Rules of Golf explained: Why Rahm really got that two-shot penalty at the Memorial


There has been confusion as to why Jon Rahm was penalised at the Memorial. Our Rules of Golf expert explains what to do if it happens to you

Did it move, didn’t it? You can always rely on the PGA Tour for a Rules of Golf drama and the golf world lit up when Jon Rahm picked up a two-stroke penalty as the Memorial reached its climax.

The Spaniard had just holed one of the gutsiest chip-ins you’ll ever see on the par-3 16th in the final round, only to later be assessed the general penalty (two shots) after TV cameras picked up that his ball moved ever so slightly as he put his club behind it before he took the shot.

Rahm had violated Rule 9.4 – Ball Lifted or Moved by Player – and, while the penalty didn’t affect his victory, there was something in the way it was portrayed afterwards that I thought might have the potential to confuse some of us going out for a competition round at the weekend.

Plenty of you wrote in about this one so let’s clear it up…

Rules of Golf explained: Our expert says…

If you’d casually watched the coverage, or read some of the reports, you might be under the impression that Rahm’s penalty came about solely because the ball moved. That’s not the case.

Rule 9.4a says “if the player lifts his or her ball at rest or causes it to move, the ball must be replaced on its original spot”.

When Rahm failed to do this, and then hit the chip, he was actually penalised for playing the ball from a wrong place – the sanction for which is the general penalty under Rule 14.7a.

Had he replaced the ball back in its original position before he took his shot, he would only have got one penalty stroke for causing the ball to move. If the original spot isn’t known, then it must be estimated.

You might also be wondering why Rahm wasn’t penalised three shots – one for causing the ball to move and a further two for then playing from the wrong place.

Rule 1.3c (4), which covers applying penalties to multiple breaches of the Rules, says that when they result from a single act or related acts a player only receives one penalty. But if they involve different sanctions, it is the higher-level that applies.

So if you’re worried your ball might move, err on the side of caution. If it does move, put it back where it was and add a shot. Fail to do this and take a stroke and you’ll be adding the general penalty to your scorecard.

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