The GCAA is partnering with the USGA, represented by Jamie Wallace, to do a feature on the Rules of Golf focusing on common situations that players encounter. Each month, we plan to highlight a specific Rule or Rules situation that is relevant to college golfers or one that is often misunderstood. We will highlight what the Rule says and how it is applied to the situation at hand.

This month, Jamie is discussing different situations when your ball strikes various objects.

As hard as we try, the golf ball rarely goes exactly where we aim. In this month's Rules of Golf feature, let's take a look at the different outcomes in the Rules when your ball in motion strikes various objects.

Since most college golf events are played under stroke play Rules rather than match play, let's focus on stroke play outcomes:

1. Your ball strikes an outside agency (Rule 19-1) An outside agency is any person or object other than you (or your caddie or partner if you have one), your golf ball or your equipment. Therefore, an outside agency would include spectators, grounds crew staff, a golf cart, any animal on the course, a bench, etc. If your ball strikes any of these people or objects, it is called "rub of the green" and the ball will simply be played from where it comes to rest without penalty.

2. Your ball strikes you (Rule 19-2) — You are in a bunker with a steep lip, catch the shot a little thin, and it ricochets off the lip and hits your arm. In this case, and any other case where your ball accidentally strikes your body, you will incur a penalty of one stroke and will play your ball as it lies. This would also apply to a ball striking your partner or either of your caddies or equipment.

3. Your ball strikes a fellow competitor (Rule 19-4) If your ball strikes or is deflected by one of your fellow competitors (the other players in your group), they are classified as an outside agency as discussed above, which means that there is no penalty and your ball will be played from where it comes to rest. This also applies to a ball striking a fellow competitor's caddie or equipment.

4. Your ball strikes another ball that is at rest (Rule 19-5a) If your ball in motion strikes another ball that is in play and at rest, your ball will simply be played from where it comes to rest. The other ball will be replaced in its previous position. The only time a penalty is involved is if both balls lay on the putting green before your stroke was made this will result in a two-stroke penalty for you, the player.

5. Your ball strikes another ball that is in motion (Rule 19-5b) If your ball is in motion after a stroke and it strikes another ball in motion, your ball will be played without penalty from where it comes to rest. However, if you make a stroke from the putting green that is deflected by another ball in motion, your stroke is canceled and your ball is replaced and replayed, without penalty.

All of the scenarios above address accidental contact and deflections, which are fairly common. The Rules treat deliberate deflections differently, although these rarely occur.

For example, if an outside agency (which includes a fellow competitor) deliberately deflects your ball in motion, you will have to estimate the spot where the ball would have come to rest and drop it there (or place it if it would have come to rest on the putting green). If the stroke that was deliberately deflected was made from the putting green, the stroke is canceled and the ball must be replaced and replayed. A penalty of two strokes will be applied if the outside agency was a fellow competitor (under Rule 1-2).

If you deliberately deflect, stop or strike your own ball in motion after a stroke, Rule 1-2 will apply as above, meaning that you will be penalized two strokes and must play the ball from where it comes to rest. It is important to note as well that in certain cases, the committee in charge of the competition may impose a penalty of disqualification if they consider that a serious breach of Rule 1-2 has occurred.

If you have a Rules question that comes up in a tournament this spring or that happened during a past round, feel free to send it in to us at and perhaps we will address it in a future newsletter. If you have any questions about the topics discussed here, or have any other Rules of Golf questions, please feel free to contact the USGA Rules department at 908-326-1850 (available seven days a week) or