Was This Viral Photo An Ace Or Not?

Every once in a while, a picture or video comes along that makes you stop what you’re doing and scratch your head.

A tweet from Twitter user Mick Coletta last week set off a firestorm on social media as he posed a simple question along with the picture: “Hole in 1?”

As of this writing, the Tweet had been liked, retweeted or commented on over 600 times with all sorts of Rules of Golf “authorities” weighing in.  

The picture in question clearly shows a ball that has embedded into the green just short of the hole. The ball subsequently moved the earth into the cup resulting in the ball and ground leaning against the flagstick. A rules conundrum, indeed.

After attempting to answer the question of whether or not the shot should be declared an ace under the Rules of Golf — which resulted in two somewhat conflicting rulings —  curiosity got the best of’s Dylan Dethier and he reached out to the USGA’s Senior Director of the Rules of Golf, Thomas Pagel

“When dealing with a ball embedded in the side of the hole, we are only concerned with the entire ball being below the surface of the green, even if part of the ball is outside the circumference of the hole,” Pagel said. “If the entire ball is below the surface, the ball is holed. If the entire ball is not below the surface, the ball is not holed.”

The definition of a holed ball — when a ball is embedded in the side of the hole, and all of the ball is not below the surface of the putting green, the ball is not holed. This is the case even if the ball touches the flagstick — takes precedence over Rule 13.2c — if a player’s ball comes to rest against the flagstick left in the hole, if any part of the ball is in the hole below the surface of the putting green, the ball is treated as holed even if the entire ball is not below the surface.

The priority rankings of these two rules are in place because of a situation where a ball would have dropped into the cup had the flag not been in the hole, ie. what you commonly see when a player chips in (or makes a putt under the new rules) with the flagstick in the hole when the ball gets caught between the edge of the cup and the flagstick.

Because Coletta’s ball was embedded, the onus on whether or not it’s considered “holed” comes down to whether or not the embedded ball is completely under the surface of the putting green

“When dealing with a ball embedded in the side of the hole, this special case is not applicable because when the ball is embedded, generally speaking, the ball falling to the bottom of the hole is not dictated by the flagstick being there – it’s the ball being plugged into the putting green that is preventing it from falling in,” Pagel explained. 

Given the angle of the picture from Coletta, it’s not possible to tell whether or not the entire ball was below the surface, leaving this mystery of “ace or not” unsolved.

“It is really difficult to tell with the angle of the photo whether the ball is above or below the surface,” Pagel said. “The mystery continues!”

Either way, whether or not Coletta scored a 1 or a 2 on the par-3, you now have a better understanding of what the correct ruling is should your ball get held up by a flagstick or embed near the hole.

Not embedded, but part of the ball under the ground = holed; Embedded and the full ball is not below the surface = not holed.