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Rules Review

Is it legal to borrow a ball from a playing partner?

November 22, 2022
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Monalyn Gracia/Corbis/VCG

We’ve all been there: A few poor shots, an elusive plugged ball and some thick rough—and all of a sudden our calculation of how many golf balls we might need for the day has proven wrong. You’ve run out of ammo.

Throw aside the embarrassment of running out of balls and having to ask your playing partners for relief—is it allowed under the Rules of Golf?

Thankfully, yes. Rule 4.2a states that “A player may get a conforming ball to play from anyone else, including another player on the course." Not only can you ask for a few spare pellets from your buddy in your weekend game, but you can borrow a ball from anyone else on the course.

On the surface, it seems like a rather meaningless distinction. Though we’d hope intense competition would never get to this point, should your stingy partners be giving you the cold shoulder, you can technically holler to your friend on an adjacent hole and snag a sleeve.

Be aware, though, that if you’re playing in competition where the “One Ball Rule”—Model Local Rule G-4—is in effect, the ball that you borrow must be of the same make and model as all of the ones you were playing … and lost.

More broadly, the Rules of Golf have very few limitations on sharing equipment. Borrowing a tee or using a playing partner’s rangefinder are both fair game. The big no-no is sharing clubs.

Rule 4.1b says that “The player must not make a stroke with a club being used by anyone else who is playing on the course (even if the other player is playing in a different group or competition).”

In stroke play, there is a two-stroke penalty on each hole where you used another player’s club, with a maximum penalty of four strokes. In match play, the match is adjusted by deducting one hole from the violating player, with a maximum penalty of two holes.

Long-story short? Sharing equipment—balls, tees, rangefinders, etc.—is allowed, but you must play with your own clubs. You now can breathe a little easier the next time you’re running low on balls or your rangefinder battery gives out.

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