Rule of the Month: On your mark. Get Set. Lift.

By Senior Rules Officials, Pete Scholz and Terry McEvilly

Happy New Year and welcome to 2024.  We wish everyone a joyful, healthy and prosperous New Year.   

Well, that’s enough of the niceties.  Now the bomb drops.  From Rule 1 through 25, one Rule in particular keeps popping up.  Rule 14 is referenced, directly or indirectly, in every Rule with the exception of two.  Knowing Rule 14 is paramount to navigating the course without penalty.  It covers procedures for marking, lifting, cleaning the ball, placing or replacing the ball, and dropping in a relief area.  Additionally, Rule 14 also provides a “get out of jail free” card if you have dropped or replaced incorrectly.  Oh, and let’s not forget that it covers how to proceed when you have played from a wrong place.  This Rule is so important that it warrants regular reading, if not serious studying, by every golfer that wishes to play penalty free golf.   

With that said, it should come as no surprise that the focus of this article and several to follow will be on Rule 14.  To many of our readers, some of the questions will seem rudimentary.  Other questions might seem a bit like splitting hairs.  Still others will be real head scratchers.  So, buckle up and come along for the ride with us as we focus on Rule 14 in 2024. 

Test your knowledge on Rule 14 with the following questions. 

Questions:  True / False 

1) A ball that is allowed to be lifted and must be replaced under a Rule, must be marked and lifted by picking it up by the hand.   

2) When lifting an embedded ball to take relief, the location of the ball must be marked. 

3) The toe of a club may be used as a ball-marker when lifting under a Rule that requires the ball to be replaced on its original spot. 

4) A player may mark the spot of the ball with his left index finger and lift the ball with his or her right hand. 

5) A ball-marker (small coin) may have a line or arrow on it that the player places to indicate the line of play. 

6) The location of a ball to be lifted may be marked by placing a ball-marker right next to or right behind it.  The ball may be marked on any side of the ball, including in front of the ball. 

7) If a player lifts a ball without marking its location when required to, the player gets the general penalty. 

8) A player that marks the spot of the ball in a wrong way, or without sufficient accuracy, gets one penalty stroke. 

9) An allowed ball-marker with a line on it to show the direction of play must be removed prior to the player making a stroke.  If no line exists on the marker, the player may leave the ball-marker in place to make his or her stroke. 

10) The requirement to mark the location of a ball before lifting it applies only when the applicable Rule requires the ball to be replaced on its original spot.  When taking either penalty relief or free relief under the Rules, the ball may be lifted without marking its spot. 


1) False.  Rule 14.1.  While It is true that a ball that must be replaced under a Rule must be marked before it is lifted, the ball may be “lifted” in any way, including rolling it away with a club. 

2) False.  Rule 14.1 and 16.3.  Since the ball is not going to be replaced, there is no requirement to mark its location.  The ball will be played from a different location.   

3) True.  Rule 14.1.  This is a common practice, especially on the putting greens.  It is important to note that the ball must be replaced before the club is removed. 

4) False.  Definition of Ball-Marker.  Even though this way of marking is similar to holding a club next to the ball, it is not allowed as the spot of the ball must be marked with an artificial object. It is suggested in this Definition that a tee, coin or other small piece of equipment be used to mark the location of the ball. 

5) True.  Rule 14.1 and Equipment Rule 7.  Provided that the ball-marker is not larger than 2 inches and any line or arrow is also less than 2 inches, the ball-marker may be used, and the player may mark the location of the ball by placing the marker indicating the line of play.   

6) True.  Rule 14.1a and Clarification 14.1a/1.  A ball may be marked in any position around the ball.  The important point to note is that it must be marked “right next” or “right behind” to ensure that the ball is marked with sufficient accuracy.   

7) False.  Rule 14.1a.  The penalty for such action is one stroke in both match play and stroke play.  This is a good example of when the penalty fits the crime.  While a small advantage may have been gained by lifting without marking, it doesn’t warrant the general penalty of loss of hole in match play or two penalty strokes in stroke play. 

8) True.  Rule 14.1a.  Similar to answer #7, a small advantage may have been gained and the Rules assess the player with a penalty stroke for improper marking or not marking “right next” to the ball.   

9) False.  Rule 14.1a.  No matter what the ball-marker looks like, it must be removed before the player makes a stroke.  Failure to do so results in the player getting a one-stroke penalty. 

10) True.  Rule 14.1a.  It is often wise to mark the location of a ball that is lifted to take relief, such as from a cart path.  However, Rule 16, which gives free relief from abnormal course conditions, allows the player to lift without marking since the ball won’t be replaced on its original spot.