Sunday, 4 October 2009

Golf Rules - 9 Tips on What You Cannot Do

Well, as I guessed, my previous blog providing 9 tips on what the Rules permit you to do on the golf course threw up a few surprises for some readers. Now for the other side, 9 tips on what the Rules disallow.

Under the Rules of Golf you may not;

  1. Declare that your ball is lost - Definition of Lost Ball.
  2. Touch your ball to identify it anywhere on the course, without announcing your intention to do so and marking its position first - Rule 12-2.
  3. Borrow a club selected for play by any other person playing on the course - Rule 4-4a.
  4. Rake any part of a bunker on your line of play before making a stroke at your ball lying in the same bunker. Rule 13-2. (N.B. This 'cannot' was edited in February 2012 to reflect the amendments to Rules effective January 2012).
  5. Discontinue play because of gale force winds or driving rain - Rule 6-8.
  6. Practice on the competition course before a round on the day of a stroke-play competition - Rule 7-1b.
  7. Touch leaves, or other loose impediments, lying in a bunker during the backswing of your stroke - Decision 13-4/33.
  8. Ask anyone, other than your playing partner, as to whether you need an extra club because of the wind - Rule 8-1.
  9. Decline, or withdraw, a concession in match play - Rule 2-4.
One last point, earlier this week I was able to resolve a clubhouse dispute as to whether a player may remove a white boundary post that interferes with his area of intended swing. I can confirm that this is not permitted by the Rules, as confirmed by Decision 13-2/17;

Q. A player removes a stake defining out of bounds which interferes with his swing. Is this permissible?
A. No. Objects defining out of bounds are fixed. Improving the position of a ball by moving anything fixed is a breach of Rule 13-2.
As always, good golfing,

Barry Rhodes

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Anonymous said...

About #4 - UNLESS another ball is in the same bunker and in a position where the first swing will change the area around where your ball is sitting - then you are allowed to recreate the lie you had before the other shot was played. Correct ?

Big help on loose impediments in a hazard. Thanks !

Barry Rhodes said...


Yes, a player is entitled to the lie they had when their ball came to rest. So, in a bunker, if a player's lie, or area of intended stance, is subsequently altered by another player's stroke then they may recreate the lie they had (which could of course mean replacing the ball in a rake rut or footstep!).


Anonymous said...

ugh - footprints in a bunker - now THERE'S a sore topic of discussion. Can we get a rule passed that golfers have to pass a basic bunker raking and pitch mark repairing course before they can tee off ? :-)

Anonymous said...

Barry - during the Johnson/Perry v Villegas/Cabrera match today, one of Johnson's tee shots hit Villegas' caddy. (the caddies had gone on ahead down the fairway while the players hit).

Johnson was allowed to return to the tee box and rehit with no penalty.

I knew there was a rule about hitting your own equipment or caddy that carries a penalty, but I didn't know you could rehit if your ball hits someone else's equipment or caddy.

Can you fill us in ?

Barry Rhodes said...


In match play, if a player's ball is accidentally deflected or stopped by an opponent, his caddie or his equipment, there is no penalty. The player may cancel the stroke and play a ball, without penalty, as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played, or he may choose to play the ball as it lies, Rule 19-3.

Presumably, Johnson thought that he could do better with another tee shot so he chose to take the shot again.

However, if your ball strikes a fellow competitor or his caddie in stroke play there is still no penalty but you have to play the ball as it lies.


Anonymous said...

Ah - just applies in match play. Thanks Barry.

(at least the discussion during the match gave Johnson time to eat his sandwich) :-)

Vince Spence said...

Hi Barry...

Two quick ones. First, 7-2 clearly allows players to practice putt on the putting green just completed both in match and stroke play. The PGA has modified that rule for tour events to forbid practice putting during stroke play (still okay in medal). Is this considered a local rule for each tournament like the R&A has for the embedded ball rule? Or is it a condition of competition, or are they both the same..??

Barry Rhodes said...


There are a few points here. The first is that the Rules of Golf are uniform to the USGA and R&A. There are no differences. The second is that Clubs/courses may make Local Rules to deal with local abnormal conditions, providing they are consistent with the policy set forth in Appendix I of the Rules book. Relief for a ball embedded in a closely mown area is allowed by the Rules (Rule 25-2), extending this relief to areas through the green requires a Local Rule. Thirdly the Committee running the competition or tournament (e.g. the PGA) may make Rules of Competition. There are several Rules of Competition for tour events, including, not being able to practice between holes, relief from temporary immovable obstructions (TIOs) and the one ball Rule. As far as I know, on the PGA Tour, not allowing practice between holes applies to all their stroke play events, but I could be wrong.


mark said...

