Questions and Answers about Golf Rules and Etiquette for Everyone



Below are the Questions and Answers about the Rules and Etiquette that people have posed during a round of golf. I hope they help you enjoy this marvelous game we call GOLF.

We golfers like to think of ourselves as honorable, ergo lies the spirit of the game. The USGA and the PGA Tour both embrace this idea and sponsor golf etiquette rules. Hence if you golf it is a great idea to learn golf rules and etiquette rules.

When you venture out to the local golf course, there are a few things you might want to know that will make your experience a great one.

  • Tee Times are when you should be on the tee box ready to take your first stroke. Phone ahead to reserve your tee time and get to the golf course a good half hour early, it is recommended that you reserve your tee time to insure that you are getting the time you want, it all depends on which day and what time you choose. Do not be late for your tee time, the course reserves the right to allow those golfers who have arrived and are ready for their tee times to start at the time they booked.
  • Late arrivals will have to wait until there is another opening, on busy days such as holidays and week-ends the wait may not be worth your while. Getting to the course early is an advantage for you. You can spend the time wisely by hitting balls on the driving range and putting on the practice putting green.
  • Make sure you know the Dress Code at golf courses. Many courses (clubs) do have dress codes, so you should inquire at the time you make your tee time, and dress appropriately. A pair of dress shorts or slacks and a collared golf shirt will almost always meet the requirements, but it is a good idea to check ahead of time, usually there should be no denim and cut offs and tank tops. Women should not have golf shorts or skorts shorter than finger tip length. Golf shoes with soft spikes are the normal requirement.
  • Don't forget about tipping.. Whether you are playing at a public or a private course, you will want to tip the cart jockeys who carry your equipment for you to your vehicle or to your cart, you should also tip the beverage cart driver who brings you that cold beer or ice water, the tip amount should be up to your discretion, usually $2.00/bag.
  • You will want to be sure you have enough golf balls and tees and a score card. The course may have local rules and are usually posted in and outside of the clubhouse and on the score card and involve situations that are unique to that particular golf course.
  • The main rule is to have some fun.


The responsibility for playing the proper ball rests with the player. Each player should put an identification mark on their ball. If you play a wrong ball, there is a two-stroke penalty in stroke play and loss of hole penalty in match play. In stroke play only, you must correct the mistake prior to playing from the next teeing ground, otherwise, you are disqualified.

Too often we see players nudging or rolling their balls in the fairway to determine if it's their ball in play. That is a one-stroke penalty and the ball must be replaced. If the ball is not replaced, the penalty becomes two strokes.

If a player has reason to believe a ball at rest is their ball, and it is necessary to lift the ball in order to identify it, the ball may be lifted, without penalty. BEFORE LIFTING THE BALL, the player MUST ANNOUNCE HIS INTENTION to his opponent in match play or his fellow competitor in stroke play and MARK THE POSITION OF THE BALL. The player may then lift the ball and identify it, provided that he gives his opponent or fellow competitor an opportunity to observe the lifting and replacement. The ball must not be cleaned beyond the extent necessary for identification when lifted under this rule.

If the ball is the player's ball and he fails to comply with all or any part of this procedure, or he lift's the ball to identify it when it is not necessary to do so, the player incurs a penalty of ONE STROKE. If the lifted ball IS THE PLAYERS BALL, it must be replaced. If the player fails to replace the ball he incurs a penalty of TWO STROKES for a breach of Rule 12.

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Question:

Pam’s ball landed on top of wood chips around the base of a tree, she wasn’t sure how to play it. The day before it was buried in the same spot. She took relief and added a one stroke penalty to her score the day before, claiming it unplayable. She was wondering what her alternatives were.

Answer:

She couldn’t take free relief, so her score the day before was correct (Decision 33-2a/10.5). However the ships are considered loose impediments, so she can move one or several of them, very carefully. If the ball were touched or moved in any way, she would have incurred a one-stroke penalty and the ball had to be replaced (Rule 18-2a).

Question:

John walked into the pro shop the other day asking Andy about his playing from the red tees. His and his wife’s indexes are in the mid-30’s, John likes to play from the forward tees with her. He was wondering whether he could use the rating/slope listed on the scorecard for those tees when he posted his score. He had seen different gender ratings from all the other tees, but never from the forward tees.

