44 GOLDEN GOLF RULES EXPLAINED
An Illustrated guide to those rules that cause golfers the most problems
A Golf World Publication
ON THE TEE
- TEEING OFF FROM THE WRONG PLACE
Question: Have you ever teed off only to discover you have played from the wrong markers, or been informed by one of your partners that you have played from in front of the markers? Few of us can claim not to have sinned in this way but what do you do if it happens?
Answer: In stroke play the player disregards the stroke played from the incorrect teeing ground but is then required to play from the correct teeing area under penalty of two strokes. You must correct your mistake before playing from the next tee (Ref. Rule 11-4).
- Question: While preparing to drive from the tee, a player makes practice swing and his club accidentally strikes and moves his teed ball. Does this count as a stroke and dose he incur any penalty?
Answer: No to both. The player has no intention of striking the ball therefore is not deemed to have made a stroke. Furthermore, until a stroke has been made on the teeing ground, the ball is not ‘in play’ and therefore the player incurs no penalty. The player must not put a ball in play from teeing ground. (Ref. Definitions & Rule 18-2).
- HITTNG GOLF BAGS
Question: In matchplay a player ‘tops’ his tee shot 30 yards. The ball strikes his opponent’s golf bag, which has been left in front of the tee. The player walks forward, picks up his ball and before his opponent tees off, plays from the tee again, is he entitled to do this?
Answer: Yes, The player is permitted to play the ball as it lies or as in this case, quite correctly, to replay the shot without penalty before another is played by either side. If, however, the player has hit his own bag he would have immediately lost the hole. In strokeplay, if the ball accidentally hits a golf bag, whomever it belongs to, the player shall incur a two-shot penalty and must play the ball as it lies. (Ref. Rule 19-1 to 3).
- TROUBLE ON THE TEE
Question: On the teeing ground a player, when making his first stroke, misses the ball but finds the movement of air around the ball causes it to fall off the tee. He picks up the ball, puts it back on the tee and plays his next stroke. Has he proceeded correctly?
Answer: Once the player made his first stroke at the ball, it was in play. When he picked it up and re-teed it, he effectively caused the ball to move and should have replaced in (one-stroke penalty). However, as he failed to replace it, he would receive a two-stroke penalty in stroke play.
ON THE GREEN
- REPLACE AFTER A STRIKE
Question: Your golf ball strikes another player’s ball, which is lying on the putting green. What do you do if this happens, and is there any difference if your ball is played from off the green or from on the putting surface?
Answer: In all situation you would be required to play the ball from where it has come to rest and your fellow competitor or opponent would be required to replace his ball on the spot from where is was moved. If your ball was played from on the green and it struck another ball, the procedure would be the same, but you would be subject to a two-stroke penalty. (Ref. Rule 18-5 & Rule 19-5)
- WAYWARD WINDS
Question: A player’s ball comes to rest at the top of a slope on the putting green. While the player is determining the line of his putt, a gust of wind mover the ball and causes it to roll down the slope, finishing about 12 inches from the hole. The player proceeds to pick up the ball and replace it in its original position. Has he proceeded correctly?
Answer: No. As wind is not an ‘outside agency’, he should not have replaced the ball. He therefore incurs a one-shot penalty and should now replace the ball on the spot where is came to rest after the wind had moved it. If he does not do so, he would incur a total penalty of two strokes. (Ref. Definition & Rule 18-2)
- PRACTICE PUTTS
Question: A player is held up on a hole for several minutes by the group in front. While waiting, he drops a ball on the fairway and hits it a few times with his putter, later stating that he was just “relieving tension”. Was he in breach of a rule?
Answer: The rules do not allow for any kind of practice ‘stroke’ during the play of a hole, and therefore he would incur a two-shot penalty in strokeplay or loss of the hole in matchplay. (Ref. Rule 7-2)
- CRIMES WITH UMBRELLAS
Question: During a heavy rainstorm, a player gets his caddie to hold an umbrella above his head while he is lining up a putt. The player then has his caddie keep the umbrella above his head when he addresses the ball and as he putts. Has be committed any offence?
