Ask Dave: Split ball

Dave Mangan is the general manager of championship and golf operations for New Zealand Golf. Since 2013, Dave has been New Zealand Golf’s representative on the R&A rules of golf committee and was involved in the five years of discussions on the 2019 rule changes.

Readers are invited to submit questions to Golfer Pacific editor Paul Gueorgieff by email to Please ensure you explain your questions and situations clearly.

Split ball

Dave: In my 26 years of playing golf I have split over 30 golf balls. Rule 5-3 says that if the ball is split in half you may replay from the original place with no penalty.

In my case the balls have not split completely in half but have remained in one piece. Does the above rule still apply?

Colin Harrison.

Dave’s answer: Rule 5-3 was the old reference for this rule which has been replaced by rule 4-2b. It is still correct that if you split your ball into pieces then you must replay the shot. However under rule 4-2c, if you crack your ball then the previous shot would count but you are able to substitute another ball. Note that you cannot substitute another ball if your original ball is only scratched or scraped or its paint is only damaged or discoloured.

Preferred lies

Dave: Many clubs have preferred lies or placing as a local rule.

They often take the form, for example, of: “15cm placing on own mown fairway”. The specimen local rules give examples where placing can be restricted to certain areas, perhaps because of remedial work done on a fairway, such as “placing is allowed on the 6th fairway.” Also when conditions are bad, “Placing is allowed through the green.”

However I take exception to the local rule that says “15cm place on own mown fairway.”

The preferred lie or placing is for the condition of the course, so how can placing on your own mown fairway be correct.

For example, playing the second hole the conditions are such that placing is allowed. However, when I play the adjoining sixth hole and have a bad shot, which is now out on the second hole fairway, I find the conditions have improved and I can no longer place my ball. Surely this local rule is being used as a restriction or penalty, which should not be the intention of the local rule. It is not there to penalise. Being on the wrong fairway is penalty enough.

If the condition of the course is such that a placing is needed, surely “15cm place on all closely mown fairways” would be the correct rule.

I have felt clubs restricting placing to “own mown fairway” to be wrong, but it seems no one agrees with me. Would like to read your comments.

Pam Malcolm

Dave’s answer: While in the past we have seen preferred lies limited to the closely mown fairway of the hole being played, it is now common practice on tours around the world and our own national events that this is written as any area cut to fairway height or less in the general area.

The local rule should read:

“When a player’s ball lies in a part of the general area cut to fairway height or less the player may take free relief once by placing the original ball or another ball in and playing it from this relief area:

Reference point: Spot of the original ball.

Size of relief area measured from reference point: [Specify size of relief area, such as one club-length, one scorecard length or 6 inches] from the reference point, but with these limits:

Limits on location of relief area:

Must not be nearer the hole than the reference point, and

Must be in the general area.

Double hit with putter

Dave: A friend recently proceeded to make a very short putt (only about one foot from the hole) and after he hit the ball his putter continued through and his putter clipped his ball a second time before the ball rolled into the hole. Is this counted as two strokes, or with the new rule that if you clip a ball a second time with the same stroke it is no longer considered a double stroke?

Michael, Hastings

Dave’s answer: Under the old rules a double hit incurred one penalty stroke, under the new rules this is no longer a penalty.

Can I ignore ball not lost?

Dave: This did not happen but we wondered what the situation would be if it did occur.

A player hits her ball towards the out of bounds on a par three. She decides to play a provisional ball and it goes in the hole.

She declares her first ball lost but a playing partner subsequently finds her original ball, which is in play.

Our question is can the player still declare the first ball lost even though a playing partner has found the original ball?

Margaret, Taupo

Dave’s answer: You are unable to declare a ball lost so if the original ball has been found then that is the ball in play and not the provisional.