Do You Make These 5 Mistakes Playing Golf?

Knowing The Rules of Golf and not making mistakes on the course can save you many strokes over the course of a year. I was recently asked the following 5 questions and wondered how many others are unsure of the rules and consequently making mistakes on the course.

I hope you enjoy reading these 5 rules of golf questions and answers:


“If I play a shot into a bunker and its flooded, there is no way i can play it and no where i can drop it in the bunker and its not GUR , am I allowed to drop in another bunker no nearer the hole if there is one with no penalty.. Many thanks.”


“This is a question that regularly arises. A player is NOT permitted to drop their ball in another bunker, not nearer the hole, if their ball lies submerged in casual water in a bunker.

Under Rule 25-1b(ii) there are two options if a player’s ball lies in an abnormal condition (e.g. casual water) in a bunker and they choose to take relief. They may lift their ball and drop it either:

(a) Without penalty, in the bunker within one club-length of and not nearer the hole than the nearest point of relief from where the ball lies or, if complete relief is impossible, as near as possible to the spot where the ball lay, but not nearer the hole, on a part of the course in the bunker that affords maximum available relief from the condition; or

(b) Under penalty of one stroke, outside the bunker, keeping the point where the ball lay directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind the bunker the ball may be dropped.

To summarise these two options, the first one allows the player to drop in the shallowest part of the water in the bunker, not nearer the hole, without penalty, and the second one allows the player to drop outside of the bunker, on a line from the flagstick through where the ball is at rest, under penalty of one stroke.”


“In a 4-ball-better-ball game, Player A partners B while Player C partners D. They all arrive on a Par 4 in two with Player A some 25 ft from the hole, Player B 10 ft from the hole, Player C 15 ft from the hole and Player D 6 ft from the hole. Player A putted first to 3 ft short of the hole. Then Player C’s turn; he putted to 4 ft passed the hole but in front of his partner, Player C. Player B putted to within 6 inches from the hole and tapped in for a par. Player C then decided to put before his partner and holed in for a par. Player D then putted in for a birdie. Have Player C & D violated any rules of golf?”


“Neither C nor D has breached any Rule of Golf, whether the incident occurred in match play or stroke play, as they are partners on the same side. Rule 30-3b states; ‘Balls belonging to the same Side may be played in the order the Side considers best.’

I trust this clarifies the situation.”


“I have a question for you. I am learning to play golf. I was shown how to check your aim by laying a club across your feet to check alignment. I did this out on the course while preparing for my second shot. My partner said that doings so was illegal. What is the rule regarding that? Is it legal from the tee box? I see it done all the time.”


“The answer to your question lies is within Rule 8-2a; ‘Any mark placed by the player or with his knowledge to indicate the line must be removed before the stroke is made.’

Decision 8-2a/1 is the relevant one;

Q. A player places a club on the ground parallel to the line of play to assist him in aligning his feet properly. Is this permissible?

A. Yes, provided the player removes the club before playing his stroke. Otherwise, a breach of Rule 8-2a would occur.

So, whether you are on the teeing ground or anywhere else on the course, you may line yourself up by placing a club on the ground providing you pick it up before making your stroke.”


“Can sand be removed to identify a golf ball in a bunker? If not and it is subsequently learned a wrong ball has been played is there a penalty or not?”


“The Rule on this situation changed on 1st January 2008. A player may now identify his ball anywhere on the course, including in a hazard, providing the correct procedure is followed; ‘Before lifting the ball, the player must announce his intention to his opponent in match play or his marker or a fellow-competitor in stroke play and mark the position of the ball. He may then lift the ball and identify it, provided that he gives his opponent, marker 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 Rule 12-2.’

Rule 12-1 covers the situation where a ball is covered by sand; ‘In a hazard, if a ball is believed to be covered by loose impediments or sand, the player may remove by probing or raking with a club or otherwise, as many loose impediments or as much sand as will enable him to see a part of the ball. If an excess is removed, there is no penalty and the ball must be re-covered so that only a part of the ball is visible. If the ball is moved during the removal, there is no penalty; the ball must be replaced and, if necessary, re-covered. The player must then replace the ball and restore the previous lie as closely as possible.'”