Answer: The player is allowed to have an umbrella held above his head as he lines up a putt. However, as soon as he putts, he would be deemed to be receiving protection from the elements during a stroke. As a result, he would lose the hole in matchplay or incur a two-stroke penalty in strokeplay. There is no penalty if the player holds the umbrella himself. (Ref. Rule 14-2)
- PUDDLE MUDDLES
Question: A player’s ball lies on the putting green but is affected by casual water. The nearest point giving maximum available relief under the rules is, in this instance, off the green in the rough. The player marks and lifts his ball and drops it at this point. Has he proceeded correctly?
Answer: No. When taking relief from casual water for a ball lying on the putting green, the ball must be placed in the position giving maximum available relief, which, in this case, happens to be in the rough. So long as the player does not play another stroke, he may lift and place the ball correctly, without penalty, (Ref. Rule 25-1 & 20-6).
- PUTTING OVER SAND
Question: Your ball lies a couple of feet off the green and you decide to use your putter from this position. Unfortunately, there is some sand between the ball and the putting surface. Are you allowed to brush the sand aside?
Answer: No. Sand can only be moved when it is on the putting surface, as is the case with loose soil. Sand and loose soil only comes under the heading of loose impediments when they are on the putting green, not when off it. Other loose impediments such as stones and twigs can be moved anywhere on the course, except when either the ball or the loose impediment lie in or touch a hazard.
- REPAIRING SPIKE MARKS
Question: A player’s ball lies on the green in a position where he has a straight putt to the hole. On a direct line to the hole are some spike marks caused by players in the game ahead. Is the player allowed to tap down the spike marks? If not, would he be allowed to repair them if they were not on a direct line to the hole?
Answer: If the player repaired the spike marks he would be improving his line of play and would be subject to a two-stroke penalty in strokeplay or loss of hole in matchplay. If spin mark was close to direct line to the hoe, but not on it, he would still be deemed to be improving his line of play as the line of play does include a reasonable distance on either side of the player’s intended direction of play. (Ref. Rule 13)
- DEW ON THE GREENS
Question: Being the first match out one winter morning, the players approach the first green only to find it covered in dew. Are they allowed to scrape away before putting?
Answer: As dew is not a loose impediment, it cannot be removed from the line of play and to do so would be regarded as improving the line of play. However, the player would be allowed to remove dew on either side of the ball and behind it as this would not improve the position or line of the ball or the area intended stroke. (Ref. Rule 23, Rule 16-1, Rule 13-2)
- WHO HAS THE PUTTING HONOUR?
Question: In a match between ‘A’ & ‘B’, ‘both players’ balls are on the green. ‘A’ is farther from the hole and therefore first to play. ‘A’ putts up to within 12inches of the hole and continues to putt out. ‘B’ claims that as he was farther from the hole at this point, ‘A’ has played out of turn and should therefore lose the hole. Is he right?
Answer: No. There is no penalty for playing out of turn in matchplay (or that matter, in strokeplay) so ‘A’ would not lost the hole. However, ‘B’ is entitled to have the stroke re-played by ‘A’ in the correct order (with no penalty) provided he announce this immediately to ‘A’. (Ref. Rule 10-1c)
- PUTTING OUT AND HOLDING THE FLAGSTICK
Question: A player’s approach shot comes to rest from the hole. He removes the flagstick and while, holding it in one hand, holes the putt with his putter which is held in the other hand. Do the rules permit him to do this?
Answer: There is no penalty for holding the flagstick while putting, so he is permitted to do so, if, however, the ball were to hit the flagstick, he would be penalized two strokes in strokeplay. (Ref. Rule 17-3)
15. BALL AS A BACKSTOP
Question: Nick and Ian two competitors in a strokeplay competition. Nick’s ball is just off the edge of the green and Ian’s ball lies a couple of feet behind the hole. Nick asks Ian to leave his ball on the green and not to lift is as it may act as a backstop should his ball go past the hole. Is Nick entitled to make such a request?
Answer: No, Nick is not allowed to make such a request as Ian’s ball may well assist his in his play of the hole and likewise Ian should not agree to such a request. If both players agreed to this they would be agreeing to exclude the operation of the Rules and should both be disqualified. (Rule 22 & Rule 1-3).
