl is penalized one stroke in either stroke play or match play for moving his ball when it is in play (Rule 18-2a). He may replace the ball and play it, or, under an additional penalty of one stroke, take a drop under the water-hazard Rule.

There is no penalty for moving your ball in water in a water hazard when probing for it with a club, but Carl's ball isn't in the water and the movement of the ball isn't directly related to the probing. In any type of hazard, including bunkers, if a ball is covered by loose impediments or sand, a player is allowed to probe for it and is not penalized if the ball moves. However, in this case, the ball is covered only by grass.

With the above exceptions, a ball in a hazard is treated just like a ball on any other part of the course under Rule 18-2a -- a player is penalized for causing his ball to move, except as permitted by a Rule (as in lifting it to proceed under the water-hazard Rule). So, be careful when searching for your ball in a hazard. If you move it, you will be penalized one stroke, even if it is in such a bad lie that you wouldn't be able to play it anyway.

Now What If?

Carl's fellow competitor, Tom, is probing for Carl's ball in the water inside a water hazard when he accidentally kicks the ball, which is actually lying on the bank of the hazard.

Is there a penalty?

No. A fellow competitor is not penalized for moving a player's ball during a search. There would also be no penalty if Tom is an opponent in match play. The ball is replaced.


1.  I was playing in a stableford competition when one of my 4 ball lost his ball in the rough. We looked for about 4 mins when he said you boys play on I will continue to look. He then got his trolley and rolled it up and down the rough. His trolley ran over his ball and he played it onto the green and stated, no penalty for using his trolley to find his ball and put a 5 down on his card. When he found his ball he lifted it to identify it and placed it down again before playing. is there a penalty there somewhere?

comment by David Richardson - 17/10/2013 15:48

2.  Yes. 1 stroke for moving it (downwards) when he ran over it.

comment by Doug - 08/01/2015 14:25

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