Golf's Rule 9: Ball Played as It Lies; Ball at Rest Lifted or Moved

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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 9 is titled "Ball Played as It Lies; Ball at Rest Lifted or Moved."

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

Rule 9 covers a central principle of the game: “play the ball as it lies.”
*If the player’s ball comes to rest and is then moved by natural forces such as wind or water, the player normally must play it from its new spot.
*If a ball at rest is lifted or moved by anyone or any outside influence before the stroke is made, the ball must be replaced on its original spot.
*Players should take care when near any ball at rest, and a player who causes his or her own ball or an opponent’s ball to move will normally get a penalty (except on the putting green).

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 9 that is found on the governing bodies' websites:

Summarizing Rule 9: Play the Ball As It Lies

In our Quick Intro to the Rules of Golf, we summarize Rule 9 as follows:

  • If your ball at rest moves, and you don’t know what caused it, play from the new resting place. If you or anyone else, or some outside influence, moves the ball, it must be replaced.
  • If you find it impossible to play from where the ball lies, there will be some form of relief available, which may or may not come with a penalty.

There are seven sections within Rule 9: Rule 9.1 (Ball Played as It Lies); Rule 9.2 (Deciding Whether Ball Moved and What Caused It to Move); Rule 9.3 (Ball Moved by Natural Forces); Rule 9.4 (Ball Lifted or Moved by Player); Rule 9.5 (Ball Lifted or Moved by Opponent in Match Play); Rule 9.6 (Ball Lifted or Moved by Outside Influence); and Rule 9.7 (Ball-Marker Lifted or Moved).

Rule 9.1 states that the golfer, with few exceptions, must play the ball as it lies: where the ball comes to rest, that's where you must play it. You're the one who hit it there, after all.

What if your ball moves? Rule 9.2b states that only four possible causes are recognized under the rules:

*Natural forces, such as wind or water,
*You, including your caddie,
*Your opponent in match play, including your opponent’s caddie, or
*An outside influence, including any other player in stroke play.

If it is not known or virtually certain that the ball moved due to you, your opponent or an outside influence, it is treated as having been moved by natural forces. And, under Rule 9.3, there is no penalty for that so long as the ball is replaced on the original spot.

The remaining sections of the full Rule 9 go over when a ball at rest is lifted or moved by you, your caddie, an opponent or an outside influence, and the replacing of a lifted ball or lifted ball-marker.

Be sure to read the full Rule 9, interpretations of Rule 9, and definitions of important terms either on or