RULES REVISION

Download the R&A App from our “Contact Us – links” page free.

GOLF IS A GAME PLAYED “IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE RULES” (R1.1)
(if you don’t play by the rules, you are not playing Golf.)

Like chess, golf has a lot of rules, some of which take some thinking about but, they all make sense. The game doesn’t work without them. You don’t need to be a grand master but, if you don’t play by the rules – you are not playing the game.

In golf, any players who don’t apply the Rules properly or, who agree to waive any penalty stroke are Disqualified ( R1.3), whether or not they benefit from the agreement. If a player submits a scorecard without having included penalties, he/she is Disqualified. That’s why we need to know the rules and penalties.

And, the first rule to brush up on is – Maximum 14 clubs including putter in your bag – 2 shot penalty per hole played in breach of this rule (up to 4) or loss of up to 2 holes in match play (R4.4). It happened to Ian Woosnam, so it can happen to you. Check what is in your bag, regularly.

TEE BOX & PRIORITIES

The tee box (“teeing ground”) is a rectangle between 2 markers at the front and two club lengths long. If you start outside this area in match play your opponent can make you play your shot again without penalty or, in stroke play, you incur a 2 shot penalty and must play again from the proper place. (R11.4). If you play the next hole without correcting your mistake, you are Disqualified.

If a ball falls off a tee or is accidentally knocked off when “addressing” the ball (grounding club in front or behind ball) there is no penalty and a player can put the ball back on the tee. But, if a stroke is made, whether or not the ball moves, the stroke counts. (R11)

Priority” on the course is simple. The R&A changed the rules 11 years ago to speed up the game. Gone are ideas of 4 ball, 2 ball, 3 ball, 1 ball. Now, unless a competition committee specifically state otherwise, priority is governed solely by pace of play. FASTER PLAYERS HAVE PRIORITY. If the player, or players (whatever number) behind you are playing or could play faster than you – call them through. They have priority. If you fall a hole behind, call the group behind you through.   (Rules S1)

BUNKERS

These rules have been updated recently and require particular attention.

If a bunker is designated “Ground Under Repair”, you may take a drop without penalty outside the bunker and the ball must be dropped within 1 club length of the nearest point of relief (not nearer the hole).

Anyone can rake a bunker at any time provided it is SOLELY to repair the bunker, not to test the sand or improve lie of the ball. Testing the sand is a 2 shot penalty or loss of hole in match play. (R13.4)

Unless it is absolutely essential to identify your ball in a bunker, you must not touch the ball or touch, pick up or move any leaves, twigs, stones, pieces of fruit, pine cones etc or any other “loose impediment” that is in or touching the bunker, whether or not it is touching or interferes with your ball. You must play your ball as it lies- even if it is embedded in a half-eaten apple and has a twig resting on it. Penalty for breach is 2 strokes/loss of hole. If you needed to move anything to identify your ball you must put everything back to how it was, ie put the leaves etc back on top of your ball (R12.1b)

Local Rules (including ours) often provide that stones (& only stones !) may be removed without penalty.

Touching the sand with a club before making stroke- 2 strokes/loss of hole. (R13.4).

If the ball is in a bunker and the next shot is affected by casual water within the bunker, you may drop the ball without penalty provided the ball is dropped inside the bunker at nearest point of relief, not closer to the hole. Also, in such situations a drop may also be taken outside the bunker (in a line backwards from the hole) incurring 1 shot penalty. (R25.1)

Please, please, please rake all bunkers properly after you have played your shot. Leave the rake in the bunker pointing to the flag. (other clubs may have different local rules.)

OUT OF BOUNDS

Out of bounds (OB) is usually marked by a white line, white stakes or a fence. If marked by a fence and/ or stakes, OB is actually a virtual line between the inside edges of the upright fence posts or stakes at ground level. The line marking OB is itself OB. BUT, if any part of the ball is inside the line, the ball is in. A player may stand OB in order to play a ball that is “in”. You may not move OB stakes that interfere with your swing. They are “fixed”. A ball hit OB is “lost” – 1 stroke penalty and then you must play next from the spot where the previous ball was played (R27.1).