Answer:

When USGA Course and Slope Ratings re not available for your gender, follow these steps: 1. Determine the yardage difference between the set of tees you are playing and the first set of tees rated for men. 2. Consult the “Men’s Ratings Adjustments from Unrated Tees” chart in the USGA Handicap System Manual (available at www.usga.org) to determine how much you shuld add to or subtract from the forward tee slope/rating on the scorecard. Section 5-2g of the Handicap System Manual will give the complete information here.

Question:

During a four-ball match at last fall’s match a player conceded her competitor's putt on the 5th green. The competitor continued to line up her putt, presumably to show her partner the line. The player urged the competitor to pick up her ball, but reluctantly finally picked up. Could the competitor have ignored the concession and putted out had she wanted to.

Answer:

The player knew her Rules, and she was right in this instance. In general, a player is entitled to putt out or continue play, even after a stroke or the hole has been conceded (Decision 2-4/6). In a four-ball match, however, it is different. If the act of putting out would have assisted the competitor’s partner, and she had putted after the concession, her partner would have been DQ’d for the hole (Rule 1-4, Equity).

Question:

Cindy was on the green, getting ready to putt. She replaced her ball and removed her marker, then she turned away briefly. After she made her putt, Donna said her ball had rotated prior to her addressing it. Did Cindy incur a penalty?

Answer:

In the case described, since she hadn’t addressed the ball before it moved, no penalty is incurred and she must play the ball from its new location (Rule 18-2b and Decision 20-3d/1). It sounds as if Cindy proceeded correctly by playing the ball as it lay and not attempting to replace it.

Question:

After playing her ball onto the putting green, Doris marks and lifts her ball. She tossed to her caddie, who then cleaned it and placed the ball on the spot from which it was lifted leaves the mark in place. Doris surveys the putt, removes the mark and putts. Jane asked, isn’t there a ruling?

Answer:

Doris incurs a loss of hole penalty in match play or two strokes in stroke play under Rule 20-3a. Only the player, a partner or the person who lifted the ball may replace it.




Question:

A friend found her tee shot buried in knee-high grass, in bounds, it took her three strokes to get out. Could she have moved the ball out of the grass and taken a penalty?

Answer:

You betcha. Unless her ball has come to rest in a water hazard or a lateral water hazard, she is entitled to deem it unplayable (Rule 28). Under penalty of one stroke she could have: 1.) play a ball as closely as possible to where the original ball was last played, the old stroke and distance option; 2.) drop a ball behind the point where the ball lay unplayable, keeping that point directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped; or 3.) drop a ball within two club-lengths of the spot where the ball came to rest, but not nearer the hole. In this case, taking the penalty and swallowing some pride would definitely have saved her a stroke or two.

Question:

When taking a practice swing near a tree, is there a penalty for touching the leaves or the trunk?

Answer:

There is no penalty for touching the tree per se, but if you knock down leaves or pieces of bark and this improves the area of your intended swing (as in, if you whack a path for your club through the tree limbs), you incur a penalty of loss of hole in match play or two strokes in stroke play, Rule 13-2 and Decision 13-2/22.

Question:

During a tournament, a fellow-competitor told someone she wasn't entitled to relief without penalty from an area of casual water in a bunker. She took an unplayable and proceeded under the stroke and distance option, with a penalty. After the round, she learned she could indeed have taken free relief. What is the ruling for giving and receiving the wrong advice?

Answer:

The fellow-competitor incurs no penalty for giving her incorrect information on the rules, unless she can prove that she did it on purpose. The committee would be justified in disqualifying her under Rule 33-7 (Disqualification Penalty, Committee Discretion). In regards to her score, it is up to each player to know the rules. She chose to deem her ball unplayable, so she correctly incurred a one stroke penalty under Rule 28.

Question:

Can you reach across the cup, on a short putt, and tap it in from the opposite side? Do you incur a penalty stroke?

Answer:

No, you do not. It is okay to reach over the hole and tap in the ball. The line of putt ends at the hole, so if you are standing on the opposite side of the hole from the ball, you are not standing on or straddling your line of putt, which would be a breach of Rule 16-1e and would then cause you to incur a two stroke penalty in stroke play and the loss of the hole in match play.

Question:

Two players are on opposite sides of an elevated putting green and happen to hit their pitch shots at the same time. The balls collide, and one ball goes into the hole, while the other is deflected into a bunker. What happens?

Answer:

Each ball must be played from where it came to rest after the deflection, Rule 19-5b. The ball that came to rest in the hole is holed and the other ball must be played from the bunker, no penalty to either player.




