Rules Junkie: The 10 Second Rule

Watching your ball sit on the edge of the cup is a helpless feeling, but also one that has a time limit. Australian John Senden had that feeling of helplessness on Thursday at the PGA Championship when a birdie putt on the 16th hole creeped onto the edge of the hole and teetered on the edge. The Aussie couldn’t believe the ball had stopped. When he made his way to the hole to tap in for his par, the ball dropped. But was it legal?

Luckily, the Rules of Golf have a rule written specifically for this situation. Rule 16-2, Ball Overhanging the Hole, makes this a cut and dry case. Or so you would think. Here’s how the rule reads:

16-2. Ball Overhanging Hole

When any part of the ball overhangs the lip of the hole, the player is allowed enough time to reach the hole without unreasonable delay and an additional ten seconds to determine whether the ball is at rest. If by then the ball has not fallen into the hole, it is deemed to be at rest. If the ball subsequently falls into the hole, the player is deemed to have holed out with his last stroke, and must add a penalty stroke to his score for the hole; otherwise, there is no penalty under this Rule.

Looking at the above video, the ball appears to stop rolling right around the 6-second mark. Senden, understandably distraught, takes a circuitous route to the ball to avoid stepping in his playing competitors’ line, but not one without unreasonable delay. He reaches the ball reasonably around the 20-22-second mark depending on your interpretation.

Just as he’s ready to take his lumps and tap in for par, the ball dropped in at the 28-second mark. Under the rule, the third stroke, his birdie putt, was his last stroke on the ball and because it dropped into the hole within the 10-second time limit, no penalty was or should have been assessed. 

In the end, it was a ho-hum birdie. 

Have a rules question you want answered and explained? Tweet @Wrong_Fairway with the hashtag #RulesJunkie or email your question to and you could see your question answered in the Rules Junkie column.

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