- DIVOTS IN BUNKERS
Question: Player ‘A’s ball lies in a bunker. His opponent, Player B, who is just behind the bunker, plays a shot, and his divot lands in the bunker, just behind Player A’s ball. Is Player A allowed to move the divot?
Answer: A divot is considered to be a loose impediment and in normal circumstances when is lies in the bunker; the player is not allowed to move it. It is, however, a principle of the Rules of Golf that a player is entitled to the line he had when the ball came to rest. Therefore equity would apply in this case, and the player would be allowed to mover the divot in order to re-create the original line. (Re. Rule 25)
- EXAMINING BALL IN SAND
Question: A player thins a greenside bunker shot and his ball comes to rest in another bunker on the opposite side of the green. The player advises his opponent that he wishes to examine his ball, as he believes it may be damaged. He proceeds to mark and lift his ball in the bunker. Both players examine the ball and discover it has indeed been cut as a result of his last stroke. The player substitutes another ball and completes the holes. Was he entitled to do this?
Answer: Yes, if the ball is visibly cut is deemed to be ‘unfit for play’ and the player is entitled to substitute another ball. A player has the right anywhere on the course to mark and lift his ball to determine whether it has become ‘unfit’ for play’, so long as he tells his playing companion (in this case his opponent) in advance that he wishes to do so, and then gives his a chance to examine the ball. (Ref. Rule 5-3)
- MOVING RAKE OUT OF BUNKER
Question: A bunker lies between a player’s ball and the hole, and in the bunker on his line of play is a rake. The player goes into the bunker to remove the rake and smoothes his own footprints on leaving the bunker. He subsequently executes a fine chip shot, which comes to rest a few inches from the hole. Has he incurred any penalty under Rules of Golf?
Answer: The rake is a movable obstruction and the player is perfectly entitled to remove it from the bunker. However, because he has made his direction play worse by walking in the bunker he is not entitled to repair the damage he has caused. By raking his footprints he is effectively improving his line of play and would be subject to a penalty of two-strokes in strokeplay. (Rule 13-2)
- PLAYER WHACKS CLUBHEAD INTO SAND IN DISGUST
Question- A player hits a poor shot from a bunker, it hits a grass bank in from of it and rolls into another part of the bunker. Disgusted with the shot, he whacks the sand angrily with his club. Is he allowed to do this or would this be considered to be testing the surface?
Answer: As the ball still lies in the bunker, the player is not allowed to disturb the sand in this fashion as it would be deemed to be testing the condition of the hazard, for which he would be subject to a penalty of two strokes in strokeplay. (Rule 13-4)
- BALL MOVES IF RAKE MOVES
Question: A player’s ball has come to rest against a rake, which is situated, on a slope just outside a bunker. He is certain that if he moves the rake, which he is entitled to do, the ball will run into the bunker. However should he proceed in these circumstances?
Answer: The rake is a moveable obstruction and there is no penalty if a ball is moved on the process of moving an obstruction, providing the ball is subsequently replaced. (Rule 18-2)
- LOST IN THE SAND
Question: A player is certain his ball has landed in a bunker, but when he looks cannot see it anywhere. He probes around with a club where he believed it to be lying and eventually finds a ball. With his hand he removes a little sand around the ball until he sees pat of it. He then plays a short onto the green. Has he broken any rule?
Answer: No. When searching for a ball in a bunker, a player is entitled to use a club in order to find his ball. He is also allowed to move enough sand as will enable him to see a ball but not necessarily enough to be able to identify it as his. This is because there is no penalty for playing a wrong ball from a hazard. (Ref. Rules 12-1, 12-2 & 15-2, 15-3)
- DOUBLE TROUBLE
Question: In playing put of a bunker during the course of a stroke, a player’s clubface strikes the ball and the nature of the shot means that almost immediately the clubface hits the ball again. Does the player incur any penalty?
