Clarifying Ten Quick Golf Rules

Over the past few months I have answered far more questions than can be posted on the blog. Usually I pick the longer answers to post, but today I thought wouldn’t it be fun to add 10 short answers to one post.

I hope you enjoy reading these rules of golf questions and answers.


“My ball lands in grass cuttings that have been left in the rough ( may be even a pile of leaves left by the green keeper )

Can I play from where it is or do I get relief?”


“I will do my best to give you a complete answer to your question but there is not sufficient information to be absolutely definite. Whether you can obtain free relief or not depends on whether the grass/leaves are “material piled for removal by a greenkeeper”. If they are, then the player can obtain free relief in the same way as from ground under repair or casual water (see Definition of Ground Under Repair and Rule 25-1b). If however, it is obvious that the grass/leaves are not going to be removed by a greenkeeper, then the player can remove as much of the material as he can surrounding the ball, providing he does not move his ball, as they are loose impediments. Obviously, he will not be able to remove any grass/leaves that lie under the ball. If he does cause his ball to move while clearing the loose impediments, he is penalised one stroke and must replace his ball in the same place, with the same lie (i.e. on the grass/leaves).”


“Within the rules of golf it is allowed for a player to ask his opponent what club he used after both players have played their shots.

Is there a requirement for the opponent to answer?

Is there any penalty if he refuses?”


“You are right in saying that a player may ask another player what club they have just played, providing they have both played their shots and the information will not influence the player in determining the choice of club for his/her next stroke. There is nothing in the Rules requiring a player to answer such a question and therefore there is no penalty for refusing to answer. Personally, I would rather not exchange this information as I tend to take more club than most players and would rather keep that fact to myself.”


“My young mate was awaiting his turn to putt while his parteners played their shots when he accidently dropped his putter on the green the handle striking his ball causing it to move a couple of inches.

What is the penalty, if any?”


“He incurs a penalty of one stroke under Rule 18-2a(ii) “equipment of the player or his partner causes the ball to move”. An important point is that he must replace the ball where it was at rest when his putter moved it, or he would be penalised a total of two strokes for causing his ball to move and then playing from the wrong place.”


“Can you help me with the following rule. I play golf in Spain most of the winter months. The following rule applies in Spain. I was playing in Portugal last week and had this problem. My ball finished close to a buggy path. I was standing on the path to play the shot. The local rule states one club length of the nearest point of relief not nearer the hole. I used my 3 wood to measure, the club I used to play the shot. The measurement took me out of the rough on to the fairway. My Irish competitor would not accept this rule and stated I had to drop the ball in the rough.

Please let me know the ruling.”


“You were correct and your Irish friend was wrong. In dropping away from the path, an immovable obstruction, you were taking relief under Rule 24-2b(i), which says “If the ball lies through the green, the player must lift the ball and drop it, without penalty, within one club-length of and not nearer the hole than the nearest point of relief. The nearest point of relief must not be in a hazard or on a putting green. When the ball is dropped within one club-length of the nearest point of relief, the ball must first strike a part of the course at a spot that avoids interference by the immovable obstruction and is not in a hazard and not on a putting green.

In your case the nearest point of relief was favourable to your next stroke, however, in many cases, the nearest point of relief may put you in a worse position (e.g. in longer grass, or behind a bush). The thing to remember is that the drop must be within one club length of the ‘nearest’ point of relief and not the ‘nicest’ point of relief.”


“I play in Arizona and we have some dry creek or what are called washes. These areas are yellow staked and spray painted. Some of these hazards have never seen the hint of water. My question is since you are allowed to hit from a water hazard, can you hit from a dry creek or wash that is yellow staked without penalty?”


“Yes, the fact that these areas are defined by yellow stakes and lines means that they are to be treated as water hazards under the Rules. The player may therefore play the ball as it lies within the hazard but must not test the condition of the hazard, touch the ground in the hazard with his hand or a club, or touch or move a loose impediment lying in or touching the hazard (Rule 13-4 Ball in Hazard – Prohibited Actions).”


“What are the obtions when a ball is unplayable in a bunker?”


“When a player deems his unplayable in a bunker the options are exactly the same as for a ball unplayable anywhere else on the course (except that this relief under penalty of one stroke is not available when the ball is in a water hazard);

a. Play a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played (see Rule 20-5); or

b. Drop a ball behind the point where the ball lay, keeping that point directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind that point the ball may be dropped; or

c. Drop a ball within two club-lengths of the spot where the ball lay, but not nearer the hole.

