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13
Putting Greens
Purpose: Rule 13 is a specific Rule for putting greens. Putting greens are specially prepared for playing your ball along the ground and there is a flagstick for the hole on each putting green, so certain different Rules apply than for other areas of the course.
13
Putting Greens
13.1

Actions Allowed or Required on Putting Greens

Purpose: This Rule allows you to do things on the putting green that are normally not allowed off the putting green, such as being allowed to mark, lift, clean and replace your ball and to repair damage and remove sand and loose soil on the putting green. There is no penalty for accidentally causing your ball or ball-marker to move on the putting green.
a

When Your Ball Is on Putting Green

Your ball is on the putting green when any part of it:
  • Touches the putting green, or
  • Lies on or in anything (such as a loose impediment or an obstruction) and is inside the edge of the putting green.
b

Marking, Lifting and Cleaning Your Ball on Putting Green

Your ball on the putting green may be lifted and cleaned. The spot of your ball must be marked before it is lifted and the ball must be replaced.
c

Improvements Allowed on Putting Green

During a round, you may take these two actions on the putting green, no matter whether your ball is on or off the putting green:
  • Sand and loose soil on the putting green (but not anywhere else on the course) may be removed without penalty.
  • You may repair damage on the putting green without penalty by taking reasonable actions to restore the putting green as nearly as possible to its original condition, but only:
    • By using your hand, foot or other part of your body or a normal ball-mark repair tool, tee, club or similar item of normal equipment, and
    • Without unreasonably delaying play.
But if you improve the putting green by taking actions that exceed what is reasonable to restore the putting green to its original condition, you get the general penalty. "Damage on the putting green" means any damage caused by a person or outside influence, such as:
  • Ball marks, shoe damage (such as spike marks) and scrapes or indentations caused by equipment or a flagstick,
  • Old hole plugs, turf plugs, seams of cut turf and scrapes or indentations from maintenance tools or vehicles,
  • Animal tracks or hoof indentations, and
  • Embedded objects (such as a stone, acorn or tee).
But "damage on the putting green" does not include any damage or conditions that result from:
  • Normal practices for maintaining the overall condition of the putting green (such as aeration holes and grooves from vertical mowing),
  • Irrigation or rain or other natural forces,
  • Natural surface imperfections (such as weeds, bare or diseased areas or areas of uneven growth), or
  • Natural wear of the hole.
d

When Your Ball or Ball-Marker Moves on Putting Green

There is no penalty if you, your opponent or another player in stroke play accidentally move your ball or ball-marker on the putting green. You must replace your ball on its original spot (which if not known must be estimated) or place a ball-marker to mark that original spot. Exception - Your Ball Must Be Played as It Lies When It Begins to Move During Your Backswing or Stroke and the Stroke Is Made.
If natural forces cause your ball on the putting green to move, where you must play from next depends on whether your ball had already been lifted and replaced on its original spot:
  • Ball already lifted and replaced - Your ball must be replaced on its original spot (which if not known must be estimated).
  • Ball not already lifted and replaced - The ball must be played from its new spot.
e

No Deliberate Testing of Greens

If, during a round, you deliberately rub the surface or roll a ball to test the putting green or a wrong green, you get the general penalty. Exception - Testing Green of Hole Just Completed or Practice Green When between Two Holes is Allowed.
f

Relief Must Be Taken from Wrong Green

Interference under this Rule exists when your ball is on a wrong green or a wrong green physically interferes with your area of intended stance or area of intended swing. When there is interference by a wrong green, you must not play the ball as it lies. Instead, you must take free relief by dropping the original ball or another ball in the relief area as shown in Diagram 13.1f. There is no relief under this Rule if interference exists only because you choose a club, type of stance or swing or direction of play that is clearly unreasonable under the circumstances. Reference Point: The nearest point of complete relief (P1). Size of Relief Area: One club-length from the reference point. Limits on Relief Area: The relief area:
  • Must not be nearer the hole than the reference point, and
  • Must be in the same area of the course as the reference point.
Player Notes: You must take complete relief from all interference by the wrong green. Penalty for Playing Incorrectly Substituted Ball or Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 13.1: General Penalty.
13.2

The Flagstick

Purpose: This Rule covers your choices for dealing with the flagstick. You may leave the flagstick in the hole or have it removed (which includes having someone attend the flagstick and remove it after your ball is played), but you must decide before making a stroke. There is normally no penalty if a ball in motion hits the flagstick.
This Rule applies to a ball played from anywhere on the course, whether on or off the putting green.
a

Leaving Flagstick in Hole

If you make a stroke with the flagstick left in the hole and the ball in motion then hits the flagstick there is no penalty, and the ball must be played as it lies.
The decision to have the flagstick in the hole must be made before your stroke, by either leaving the flagstick in the hole or having a removed flagstick put back. In either case, you must not try to gain an advantage by deliberately moving the flagstick to a position other than centered in the hole. If you do so and the ball in motion then hits the flagstick, you get the general penalty. See Full Rules For information on moving or removing a flagstick left in the hole while a ball is in motion.
b

Removing Flagstick from Hole

You may make a stroke with the flagstick removed from the hole, so that your ball in motion will not hit the flagstick in the hole. You must decide this before making the stroke, by either having the flagstick removed from the hole before playing your ball, or authorizing someone to attend the flagstick. See Full Rules For situations where you are treated as having authorized the flagstick to be attended and for more information on what to do if your ball hits the flagstick or person who removed or is attending it.
c

Ball Resting against Flagstick in Hole

If your ball comes to rest against the flagstick left in the hole, and any part of your ball is in the hole below the surface of the putting green, your ball is treated as holed. If no part of your ball is in the hole below the surface of the putting green:
  • Your ball is not holed and must be played as it lies.
  • If the flagstick is removed and your ball moves (whether it falls into the hole or moves away from the hole), there is no penalty and it must be replaced on the lip of the hole.
Penalty for Playing Incorrectly Substituted Ball or Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 13.2c: General Penalty.
13.3

Ball Overhanging Hole

a

Waiting Time to See If Your Ball Overhanging Hole Will Fall into Hole

If any part of your ball overhangs the lip of the hole, you are allowed a reasonable time to reach the hole and ten more seconds to wait to see whether your ball will fall into the hole. If your ball falls into the hole in this waiting time, you have holed out with the previous stroke. If your ball does not fall into the hole in this waiting time:
  • Your ball is treated as being at rest.
  • If your ball then falls into the hole before it is played, you have holed out with the previous strokebut get one penalty stroke added to your score for the hole. 
b

What to Do If Your Ball Overhanging Hole Is Lifted or Moved Before Waiting Time Has Ended

See Full Rules For information on what to do if your ball overhanging the hole is lifted or moved before the 10-second waiting time has ended.
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