Today, we will discuss a situation which is that of touching the line of putt. The beginning of Rule 16-1a states:
The line of putt must not be touched. And then we see the important word, “except”, followed by these seven situations where a player is permitted to touch their intended line of putt;
(i) the player may remove loose impediments, provided he does not press anything down;
(ii) the player may place the club in front of the ball when addressing it, provided he does not press anything down;
(iii) in measuring – Rule 18-6;
(iv) in lifting or replacing the ball – Rule 16-1b;
(v) in pressing down a ball-marker;
(vi) in repairing old hole plugs or ball marks on the putting green – Rule 16-1c; and
(vii) in removing movable obstructions – Rule 24-1.
Note that in two of these situations, removing loose impediments and addressing the ball, the player will still incur a penalty if they press down on their line of putt while doing so. Does it follow that when a player is repairing ball mark damage on their line of putt they must not finish the repair by tapping it down with their putter head or their foot? The answer is no.
There is no restriction in Rule 16-1c as to how a player repairs damage that has definitely been made by a ball. For many of us, that may include pressing down the area, to ensure that the surface is flat following the repair and so will not subsequently divert the roll of our ball.
Rule 8-2b is also relevant to this subject;
When the player’s ball is on the putting green, the player, his partner or either of their caddies may, before but not during the stroke, point out a line for putting, but in so doing, the putting green must not be touched. A mark must not be placed anywhere to indicate a line for putting.
So, the player, their partner or either of their caddies must be careful that they do not touch anywhere on the intended line of putt, whether it is with a hand, a foot, a club or a flagstick.
But once again there is an exception; Decision 16-1a/12 clarifies that if a player walks on their line of putt, there is no penalty if they did so accidentally and their line was not improved.
I covered the definition of Line of Putt earlier; it is not always a straight line between the ball and the hole.
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