As stated in the definitions, to "move", a ball at rest must leave its original spot and come to rest on any other spot and the movement must be enough that it can be seen by the naked eye. In order to treat the ball as moved, there must be knowledge or virtual certainty that the ball has moved.An example of when it is known or virtually certain that a ball has moved is:
A player marks, lifts and replaces their ball on the putting green. As the player walks away, the ball rolls a short distance and comes to rest. The player does not see this, but another player observes the ball moving and informs the player. Since it is known that the ball moved, the player must replace the ball on its original spot under Rule 13.1d(2) (Ball Moved by Natural Forces).
An example of when it is not known or virtually certain that a ball has moved is:
Player A and Player B play their approach shots to the putting green, but because of the contours of the putting green they could not see where the two balls came to rest. Unknown to the players, Player B's ball struck Player A's ball at rest and it rolled some distance farther from the hole. As long as this information does not come to the attention of the players before Player A makes the next stroke, Player A does not get a penalty for playing from where their ball came to rest after being struck by Player B's ball.
Player Responsible for Actions That Cause Ball to Move Even When Not Aware Ball Moved
As provided in Clarification 9.2a/1, a player has not made a stroke from a wrong place when it is not known or virtually certain that the player’s ball has been moved by an outside influence at the time the ball is played.But when the player’s actions (or the actions of the player’s caddie or partner) caused the ball to move, the player is treated as knowing the ball moved and that they were the cause of the movement. This is true even when the player is unaware at the time that their actions caused the ball to move as the player’s lack of knowledge of their own breach does not exempt them from penalty.Examples of this include:
A player’s ball lies in the general area and they remove a loose impediment near the ball that causes the ball to move. Because the player was not looking at the ball, they were not aware that the ball moved. The player gets one penalty stroke under Rule 15.1b (Ball Moved When Removing Loose Impediment) and they must replace the ball.
A player’s caddie or their partner removed roping and staking, and this causes the player’s ball to move while the player was watching another player make a stroke. There is no penalty for moving the ball under Rule 15.2a(1) (Removal of Movable Obstruction) but the player must replace the ball.
In both of these situations, even though the player was not aware that the ball moved, if it subsequently becomes known that the ball moved and the player has made a stroke without first replacing the ball, the player gets the general penalty for playing from a wrong place under Rule 14.7a (Place from Where Ball Must Be Played).See Clarifications for definition of “Known or Virtually Certain” for guidance.
Determining Whether the Player’s Actions Caused the Ball to Move When Equipment Is Involved
Rule 9.4 applies when it is known or virtually certain that the player’s actions caused their ball to move. This includes when a player’s actions cause an object to move the ball. But Rule 9.4 does not always apply when the player’s ball has moved and their equipment is involved.Examples of when Rule 9.4 applies because it is known or virtually certain that the player was the cause of the ball’s movement include when the player:
Puts down their bag on a slope and the bag immediately falls onto the ball and moves it.
Drops a club which causes the ball to move.
Examples of when Rule 9.6 applies because it is not known or virtually certain that the player was the cause of the ball’s movement include when the player:
Puts down their bag and there is a period of time before the bag falls onto to the ball and moves it.
Leaves a towel on top of their bag which then blows onto the ground and causes the ball to move.
These principles would also apply in determining whether an opponent’s actions caused a player’s ball to move (Rule 9.5). (New)
Procedure When Player’s Ball Is Dislodged from Tree
Rule 9.4 applies wherever a ball in play is on the course. This includes when a ball is in a tree. However, when the player does not intend to play the ball as it lies but is trying only to identify it, or intends to retrieve it to use another Rule, the Exceptions to Rule 9.4b apply and there is no penalty. For example:
In searching for their ball, a player sees a ball lying in a tree but cannot identify it. The player climbs the tree in an attempt to identify the ball and in doing so accidentally dislodges the ball from the tree. The ball is identified as the player's ball. In this case, since the ball was accidentally moved in taking reasonable actions to identify it, there is no penalty for moving the ball (Rule 7.4). The player must replace the ball or may directly use a relief Rule (such as Rule 19 - Unplayable Ball). In two situations, the player's only option is to take relief under a relief Rule:
The player is unable to replace the ball because they cannot reach the spot where the ball was moved from when the player was identifying it, or
The player can reach that spot but the ball will not come to rest on that spot and the player cannot reach the spot where it will come to rest under Rule 14.2e (Replaced Ball Does Not Stay on Spot).