Question:

I hit a low approach shot to the green just as the maintenance guy came around the corner. My ball hit the mower and bounced into the woods. How should I have proceeded?

Answer:

According to Rule 19-1 (Ball in Motion Deflected or Stopped), the ball should have been played from where it came to rest in the woods. If you can't find the ball, you must proceed under the stroke and distance penalty (Rule 27-1, Ball Lost or Out of Bounds) by accepting a penalty of one stroke and hitting your nest shot from the same spot you hit your previous one. THAT OLD RUB OF THE GREEN

Question:

I hit my tee shot on a par 3 into the water, and instead of using the drop area, I re-teed and hit my third shot from the tee. My opponent told me I should be penalized for teeing the ball up again. Was he right?

Answer:

Not even close. Ball drop areas are provided as another option to those available under Rule 26-1 (Relief for Ball in Water Hazard), but you can also accept the stroke and distance penalty. This means you are allowed to go back to the spot from which you hit your last shot-in this case the tee-tee up the ball and hit your next shot, adding a one-stroke penalty (Rule 20-5, Making Nest Stroke from Where Previous Stroke Made). This is exactly why we must know the rules ourselves, there are plenty of people out there who will take advantage of you if you don't know the rules. Carry a Rules of Golf with you and look up the rule for yourself so they cannot take advantage of you.

Question:

If you have a very long putt, can you ship the ball while on the putting green?

Answer:

Yes, you can. The Rules of Golf do not restrict a player's club selection. You can use any club for any shot during your round; don't forget to fix the divot, if necessary.

Question:

My ball came to rest inside the yellow stakes of a water hazard on the bank of a creek and was surrounded by, but not resting against, a group of rocks. Could I have removed the rocks without penalty before I hit my shot?

Answer:

When your ball is in a hazard, water a lateral or a bunker, you are not allowed to move or remove any loose impediments, including rocks (Rule 13-4, Ball in Hazard). If you do, you incur a two-stroke penalty in stroke play or a loss of hole in match play. You can play the shot from the rocky area or accept a one-stroke penalty and either drop behind the hazard or go back to where your last stroke was made (Rule 26-1).

Question:

If the clubhead flies off your driver during a practice swing on the front nine, can you replace the club at the turn?

Answer:

Yes you can, as long as the club was damaged through the normal course of play, and as long as you don't borrow a club from someone else who is playing the same course or delay play when replacing the club (Rule 4-3a, Damaged Clubs).




Question:

Your shot landed in a deep, brush-filled gully. You could identify your ball because you marked it properly, but because the area is crawling with both snakes and poison ivy, you didn't want to climb down there and get it. Could you have declared that ball unplayable and drop a new one on the edge of the gully?

Answer:

If snakes had been clearly visible, you could have taken free relief from a dangerous situation (how about an alligator?), see Decision I-4/10, (poison ivy doesn't qualify as "a dangerous situation"). If you didn't actually see any snakes, and provided the gully was not a water hazard (alligators on the banks), you could have declared the ball unplayable, incurred a one stroke penalty and had three options for how to drop the ball (Rule 28): You could have opted for the stroke and distance procedure: dropped within two club lengths (within) of where the ball lay unplayable; or dropped behind the point where the ball lay unplayable, keeping that point directly between the hole and where the ball was dropped.

If you were unable to identify your ball, you would have had to declare it lost and proceed for the stroke and distance procedure. (thank you Jason)

Question:

A fellow-competitor's ball lands right behind yours in the bunker. You mark your ball and pick it up so that they can hit their ball first. How are you supposed to hold your ball? If you accidentally brush the ball against your shorts and some sand comes off, it there a penalty?

Answer:

In this situation described, the Rules do not specify how the ball must be held when lifted. The only requirement is that the ball may not be cleaned. If you carefully lift your ball, you don't incur a penalty even if a couple of grains of sand happen to fall off. However, if you brush the ball against your shorts and sand is removed, you are subject to a one-stroke penalty under Rule 21.

Question:

If everybody is your group is on the green and a player notices a spike mark on another player's putting line, can they repair it before anyone has begun to putt, or do they have to wait until after they are done?

Answer:

In stroke play, if a fellow-competitor purposely improves the competitor's line of putt by repairing spike damage, the fellow-competitor is penalized under Rule 1-2 (two-strokes penalty). If the competitor sanctions (consents to) the repair, they also incur the penalty of two-strokes. Spike marks may only be repaired once all players in the group have completed the hole-see Section 1 (Etiquette) in the Rules of Golf.

