Rules for Marking Balls on Green

Rules for Marking Balls on Green


July 24th, 2004, 4:55 pm #1

Dear Geoff,

I have been playing golf for eight years. A grizzled veteran told me that up to the 1950's people were not allowed to mark their balls when on the green and you had to putt around them. Is this really true?



Geoff Mangum
Geoff Mangum

July 24th, 2004, 9:24 pm #2

Dear Steve,

Yes, it's true.

The ball could only be lifted initially when it was touching an opponent's ball, and later when it was within 6 inches. This goes way back to the 1700s. Lifting and marking the ball on the green was first allowed in 1956 ("should" be lifted), but there was no "requirement" to mark the ball until 1976. Cleaning a ball on the green was not allowed until 1960. Here's the history of the Rules of Golf:


The "stymie" was in effect until the 1950s. The "stymie" applied only when there was one opposing ball in play, and resulted from the rule against lifting the ball. A stymie occurred when an opponent's ball lay between the player's ball and the hole. The player had to jump over the opponent's ball or go around it somehow. If the opponent's ball was hit and moved, the opponent had the option of replacing it or playing from the new position. If the opponent's ball was hit and knocked into the hole, the opponent got the benefit and was deemed to have holed out with the previous stroke. This got too tough, so the player was given the right to have the closer ball lifted in the case when the opponent's ball was in between the player's ball and the hole AND within six inches of the player's ball. Later, another provision was added to allow lifting of the opponent's ball when that ball was within 6 inches of the hole, since it was too tough to get the player's ball in the hole, no matter what the distance between the two balls (no on-top-of-the-hole stymies). The stymie was abolished in 1952. The player then had the right to have the opponent ball lifted and marked.



Geoff Mangum
Putting Theorist and Instructor
Geoff Mangum's PuttingZone
Golf's most advanced and comprehensive putting instruction.

Over 730,000 visits and growing strong ...

518 Woodlawn Ave
Greensboro NC 27401
336.230.0612 home
336.402.1602 cell

Recent Testimonials from Students

"You have great putting tips, especially the ones about the gaze. Let's meet and work together when I play Charlotte in May [2003]. I know if I can just get my putting improved, I can break through and win."

Shaun Micheel
PGA Tour player
2003 PGA Champion [July 2003]

"Geoff is the most authoritative, comprehensive and enthusiastic student and instructor of the game of putting that I have come across."

Damon Lucas
Director of Instruction
Chestnut Ridge Country Club
Lutherville, Maryland

"I was blown away! If you ever have the chance to take putting instruction from Geoff, DO NOT PASS IT UP!"

Eddie Cox
PGA pro
Director of Golf
Tot Hill Farm GC, Asheboro NC

"Geoff Mangum is a genius in putting instruction. After two short lessons, I've never putted better in my life."

Rick Murphy
Carolina Golf Practice & Learning Center
Greensboro, NC
Exec. Secretary, Carolinas Sect., PGA of America
Golf Digest Top Teacher in NC

"Geoff has more knowledge and expertise about putting than any other person that I know. He is an outstanding teacher and his philosophy is backed with an enormous amount of research. He's definitely at the top of the class. I refer all my students to him for putting."

Robert Linville
Director of Instruction -- Precision Golf School
Golf Coach -- Greensboro College
1993 Carolinas PGA Teacher of the Year
1999 & 2000 NCAA Division III National Coach of the Year
2000 US Coach in US-Japan Collegiate Team Matches

"Geoff knows more about putting that any one I know. His knowledge and dedication to studying putting are second to none."

Tim Sheredy
Senior Instructor
David Leadbetter Golf Academy
Bradenton FL