I found my original ball in the hole after playing a wrong ball. What now?

What do you do if you play the wrong ball after unknowingly holing your first one?

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The Rules of Golf are tricky! Thankfully, we’ve got the guru. Our Rules Guy knows the book front to back. Got a question? He got all the answers.

My friend’s third shot to the green on a par 5 hits the flagstick and bounds off the green. He finds his ball in a waste area, pitches up and puts out. But when he reaches for his holed ball, he realizes his approach had gone in for eagle. (Apparently our eyesight isn’t great.) Is there a penalty for playing the wrong ball, even though he’d technically already holed out? — Patrick P. Daily, Jackson, Miss.

Oh, you’ve done it again, Magoo! (Kids, go to YouTube and search “Mr. Magoo.”)

When your friend holed out, he actually completed the hole. Per Interpretation 6.5/1, there is no penalty for playing a wrong ball in this case. Now both of you please go see an optician.

For more wrong-ball guidance from our guru, read on…

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Rules Guy: In a four-ball match, do you have to share a wrong-ball penalty with your partner?

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Rules Guy:



A friend hit his shot into a creek bank inside the hazard line. The grass was thick, but his playing partner found the ball and helped him identify it. Without grounding his club, my friend swung and recovered back into the fairway. Only problem: It turns out he’d hit another ball underneath or somewhere very close to his original ball, which we found still back on the bank. What’s the ruling, and does the fact that this happened inside a hazard affect it? —Craig Wolfgang, Arcadia, Ind.

Ah, the old switcheroo.

Penalty area or not (“hazards” no longer exist, per the 2019 Rules), there is no penalty for a stroke made at one’s own ball that happens to dislodge a concealed ball.

The stroke simply counts, and then the player goes back and plays his original ball… although given your friend’s recovery skills, he might want to consider taking a penalty drop on more forgiving turf.

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Got a question about the Rules? Ask the Rules Guy! Send your queries, confusions and comments to rulesguy@golf.com. We promise he won’t throw the book at you.

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