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When a player may substitute a ball: Part 1

I have written on this subject a few times although there seems to be no improvement in this area.

I see people substitute their golf balls in instances not permitted and sadly they get away with it without any punishment.

Does everyone know that there are just a few circumstances that allow an individual to substitute a ball in play?

Do we also know that it is not in all cases that a ball that has been lifted legally can be cleaned? Ok, let us read below.

If a player substitutes a ball when not entitled to do so they incur a penalty of two strokes in stroke play, or loss of hole in match play, for a breach of Rule 15-3, part of which states:

If a player substitutes a ball when not permitted to do so under the Rules (including an unintentional substitution when a wrong ball is dropped or placed by the player), that substituted ball is not a wrong ball; it becomes the ball in play. If the mistake is not corrected as provided for in Rule 20-6 and the player makes a stroke at an incorrectly substituted ball, he loses the hole in match play or incurs a penalty of two strokes in stroke play under the applicable Rule and, in stroke play, must play out the hole with the substituted ball.

Two examples of when a player unintentionally substitutes a ball are: When a ball is marked and lifted from the putting green, put in a pocket and then a different ball is replaced at the marker and played. This precludes a player from having a favourite ball for putting only.

Next week, we will look at examples when a player intentionally substitutes a ball when not entitled to.

The Author is an Apprentice Member of the Professional Golfers Association of South Africa and an R&A Certified Referee and Tournament Administrator. Feedback: +265 888 346 510/ or

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