Answer: Yes. The player has made a “double hit” and as well as counting the shot he must add one penalty stroke, making two strokes in all. (Rule 14-4)
- TURNING A BLIND EYE
Question: In matchplay, when taking relief from an obstruction, a player drops the ball within two club0lengths of where the ball lay instead of within one club-length of the nearest point of relief. The ball is, as a result, dropped and subsequently played from the wrong place. His opponent realizes a breach of the rules has taken place but decides to turn a blind eye to it. Has he committed an offence in doing so?
Answer: As this is a matchplay situation, the player is entitled to disregard a breach of the rules by an opponent – provided there has been no agreement between the two players to do so and that the opponent is unaware of the breach. If they have both agreed to ignore the penalty incurred by breaching this rule they would both be subject to penalty for agreeing to waive the Rules. (Re. Rules 24-2, 20-7 & 1-3)
- RELIEF FROM A PLUG
Question: It is a very wet day and the ground is soft. Your approach shot lands short of the green and plugs in its own pitch mark on the fairway, just a few yards from the putting surface. Can you get any relief?
Answer: Yes as your ball is on the fairway (a closely mown area) you are allowed to lift it from its pitch mark, clear it and drop it. It must be dropped as close to the pitch mark as possible as long as it is not nearer the hole, and should it roll back into its original pitch mark the ball call be re-dropped, this procedure can be carried without penalty, but only on a closely mown area. (Ref Rule 25-2, 20-2c and 33-8)
- RETRIEVE FORGOTTEN PUTTER
Question: A player reaches the 1St green and realises that he has left his putter back in the locker room. Is he allowed to go back to the clubhouse to fetch it and, if so, would he incur any penalty for doing so?
Answer: Yes, he is allowed to return to the clubhouse to collect it. However, if this causes his opponent, fellow competitor or other players to wait, hi is guilty of delaying play, the penalty for which is loss of two strokes in strokeplay. (Ref. Rule 6-7)
- PLAYING ON YOU KNEES
Question: A player’s ball lies under a bush in an awkward position. The player decides the best way to attempt to play the shot is on his knees. In order to prevent his trousers getting dirty he lays his waterproof trousers on the ground in the area where his knees would be positioned. Is he allowed to do this?
Answer: No. If he knelt on his waterproof trousers to play the shot he would be deemed to be building a stance and would incur a penalty of two strokes in strokeplay. There is, however nothing to prevent the player from putting on this waterproof trousers and playing the shot while wearing the, for this there is no penalty. (Ref. Rule 13-3)
- REPLACING BROKER CLUBS
Question: During the course of a round, the shaft of a club breaks while a player is hitting the ball. Assuming the player started the round with 14 clubs in his bag, is he entitled to replace it?
Answer: Provided the club has been broken “ in the normal course of play”, which in this case it certainly has, the player is perfectly entitled to replace it with another club. (Ref. Rule 4-4)
- TAKING ADVICE
Question: After a player has teed off at a short hole, his opponent asks him what club he used. The player tells his opponent the used a 5 –iron and the opponent proceeds to make his own selection and play his tee shot. Has either player broken the rule?
Answer: In strokeplay though the player would incur a penalty of two strokes for asking for advice and his fellow competitor would also incur a two-stroke penalty forgiving it. (Ref. Rule
- STRIKING THE BALL BY MISTAKE
Question: Before playing his second shot to the green, a player takes a practice swing and in the process hits and moves his ball by mistake. Has be made a stroke at the ball?
Answer: No. The player was only taking a practice swing and had no intention to strike the ball. However, he has inadvertently caused the ball to move by his actions and as such is subject to a one-stroke penalty. He must replace the ball before playing his next shot. If he fails to replace the ball, and plays it from where it lies, he would incur a two-stroke penalty. (Ref. Rule 18-2 & Definitions).
- NO SPITTING ALLOWED
Question: A player wishes to get his approach shots to stop more quickly on the green, so he spits on the face of the club, as he feels move backspin. Is this permissible?
Answer: No. He is not allowed to put anything on the face of the club if the reason for doing so is to affect the way the ball reacts. The penalty for doing so is automatic. Disqualification in strokeplay. (Ref. Rule 4-3)
- PENALTY OF A WRONG MOVE
Question: Your ball lies among trees in heavy undergrowth. Are you allowed to move leaves, twigs, etc. around your ball, or would this constitute improving your lie? And what would happen if the ball moved while you were doing this?
