[PHOTO: Ben Stansall]

You probably read the headline above and wondered how could it possibly not be a penalty when you’re opponent purposely stops your golf ball from rolling. Well, you’re mostly right.

In almost every case, it is a penalty when your opponent does this. It’s loss of hole in matchplay, and in strokeplay, the player would get hit with a two-shot penalty for violating this rule. It doesn’t matter, too, if they physically stopped it or if he or she used something else to stop it. Furthermore, you can’t stop your own ball in motion. Just ask Phil Mickelson about that. He was famously docked two strokes at the 2018 US Open for putting his ball while it was still in motion.

Rule 11.2 has all of this covered, including the few times when it is not a penalty to stop a moving ball (you knew there had to be a catch, right?). Your opponent, for instance would not be penalised for stopping a ball that had to be holed for a particular hole to be tied. The Rules of Golf uses the phrase “reasonable chance” to cover this instance. So if a putt goes steaming past the hole and there’s no reason to believe it will back up and fall in, the ball can be stopped without penalty. Also, it can be stopped as a concession (see Rule 3.2).

There also is another instance when a moving ball can be purposely stopped. Can you guess? Albeit rare, a ball being moved by water can be grabbed. The rule: there is no penalty if a player lifts his or her ball moving in water, or temporary water or in a penalty area when taking relief under Rules 16.1 or 17. You might recall this happening during the 2023 Charles Schwab Challenge on the PGA Tour when eventual winner Emiliano Grillo hit his tee shot into a working aqueduct to the right of the fairway on the 18th hole during a playoff.

What should you do if your ball is purposely deflected or stopped? In most cases, you would estimate where the ball would have come to rest if it had not been interfered with and play from there. You do not play from the spot where a deflected ball stopped. Consult Rule 11.2c to learn how to proceed (it depends on where the ball would have likely come to rest, including in penalty areas and out-of-bounds).


While waiting to play a shot, my opponent is killing time by chipping a ball. Is this allowed?

My ball is in a penalty area, so what are my options for taking a drop?

Can I be penalised if someone else improves my lie?

Can you repair divot holes or pitch marks in your line before hitting a shot?

I just played the wrong ball. What do I do now?

What do I do if my ball just hit another ball on the green?

What do you do when the tee markers aren’t lined up or are missing?

Somebody just picked up my golf ball! Now what?

Crazy things that only happen in matchplay

Can you hit a provisional ball after hitting a shot into a penalty area?

Your club breaks, what are your options?

My opponent took a generous drop after hitting into a penalty area. Can he be DQ’d for that?

Can I use a long putter when measuring my relief area?

Our practice putting green sucks. Can I hit a few putts on the course before my round?

I had an extra club in my bag and I just teed off. Now what?

Can I move a stone if it improves my lie?

Are you smart enough to ace this basic rules quiz?

Do I get relief from aeration holes?

What does ‘known or virtually certain’ really mean?

Do you have to use a putter on the green?

You’re playing a Srixon. Two holes later it’s a Callaway. Is switching golf balls mid-round allowed?

I hit a horrible shot. I’m waaaaaay better off if I don’t find the ball. Can I just declare it lost?

I’m on the green, my opponent is not. Who’s away?

Is sneaking a peek in another player’s bag considered getting advice?

What do I do if my golf ball is stuck in a tree?

I conceded a putt. My opponent putted anyway and missed. Is that a penalty?

What is casual water and how do I play around it?

I thought my ball was lost and put another in play then found my first ball… which ball counts?

What happens if I can’t tell my provisional ball from my original?

What exactly is an embedded ball?

How do I find my ‘nearest point of relief’?

How long can I take to hit a shot?

Does a ball have to be unplayable to declare it unplayable?