One of the most often asked questions of me is “My ball hit something. What should I do?”

In the past the answer was often “It depends.”

The “It depends” answer wasn’t too tough for me because as a referee, I deal with that problem often. But for the everyday player, he or she couldn’t always make the right choice.

In the 2019 Rules of Golf, you’ll find a clear distinction between accidental and deliberate actions. This new Rule 11.1 is all about accidental collisions between your moving golf ball and something or someone else.

Except for a couple of unlikely and unusual circumstances, the answer to the original question “My ball hit something. What should I do?” is “Nothing. There is no penalty to anyone, and you must play the ball as it lies.”

For example, the player’s tee shot hit a cart path (or another player or an alligator) and bounced onto the green (or bounced into the rough.) What to do? “Nothing. There is no penalty to anyone, and you must play the ball as it lies.”

How is this different from 2018 and before? In two ways:

  • If the ball strikes you – for example, your ball hits a tree and ricochets back into your leg – that used to be a penalty. It is not anymore.
  • If the ball strikes your equipment – for example, you blade the ball over the green from a green side bunker and your ball hits your cart sitting on the far side of the green by the next tee – that is also no longer a penalty.

Look in 2019 Rules of Golf, Rule 11, for the whole story.

Additionally, Rule 10.1a (“Fairly Striking the Ball”) in the 2019 Rules says that:

In making a stroke:

  • The player must fairly strike at the ball with the head of the club such that there is only momentary contact between the club and the ball and must not push, scrape or scoop the ball.
  • If the player’s club accidentally hits the ball more than once, there has been only one stroke and there is no penalty.

Known as the “Double Hit” or the “TC Chen,” this will also not be a penalty in 2019 and beyond.