“I have a question for you on the rules. I was playing our 16th hole and hit my second shot into an unplayable lie amongst some gorse bushes. I decided to take 2 club lengths no nearer the hole under penalty of 1 shot. When I dropped my ball it bounced and hit the head of my driver. I didn’t really think anything of this because my ball was still in an awful position and continued to play the ball as it lay.

On of my playing partners said I should incur a 2 shot penalty. I was unsure about this rule and said we should check once we had completed the round.

The consensus of opinion at the club house was that a 2 shot penalty was appropriate. I duly applied the 2 shot penalty and signed my card. However this was still niggling me.

I have since found out that I should have re-dropped the ball because it was an illegal drop and made sure it did not hit any part of my golf gear. However finding this out after the event and signing my card didn’t give me any great pleasure.

In these circumstances what should I have done:

1) Disqualify myself
2) Accept the 2 shot penalty, which was the consensus of opinion.
3) Argue that I received no benefit from the ball striking my driver and not give myself a 2 shot penalty.
4) Explain the situation to the competion committe and let them decide.
5) An Alternative action.

this may seem petty but I was on a reasonable score and could have beaten my handicap and if not at least been in the buffer zone so there is a serious side to the question.”


“The answers to your questions are all to be found in Rule 20. Firstly, there is no penalty if your dropped ball strikes your equipment but you must drop the ball again within the Rules (Rule 20-2a). When you failed to drop the ball again and played your ball from where it lay you incurred a penalty of two strokes for playing your ball from the wrong place (Rule 20-7ii). However, as you did not gain a significant advantage as a result of playing from this wrong place the Committee would not be justified in disqualifying you (Note 1 to Rule 20).

So, my direct answers to your questions are;
1. No.
2. Yes.
3. No.
4. It is always best to do this if you have played from wrong place.
5. Not applicable.”

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.

14 Responses to “Do You Make These 5 Mistakes Playing Golf?”

  1. Barry Rhodes says:


    Decision 33-2d/2 states;

    “If all the area around the hole contains casual water, in stroke play the course should be considered unplayable and the Committee should suspend play under Rule 33-2d. In match play, the Committee should relocate the hole.”

    If the hole is surrounded by casual water and the Committee has not suspended play, in my opinion the player would be entitled to play from a point equidistant from the hole where the water between their ball and the hole was shallowest.


  2. Eugene Power says:

    Hi Andy

    I have read your comments regarding casual water, but what happens if the casual water is on the green and in fact the hole is surrounded by water? This happened to me recently as it rained very heavily for a period during our round. The result was that on 2 greens we played the hole was completely surrounded by water up to a 2 foot radius. can you tell me th erule in such a case please.



  3. Abbey says:

    Yes under the rules you are the sole judge to declare your ball unplayable anywhere on the coure except in a water hazard and the take relief under penalty of one stroke as under :-
    # within 2 club length not nearer the hole but within the bunker,
    # In line with the hole as far back as possible but within the bunker,
    # play from the place from where the original ball was palyed.

  4. Ira says:

    If my ball is lying near the lip of a deep bunker and I am of opinion that it is impossible to get it out in one go, under penalty of one stroke, can I take relief in a better position? one club length not nearer the hole within the bunker, or as far behind outside the bunker, as the case may be.

    Please enlighten me as this is not clear in the rule book.


    Barry’s Reply:

    Neither of your suggestions are correct for this situation. The answer to your question lies in Rule 28 – Ball Unplayable, one of the shortest Rules in the Rule book, so I’ll copy it in full;

    ‘The player may deem his ball unplayable at any place on the course, except when the ball is in a water hazard. The player is the sole judge as to whether his ball is unplayable.

    If the player deems his ball to be unplayable, he must, under penalty of one stroke:

    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.

    If the unplayable ball is in a bunker, the player may proceed under Clause a, b or c. If he elects to proceed under Clause b or c, a ball must be dropped in the bunker.

    When proceeding under this Rule, the player may lift and clean his ball or substitute a ball.’

    Note that if option b. or c. are chosen the ball must be dropped IN THE BUNKER. The only option that a player has to drop outside of the bunker is a), which means going back to where they last played from.

    Note also that all three options incur a penalty of one stroke.

