An example of when a player intentionally substitutes a ball when not entitled to do so is;
- When a player notices that they are playing the same brand and number of ball as another player in their group and they change their ball, so as to easily distinguish between them, Decision 15- 6/5.
However, there are several instances where a player is not penalised for substituting a ball, as Rule 15-3 also states;
A player may substitute a ball when proceeding under a rule that permits the player to play, drop or place another ball in completing the play of a hole. The substituted ball becomes the ball in play.
Examples of where the rules permit substituting a ball are;
- When taking relief from a water hazard, Rule 26-1.
- When playing under penalty of stroke and distance, Rule 27-1, even if the original ball is not lost or out of bounds.
- When the player deems their ball unplayable under Rule 28, whether or not the original ball has been retrieved.
- When it has been determined that a ball has become unfit for play, Rule5-3.
- When a ball has been lifted under the rules, due to suspension of play, the player may replace the original ball, or a substituted ball, Rule 6-8.
- When a ball to be dropped or placed is not immediately recoverable by a player after they have caused it to move; e.g. if it was accidentally kicked into water; because it is in or on a movable obstruction, Rule 24-1, or an immovable obstruction, Rule 24-2; because it is in an abnormal ground condition, Rule 25-2.
Note that there is no penalty if a player lifts a ball that has been incorrectly substituted and replaces it with the original ball, provided they have not made a stroke at it. Rule 20-6 states.
A ball incorrectly substituted, dropped or placed in a wrong place or otherwise not in accordance with the rules but not played may be lifted, without penalty, and the player must then proceed correctly.
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