Sunday, 23 November 2008

Common Misunderstandings about the Rules of Golf

Since I started taking an interest in the Rules of Golf I have come across all sorts of myths and misunderstandings about them. Here are my answers to some of the more common ones, which I hope will assist readers to sort out the fact from the fiction.

“You are not allowed to enter the clubhouse during a round”. Wrong - you may leave the course at any time providing you do not unduly delay your own play, that of your opponent, or any other competitor. Decision 6-8a/2.7.

“You cannot hold the flagstick with one hand and tap your ball into the hole with the other”. Wrong – you may hold the flagstick while you are putting. But make sure that you remove the flagstick so that your ball does not strike it, and do not lean on it for assistance. Decision 17-1/ 5.

“You can only have the flagstick attended if your ball lies on the putting green”. Wrong - you may have the flagstick attended when playing from anywhere on the course. Rule 17-1.

“You cannot ask a fellow competitor how far your ball is from the hole, as this is asking for advice”. Wrong – information regarding the distance between two objects is public information and not advice. Definition of Advice.

“You cannot hold an umbrella over your head while making a putt.” Wrong – but you may not get anyone else to hold an umbrella over you while you make a stroke, as this would breach Rule 14-2.

“If you accidentally hit your ball while making a practice swing the stroke counts and you play the ball from wherever it comes to rest”. Wrong – because you did not intend to move your ball with the practice swing no stroke has been made. There is no penalty for accidentally moving your ball with a practice swing before playing a stroke from a teeing ground, because the ball is not in play, but anywhere else on the course there is a penalty of one stroke. In all cases the ball must be replaced to where it was before you accidentally moved it. Rule 18-2a.

“If the wind, or gravity, moves your ball before you have addressed it you may replace it without penalty”. Wrong – there is no penalty, but the ball must be played from where it comes to rest, because wind and water are not outside agencies. The way that I remember this is that if I cause the ball to move it has to be replaced and I incur a penalty stroke, but if God moves it then I play it from where it comes to rest and there is no penalty. Decision 18-1/12.

“You can take relief from ruts made by tractors, animal footprints and cracks in the ground”. Wrong – none of these are abnormal ground conditions under the Rules and there is no relief. Rule 25-1.

“You may rotate your ball on the putting green without marking its position as long as you do not move it off its spot”. Wrong – if you purposely touch your ball in play, except with a club in the act of addressing it, there is a one stroke penalty. Rule 18-2.

“If you stand astride your line of putt you are penalised”. Wrong – there is no penalty if this type of stance is inadvertently taken, or is taken to avoid standing on another player's line of putt. The purpose of the Rule is to prevent the ‘croquet’ style of putting and in these two cases the player is not taking their stance for this purpose. Rule 16-1.

“There is always a penalty if a player takes a practice swing near his ball and knocks down leaves in the area of his intended swing”. Wrong – it depends on whether the area of the intended swing is definitely improved. In some cases, the knocking down of a number of leaves would not improve the area of the intended swing, as the player still has to swing through a number of remaining leaves when making his stroke. In such circumstances, there would be no breach of the Rule. In other cases, the knocking down of a single leaf might improve the area of the intended swing, incurring a penalty of two strokes. Unfortunately, it is always going to be a subjective call by the players involved. Decision 13-2/22.

Barry Rhodes
(Abridged from ’99 Golden Nuggets to Demystifying the Rules of Golf’, © Barry Rhodes and Andy Brown,

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