Our Experts Explain: When Golf Balls Collide November 7, 2018 By Ben Schade, USGA

It looked like Xander Schauffele had caught a terrible break, but he was protected under the Rules. (USGA/Jeff Haynes)

It is not often that you see a golf ball collide with another golf ball. In rare fashion, it happened on the 18th hole during the final round of the WGC-HSBC Champions when the ball of Justin Rose rolled over the back of the green and hit Xander Schauffele’s ball, causing them both to roll into a water hazard.

One of the guiding principles in the Rules of Golf is playing the ball as it lies. However, there are times that exceptions are made to resolve unfair situations. In this case, there are two Rules that apply.

First, there is Rule 18-5, which speaks to Schauffele’s ball and requires him to replace it to the original spot from which it was moved. The interesting part in this case is that his ball is at the bottom of a pond and is not immediately recoverable. Fortunately, neither Schauffele nor his caddie need to go swimming, since Note 1 to Rule 18 allows him to replace a different ball when the original one cannot be recovered within a few seconds.

The last piece to resolving this situation is figuring out what to do with Rose’s ball following the collision. Justin Rose is required to play his ball from where it came to rest according to Rule 19-5a. Since his ball came to rest in the water hazard, he may either play the ball as it lies or take relief from the water hazard for one penalty stroke under any relief option available to him under Rule 26-1.

There has been a lot of discussion about Golf’s New Rules and the major changes that will be going into effect on Jan. 1. This is one scenario that will not change once we move into 2019.

Ben Schade is a Rules of Golf Associate for the USGA. Email him at

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