Golf Rules

1

THE RULE BOOK

Kate Baker, LPGA Teaching Pro, Pebble Beach, California, and the Greens at Half Hollow, Melville, New York


It’s important to play by the United States Golf Association (USGA) Rules of Golf. The Rules of Golf are the only way you can accurately determine your score. If you play fast and loose with the rules, you’ll never know if your game has improved. Adhering to the rules gives you an accurate barometer of your game. You can purchase an official rule book from the USGA atwww.usga.org/PublicationsStore/. Remember that there are more “free lifts” in the rules than there are penalties.

2

OWN A RULE BOOK

Kate Baker, LPGA Teaching Pro, Pebble Beach, California, and the Greens at Half Hollow, Melville, New York


The best advice I can give is to have a copy of the USGA’s Rules of Golf in your bag. Somewhere along the way you will be in a competition with someone who is, or thinks he is, a rules expert. If a violation is called on you, the best move is to take out theRules of Golf and have him point out the infraction to you. If he is correct, you learn something. If you are correct, he learns something and you save a few strokes.

3

LEARN THE RULES

Kate Baker, LPGA Teaching Pro, Pebble Beach, California, and the Greens at Half Hollow, Melville, New York


The Rules of Golf may not be the most interesting reading in the world, but it’s a worthwhile investment of your time and money. To learn quickly, read the “Definitions” and “Etiquette” sections. They are the basis of the Rules of Golf. If you understand these sections, you will be far ahead of golfers who have played for years.

4

HOW GOLF RULES EVOLVED

Kate Baker, LPGA Teaching Pro, Pebble Beach, California, and the Greens at Half Hollow, Melville, New York


In the early days of golf, all play was match play. One player or team played against another player or team. Rules did not have to be consistent, as their play would not affect other players on the course. As competition changed to medal or stroke play, rules had to be consistent. The playing field had to be level. The player with an 8:00 tee-off time had to play under the same conditions as the player who had a 10:00 tee-off time.

5

ONE CLUB LENGTH OR TWO?

Kate Baker, LPGA Teaching Pro, Pebble Beach, California, and the Greens at Half Hollow, Melville, New York


Sometimes we are entitled to free relief (moving or dropping the ball away from an obstruction without incurring a penalty); other times the ball is in a hazard and we choose to drop from the hazard. Simply put, the rule is that when we are taking free relief, such as from casual water or from a cart path, we get relief and one club length. When we have to take a penalty stroke, we get two club lengths from the margin of the hazard.

6

WHERE DO I DROP FROM A LATERAL WATER HAZARD?

Mark Brown, PGA Director of Golf, Tam O’Shanter Club, Brookville, New York


Lateral water hazards are marked by red stakes or paint. There are actually five options:

  1. Play the ball as it lies.
  2. Play the ball under the penalty of stroke and distance.
  3. Drop behind the hazard where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard line, keeping that point in line with the hole with no limit to how far behind that point the ball may be dropped.
  4. Drop within two club lengths from the point of entry into the hazard.
  5. Drop two club lengths from the opposite margin, equidistant from the hole.

7

RELIEF FROM IMMOVABLE OBSTRUCTIONS

Kate Baker, LPGA Teaching Pro, Pebble Beach, California, and the Greens at Half Hollow, Melville, New York


An immovable obstruction is an artificial or human-made object you cannot move. You get relief if the immovable obstruction interferes with your stance or swing. To take relief, find the nearest point where the obstruction does not interfere with your swing or stance. Drop the ball within one club length of that point, no closer to the hole. You must take complete relief from the obstruction.

8

HOW DO I DROP FROM AN UNPLAYABLE LIE?

Stevie Hovey, Rules Expert, the Original Golf School, Mount Snow, Vermont


The player may deem the ball unplayable at any place on the course except when the ball is in a water hazard. The player is the sole judge. If the player deems the ball unplayable, he or she must, under penalty of one stroke:

  1. Play from the spot where the original ball was last played.
  2. Drop behind the point where the ball lies, keeping that point between the ball and the hole with no limit as to how far behind that point the ball may be dropped.
  3. Drop within two club lengths of where the ball lies, not nearer the hole.