I don't strictly agree with you when you say under 4.4a that you can't rake the bunker before making a stroke... If your ball was already in the bunker and you made a stroke at it and it was still in the same bunker, you are entitled to smooth (rake) the sand once you don't improve your lie for the next stroke... this would particularly apply for some courses with huge fairway bunkers where it wouldn't be practical to go forward 150 yards, play your stroke and then go back and rake the initial mess!

Exception 2 to Rule 13-4 states:
2. After making the stroke, if the ball is still in the hazard or has been lifted from the hazard and may be dropped or placed in the hazard, the player may smooth sand or soil in the hazard, provided nothing is done to breach Rule 13-2 with respect to his next stroke. If the ball is outside the hazard after the stroke, the player may smooth sand or soil in the hazard without restriction.



Barry Rhodes said...


You make a valid point! I have now edited #4 to include Exception 2 to Rule 34.



WWGA said...

I'm confused over you saying that you cannot declare your ball lost. If it is reasonable to assume that it is not in a hazard or out of bounds, I was under the assumption that you could declare it lost WITHOUT looking for it?? And I actually thought Phil M. did this once in a tournament??

So I play ball A and it's so far in some junk that I know unplayable lie relief would get me no-where. So without looking for ball A, i declare that I'm hitting a provisional for my lost ball. I like my position of ball B and declare on the tee that ball A is lost. Are you saying I breached a rule, and if so -- could you point me to something more than the definition of Lost Ball? Because I looked there, and didn't come to the same conclusion.

Barry Rhodes said...


First, let me say that this is a common area of confusion amongst golfers. But please believe me that nothing a player says will render their ball lost. Let me give you an example, which will clarify this statement. On a Par-3, Player A hits her tee shot into a large bush surrounded by trees and she then plays a provisional ball to about two feet from the flagstick. She says, “I’m declaring my original ball lost and will play on with my provisional ball”. However, a keen-eyed spectator was watching the flight of the first ball and finds it within seconds of searching for it. Under the Rules the original ball is still in play and Player A has to abandon her provisional ball lying on the putting green. She must now play the original ball as it lies, or declare it unplayable, under penalty of one stroke, and choose one of the three relief options available under Rule 28, one of which is playing again from the teeing ground, her third stroke. She must not play the provisional ball as her original ball was found without even starting the 5 minutes allowed for search and before she had played the provisional ball from a place nearer the hole than where her original ball was found.

You were right to look at the definition of Lost Ball because this lists the only circumstances that a ball can be lost;

A ball is deemed "lost" if:
a. It is not found or identified as his by the player within five minutes after the player's side or his or their caddies have begun to search for it; or
b. The player has made a stroke at a provisional ball from the place where the original ball is likely to be or from a point nearer the hole than that place (see Rule 27-2b); or
c. The player has put another ball into play under penalty of stroke and distance (see Rule 27-1a); or
d. The player has put another ball into play because it is known or virtually certain that the ball, which has not been found, has been moved by an outside agency (see Rule 18-1), is in an obstruction (see Rule 24-3), is in an abnormal ground condition (see Rule 25-1c) or is in a water hazard (see Rule 26-1); or
e. The player has made a stroke at a substituted ball.
Time spent in playing a wrong ball is not counted in the five-minute period allowed for search.

Note that in none of these five circumstances does it say that the player can declare their ball lost. Of course, the correct thing to do if you definitely do not want to search for your original ball is to put another ball into play as quickly as possible, without declaring it as a provisional ball. As soon as you have done this, under penalty of stroke and distance, it does not matter if the original ball is found, as it is no longer in play.

I hope that this has clarified the lost ball situation for you.


Barry Rhodes said...


In my previous comment I should have provided the Rules reference to my explanation, which is Decision 27/16;

"Q. A player searched for his ball for two minutes, declared it lost and started back to play another ball at the spot from which the original ball was played. Before he put another ball into play, his original ball was found within the five-minute period allowed for search. What is the ruling?

A. A player cannot render a ball lost by a declaration — see Definition of "Lost Ball." The original ball remained in play — see Definition of "Ball in Play."


Anonymous said...

Still a bit confused by this one..This happened to me yesterday in a club game.Player played his second shot from fairway and his ball landed in a big bush next to the green(by big i mean 20 feet by 20 feet)he told me he was playing a provisional and dropped a ball and only went and put it 2 feet from pin..When we got up there we found his first ball straight away but he said he elected to play with his provisional as his first was unplayable ?? so what would be the ruling on that?

Barry Rhodes said...


The player was wrong! Rule 27-2b states;
"If the original ball is neither lost nor out of bounds, the player must abandon the provisional ball and continue playing the original ball. If he makes any further strokes at the provisional ball, he is playing a wrong ball and the provisions of Rule 15-3 apply."

The correct procedure once the player deemed his original ball unplayable in the bush was for him to pick up the provisional ball and return to play another stroke at the place from which his previous stroke was made, under penalty of stroke and distance.


Anonymous said...

