Quick Rules Question
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The rule specifically prohibits touching your line of putt. Once you've putted, that mark (hopefully!) is no longer on your line of putt and you may repair it......
.......as long as it's not on someone else's line either.
Some more info.........if anyone is interested. :)
With regards to tapping down spike marks there are 3 rules to consider.
Rule 16-1a, which says you can not touch your "line of putt". The line of putt is defined as the line the player wishes his ball to take after making a stroke on the green, plus a reasonable distance on either side. The line of putt does not extend beyond the hole. There are exceptions which allow the touching of your line of putt, but tapping down spike marks is not one of them.
Rule 13-2, which says you may not improve, or allow to be improved your "line of play" or a reasonable extension beyond the hole. The "line of play" is the direction the player wishes his ball to take, plus a reasonable distance on either side of the intended direction. The line of play, like the line of putt does not extend past the hole.
So if, before you putt, you tapped down a spike mark passed the hole, you would be in breach of Rule 13-2. If you knew someone was going to tap down a spike mark to fix your line of play you would also be in breach of R13-2. The penalty for a breach of R16-1a or R13-2 is 2 penalty strokes in stroke play, loss of hole in match play.
The third rule, Rule 1-2 ......altering physical conditions, is sometimes called the "rule of last resort" and is a little more complicated. But I think it gets at the heart of your question.. This rule is used when something is done which does not fall under one of the other rules. It says a player may not repair irregularities if his INTENT was to influence the movement of a ball, which includes other player's. However a player may fix irregularities if their "sole purpose were to care for the course."
These two decisions explain this better with examples. Bottom line, the best course of action is wait until you and everyone else has putted out, and then fix spike marks as a courtesy to other players.
Edited by Dormie1360 - 1/18/14 at 11:45pm
See this decision, you may be able to fix the hole.
Or the guys who are too lazy to bend over, and dig their ball out of the cup with their putter.