If you think your ball may be “lost”, declare that you are playing a “provisional” and play a new ball from where you hit the first one, then look for your ball. Don’t go searching first. While searching, call players behind you through.

If your first ball can’t be found within 5 mins, it is deemed “lost” and you continue with the “provisional”. If you find the first ball before it is deemed “lost” you must continue to play it. If you continued with the “provisional” it would be the “wrong ball” – further 2 stroke penalty/loss of hole (R27.2). In stroke play, if you don’t correct a “wrong ball” mistake, you are disqualified (R15.3)

Once your ball is deemed “lost” or, if you didn’t declare a 2nd ball as “provisional”, then, even if you subsequently find the first ball, it is still “lost”. Continue with the 2nd ball and take the penalty strokes.(R27.2)
Practice during a round is not permitted and carries a 2 stroke/loss of hole penalty (R7.2)

ON/AROUND THE GREEN

First, repair your pitch mark. Then, repair your pitch mark!

If you didn’t bring your pitch repair tool, then you are not ready to play golf.

You may not tap anything down except a pitch mark or ball marker. You may not repair spike marks made by shoes, on the line of putt, until after you have played- 2 Strokes/loss of Hole (R16.1). You may take relief from holes dug by birds or animals and may hand “brush” sand or soil ONLY if they are on the green.

You must not test or practice on the greens before or during a stroke play comp- Disqualification (R7.1) But, after you have finished the hole you may practice on that green and on/near next tee box (excluding bunkers) PROVIDED it doesn’t cause any delay behind you- breach 2 Strokes/ Loss of Hole.(R7.2)

The flag stick may be removed or tended, whether or not the ball is on the green. If you putt from on the green and hit the flag stick – 2 Strokes penalty and play as the ball lies/ Loss of Hole (R17.3), UNLESS the person tending is at fault, in which case they incur the penalty (R17.2). If ball at rest on the green is hit by moving ball struck from off the green, there is no penalty. Replace the moved ball to where it was last at rest. If both balls were on the green prior to putting, and the ball putt hits a ball at rest, the player of the putt incurs 2 Stroke penalty.

Mark, Lift, Clean, Place. Lifting without marking – 1 Stroke penalty (R20.1). Playing from wrong place – 2 Strokes/Loss of Hole (R20.7). If you lie off the green and are asked to mark your ball by another player, you must mark, then lift, but must not clean your ball – breach, 1 Stroke penalty (R21)

Don’t play out of turn. If you putt on the green while another ball on green is moving, 2 Strokes/Loss of Hole UNLESS the other player putted out of turn. If someone offers to putt out of turn to show you the line, and you agree, Both are Disqualified.

ADVICE

If ever there was a rule so misunderstood yet most likely to bring penalties, it is this one.

You must not give to or, ask for advice from anyone. Every time you ask for or give advice – 2 Stroke penalty (which can also be added to next hole if asked/given between holes)/ Loss of hole (R8.1)

Advice is “any counsel or suggestion that could influence a player in determining his play, the choice of club or the method of making a stroke”.
So, for example …………….

        “what are you hitting?”        “that’s a 2 club wind”      “ am I swinging too fast?”

 “I’d take a drop”     “take your normal stance”     “take your time with that putt”  etc etc
each carry a 2 Stroke penalty/Loss of Hole.

Questions about the Rules of Golf , distances and general course issues (where the bunkers/flagsticks are) are not “advice”. You may also indicate line of play up to (but not beyond) the flagstick, provided you are not on the green (R8.2) – Breach 2 strokes/Loss of hole.

If you really want to find out what club someone hit -look in their bag (without touching anything).
If you need help with technique- practice on a non-competition day.

If you are playing in a pairs or team event you may take/give advice to your playing partner, their caddy or (provided competition allows) the designated team captain. But, if your partner touches the green to indicate the line of putt to play – 2 Stroke penalty/ Loss of hole (R8.2b)

Don’t forget, if 2 or more players (ie your 4 ball) agree not to apply the rule or penalty, then all are disqualified.

It is just about getting out of bad habits. Competition day is for competitive golf; not coaching.

