Golf's Rule 14: Procedures for Ball (Marking, Lifting, Dropping, Etc.)

In the Official Rules of Golf, jointly written and maintained by the United States Golf Association and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, Rule 14 is titled "Procedures for Ball: Marking, Lifting and Cleaning; Replacing on Spot; Dropping in Relief Area; Playing from Wrong Place."

The purpose of the rule, as excerpted from the rule book, is this:

Rule 14 covers when and how the player may mark the spot of a ball at rest and lift and clean the ball and how to put a ball back into play so that the ball is played from the right place.
*When a lifted or moved ball is to be replaced, the same ball must be set down on its original spot.
*When taking free relief or penalty relief, a substituted ball or the original ball must be dropped in a particular relief area.
A mistake in using these procedures may be corrected without penalty before the ball is played, but the player gets a penalty if he or she plays the ball from the wrong place.

It is the responsibility of golfers to know the rules, and the USGA and R&A have tons of resources on their respective websites to help us learn and understand. These are links directly to the text of Rule 14 that is found on the governing bodies' websites:

Summarizing Rule 14: Procedures for Ball

In our Quick Intro to the Rules of Golf, we summarize Rule 14 as follows:

  • If you are lifting a ball to be replaced, mark the spot first. The original ball must be replaced unless the Rules allow a substitution.
  • If the original lie is altered, replace the ball in the nearest similar lie, or recreate the lie if in a bunker.
  • If your ball is to be dropped, you may use any ball, including the original ball, and drop from knee height into the relief area.
  • If you make a mistake in replacing, dropping or substituting, you may lift your ball and correct the mistake before making a stroke.
  • If you have played from a wrong place, continue play but give yourself the general penalty unless you think there was a serious breach of the rule, in which case play from the correct place or risk disqualification.

There are seven sections within Rule 14 in the rule book. Here are those section titles, plus links to each section:

  • Rule 14.1: Marking, Lifting and Cleaning Ball
  • Rule 14.2: Replacing Ball on Spot
  • Rule 14.3: Dropping Ball in Relief Area
  • Rule 14.4: When Player’s Ball is Back in Play after Original Ball Was Out of Play
  • Rule 14.5: Correcting Mistake Made in Substituting, Replacing, Dropping or Placing Ball
  • Rule 14.6: Making Next Stroke from Where Previous Stroke Made
  • Rule 14.7: Playing from Wrong Place

Be sure to read the full Rule 14, interpretations of Rule 14, and definitions of important terms either on or