Golf Rules: Cleaning the Ball

Knowing the rules of golf is not only beneficial in preventing penalty strokes, but also helpful in those sticky situations when you are unsure of how to proceed. Today we are going to talk about cleaning the golf ball – most amateurs don’t exactly know to what extent they can clean their ball during a round of golf. It might surprise you when it’s legal to clean your golf ball.

wet_golf_ball The most obvious time permitted to clean your golf ball is between holes – when the ball is not in play. The other obvious time is on the putting green – after you have marked your golf ball. Cleaning it in both these times is permitted.

Another time permitted is when local rules permit the “Lift, Clean and Place” rule. This situation usually occurs when the course has seen a lot of rain or inclement weather.

There are a few special circumstances in which you must proceed with caution when picking up your ball.

  • If you are determining if the ball is unfit for play – you can not clean your ball.
  • If you are determining if the ball is yours (identification) you are permitted to only clean the ball “to the extent necessary for identification”
  • If you have to mark your ball somewhere besides the putting green (if it is interfering with another player’s stroke) then you are not permitted to clean the ball and must replace it back to it’s original spot exactly as it was before.

What is the penalty for breach of this rule? It’s a one-stroke penalty and the ball must be replaced.

So next time you find yourself in a situation where you might have the opportunity to clean your golf ball, remember to first assess your circumstances. And don’t forget – a clean golf ball flies further and straighter than a dirty golf ball!