However, if the player proceeds under Clause b or c, the ball must be dropped in the bunker.”


“Here’s one that happened while playing recently. We were all on the green and marking our balls while the man furthest from the hole was lining up his putt. A ball marker was in his line so he asked that it be moved over. The second player, using his putter blade as a guide moved the marker one blade length to the left. When it became his turn to putt, the second player, instead of replacing his ball one blade length to the right, placed it one further blade length to the left in error and putted from there.

What is the penalty for this?”


“Decision 20-7c/1 provides the answer to your question;

Q. In stroke play, a competitor in replacing his ball on the putting green inadvertently put the ball in a wrong place nearby and holed out. The error was then discovered and the competitor put his ball in the right place and holed out. What is the ruling?

A. The score with the ball played from the wrong place counts and the competitor must add two penalty strokes to that score (Rule 16-1b or 20-3a and Rule 20-7c).

The competitor incurs no penalty for having putted from the right place after holing out from a wrong place.”


“A friend of mine lost the match play tournament because his opponent called a penalty for unintentionally tossing his club into a sand trap. Is this an infraction? In my opinion, this would fall under the exceptions clause for rule 13-4?”


“In my opinion your friend should clearly not have been penalised. As you point out Exception 1b to Rule 13-4 specifically says that a player may place his clubs in a hazard. The fact that he unintentionally tossed his club into the hazard means that he was definitely not doing so in order to test the condition of the hazard.

Of course, as it was match play, your friend should have made a claim if he did not agree with the penalty called on him. The correct procedure is that he must notify his opponent (i) that he is making a claim, (ii) of the facts of the situation and (iii) that he wants a ruling. The claim must be made before he, or his opponent plays from the next teeing ground or, in the case of the last hole of the match, before all players in the match leave the putting green.”


“Whilst playing a medal round with two other guys we completed the eigth hole and I recorded a 6 for myself. On reaching the tenth tee the guy marking my card informed me he believed I had putted a moving ball and had added a two shot penalty. Having not said anything on the green or next tee I was angry and flabbergasted. I know in match play you have to make the
rules objection before playing the next hole but I wasnt sure about medal play?

Can you help?”


“In stroke play, penalties can be applied to a player’s score any time before the score card being agreed and signed by the player and the marker and returned to the Committee.

Naturally, it would have been more appropriate for your marker to advise you that he thought that you had incurred a penalty as soon as he witnessed it, but it is not mandatory.”


“A player is on a course which has a local rule giving preferred lie of one clublength (not closer to the hole) on the fairway in play. The ball comes to rest on the fairway in play, a few cm From the edge of the fairway. Since one clublength movement is allowed, the player moves his ball, placing it just off the fairway on some nice tufty grass. Has he breached the local rule, and is he liable for a two stroke penalty?”


“Since your question refers to a Local Rule there is no definitive answer from the Rules of Golf as it depends how the Local Rule is worded. However, if the Local Rule follows the recommended wording in the specimen for Preferred Lies and Winter Rules in Appendix 1, Part B, 4c, then the player is entitled to place his ball off the closely mown area, not nearer the hole, within the specified limit (in this case one club length)without incurring a penalty.

The first part of the specimen Rule reads: “A ball lying on a closely mown area through the green may be lifted without penalty and cleaned. Before lifting the ball, the player must mark its position. Having lifted the ball, he must place it on a spot within [specify area, e.g., six inches, one club-length, etc.] of and not nearer the hole than where it originally lay, that is not in a hazard and not on a putting green.

It would be highly unusual for a Committee to restrict the placing of the ball to the closely mown area (i.e. fairway).”

Visit here for more Rules of Golf questions.

Disclaimer: Whilst every attempt has been made to ensure the accuracy and reliability of this information on the Rules of Golf I am human and have been known to be wrong! Neither I, nor anyone connected with, shall be held responsible for any losses caused by reliance upon the accuracy or reliability of such information. Readers should refer to the full text of the rules and decisions as published in the official publications of the R&A and the USGA, The Rules of Golf 2008-2011 and Decisions on the Rules of Golf 2008-2009.

