"What Happens When Someone or Something Moves My Ball?"
The biggest part of golf is getting the ball from the teeing ground into the hole as a result of a stroke. Often, the ball gets moved by something other than the intentional strike by a club head. Let’s examine the different categories of how a ball in play and at rest can be moved other than a result of a stroke and what are the subsequent penalty situations.
There are many ways a ball at rest can be moved and they are mostly covered by Rule 18. In order to determine which section of Rule 18 applies, we need to determine who or what moved our ball in play and at rest. There are six choices in Rule 18 (actually five, since one of the categories fits into one of the other categories) and there is one method not covered by any Rule! Here are the choices under Rule 18:
1. By an outside agency – A spectator, an animal or a pine cone falling from a tree moved your ball. No penalty – replace the ball.
2. By you the player, your partner, either of your side’s caddies or either of your equipment – You move it when trying to carefully move a nearby twig or stick or a towel falls off your shoulder and moves the ball. Only one penalty stroke in either match play or stroke play – replace the ball.
3. By your opponent, his or their caddies or any of their equipment – Your opponent was clumsy and accidentally kicked your ball. One penalty stroke to your opponent other than during search and no penalty if it was during search– replace the ball.
4. By a fellow-competitor, his or their caddies or any of their equipment (outside agencies, same as section one above) - No penalty – replace the ball.
5. By another ball – You play your shot to the green and then another player plays a shot to the green from the rough that strikes and moves your ball. No penalty in either form of play – replace the ball.
6. By someone in measuring while proceeding under or to determine the application of a Rule – Someone tries to measure who is away by using the flagstick and inadvertently moves your ball - No penalty – replace the ball.
The other case not covered under Rule 18 is when a ball is covered by an act of the Golf Gods: gravity, wind or water. Generally, the ball is played as it lies with no penalty and no replacement (there is an exception).
But please take note that in most all of the cases covered by Rule 18, if the ball is not replaced, the owner of the ball will incur the general penalty for Rule 18. That penalty is loss of hole in match play or two strokes in stroke play regardless of who or what moved it!
Remember, use the index or the table of contents to find the correct Rule that applies to the situation and follow the Rules of Golf to help yourself to enjoy the game of golf.