By: Richard Todd
There’s a course I play regularly that if you slice your tee shot it’s possible to end up on the putting green of a previously played hole. I’ve almost scored an ace that way multiple times. I’ve even played to the wrong green given an errant shot and being unfamiliar with the course.
What are you supposed to do if your golf ball lands on the wrong putting green?
Thanks to the USGA, and concerned greens keepers, this is covered under USGA Rule #25-3,
“If the ball lies on the putting green, the player must lift the ball and place it, without penalty, at the nearest point of relief that is not in a hazard or, if complete relief is impossible, at the nearest position to where it lay that affords maximum available relief from the condition, but not nearer the hole and not in a hazard. The nearest point of relief or maximum available relief may be off the putting green.”
The process would be to lift your ball from the wrong green and drop it within one club-length of the nearest point of relief, not nearer the hole. Also note, you cannot drop into a hazard or onto the wrong green and you may clean your ball after lifting.
If you chose to play the ball as it lies, on the wrong green, then assess yourself a two-stroke penalty and good luck explaining to the maintenance staff about the damage you caused to the putting surface.
How can you take free relief on the green?
Place your ball at the nearest point of relief, when your stance or line of play is not disrupted by an area that is being worked on by the grounds crew, called ground under repair (GUR).
Relief is also given for abnormal ground conditions, which can be any casual water or hole, cast, or runway on the course made by a burrowing animal, a reptile or a bird.
Also find reprieve for an immovable object, when putting, such as a sprinkler head.
Note, your nearest relief may NOT be on the putting green. You aren’t required to take relief, when it’s available so the choice to move off the green to avoid one of these items is up to you.
Remember to place your ball, not drop it. Not only will this keep you compliant but will give you a better lie.
Remember the Rules of Golf are in place to make the game fair and enjoyable for everyone, as well as, help the greenskeeper sleep better at night.