A player's ball has not yet been found but is believed to be lodged in a tree in the general area. The player makes it clear that if the ball is found they will take unplayable ball relief under Rule 19. The player shakes the tree; the ball falls down and is identified by the player within three minutes of starting search. The player may now take relief under Rule 19 (Unplayable Ball) adding only the one penalty stroke prescribed by that Rule with no additional penalty for causing the ball to move. If not known, the player must estimate the spot where the ball lay in the tree when applying Rule 19.
However, if the player moves the ball when they are not intending to identify it or without intending to take relief under another Rule, the player does get a penalty for a breach of Rule 9.4. For example:
A player's ball is in a tree and they intend to play it. In preparing for the stroke, the player accidentally dislodges the ball. The player gets one penalty stroke under Rule 9.4 for causing the ball to move. The player must replace the ball or may take relief directly under a relief Rule. If the player takes relief under Rule 19, they get a total of two penalty strokes, one under Rule 9.4 and one under Rule 19.
Ball Deliberately Touched but Not Moved Results in Penalty to Player
When the ball in play is deliberately touched by the player, even if it does not move, the player gets one penalty stroke under Rule 9.4b.For example, a player gets one penalty stroke if they:
Without first marking the ball's spot, rotate the ball on the putting green to line up the trademark with the hole, even if the ball remains on the same spot. If the player had marked the spot of the ball before touching or rotating it, there would have been no penalty.
Without first marking the ball's spot, rotate the ball anywhere on the course to identify it and the ball is the player's ball.
Deliberately touch the ball with a club in preparing to make a stroke.
Hold the ball steady with their hand or position a pine cone or stick against the ball to prevent the ball from moving while they remove some loose impediments or brush something off the ball.
Meaning of “While” in Rule 9.4b Exception 4
Exception 4 uses "while" to govern the time period when the Exception will apply to a player who moves their ball in play as a result of "reasonable actions". For the meaning of "reasonable actions", see Clarification 9.4b/3.The use of the word "while" indicates that every reasonable action in applying a Rule has a beginning and an end and, if the ball’s movement occurs during the time that such action is taking place, the Exception applies.Examples of situations covered by Exception 4, therefore resulting in no penalty for causing the ball to move, include when:
The player finds a ball that they believe to be their ball in play. In the process of identification, the player approaches the ball to mark and lift it and accidentally slips and moves the ball. Even though the player was not marking or lifting the ball when it was moved, it was still moved while the player was identifying the ball.
The player has dropped a ball when taking relief and then reaches down to lift the tee that was marking the relief area. When standing up, the player accidentally drops a club that they were holding and the club hits and moves the ball in play. Even though the player has already dropped the ball to take relief, the ball was moved while they were taking relief.
Meaning of “Reasonable Actions” in Rule 9.4b Exception 4
In many situations, the Rules require a player to perform actions near or next to the ball (such as lifting, marking, measuring, etc.). If the ball is accidentally moved while taking these "reasonable actions", Exception 4 to Rule 9.4 applies.However, there are other situations when the player is taking actions farther from the ball where, even though the ball might be moved as a result of those actions, Exception 4 also applies because those actions are "reasonable".These include when:
The player approaches their ball for the purpose of taking relief and accidentally kicks a rock or accidentally drops their club that strikes and moves the ball.
The player removes stakes and rope (movable obstructions) used for gallery control purposes some distance ahead of the ball and in removing one of the stakes, they cause the others to become loose and fall to the ground, moving their ball in play.
The player restores the line of play by brushing sand away from the fringe with their hat under Rule 8.1d (Restoring Conditions Worsened After Ball Came to Rest), and the sand splashes onto the ball and causes it to move.
In other situations, Exception 4 to Rule 9.4 does not apply because the player's actions are not "reasonable".These include when:
The player approaches their ball to take relief and kicks a rock in frustration that accidentally strikes and moves the ball.
The player throws a club down into the relief area in preparing to measure, and the club accidentally strikes and moves the ball.
The player lifts a bunker rake or their club and throws it out of a bunker. The rake or club falls back into the bunker, striking and moving the ball.