PLAY THE BALL AS IT LIES

If the course is set up as “Preferred Lies” then, through the green, you may Mark, Lift, Clean & Place your ball within 6 inches, not closer to the hole. Otherwise, Play the ball as it lies.

That means, until you are on the green you may not remove mud or leaves sticking to the ball or, lift your ball out of some selfish player’s unrepaired divot. On the fairway or rough (NOT BUNKERS !!) you may move “loose impediments” from around but not attached to the ball. Penalty for cleaning ball – 1 stroke (R21). If the ball “accidentally” moves while removing loose impediments- 1 stroke penalty & replace the ball (R18.2) If you don’t replace– playing from wrong place -2 strokes and if you play the next hole without fixing your mistake –Disqualification.

You must not improve the lie of the ball or the path of your swing by pressing anything down, bending away or breaking branches or hedges or replacing divots (even someone else’s) until after you play your stroke. Penalty 2 strokes/loss of hole (R 13.2) The penalty applies if you break a branch or knock down leaves such as would improve your swing, while taking a practice swing.

If your ball is embedded in its own plug mark ON THE FAIRWAY you may lift, clean & DROP, without penalty. (Check local rules – Relief available at HBGC  if ball embedded in own plug in rough.)

If your ball enters an area of Ground Under Repair and definitely didn’t go OB but can’t be found, it is not a “lost” ball. Drop without penalty within 1 club length of the point where the ball entered the area of GUR. (R25.1)

Any player can decide their ball is “unplayable” – add 1 stroke penalty then- go back to where the previous stroke was played or, drop within 2 club lengths (not closer to hole) from where the ball lies or, drop behind the unplayable ball position in line with the flagstick. The ball may be cleaned before dropping, but once dropped the ball must not be touched again (unless it rolls more than 2 club lengths, rolls into a hazard or on green, rolls OB etc).-2 Strokes/Loss of Hole (R20)

If you declare that a ball in a bunker is “unplayable” then you may also take relief with 1 stroke penalty but you must drop the ball inside the same bunker.(penalty 2 strokes/loss of hole R28)

REMEMBER don’t use your putter to scoop a ball out of the hole; don’t lean on your putter; repair your divots; fix your pitch marks & rake bunkers. If you refuse to care for the course you will face club sanction and may well be ruining someone else’s game.

ROUND UP

Golf  is a game with Rules – if you don’t play by the Rules, you are not really playing Golf.
Maximum 14 clubs including putter
Faster players have priority – Call them through
Don’t Practice on course before or during stroke competitions
Play the Ball as it Lies
Don’t move anything in a bunker (except stones – if permitted)
“Declare” before playing a Provisional – then go looking
Don’t press down anything on the green except pitch marks or ball marker before putting
Mark your ball before lifting
Take proper care of the course – Rake Bunkers, Fix Pitch Marks,  Repair Divots & Don’t Scoop out of the hole with your putter
Don’t give or ask for any advice. Competitions are competitive. – 2 stroke penalty each time!!

REMEMBER – ALL players that agree to waive any penalty stroke or to not apply the Rules of Golf properly are Disqualified.

 

Please download the R&A Rules App for your smartphone or computer – it is free and available from our “Links” page. The App is much easier to understand than the Rule Book & really is an essential piece of every golfers’ kit.

 

FINALLY …… YOU MUST PUT YOUR CARD IN !!

No matter how bad your card, it must be put into the system. The CONGU handicap computer calculates handicap changes by analysis of the Competition Scratch Score, which is calculated weekly and is totally dependent upon the % of players in each category that finish within their “buffer zone” that day. So, your bad score, or non-finish really can/would change the % and alter everybody else’s handicap. That is why you MUST ensure that everyone in your group puts their card in, even if they had their worst round ever or retired after 3 holes. Everybody competing is affected by your card.

If a player starts but doesn’t put in a card, (for whatever reason), their handicap will be moved up 0.1 by the club’s Handicap Convenor anyway, so you can’t protect your handicap !

Any player that fails to put in their card on any 2 occasions in the season will have their handicap suspended for 2 weeks as well as being moved 0.2.

 

Enjoy your golf & Play fair.