Answer: Provided your ball does not lie in a hazard, you are perfectly entitled to move twigs, leaves, stones and all other kinds of ‘loose impediments’ lying near the ball. If having moved any loose impediments within a club-length of the ball, the ball subsequently moves, you are considered to have moved the ball and must replace it. The penalty for this is one stoke. (Ref. Rule 23-1 & Rule 182c)
- ACCIDENTIAL STRIKE
Question: A player’s ball lies on a step slope. When he addresses the ball he accidentally nudges it, causing it to run down the hill into a water hazard. Is he under any penalty for this and does he continue play from his new position in the hazard or replace his ball?
Answer: Even though it is accidentally the fact that he has caused the ball to move means that he must be penalized one stroke. It is irrelevant that the ball has come to rest in the hazard and he must replace it on the slope. If he fails to do so he is subject to a penalty of two strokes in strokeplay. (Ref. Rule 18-2)
- MARKING BALLS
Question Two players are playing different holes, which run parallel to each other. Both slice their tee shots and their balls land in the rough in the same place. When they reach the area they find both balls of the same make and number, with no identification marks on either to distinguish one from the other. Who should play which ball?
Answer: This is an excellent example of why players should put identification marks on their balls. In this case each player knows one of the two balls is his but cannot determine which one. They are therefore unable to identify their ball and must treat it as lost. They must return to the teeing area under the stroke-and-distance penalty procedure. (Ref 27)
- ASKING FOR DISTANCE
Question: A player asks his opponent for the distance from a bunker, beside which his ball lies, to the front of the green. Is he justified in asking such a question? Would the answer be any different if he asked his opponent from his ball to the front of the green?
Answer: A player is perfectly entitled to ask advice from anyone as to the distance from a fixed object, like a bunker to the green. However, he cannot ask his opponent to provide him with the distance from his ball to the green as his ball is considered to be a non-permanent object, and this would be deemed to be asking for advice, for which the penalty would be loss of hole. (Ref. Rule 8-1)
- INACCURATE SCORECARDS
Question: On completion of the monthly medal, a player hands in his card. Later that day, when checking the card, the committee finds it contains the following mistakes: 1. the total score for the round was 70, but it has been written on the card as 69, and 2. a score of five has been records at the last hole when he actually scored a six.
Answer 1: The competitor is responsible for ensuring the score recorded at each hole is correct and the committee is responsible for the addition. If it has been totaled incorrectly, the committee without any penalty should amend it. 2. It is the competitor’s responsibility to ensure the scores for each hole are recorded a score for the 18th lower than actually taken, he should he penalized. In this case, the penalty is disqualification. If a competitor returns a score for any hole higher than actually taken, the score as returned shall stand. (Ref. Rule 6-6)
- BALLS IN THE ROUGH
Question: A player searches for and finds a ball lying in heavy rough, which he assumes to be his ball. He takes a swing at it, but misses it completely and discovers, on close examination that the ball is not in fact his. Is he subject to any penalty?
Answer: Although he has issued the ball, he did have the intention of hitting it and moving it, so this must be considered to be a stroke. As he has played a stroke with a wrong ball, he would incur a two-stroke penalty in strokeplay. (Ref. Rule 14 & Rule 15).
- DON’T GROUND IN A HAZARD
Question: A player’s ball lies on the grass bank of a river, which is part of a water hazard and, as he is not in the water, he is capable of making a stroke at it. When taking up his address position, is he allowed ground his club.
Answer: No. The player is strictly prohibited from touching the ground in a hazard with a club and therefore is unable to place his club on the ground at address. It follows from this that a player is deemed to have addressed the ball in a hazard when he has taken his stance only (unlike on other parts of the course where he must also have grounded his club). If a player did ground his club, he would incur a two-stroke penalty. (Ref. Rule 13-4) & Definitions)
- TOO MANY CLUBS?
Question: After playing three holes, a player discovers he has 15 clubs in his bag. What penalties apply, if any in strokeplay?