9

THE MOST MISUNDERSTOOD RULE IN GOLF—THE LOST BALL

Mark Brown, PGA Director of Golf, Tam O’Shanter Club, Brookville, New York


There is only one option if you lose your ball, and that is to return to where you hit the ball from and replay the stroke under the penalty of stroke and distance. If you lose your tee shot, the only option is to go back to the tee. You will then be playing your third shot. While this is according to the rules, many courses will treat the tree line as a lateral hazard, so your best option is to drop the ball at the point of entry with a one-stroke penalty. A good practice, and one that is correct according to the rules, is to play a “provisional ball” if you think your ball has been lost. This saves time and is the correct procedure.

10

RELIEF FROM CASUAL WATER

Shari Pfannenstein, PGA Rules Expert


A player receives relief from casual water if it interferes with the player’s stance or swing. Casual water is water that has accumulated that is not part of a hazard. The procedure is to take the nearest relief no closer to the hole. (And remember there is only one “nearest.”) Mark the ball’s location with a tee. Once relief has been taken, measure one club length from the ball, again not nearer the hole, and mark that point with a tee. You may drop the ball between the tees and proceed with no penalty. Remember, you do not have to play from puddles or accumulated water on the course that is not part of a hazard.

11

HANDICAP

Jay Morelli, Director of the Original Golf School, Mount Snow, Vermont


A handicap in golf is the number of strokes you score over par on a fairly good day. If a player has a 20 handicap, that means he will score about 92 on a par-72 course. The concept of a handicap is that it is a method of leveling the playing field so two players of different abilities can engage in a fair competition. A 10-handicap player would give the 20-handicap player one stroke on the ten most difficult holes. (The 20-handicap player would deduct one stroke on each of those ten most difficult holes.) The handicap is determined by a computerized system through the USGA.

12

SHOTGUN TOURNAMENT

Jay Morelli, Director of the Original Golf School, Mount Snow, Vermont


A shotgun tournament is one where the entire field tees off at the same time. The players start on all or almost all the holes on the course. The advantage to that style of tournament is that all players begin and end the round at the same time. The disadvantage is that it is more difficult for the course to provide the best service, as every player is starting and ending at the same time. Another disadvantage is that some players will start on easy holes, others on difficult holes. The course architect almost always starts the course with a moderate or easy hole to get you started.

13

SCRAMBLE TOURNAMENT

Jay Morelli, Director of the Original Golf School, Mount Snow, Vermont


The scramble is a team of two to four players. Everyone tees off and then the best of the tee shots is chosen. All players then play their second shots from that spot. This continues until a ball is holed. Each hole is played that way and eventually you post a score. This format is often called a best ball tournament. There is a tournament called a “best ball,” but that follows a different format. The scramble format is good for when the field has a mix of experienced and new golfers.

14

BEST BALL TOURNAMENT

Jay Morelli, Director of the Original Golf School, Mount Snow, Vermont


A best ball team is made up of two to four players. Each player plays out the hole. The best single score of the players is recorded. If one player scores a three and the other players make eights, the three is the team score. The collective score of the eighteen holes is the team score. This is a good format when all players are experienced.

15

PRO-AM

Jay Morelli, Director of the Original Golf School, Mount Snow, Vermont


A Pro-Am is a tournament with both professional and amateur golfers comprising each team. The standard format is one professional and three amateurs, but it can be any combination. In most of the Pro-Ams, the amateur will receive a handicap. There are countless ways to keep score, but, suffice to say, it’s a great way for the amateurs to play with the pros. The best-known Pro-Am is the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, which is a professional golf tournament on the PGA Tour held every year on three different courses. The event was originally known as the Bing Crosby National Pro-Amateur, or just the Crosby Clambake.

16

THE NINETEENTH HOLE

Bruce Curtis, photographer and former bartender, the Pepsi Café, Saigon, Vietnam, 1968


The nineteenth hole is as much a part of golf as the previous eighteen. It is the place where you settle up the Nassau (a match-play wager), or order the twenty-five-year-old scotch whiskey because that lucky so-and-so got a hole in one on the final hole, and now he has to buy the round.

 


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