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Three people may replace a ball
Graham Lewis - photo by Photo provided.

Golf is fun, whether playing solo or with others. Having a basic understanding of the game’s rules makes it easier to enjoy the experience and improve your skills. In this periodic column, I provide brief explanations of golf rules and answer commonly asked questions.

Question: Ronnie and Sue are playing in a tournament. On the fifth hole, Ronnie hits his ball from the bunker and it lands on the green between the hole and Sue’s ball. Ronnie tells Sue to go ahead and mark his ball while he rakes the bunker. Sue marks Ronnie’s ball and putts her own ball into the hole. Ronnie then replaces his ball and gives Sue her marker. Sue says that since she marked the ball, she must be the one to replace the ball. Is Sue correct?

Answer: No. Sue has misinterpreted rule 20-3, which says "if a ball is to be replaced, the player, his partner or the person who lifted or moved it must replace it on the spot from which it was lifted or moved." The key word is "or." This states that only three people may replace the ball. Any of those three may replace the ball. If someone other than those three replaces the ball, the player incurs a penalty of one stroke. However, if the player has the mistake corrected before he plays his stroke, he incurs no penalty under rule 20-6.

Thanks for the question. As always, remember to have fun while playing or practicing the game of golf.

Lewis is a certified teaching professional and a member of the United States Golf Teachers Federation. E-mail him at

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