13 Responses to “Clarifying Ten Quick Golf Rules”

  1. Catherine O'Riordan says:

    I marked my ball on putting green, opponent was off the green and asked me to move my marker 2 putter heads in one direction. Is she allowed to ask this when she was off the green?


  2. Norman says:

    I almost got them all, except the Medal round because I don’t understand the term, “medal round”. Pardon my ignorance but what does it mean?

  3. Leif Toombs says:

    Have a question…Ball of an opponent was seen to enter a sand trap, but unable to be found by the player. I saw the area it entered and assumed that it was either a deer track or the entry point of the ball…sticking my putter handle into the sand I dislodged the ball…Ruling? penalty me or player drops from recreated lie? (no ball visible originally)

    Barry’s Reply:

    There is no penalty for moving an opponent’s ball during search (Rule 18-3a). Because the ball was moved, it must be replaced (not dropped).

    The original lie in the bunker should be recreated before the ball is replaced.

  4. David says:

    What is the ruling on a player that T’s up his ball on the inside of the T Box but his feet are on the outside of the T box? He keeps telling us that as long as the ball is T’d up within the boundaries there are no penalties involved.

    We affirm that since he is hitting the ball from outside the marked boundaries and that his left foot is in front of those boundaries and the fact that he is using the T marker as a swing aide he should receive a penalty.

    So, what are the rules that govern this behavior and just how many strokes should he be penalized if any?

    Barry’s Reply:

    The player incurs no penalty. Rule 11-1 states, ‘A player may stand outside the teeing ground to play a ball within it.’ The player is also entitled to use the tee marker as a guide to his swing but the tee marker is fixed and he must not move it in any way.

  5. penny joyce says:

    The competitor incurs no penalty for having putted from the right place after holing out from a wrong place.”

    This statement makes no sense to me. Did you mean the competitor incurs no penalty for having putted from the right place after being penalised for playing from the wrong place. If he holes out from the wrong place surely he still incurs a penalty and has to replay his shot from the right place with the appropriate penalty.

    Barry’s Reply:

    I understand your confusion as the question in the Decision I referred to was slightly different from the original question posed. If you read Decision 20-7c/1 again you will see that the player, having realised that he had holed out from the wrong place, put his ball down again in the right place and holed out for a second time. This was not necessary, as the Rules permit the strokes to count even though they were made from a place that was nearby to where the ball had originally come to rest, but with a penalty of two strokes. The second paragraph of the answer to the Decision points out that having incurred the two strokes penalty there is no further penalty for playing additional strokes on the same hole, the reason being that the ball had been holed out according to the Rules and was therefore not in play.

  6. Gabriele says:

    excellent, many thanks. This is the way you learn and understand the rules. 🙂

  7. Randy says:

    Hi..just to let u know..that i found your web site about a year ago..just after i started to play at age of 51..cause my new love of my life played..and i am hook on playing golf..your tips have help me alot..i even beat her some times..i really wish i would of started playing a long time ago..but with mt.biking/water/snow skiing/working in my garden never had my knees says HELLO..and i can just take it easy on the course…a few buddies used to ask me how come i don’t take up golf..i said to them cause i can still do a lot of other things..but i really wish i would of started playing 30 yrs ago…all most got a hole in one, only 8inches…on a 3 par 153 yd went past the a pic to prove it…thanks..Randy

  8. John Wildy says:

    Hi Andy

    I really enjoyed the rules, and hopefully have learnt a bit more about golf.

    Can you please answer these two questions.

    Question 1
    Recently when we were playing in a stroke competition, Player A hit his drive on a par 4 hole, then hit a second shot. When he got near the green he realised that he had hit the wrong ball on the second shot. He went back to where he thought his original drive had finished but could not find his ball. He then returned to the tee block to hit another ball.

    After this second hit from the tee block, how many strokes had he had????

    Hopefully you can provide an answer as we have several different opinions that different people feel they can justify.

    Question 2
    In handicap match play, strokes are given according to the match play index. If a game is even and has to go to the 19th ( and maybe beyond) are strokes still given?



    Barry’s Reply:

    1. Player A would be lying 5. First stroke off the tee, two penalty strokes for playing a wrong ball (no matter how many strokes he had played with the wrong ball), stroke and distance penalty for losing his original ball, and his 5th being his second stroke from the teeing ground.

