Common Golf Rules: Part 1

Here are a few of the USGA’s most common rules of golf.  Of course, rules do change, so if there’s a question, check with the USGA or the R&A (UK) for more in depth Golf Rules and explanation.

scottish_links_golfRules During Match and Stroke Play

  • Be sure to mark your ball for later identification.  Any ball that can’t be identified is lost.
  • If a ball becomes unfit for play, it can be replaced on the hole where this happened, or between holes.  There is no penalty for this.
  • No one may have more than fourteen clubs.
  • It’s not okay to use any kind of device or equipment to measure conditions or distance, or to help you get a better grip.
  • Never ask anyone except your caddy or partner for advice.  Likewise, you should never give anyone other than your partner advice.
  • You may practice swing during a hole, but don’t play a practice stroke.  If you’re between holes, it’s acceptable to practice putt and chip near or on the putting green of the hole last played.  You can also do this on the tee of the next hole.  However, you can’t practice from a hazard.
  • Avoid delay when playing.

Rules Regarding the Order of Play

  • On the first tee, the honor of playing first will be determined by the order of a draw, or by lot.
  • The ball furthest from the hole is always played first in match play.  The winner of the hole will tee off first at the next hole.  Anyone who plays out of turn at any point may be required to replay by his or her opponent.
  • The ball further from the hole is also player first in stroke play.  However, the person who tees off first at the next hole is usually the competitor with the lowest score.  There’s no penalty for playing out of turn.
  • Players in four ball competitions can play in the order they prefer.

Rules About the Teeing Ground

  • Tee off within two club lengths behind the tee markers’ front edges
  • Anyone teeing off outside this area in match play may be required to replay the stroke by their opponent, though there’s no penalty.  In stroke play, teeing off outside this area incurs a two stroke penalty, and must replay the stroke from the proper location.

Rules Regarding Ball Play

  • Always play the ball as it lies, and never touch it, unless a specific rule permits you to do so.
  • Play the course the way you find it.  This means never attempting to improve your lie, your line of play, the area you’re intending to swing in, or any extension of your line of play beyond the hole.  You may not move anything, bend or break immovable objects or modify the course beyond taking your stance and making your swing.  This includes pressing down vegetation or other objects.
  • Don’t build your stance.
  • If your ball is in a water hazard or bunker, don’t touch the water or the ground before the downswing.
  • Always strike the ball with the clubhead, instead of scraping or pushing it.  If your club hits the ball multiple times in a single stroke, the stroke is counted, and a penalty stroke is added.
  • Playing a wrong ball anywhere except a hazard in match play will cause you to lose the hole.  If you are in stroke play, you’ll incur a two stroke penalty.  Then, play the right ball.

Rules On the Putting Green

  • Unless a rule permits, don’t touch the line of your putt.
  • It’s acceptable to fix old hole plugs and ball marks on the line, but not spike marks.
  • If you want, you may lift and clean your ball on the green.  However, it must be placed on the same spot when finished.
  • You may not test the surface by rolling a ball or scraping it.
  • If a ball played from the putting green hits the flagstick in match play, you lose the hole.  In stroke play, a two stroke penalty is incurred.
  • Unless your opponent concedes your putt in match play, always hole out.

Rules If the Ball At Rest Moves

  • If you, your caddie, or your partner move the ball in a way that’s not permitted by the rules, or if it moves after you’ve addressed it, replace your ball and add a penalty stroke.
  • However, if another ball or person moves your ball, it can be replaced without a penalty.

Common Golf Rules Continued…



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