Golf Rule 11 Applies to Balls in Motion Being Affected or Deflected

Rory McIlroy plays a stroke from the fairway.

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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 11 is titled "Ball in Motion Accidentally Hits Person, Animal or Object; Deliberate Actions to Affect Ball in Motion."

The purpose of the rule, as explained in the rule book, is this:

"Rule 11 covers what to do if the player’s ball in motion hits a person, animal, equipment or anything else on the course. When this happens accidentally, there is no penalty and the player normally must accept the result, whether favorable or not, and play the ball from where it comes to rest. Rule 11 also restricts a player from deliberately taking actions to affect where any ball in motion might come to rest."

It is the obligation 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.

To that end, these are links directly to the text of Rule 11 that is found on the governing bodies' websites:

Summarizing Rule 11: When a Ball In Motion Hits Something

In our Quick Intro to the Rules of Golf, we summarize Rule 11 as follows:

  • When a ball in motion hits any person, including you, your equipment or any outside influence accidentally, there’s no penalty, play the ball as it lies. This does not apply to a ball deliberately deflected or stopped.

There are three sections covered within Rule 11. Those sections are Rule 11-1 (Your Ball in Motion Accidentally Hits Person or Outside Influence), Rule 11-2 (Ball in Motion Deliberately Deflected or Stopped by Person) and Rule 11-3 (Deliberately Moving Objects or Altering Conditions to Affect Ball in Motion).

Rule 11-1 states:

"If a player’s ball in motion accidentally hits any person or outside influence: a) There is no penalty to any player; and b) This is true even if the ball hits the player, the opponent or any other player or any of their caddies or equipment."

Section 11-1(b) explains that the ball is played as it lies in such a situation with two exceptions: a) When your ball played from anywhere except the putting green comes to rest on any person, animal or moving outside influence; or b) when your ball played from the putting green accidentally hits a person, animal, movable obstruction or another ball in motion on the putting green. That section in the full Rules of Golf explains how to proceed in such cases and the penalties for ignoring such procedures.

The condensed Player's Edition of the rule book states under Rule 11-2 that "(i)f a ball in motion has been deliberately deflected or stopped by a player or if it hits equipment that has been deliberately positioned, there is normally a penalty and the ball must not be played as it lies."

And the Player's Edition summary of Rule 11-3 states that "(w)hile a ball is in motion, you must not deliberately alter physical conditions or lift or move a loose impediment or movable obstruction to affect where the ball might come to rest."

Be sure to read the full Rule 11, interpretations of Rule 11, and definitions of important terms either on or