Hanging On The Edge Of A Cliff

Have you ever had your ball sit on the edge of a hole hoping it would drop? This probably happens about 5 times a year and those few seconds of anticipation can be filled with elation or sorrow. I am not sure if you know, but there is a rule in golf that outlines the process or procedure you follow when waiting for your ball to drop. To highlight my point, Si Woo Kim lived this scenario recently and I think we should see what happened because I do not agree with the ruling!

To understand rule 13.3 – Ball Overhanging Hole, (Old rules 16.2) the follow text is directly from the rule book:

13.3a Waiting Time to See If Ball Overhanging Hole Will Fall into Hole

If any part of a player’s ball overhangs the lip of the hole:

  • The player is allowed a reasonable time to reach the hole and ten more seconds to wait to see whether the ball will fall into the hole.
  • If the ball falls into the hole in this waiting time, the player has holed out with the previous stroke.
  • If the ball does not fall into the hole in this waiting time:
    • The ball is treated as being at rest.
    • If the ball then falls into the hole before it is played, the player has holed out with the previous stroke, but gets one penalty stroke added to the score for the hole.

Here is my reasoning for not agreeing with the rule. When Si Woo Kim arrived at his ball, it took approximately 42 seconds to fall in the hole. This is obviously a breach of rule 13.3a. However, if you listen to Matt Kuchar, he swears that the ball continued to move, every so slightly, for the duration of the 42 seconds until it dropped. Therefore, I conclude that if the ball is still in motion, whether over the lip or not, then the ball is still in play regardless of where it is located on the green. Kuchar even mentions this and the rules official said that Kuchar’s interpretation was incorrect.

I would counter the rules official by saying that if the ball was not over the hole and as Si Woo Kim approached his ball, he would wait until his ball came to a complete stop. I do not see why they differentiate this playing condition just because if is over the hole. I understand that ‘speed of play’ is important (another aspect of this rule), but in this case Kim’s opponent advocated that the ball was still in motion so they had to wait for the ball to come to a complete stop.

Additionally, none of the players or caddies did anything to influence the ball. Thus the ball was still moving under its own momentum.

If I was playing in a tournament and we discussed this rule, I would have counted the birdie and not awarded an extra stroke. I believe that because the ball was in motion, it needs to come to rest under its own before the next stroke would be played.

I think a the line in rule 13.3a should be modified to read “The player is allowed a reasonable time to reach the hole and once the ball has come to a complete stop has ten more seconds to wait to see whether the ball will fall into the hole. This small wording change would eliminate all confusion for this rule.

What do you think? Should Si Woo Kim have been assessed a penalty stroke for waiting for is ball to drop?

I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!


13 thoughts on “Hanging On The Edge Of A Cliff

  1. this, like the no relief from divots rule, are a bunch of examples of why the USGA and the R&A need to wake the hell up and get out of the 60’s. Useless rules that don’t matter! JB Holmes can take 3-4 mins to hit a shot and we’re worried about a lip hanger that happens once in a blue moon?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Jim, another problem is that the rules are applied differently for different shots. Say Kim would have struck a shot from 100 yards that hung on the lip and it took him one or two minutes to walk to the hole. By that time the ball would have fallen and he could count the birdie. Different rules for “reasonable time to reach the hole.” Even if the ball had clearly stopped on the lip for his 100 yard shot and then started moving again and fallen while he was walking up, he could have counted the birdie.

    Your recommended rewrite of the rule would definitely solve the problem.



    Liked by 1 person

  3. I really don’t like this rule as written. I will agree with the drafters that a time limit must be set. And I don’t care about the 10 second part much either. It’s a bit on the strict side maybe but the game’s not meant to be easy. Here’s the part that I don’t like. While a set time is given for the ball to drop AFTER you reach the hole, the wording about the golfer taking a REASONABLE amount of time getting there is far too subjective.
    Now, encountering the same scenario, the only course of action permissible to take is dragging out how long it takes you to get to the hole. And the only guide to that is subjective. And that’s not an acceptable solution. One man will be held to a different standard than another simply because of theatrics if nothing else.
    And if that’s not enough, it’s counter productive to the intent. Now you have to take as much time as possible getting to the hole. The rules intent is to speed play but does the exact opposite.
    As for your change, I don’t think it works either. I thought of that myself but disgarded it. What if the ball’s got an insect trapped and it simply doesn’t stop moving but still doesn’t fall? Weird stuff happens. Si Woo’s delayed hole out is just more proof of that. I think the only way to truly do this is to set the timer going after you hit the ball and say it has to fall in 30 seconds or something like that. Even a 100 footer would get to the hole in plenty of time for the ball to fall in with a decent amount of time to hang that way. But that would be straightforward at least and leave any subjective questions and counter productive aspects out of the equation.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kevin

      It is a tough situation for sure. This is the type of rule that makes it very difficult to apply it evenly. Therefore, more work needs to be done to clarify things. Personally, I would have not applied the penalty stroke on my opponent.

      Cheers Jim


      • Understood. Given we the players are th rules officials as well, would that not have been a reasonable judgement call? I am all about protecting the field when I play and this rule does stymie me. I can say hand on heart that I try to follow all the rules to the letter. It is important.

        Cheers Jim


      • Jim, your comment “would that not have been a reasonable judgement call?” is not appropriate in this situation. The rule says 10 seconds after player reaching the hole and that part of the ball is overhanging the hole. There is no judgement call. It was more than 10 seconds so the penalty “must” be applied. Player making decision to not apply the penalty is DQ’d.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Yes thanks. I’m well and doing great. I’m here in Arizona playing golf 4 times a week and working as Rules Official about once a month. I hope all is well with you also.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Jim, I understand your thought process but who decides whether or not it’s moving? Is it player, playing partner, rules official, other? Is it naked eye or can you use slow motion camera? Would there be no time limit whatsoever? Could the player declare the ball is still moving and wait for an hour or more?On TV I personally could not see Kim’s ball moving.

    As a Rules Official, I believe the current time frames are reasonable. I’ve had this situation at two tournaments and both times I could not see the ball move. Kim’s ball most likely stopped moving and then wind started it moving again.

    Just my thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • David,

      It is definitely hard to make a rule for this situation. In this case, Kuchar claimed the ball was still moving. If a player’s opponent is claiming the ball is still in motion, I believe that, at least in this case, no penalty stroke should have been awarded. Toigh call all around.

      Cheers Jim


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