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 a 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 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 favorite ball for putting only.
When a ball is lifted from a putting green and is accidentally dropped or thrown somewhere from where it cannot be retrieved, e.g. in deep water of a water hazard.
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.
Note: The author is an R & A certified Level 2 Rules Official and an Apprentice Member of the Professional Golf Association of South Africa. Feedback: +265 888 346 510 or dingaank@gmail. com
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