Golf

Rules Guy: When playing preferred lies, can you adjust the ball's position after placing it?

What do the rules say about adjusting your ball after placing it?
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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.
The situation: a stroke-play competition, preferred lies in use. When replacing her ball on the fairway, a player uses the ball’s alignment line. After removing her mark, she’s unsatisfied with the aim. Is she allowed to re-mark the ball and readjust? — Jim Donnelly, Tampa, Fla.
Alas and alack, she may not. The preferred lies local rule, MLR E-3 (which doesn’t, in fact, require putting down a ball marker), is what allowed the player to replace the ball however she wanted it aligned.
But that local rule allows you to place the ball only one time. So, once the ball was placed, the player no longer had a rule that allowed her to lift the ball — which includes rotating it. Here’s hoping she managed to hit the green despite it all.
For more placement guidance from our guru, read on …
Upon reaching our drives, my playing partner and I found that our golf balls were touching and perfectly lined up toward the hole. My ball was in front, so I marked it. His approach produced a massive divot; to replace my ball in its original spot would have meant being in this newly created divot. I claimed I was entitled to a free drop, he said I wasn’t. Who was right? — Brick Rigden, Parkville, Mo.
In a word, neither.
Under Rule 14.2d, you were entitled to relief but not a drop.
When you lifted for interference, you were required to replace the ball…but when the lie of a ball to be replaced is altered, you must replace it in a specific way. Namely, by replacing it on the nearest spot with a lie most similar to the original lie that’s within one club-length of said spot, no nearer the hole and in the same area of the course.
(Your scenario, we will note, more commonly occurs in bunkers, but the process is the same.) We hope this info doesn’t hit you like a ton of bricks, Brick!
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