In 2019 you’ll be happy to know that you’ll be able to repair spike marks on the green before you putt.
Rule 13 states you’ll be able to repair any damage to the green, which would include pitch marks, spike marks, damage from the flagstick being dragged on the green, and any other damage.
However, you will not be able to repair greens that have been aerated/punched, vertical mowing, or regular wear and tear.
The Nitty Gritty:
Rule 13.C2 (USGA)
Repair of Damage. A player may repair damage on the putting green without penalty by taking reasonable actions to restore the putting green as nearly as possible to its original condition, but only:
- By using his or her hand, foot or other part of the body or a normal ball-mark repair tool, tee, club or similar item of normal equipment, and
- Without unreasonably delaying play (see Rule 5.6a).
But if the player improves the putting green by taking actions that exceed what is reasonable to restore the putting green to its original condition (such as by creating a pathway to the hole or by using an object that is not allowed), the player gets the general penalty for breach of Rule 8.1a.
“Damage on the putting green ” means any damage caused by a person or outside influence, such as:
- Ball marks, shoe damage (such as spike marks) and scrapes or indentations caused by equipment or a flagstick,
- Old hole plugs, turf plugs, seams of cut turf and scrapes or indentations from maintenance tools or vehicles,
- Animal tracks or hoof indentations, and
- Embedded objects (such as a stone, acorn or tee).
But “damage on the putting green” does not include any damage or conditions that result from:
- Normal practices for maintaining the overall condition of the putting green (such as aeration holes and grooves from vertical mowing),
- Irrigation or rain or other natural forces,
- Natural surface imperfections (such as weeds or areas of bare, diseased or uneven growth), or
- Natural wear of the hole.
Check out USGA’s site for exceptions and further details, but we can breathe a sigh of relief here.
Check out How to Mark Your Ball on the Green.