Answer: The Rules only permit you to start the round with a maximum of 14 clubs, so the player has broken the rule by carrying 15 clubs. In strokeplay, he would be penalized four strokes – two for each hole where he carried the extra club up to a maximum of four strokes. Therefore, even if he discovered his error on the last hole, he would still only receive a four-stroke penalty. (Ref. Rule 4-4)
- WAVING THE FLAG
Question: When playing an approach shot over a hill to a blind green, a player’s partner holds the flag in the air so the player can see where the hole is. Has any offence been committed? What would happen if the ball were to hit the flagstick?
Answer: A player is perfectly entitled to have the flagstick attended, or in this case held up, when his ball lies off the green. If the ball were to strike the flagstick while it is being held up by his partner, he is deemed to be in breach of the Rules and is penalized accordingly – i.e. two strokes in strokeplay. (Ref. Rule 17-3)
- MOVING MARKERS
Question: After their tee shots, two players’ balls come to rest very close together on the fairway. Player A, who is nearest the hole, marks and lifts his ball, enabling player B to play his shot. B plays his shot, but in doing so removes a huge divot and takes with it A’s marker. What is the ruling?
Answer: In this situation, the lie of A’s ball has been altered and it is impossible to determine the exact spot on which he should replace his ball. However, even if the spot has been determined, it is clear that the lie has still been altered. The player must therefore place his ball in the nearest most similar lie to that which he had originally. This must be within one club length of his original lie, not nearest the hole and not in a hazard. (Ref. Rule 20-36)
41. MARKING AND CLEANING
Question: A player’s ball on the fairway interferes with the stance of his opponent. The opponent, whose turn it is to play first, requests the player to mark and lift his ball. The player complies with this request and, after lifting his ball, passes to his caddie, who cleans it for him. The opponent plays his shot and the player replaces his ball. Has a breach of the Rules occurred?
Answer: Yes. The player was entitled to lift the ball in this situation, but not entitled to clear it, and he therefore incurs a one-shot penalty. It is worth noting, that the only other occasions that a ball cannot be clean when lifted are if it is moved to determine if it is unfit for play or for identification purposes. (Ref. Rule 22& 21)
- MISTAKES ON THE SCORECARD
Question: A competitor returns a scorecard to the committed, following a competition. It contains the following inaccuracies: (a) The score for the 7th has been changed by the marker from a five to a four but the alteration has not been initialed by him and; (b) The maker has signed the card in the space required for the competitor and vice-versa. Should the competitor be disqualified for either of the above?
Answer: (a) No. There is nothing in the rules to legislate how a card should be altered and there is certainly no repercussions for the card to be initialed. Provided the alteration is clear and the marker has signed the card, it should be accepted by the committee.
(b) No. The fact that the maker and competitor have signed the card in the wrong place is irrelevant as the Rules only have a requirement for the card to be signed by the marker and competitor. They do not stipulate where the card should be signed. (Ref. Rule 6-6)
- ACCIDENTALLY KICKING THE BALL
Question: While searching through heavy rough for your ball, you accidentally kick it. What procedure should be followed and is any penalty applicable? Would the procedure be any different if another player kicked the ball?
Answer: In this, situation you would be required to replace the ball and would incur a penalty of one stroke for having moved the ball in the first place. If another player kicked the ball, you would be required to replace the ball but either you or the other player would incur no penalty. If this is the case, you cannot determine the exact spot where the ball originally lay, the ball should be dropped as near as possible to this spot but not nearer the hole. (Re. Rules 18-2/3/4/20-3c)
- BORROWING CLUBS
Question: At the first hole of a strokeplay competition, a player lands in a greenside bunker and decides to use a sand-wedge for this next shot. Unfortunately, he has left his sand-wedge in his locker. Is he allowed to borrow a sand-wedge from another competitor?
Answer: Yes. He can, provided he started the round with no more than 13 clubs, therefore the borrowing of this club will not exceed the maximum of 14 clubs permitted by the Rules. In addition, only he is allowed to use the club for the rest of the round. It cannot be used again by the player form whom he borrowed the clue. (Re. Rule 4-4)