  5. Babs says:

    Hi Andy

    I luv ur site. I have been told that when dropping under penalty of 1 stroke from a water hazard, then the hazard must be between the player and the flagstick. It is conceivable and has happened to me were i dropped at the point of entry and the line drawn to the flagstick fell outside the water hazard. I was made to redrop. Pls clarify

    Barry’s Reply:

    Well, if I understand you correctly, it is possible that the line that you may drop on under option b) of Rule 26-1 Relief for Ball in Water Hazard, could mean that you do not play over water, but the direct line to the hole must, by definition, be over the margin of the water hazard. In other words if your ball lies inside the margin of a water hazard but six feet from the edge of the water, your line from the flagstick through the point where your ball last crossed the margin will probably not mean that you are playing your next stroke over water, but you will be playing over the water hazard as defined by the yellow stakes and/or lines. Of course I am talking about a direct line of play, not a fade or a draw.

    To reinforce this answer let me quote option b) of Rule 26-1; ‘Drop a ball behind the water hazard, keeping the point at which the original ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind the water hazard the ball may be dropped.

  6. Larry Green says:

    I was playing a par 3 and one of my competitors hit his tee shot in a green side bunker. When he went to play his second shot he carried three clubs with him. When he dropped two of the clubs on the ground beside the bunker the putter hit the ground and bounced into the sand. Is this a pently stroke?

    Barry’s Reply:

    Exception 1 to Rule 13-4 states, ‘Provided nothing is done that constitutes testing the condition of the hazard or improves the lie of the ball, there is no penalty if the player …………(b) places his clubs in a hazard.

    So, in your question, the player obviously was not testing the condition of the bunker when his club dropped into it and no penalty has been incurred. However, if the dropped club had moved his ball he would have incurred a penalty of one stroke and would have to replace his ball, Rule 18-2.

  7. Fred Brindle says:

    While playing in match play it was discovered that two holes had been missed. We played 16 thinking it was 14, but when we reached the next teeing ground, 17, we realized we had missed 14 &15. We retraced our steps and played 14 & 15. Since we had already played 16 there was a disagreement. The player who won the hole thought it should not be replayed, but the loser thought it should be replayed since it was played out of order. Opinion?

    Barry’s Reply:

    The answer to your question can be found in Decision 2-1/5, which deals with similar circumstances; Q. In an 18-hole match, the players by mistake play three holes out of sequence. The error is discovered before the match concludes. What is the ruling?

    A. The holes played out of sequence should be disregarded and the match resumed at the proper hole. However, if such procedure would delay the competition, both players should be disqualified unless one of them concedes the match to the other.

    The stipulated round consists of playing the holes of the course in their correct sequence, unless otherwise authorised by the Committee.

    Fred’s Second Question

    Thank you so much. There is another situation about which I will query you.

    It has to do with tee boxes. We see the women play from the ladies tees, but I am about to turn 65 which according to some opinions entitles me to play from the senior tees. Others have said in league play, if everyone is playing from the standard tees, even if you are a senior you must use the same tee boxes as everyone else. Of course there are the vain who don’t want to use the senior tees. Can you give me some guidance?

    I feel slightly embarrassed that I am taking advantage of your generosity asking another question immediately after you have replied to one so this will be my last question.

    Barry’s Second Reply:

    No worries Fred I am here to help.

    The Rules of Golf do not permit alternative teeing grounds. In other words, all players in a competition must play the stipulated round from the same tees. A player’s handicap, whether they be 8 or 80 years old, is designed to give them an equal chance in whatever competition they enter. I can imagine the uproar in my Club if someone won the Captain’s prize when they played from tees in front of those used by a majority of entrants!

    The way that most Clubs and Societies deal with this issue is to have special prizes, or even special competitions, for Seniors, or other classes of players, only.

  8. Parriss Johnson says:

    I was under the impression that a bunker when completely filled with water became a water hazard.

    As this comes to the same result ie 1 stroke penalty .I shall continue to think of it in this way.

    Barry’s Rely:

    No, a bunker filled with water is not a water hazard. A water hazard must be designated by yellow stakes and/or lines. The important difference in the Rules when you ball lies in a bunker completely filled with water is that under Rule 25-1b(ii)(a) a player may drop their ball, WITHOUT PENALTY, in the area of maximum available relief from the condition, not nearer the hole. In other words, if they do not want to incur a penalty by dropping outside of the bunker they can drop their ball in the shallowest part of the water, not nearer the hole. In many cases this may be the most favourable option to take.

