Golf Rule 21: Cleaning ball

When are you allowed to clean your ball? Find out in this rule article

Ed Greenland's picture
Fri, 8 Nov 2013

Golf Rule 21: Cleaning ball

Rule 21: Cleaning ball

One of the official 34 Rules of Golf.

A ball on the putting green may be cleaned when lifted under Rule 16-1b. Elsewhere, a ball may be cleaned when lifted, except when it has been lifted:
a) To determine if it is unfit for play (Rule 5-3);
b) For identification (Rule 12-2), in which case it may be cleaned only to the extent necessary for identification; or
c) Because it is assisting or interfering with play (Rule 22).
If a player cleans his ball during play of a hole except as provided in this Rule, he incurs a penalty of one stroke and the ball, if lifted, must be replaced.
If a player who is required to replace a ball fails to do so, he incurs the general penalty under the applicable Rule, but there is no additional penalty under Rule 21.

Exception: If a player incurs a penalty for failing to act in accordance with Rule 5-3, 12-2 or 22, there is no additional penalty under Rule 21.