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What is the Penalty for Playing a Wrong Ball?

Golf Rules FAQ


Man walking up to golf ball
Cavan Images/Iconica/Getty images
You and your buddy tee off on a hole and both hit into the rough. You reach the balls first and play your stroke. But when your buddy checks out the other ball, he discovers some bad news: You accidentally hit his golf ball. You played the wrong ball. What's the penalty?

In almost all cases, playing the wrong ball results in loss of hole in match play and a two-stroke penalty in stroke play. (The rare exception involves swinging at a wrong ball that is moving in water inside a water hazard.)

In stroke play, the offender must go back and replay any strokes with the correct ball. Failure to correct the mistake before teeing off on the following hole can result in disqualification.

The player whose ball was incorrectly played by a competitor or partner should drop a ball as close to the original spot as can be determined.

In the rulebook, wrong ball situations are covered in Rule 15.

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