Question:

Is it true that when you're under a tree or other shrubbery, if so much as leaf falls as a result of your practice swing, you receive a one-stroke penalty?

Answer:

Well, not exactly. Under Decision 13-2/22, you will incur a two-stroke penalty for improving your area of intended swing when taking a practice swing, but each circumstance is different. In some cases, knocking down a number of leaves wouldn't improve your line of intended swing, so no penalty would be incurred. In other cases, removing just one large leaf might actually improve the area of intended swing, resulting in a breach of Rule 13-2. In the absence of a Committee or Rules official (during normal play and not major tournament play), this is decided you and your fellow-competitors.

Question:

You mis-hit a shot and the ball comes to rest in the light rough surrounding the putting green. Your fellow-competitor is in the bunker on the far side of the green. Without saying anything, you mark your ball, lift it and determine that it is indeed cut. You then substitute another ball, chip onto the green and then inform your fellow-competitor of your actions. What penalty, it any, do you incur?

Answer:

A one-stroke penalty in either stroke play or match play.




Question:

How many types of Hazards are on a Golf Course?

Answer:

There are two types of hazards on the course - bunkers and water hazards. When a player's ball lies in a hazard, whether a bunker or water hazard, the player is prohibited from taking certain actions before making a stroke at the ball.

  1. Testing the condition of the hazard - for example, the player may not rake a bunker before making their first stroke from that position.
  2. The player must not touch the surface of the hazard with their hand or club.
  3. The player must not touch or move a loose impediment lying in or touching the hazard.

However, there are a few exceptions to this rule. Provided the player doesn't test the condition of the hazard or improve the lie of the ball, there is NO PENALTY if they touch the surface of a hazard;

  1. To prevent from falling.
  2. When removing a movable obstruction.
  3. When measuring, such as when measuring 2 club-lenghts to proceed under the unplayable ball Rule.
  4. When touching a ball under an applicable Rule, such as lifting a ball in a bunker that interferes with another player's play.






Question:

My sister and I played in a four-ball member-guest tournament. On the last hole, my approach shot hit her bag, which she had placed near the green. I picked up, but she finished the hole and won us the match. Later, the club pro informed us that since we were partners and my ball had hit her bag, we had lost the hole. Is this correct?

Answer:

No, when your ball struck the bag, you incurred a "loss of hole" penalty (see Rule 19-2a) and were disqualified for the hole. But in a four-ball match, your disqualification doesn't automatically disqualify your partner as well (see Rule 30-3f).

Question:

We were all walking to our balls on the green when an opponent made her stroke. My partner stopped to tend the flag, while the opponent's ball rolled long and ht my partner's ball. What are the penalties, if any?

Answer:

In match play, your partner was disqualified for the hole because she stopped to tend the flagstick while the opponent's ball was already in motion (Rule 17-2). The opponent incurred no penalty when her ball struck your partner's ball (the ball was already disqualified); she should have played from where her ball came to rest after the deflection (Rule 19-5a). In stroke play, your partner incurred a penalty of two strokes for tending the flag while the ball was already in motion, and the fellow-competitor incurred a penalty of two strokes when her ball struck your partner's ball.

Question:

On a par 3, I hit the tee shot into the water hazard. I elected to hit another ball from the tee (the stroke and distance option). Was I allowed to use a tee peg or should I have dropped the ball on the grass?

Answer:

When a player elects to play the next stroke from where the previous stroke was made and previous stroke was made from the teeing ground, the ball may be teed up again, as long as you stay within the teeing ground (Rule 20-5)

Question:

Are we allowed to reconfigure the weight screws of a TaylorMade r7 driver during a course of a round?

Answer:

It is perfectly okay to rearrange the weights before or between rounds, but the rules prohibit players from purposely changing the playing characteristics of a club during a stipulated round (Rule 4-2a).

Question:

Am I eligible for relief if an old hole plug on the green is on my putting line? (The plug was not leveled off and had created a big bump in the green.)

Answer:

Rule 16-1c gives a player permission to raise or lower an old hole plug to make it level with the putting green surface. If this is impossible, the player can discontinue play and ask the Committee to raise or lower the plug. If the Committee can't level the plug without undue delay of play, the Committee should declare the plug to be ground under repair, in which case the player would be entitled to relief under Rule 25-1b(iii)-lift and replace the ball without penalty at the nearest point of relief. (See also Decision 16-1c/3.)








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