If a tee shot is knocked down (i.e. short) does it have to be played where it lies, or is there an option to play again off the tee for 3 ?
Is the rule different where the first ball is O/b or lost ?

Barry Rhodes said...

Rule 27-1a states that at any time a player may, under penalty of one stroke, play a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was played, i.e. they may proceed under stroke and distance. So, their ball does not have to be lost, or be out out bounds, for them to proceed under this Rule. It would be a fairly common occurrence, when a player knocks down their tee shot, for them to choose to tee-up again for their third stroke rather than having to play out of deep rough just in front, or to the side of a teeing area, for their second.


Stewart said...

Numero Uno - Declaring a Ball Lost:
Of course you are correct Barry. The Rules of Golf do not provide a capacity for the words "I'm declaring my ball lost" to have any meaning in terms of the Rules of Golf and I wholeheartedly agree that there is considerable misunderstanding of that.

That said, from a certain perspective this is little more than a technical (pedantic if you will) observation that is much beloved by those that write golf rule quizzes. Why would someone want to 'declare a ball lost'? The answer would generally be that they have no good reason to want to find it as it is likely located in a place they do not wish to contemplate playing from. In my humble opinion, anyone can achieve 'declaring a ball lost' anytime, they simply have to use the correct language, as defined by the wonderfully pedantic and obscure Rules of Golf. And the relevant rule is Rule 27-1, a player may anytime {effectively declare a ball lost - my language} play another ball under penalty of stroke and distance.

I note that part of the earlier comments that deal with this issue draw attention to the massive misunderstanding that many of our fellow golfers have about the provisional ball rule. Personally, I find that a bigger issue than the misunderstanding about 'declaring a ball lost'.

From my perspective, your number one 'can't do' - declaring a ball lost, is qualitatively different from the other issues listed. They are more genuine 'can't dos'. The first one is different in that you can do it, effectively, you just have to use the correct Rules of Golf-based language.

Here's my personal favourite 'Can't Do' and I would feel very flattered if you were to added it to your list. A golfer cannot, after whacking a shot, errant or otherwise, say 'I'm going to hit another ball'. Rather, they must be precise in announcing their intention to their opponent or marker, eg, I am playing another ball under penalty of stroke and distance (Rule 27-1) or I am playing a provisional ball.

As always, I would welcome any further thoughts you have on this discussion thread Barry.

Barry Rhodes said...


I understand the point that you are making, but do not wholly agree. Take the example of a player who gets to where they think their ball is lost and finds that it is likely to be in deep undergrowth. They decide that they would rather not find their ball, 'declare it lost' and start walking back to where they last played from to put another ball in play. Many players do not realise that if a fellow competitor then finds their original ball (within 5 minutes) in this situation they have to continue play with it. If they did, they might take the precaution of asking their fellow competitors to stop looking for their original ball, as a courtesy.

You said, "In my humble opinion, anyone can achieve 'declaring a ball lost' anytime, they simply have to use the correct language, as defined by the wonderfully pedantic and obscure Rules of Golf. And the relevant rule is Rule 27-1, a player may anytime {effectively declare a ball lost - my language} play another ball under penalty of stroke and distance." But it is not a question of "using the correct language", as the original ball is not lost until the player has returned to where they last played from and dropped another ball (or actually played another ball if it was at the teeing ground).

As someone who has studied the Rules for over 10 years, I am increasingly certain that many Rules that are considered 'pedantic' by some, have evolved in that way to cover every possible eventuality that can occur on the golf course, remembering that this wonderful game is played in a wide variety of climactic and topographical conditions, by 60 million players of mixed ability, all playing to the one, totally unified set of Rules.


Stewart said...


Yes, I agree with your qualification to my comment - it is not merely use of 'correct' language but the action of playing another ball that delivers the outcome 'ball lost' for the ball hit previously.


Tmacl said...

It would appear that you can get around looking for a ball by going to your provisional and playing a further stroke with the provisional ball if it is believed to be nearer the hole than the original before anyone can find it. It becomes the ball in play.

However in match play if you are next to the pin with your provisional and you play the ball into the hole out of turn and your opponent then finds your original within the 5 minutes search time and then asks you to replay your shot as they are further from the hole does that stroke at the ball count as far as making the provisional the ball in play. In counting strokes terms a stroke has not been added to the score from the provisional ball and your opponent may well prefer you to play the found ball which he may consider to be the ball in play.

Barry Rhodes said...


Yes, a player does not have to search for their ball and in stroke play, it would be discourteous for a fellow competitor to search for a ball if they had been asked not to.

Decision 27-2b/1 rules on the match play circumstance that you describe. The provisional ball was the ball in play as soon as it was played from nearer the hole than where the original ball was likely to be. Whilst the opponent may recall the putt made out of turn, the provisional ball is still the ball in play even though the original ball was found. The putt with the provisional ball that was recalled does not count.