How many of you have seen a player walk up and rotate their ball a little bit to identify it? Is that okay? Well, yes and no.

Rule 7.3 tells us that we need to mark the spot of the ball before moving it at all (including rotating) to identify it. If you don’t mark it first, it is a one stroke penalty and the ball needs to be replaced. Before 2019, you had to tell a player in your group that you were going to mark and identify but now you can just do it. And as always, you can’t clean your ball when doing this procedure.

The rules changes of 2019 have also given players a little more leeway in searching for their ball. Now, anybody can search for a ball and if it gets moved there is no penalty and the ball just gets replaced. Prior to 2019, a player would get a penalty if they moved their own ball during a search and it created a weird situation where players would stand back and let everybody else look for their ball for fear of getting a penalty.

When searching for a ball a player has to be careful to only do things that are reasonable to find and identify their ball. These include moving sand and water or moving or bending bushes, grass or tree branches even if this means it might improve the conditions affecting the stroke. But it does NOT mean that you can just do anything while searching and go slashing through the grass. You can’t take an action to flatten areas of grass, purposely remove any growing thing from the ground or break branches beyond what is reasonably necessary to find and identify your ball. You won’t get a penalty if you accidentally move it while being careful while searching.