  9. Helen Mc Cole says:

    I look forward to your mails as I continue with your help to learn loads. Thankyou so much.
    Helen 😛

  10. Don Hartley says:

    😯 Re the ruling on a ball in a water filled bunker —— my rule book states that if the ball cannot be dropped in the bunker at a point no nearer the hole, then you should go back to where you played the shot from. In essence, if you think you’re in a water filled bunker, save yourself a walk and play a provisional ball until you arrive at your first ball.

    Barry’s Reply:

    I don’t know which Rule book you use but my answer was quoted directly from Rules of Golf 2008-2011, published jointly by USGA and R&A. I would be very interested to know how you arrived at your incorrect conclusion from the Rule book. In fact, the wrong thing to do if you see your ball disappear into a water filled bunker is to play a provisional ball. This would be wasting time as you cannot lose a ball that is known or is virtually certain to be in an abnormal ground condition, which includes casual water, Rule 25-1c.

    I suggest that you re-read Rule 25-1b(ii) (a) and (b) to check the options you have for a ball that lies in casual water in a bunker, or click on
    for an excellent visual interpretation of this often misunderstood Rule.

  11. penny joyce says:

    Thank you for this information. I was under the impression that when taking relief in a bunker the ball must be dropped within the bunker even if a penalty is applied (i.e. not in water) or it could be played from the place of the original shot (i.e. stroke and distance). I didn’t know that you could drop a ball just outside a bunker when taking a penalty drop. Are you sure this is correct?

    Barry’s Reply:

    Yes, I am sure that I am correct! Didn’t I quote the actual words from Rule 25-1b(ii)?

    I think that you may be confusing two completely different situations.
    Under Rule 28 – Ball Unplayable, if the unplayable ball is in a bunker and the player chooses to take relief under options b) or c) the ball must be dropped in the bunker, under penalty of one stroke. However, the question that I was answering, in the first question of my blog dated 31st October, related to taking relief from an abnormal ground condition (casual water) in the bunker.

    Check out
    for a more authorative confirmation of my answer.

  12. Peter Cox says:

    Hi Andy!

    Regarding the answer to the question of water in a bunker. Surely one can declare the ball as unplayable and thereby for one shot penalty play it within 2 clublengths or from where the original shot was made as well.


    Peter Cox

    Barry’s Reply:

    You are correct, this relief is available under Rule 28c, providing the ball is dropped in the bunker, not nearer the hole. However, when the ball lies in casual water in a bunker the options that I have quoted under Rule 28-1b(ii) offer significantly more relief, e.g. the dropping area is not restricted to two club-lengths and there is no penalty.

  13. Roger Garrett says:

    Andy i have a query for you. It is not a RULE of golf, but requires a decision that is not available in the book of Rules of Golf. in New Zealand whenever we play we like to have a match between ourselves. Usually this takes the form of a 4-ball-better-ball match between two pairs of partners, and usually for a dollar or two.In this format the lowest handicapper gives strokes according to the difference in handicap. For instance player A is on 9, giving 3 shots to B on 12, 5 to C on 14 and 11 to D on 20. These shots are given on the hole rating on the card. Occasionally the competition varies in a format where strokes are fractionalised. My query is this – if the fraction is 1/2 or more what happens? I believe that it becomes a full shot. And what happens if the fraction is less than 1/2? I believe that that fraction is dropped. If possible could you please give me a decision, as the matter has caused a great deal of sometimes heated argument at our club.

    Many thanks

    Roger Garreett

    Barry’s Rely:

    As you say this is not a Rules of Golf question and I am reluctant to give a definitive answer. However, I can tell you that all the handicapping systems that I am aware of round down handicaps from x.1 to x.4 and any handicap from x.5 to x.9 are rounded up.

  14. Sheila Fraser says:

    Regarding question five.

    Surely the better way to alleviate this type of problem is; when you have finished placing your club length, mark the distance with a tee and remove your club altogether, then drop your ball.

    Barry’s Reply:

    You are correct in that if a player drops a ball and it hits a tee peg, or other small object, placed there to mark the extent of an area in which a ball is to be dropped, it does not invalidate the drop.

    This is because the definition of equipment specifically excepts tees, coins and similar small objects. However, the Rules do not require any such marker to be used, providing it is obvious that the dropped ball first touches the course within the permitted area. It is really only when you want to drop the ball at the very edge of the permitted area that you need mark its limit.

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