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Facebook Poll

A player marks her ball on the green and later accidentally replaces it with the wrong ball, of identical make. She then holes the 25 foot putt, only to discover she has used the wrong ball. She should

  1. Keep playing as she gained no advantage
  2. Keep playing and take a one shot penalty
  3. Keep playing and take a two shot penalty
  4. Retake the putt and incur a two shot penalty

The short answer is option (3) above. If that is all you wanted to know, why not visit our home page to see how the Golf Mentor can make a huge difference to your game. If you want more explanation of the poll result, then please read on.

Rule 15.1 of the rules of golf state that "A player must hole out with the ball played from the teeing ground, unless the ball is lost or out of bounds or the player substitutes another ball, whether or not substitution is permitted (see Rule 15-2). If a player plays a wrong ball, see Rule 15-3." The key wording in this instance is "whether or not a substitution is permitted". In order to be allowed to substitute a ball, the player needs to find a specific rule that allows substitution. For example, if the ball is lost out of bounds, then, using rule 27-1, another ball can be substituted (thank heavens).

In the circumstances pertaining to this poll, there is no rule that allows substitution, so the player must take the appropriate penalty.

The appropriate penalty, is given under rule 15-2, "If a player substitutes a ball when not permitted to do so under the Rules, that substituted ball is not a wrong ball; it becomes the ball in play. If the mistake is not corrected as provided in Rule 20-6 and the player makes a stroke at a wrongly substituted ball, he loses the hole in match play or incurs a penalty of two strokes in stroke play under the applicable Rule, in stroke play, must play out the hole with the substituted ball."

So, the player in the above poll, would take a two stroke penalty, but would not have to take the 25 foot putt again, i.e option (3). If the player was playing match play, they would lose the hole.

This is an interesting case, where the applied rule is not completely fair, as the player gained no advantage from his mistake but still lost 2 strokes. However, there is always going to have to be a trade-off between fairness and simplicity of application.