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  • Per Rule 16-2 of the Rules of Golf, a player is permitted “enough time to reach the hole without having to wait an unreasonable amount of time, and then 10 more seconds to see if the ball is still.”
  • If the ball touches any part of the hole’s lip, the player has ten seconds to see if it falls once they reach their ball.
  • If the ball falls in after that time limit, the player is penalized with an added stroke to their score; if not, there is no penalty.
  • As one Quora respondent put it, “a reasonable time” is tough to define, but if a player’s ball is right by the hole, they have more leeway than leaving a ten-footer short.
  • The player must use their judgment to determine if they have waited too long.
  • One famous example is Si Woo Kim’s birdie being negated after the ball takes over a minute to fall!

I remember the first time I saw my boss wait on a putt.

It was at the company golf outing, and we were playing a scramble format. He was playing with two of our engineers, and they were having a putting contest to see who could make the most consecutive 3-footers. My boss had missed his first two attempts, and he was up on the third.

The engineer he was competing against had already made his three putts in a row, and my boss was getting ready to take his shot.

(Watch how long Si Woo Kim’s birdie putt hangs on the edge!)

I’ll never forget what happened next. He took his time lining up the putt, took a practice stroke, and then let it go. The ball rolled slowly but surely toward the hole, and when it got within about a foot of the cup, it stopped dead.

He looked at the ball for what seemed like an eternity, trying to decide whether to putt it again or not. In the end, he decided to give it another try, and this time the ball dropped in for a birdie.

The other engineers on our team were amazed, and they started asking him how he did it.

“It’s all about patience,” he told them. “You have to wait until the ball gets to the hole before you make your decision.”

Since that day, I’ve always been fascinated by my boss’s ability to wait on a putt. I’ve seen him do it countless times in different situations, and he always seems to make the right call. Whether he’s playing for par or trying to make a birdie, he never seems to get rattled or lose his focus.

I asked him once how long he would wait on a putt if it were really important, and he told me that as long as it didn’t take too long, he would wait until the ball got to the hole before making his decision.

“It’s all about patience,” he said again. “You have to give yourself a chance to make it.”

I’m glad I get to see my boss in action every day at work. His ability to wait on a putt is one of the many things that makes him such a great leader.

So exactly how long should you wait for a putt to drop?

Pause! Think of a time when your favorite golfer played in a PGA tour tournament. Remember when you thought he had won with the great last putt he hit? Recall how the ball rolled up to the hole, got to the lip, and looked like it was going to fall in the hole, only to hang over the lip and stop, agonizing, right?

If you are a golf fanatic, these occurrences happen, and if you are a newbie, be ready for such heartbreaks. However, under the regulations of golf, you have some time for the wind, rain, acts of God, or other forces to push the ball into the hole.

Under rule 13-3, formerly rule 16-2, once a golfer hits the ball, he is allowed time to see whether the ball will fall inside the hole.

When any part of the ball hangs over the lip of the hole, the player is allowed enough time to get to the hole, and an additional ten seconds is added to see whether the ball will fall in the hole or is at rest.

Suppose the ball falls inside the hole. In that case, the player is considered to have been holed out with his previous stroke. That means they must add a penalty stroke to their score for that hole.

Otherwise, there isn’t any penalty under this rule. However, for a long putt, a player has close to 20 seconds to wait for the ball to fall into the hole.

Zach Johnson incurred a penalty when the 12th hole of the day. The ball was hanging on the lip of the hole, he gave it a tap, and it fell inside the cap before he could put his putter down.

He was penalized because the ball took more than ten seconds before falling into the hole.

Phil Mickelson was penalized for running after a missed putt and hitting it back towards the hole while it was still moving.

The Ten-Second Rule

Let’s also talk about the ten-second rule in golf. This rule stipulates that a player is afforded a reasonable duration to walk to the hole. In addition to this, this golfer shall get ten extra seconds to see whether the ball falls into the hole.

These ten seconds should be enough to see whether the ball falls by itself.

After this period, the golf player’s stroke should be enough to hole the ball. On the other hand, it could fall in and trigger a one-shot penalty, resulting in the same score as if the player had struck it.

What to do If The Ball Overhanging Hole Is Moved Before the Time Elapses

What to do If The Ball Overhanging Hole Is Moved Before the Time Elapses

Suppose the ball overhanging the hole is lifted or moved after the ten seconds elapse. In that case, the ball is considered to have come to a rest. Golf rules allow for two actions to take place:

  • The golf ball has to be replaced on the lip of the hole
  • The waiting time shall no longer apply

There are instances when an opponent plays another play in stroke play, deliberately lifting or moving the player’s hole before the stipulated period elapses. In this case, the action will depend on whether it was done during stroke play or in-match play.

In-Match Play

In this case, the player’s ball is considered holed with the previous stroke. That means there will be no penalty awarded.

Stroke Play

If the issue happens during stroke play, the opponent player who lifted the hole shall get penalized. This player shall get two penalty strokes for the infraction. In addition, the ball shall have to be replaced at the lip of the hole.

Final Thoughts

An immersive experience on the golf course is worthwhile. Yet, you might not comfortably enjoy this if you do not understand the rules. The information above provides in-depth insights into how long a golf player should wait for a putt to drop.

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