    2. Yes, If a match goes to the 19th hole, and beyond, the same handicap stroke table applies as for the 18 holes.

  9. Susan Atkinson says:

    Love the information I get from this site, i too have a question for you

    Q. Marking a ball on the green with the tip of a tee is not testing the surface is it?
    2nd Q Reapoiring the cup from a blown flag which causes a indent is it allowed to repair the cup before putting. Reading the rules I say you can’t is that correct?

    Barry’s Reply:

    1. No, Decision 20-1/16 specifically permits the marking the position of a ball with a tee, although it is not a recommended practice.

    2. You are correct. In most cases a player may not repair damage to a hole (other than that made by a ball) before completing play of that hole. However, Decision 16-1a/6 states that if the proper dimensions of the hole have been changed materially, and there is no Committee member readily available, the player may repair damage to the hole without penalty. In my opinion an indent made by a flagstick would not qualify as material damage and should not be repaired until play of the hole has been completed.

  10. Sheila Fraser says:

    Dear Andy,

    Thank you so much for reiterating the rules of golf, it is so important to get it right.
    I’m a fairly new player and lost my first match play only because I inadvertently scored incorrectly on the first side. My opponent had the advantage of being a player for over 30 years and certainly did not point this my error out to me. It is a lesson I’ll not forget in a hurry. Could you explain the scoring for match play showing a score card diagram I’m sure this would help other new players like myself.

    Thanks again for your really interesting news letters.

    Kind regards, Sheila

    Barry’s Reply:

    I am afraid that your opponent has definitely taken advantage of your lack of knowledge about match play as there is no requirement in the Rules of Golf to keep a score card, so there is no way that you should have lost on the basis that you completed a card incorrectly.

    Rule 2-1 states; ‘A match consists of one Side playing against another over a stipulated round unless otherwise decreed by the Committee.
    In match play the game is played by holes.
    Except as otherwise provided in the Rules, a hole is won by the Side that holes its ball in the fewer strokes. In a handicap match, the lower net score wins the hole. The state of the match is expressed by the terms: so many “holes up” or “all square,” and so many “to play.’

    It is up to the opponents to check the state of the match with the other after completion of each hole so that they know where they stand.

  11. Al.K.Hamilton says:

    Hi Andy I had a match play game last week and on the last hole the four players were on the green to put out and all marked our ball then one of the players made his put and 12 ins from the cup his ball hit a marker a 10 cents piece and missed the hole he claimed he should have had another put as the 10 cents was not a proper marker IE higher than the grass is he right as it was match play and he lost the match kind regards bigal akh Brampton ontario canada

    Barry’s Reply:

    The note to Rule 20-1 states, ‘The position of a ball to be lifted should be marked by placing a ball-marker, a small coin or other similar object immediately behind the ball.’ So there is certainly no penalty for marking a ball with a 10 cents piece. In fact, the responsibility is with the player. If he thinks that any ball marker may interfere with his play, stance or stroke, he should ask for it to be placed one or more clubhead-lengths to one side.

  12. Bob Crawford says:

    Thanks for the helpful info. I have played for many years ad with my rules conscious pro , so I am informed of the rules now and then. Its nice to have a litle edge as it were to question a ruling , now and then. Especially if I;m right and the pro is wrong. It doesn.;t happen very often , to be sure. Have a good day Bobc

  13. NeddySeagoon says:

    Under Question 9, how do you decide whether the ball was moving or not, and whether the penalty stands? By the sound of it, the third player didn’t see anything, the poster didn’t think that the ball was moving, so it boils down to one golfers word or opinion over anothers.

    Barry’s Reply:

    The first point raised by this question is that Rule 6-6 states; ‘After each hole the marker should check the score with the competitor and record it.’ However, you will note that this is only a recommendation and does not carry any penalty for non-compliance.

    If a marker insists on signing for a score that includes a penalty that the player disputes, the player must report the facts of the situation to the Committee immediately he finishes the stipulated round and before returning his card. After ascertaining the facts of the situation from the player, marker and anyone else who witnessed the play of the hole (such as another fellow competitor, caddie or
    spectator) the Committee should then decide as to whether the penalty should be applied. If they resolve in favour of the player and the marker still refuses to sign the card the Committee should ask the marker to authenticate those scores which he considers correct and accept the player’s score of the hole in question without certification (Decision 6-6a/4)

Leave a Reply