Player Lifts Ball Under Rule 16.1b That Allows Free Relief but Then Decides Not to Take Free Relief
In the general area, if a player lifts their ball with the intention to take free relief under Rule 16.1b (Abnormal Course Conditions), but then decides not to proceed under that Rule despite relief being available, the player's right to lift the ball under Rule 16.1b is no longer valid.After lifting the ball but before doing anything else, the player has the following options:
Replace the ball in its original position with a penalty of one stroke (Rule 9.4b);
Replace the ball in its original position with a penalty of one stroke (Rule 9.4b) and then take relief under Rule 19.2 (Unplayable Ball Relief), getting an additional penalty of one stroke for a total of two penalty strokes;
Directly take relief under Rule 19.2b or c, without replacing the ball and using the spot where the original ball lay to determine the reference point for the relief procedure, getting a penalty of one stroke under Rule 19.2 and an additional penalty of one stroke under Rule 9.4b for a total of two penalty strokes;
Drop the ball under Rule 16.1b and then either play the ball as it lies without penalty or, using its new position to determine the reference point, take relief under any of the options of Rule 19.2, getting a penalty of only one stroke; or
Directly take stroke-and-distance relief, without dropping the ball under Rule 16.1b, getting a penalty of one stroke under Rule 19.2a and no penalty under Rule 9.4b, as the player does not need to establish a new reference point before taking relief under Rule 19.2a.
Player Declares Found Ball as Theirs and This Causes Opponent to Lift Another Ball That Turns Out to Be the Player’s Ball
Under Rule 9.5b, an opponent gets one penalty stroke for lifting the player's ball unless one of the Exceptions applies.For example, during a search Player A finds a ball and states that it is theirs. Player B (the opponent) finds another ball and lifts it. Player A then realizes the found ball was not in fact their ball and the ball Player B lifted was Player A's ball.Since the ball was not in fact found when Player B lifted Player A's ball, it is considered to have been accidentally moved during search and Exception 3 to Rule 9.5b applies. The player or opponent must replace the ball without penalty to anyone.
Outside Influence Moved by Wind Causes Ball to Move
Wind is not itself an outside influence, but if wind causes an outside influence to move a player's ball, Rule 9.6 applies.For example, if a player's ball comes to rest in a plastic bag (movable obstruction) that is lying on the ground, and a gust of wind blows the bag and moves the ball, the bag (outside influence) is considered to have moved the ball. The player may either:
Directly take relief under Rule 15.2a by estimating the point right under where the ball was at rest in the plastic bag before the ball was moved, or
Replace the ball moved by the bag by applying Rule 9.6 (by replacing the ball and the bag) and then decide to play the ball as it lies or take relief under Rule 15.2a (Relief from Movable Obstruction).
Where to Replace Ball When It Was Moved from Unknown Location
If a ball has been moved by an outside influence and the original spot where the ball lay is not known, the player must use their reasonable judgment (Rule 1.3b(2)) to determine where the ball had come to rest before it was moved.For example, on a particular hole, part of the putting green and adjoining area cannot be seen by the players playing towards it. Near the putting green there is a bunker and a penalty area. A player plays towards the putting green and cannot tell where the ball came to rest. The players see a person (outside influence) with a ball. The person drops the ball and runs away. The player identifies it as their ball. The player does not know whether the ball was on the putting green, in the general area, in the bunker, or in the penalty area.As it is impossible to know where the ball should be replaced, the player must use reasonable judgment. If it is equally likely the ball came to rest on the putting green, in the general area, in the bunker, or in the penalty area, a reasonable judgment would be to estimate the ball came to rest in the general area.
Player Learns That Ball Moved After Stroke Made
If it is not known or virtually certain that the player's ball has been moved by an outside influence, the player must play the ball as it lies. If information that the ball was in fact moved by an outside influence only becomes known to the player after the ball has been played, the player did not play from a wrong place because this knowledge did not exist when the player made the stroke.
Ball at Rest Played and Then Discovered to Have Been Moved by Outside Influence; Ball Turns Out to Be Wrong Ball
If a player discovers, after playing their ball, that it had been moved onto the course by an outside influence after the ball had come to rest out of bounds, the player has played a wrong ball (see definition). Because it was not known or virtually certain at the time the ball was played, the player does not get a penalty for playing a wrong ball under Rule 6.3c(1) but might need to correct the mistake by proceeding under Rule 18.2b (What to Do When Ball Is Lost or Out of Bounds) depending when that discovery is made:
In match play, the player must correct the mistake if the discovery that the ball was moved onto the course by the outside influence is made before the opponent makes their next stroke or takes a similar action (such as conceding the hole). If that discovery occurs after the opponent makes their next stroke or takes a similar action, the player must continue to play out the hole with the wrong ball.
In stroke play, the player must correct the mistake if the discovery that the ball was moved onto the course by an outside influence is made before making a stroke to begin another hole or, for the final hole of the round, before returning their scorecard. If that discovery occurs after the player has made a stroke on the next hole or, for the final hole of the round, after returning their scorecard, the player’s score with the wrong ball counts.