Golf

Rules Guy: Is it a penalty to adjust the alignment of your ball after lifting your mark?

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What do the rules say about adjusting your ball after lifting your mark?
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The Rules of Golf are tricky! Thankfully, we’ve got the guru. Our Rules Guy knows the book front to back. Got a question? He’s got all the answers.
I was called out for aligning my ball for a putt after lifting my ball marker and told that if I were caught doing it again I’d be penalized. Yet per Rule Clarification 14.2c/1, the ball can be aligned in any way so long as its vertical distance to the ground remains the same. I don’t see any reference to a ball marker being required when lining up a putt. Can you clarify? —Mark O’Neill, Kildare, Ireland
Sad to say, you were called out correctly. Never mind that “vertical distance to the ground” is a head scratcher, even for Rules Guy.
The clarification is a misdirection — it has nothing to do with why you’re getting a penalty. You breached the rules by “lifting,” which includes rotating, without first marking your ball. That’s right: Rotating the ball is considered lifting under Rule 14.1, and you only get the right to lift the ball on the putting green after you mark it first.
So, if you rotate the ball when it isn’t marked, you get one penalty stroke. In sum: Mark it, Mark!
For more ball-mark-related guidance from our guru, read on …
My fellow competitor marked his ball and picked it up. He then replaced his ball and putted without picking up his marker. I told him his ball was not in play because he left his marker in place, and thus had hit a wrong ball — he needed to replace his ball, with a two-stroke penalty. He said I was full of baloney. Is the ball in play if you don’t pick up your marker? — Robert Tarbox, via email
Truly, Robert, Rules Guy can’t stomach baloney, and alas you are both full of it.
The placing or removal of the ball marker has nothing to do with whether the ball is in or out of play. Bupkis.
In point of fact, it’s the act of lifting or replacing the ball that would change its status. That said, Rule 14.1 does prohibit playing a ball without first removing the ball marker, a breach for which your fellow competitor did deserve one penalty stroke (not two), even though it wasn’t a wrong ball.
He needs to change his ways, and you need to eat a bit of crow.
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