Thirty Rules Of Golf For The Beginner And Pro

Here are a selection of 30 rules of golf questions and answers I have given over the past couple of months. I thought you would be interested in reading the wide variety of rules questions golfers are currently asking themselves out on the course.

I trust you will enjoy reading these 30 rules of golf questions and answers:


“Thanks for your help re: your golf tips’ I predict that I will shave at least 10 big strokes this year from my handicap. that is the number I am shooting for. One other question please. It is my understanding that a player can declare unplayable his ball anytime he wants with a penalty whenever he wants.

Is that true? Thanks and a happy new year to you. Johnny”


“Yes, you are almost correct. A player may deem his ball unplayable for a penalty of one stroke 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 (Rule 28).

An interesting, if unusual example of this Rule, is that if a player hits a downhill putt too hard and his ball misses the hole and rolls off the putting green into a bunker, he can pick his ball out of the bunker and replace it on the green at the point that he last putted from. Obviously he incurs a penalty of one stroke for doing so, but in match play it might be worth it to see how your opponent reacts!”


“I enjoy your Golf Rules series, however I have a question for you.

Can the line marked on the golf ball to show the balance center of the ball become an aid to lining up the golf shot when teed?”


“Yes, there is nothing in the Rules preventing a player from using any marking on his golf ball to assist him in lining up the direction of any stroke. Decision 20-3a/2 rules on similar circumstances to your question;

“Q. When a player is replacing his ball, is it permissible for him to position the ball so that the trademark is aimed along the line of putt to indicate the line of play?

A. Yes.”


“Playing at our local club I encountered the following situation.

In the middle of the fairway is a tree, when hitting my second shot directly into the tree the ball stay in the branches and become unplayable. The local rule at our club is placing on the fairway one(1) club. Because my ball is in the tree and the tree in the fairway I assume that I can use the local rule to place my ball for my third shot.

Question – Should I declare my ball unplayable and act according to the rule or should I interpreted the local rule and place my ball without penalty”


“All Local Rules for ‘Preferred Lies’ and/or ‘Winter Rules’ should follow the recommended wording suggested by the R&A & USGA in Appendix I, Part B, 4c, which starts, “A ball lying on a closely mown area through the green may be lifted without penalty and cleaned…..”.

As your ball was obviously not lying on the fairway you may not take relief under the ‘Preferred Lies’ Local Rule. Also, you must be able to find and identify your ball in the tree in order to proceed under options b) or c) of Rule 28 – Ball Unplayable. Otherwise your only option is to go back to the point where you played your last stroke from under penalty of stroke and distance.”


“Yes I do enjoy your excellent rules questions and answers.

Here is a question for you, and it’s about the ball coming to rest on a rake outside the bunker. What happens if the rake is removed and the ball rolls into the bunker. Ok, you might say that the ball is to be replaced. But what if the ball keeps rolling into the bunker because the ground is steep?”


“If a ball comes to rest against a movable obstruction (which is any artificial object, including a rake) the obstruction may be removed.

If the ball moves during this procedure, it must be replaced, and there is no penalty, provided that the movement of the ball is directly attributable to the removal of the obstruction.

In your question, if the the ball fails to come to rest on the spot where it is replaced it must be placed at the nearest spot where it can be placed at rest that is not nearer the hole and not in the bunker (Rule 20-3d(i)).”


“On October 29, 2008, I was playing 9 holes at Land Park Golf Course here in Sacramento, California and made a Hole in One on Hole #3, 138 yards using a six iron. My friend said, ” My hole in One is nullified because I only played 9 Holes. Is he right or wrong?”


“If you put the ball in the hole with your first stroke from the teeing ground then you scored a hole in one.

Your friend’s misunderstanding may have arisen from the situation that some Clubs offer insurance to players for a hole in one requiring that the stroke must have happened during competition play, which is normally over a stipulated round of 18 holes.”


“So what is the definition of the teeing ground area?”


“All definitions can be found at the start of the Rules of Golf book published by the USGA and Royal & Ancient.

‘The “teeing ground” is the starting place for the hole to be played. It is a rectangular area two club-lengths in depth, the front and the sides of which are defined by the outside limits of two tee-markers. A ball is outside the teeing ground when all of it lies outside the teeing ground.’

Thanks for your question.”


“Is there a penalty for hitting the pin when chipping from off the green?

In this example, how close does a partner have to be to the pin for one to suggest that he is tending the pin?

If a chip is coming from off the green why would ones partner want to pull the flag for a ball the was apparently chipped to hard and going on past the pin?

Once tending a pin can you walk away from a chip from off the green if it appears the ball is hit too hard and would now like to leave the pin in – in hope the ball might strike the pin and slow it down?”


“Is there a penalty for hitting the pin when chipping from off the green?”

“If the flagstick is being attended there is a two stroke penalty in stroke play. If the flagstick is not being attended there is no penalty.”

“In this example, how close does a partner have to be to the pin for one to suggest that he is tending the pin?”

“Decision 17-1/1 reads as follows; ‘Note 1 to Rule 17-1 states that, if anyone “stands near the hole,” he is deemed to be attending the flagstick. Is such a person considered to be standing “near the hole” if he is close enough to touch the flagstick?
A. Yes.’ ”

“If a chip is coming from off the green why would ones partner want to pull the flag for a ball that was apparently chipped too hard and going on past the pin?”

“A possible scenario is that the partner thinks that the ball may fall straight into the hole if the flagstick is removed, whereas if it is left there the ball might ricochet off it and come to rest several feet away.”

“Once tending a pin can you walk away from a chip from off the green if it appears the ball is hit to hard and would now like to leave the pin in – in hope the ball might strike the pin and slow it down?”

“No, Note 3 to Rule 17-1 states, ‘If anyone attends or holds up the flagstick while a stroke is being made, he is deemed to be attending the flagstick until the ball comes to rest.’ ”


“We played on Saturday (didn’t stop raining!) and a situation occured that I remember you covered in your rules campaign but I couldn’t remember the ruling. One of the guys was chipping from off the green and his ball came to rest against the flag but didn’t drop. Can you tell us what happens next?”


“When a player’s ball rests against the flagstick in the hole and the ball is not holed, the player, or another person authorized by him, may move or remove the flagstick, and if the ball falls into the hole, the player is deemed to have holed out with his last stroke; otherwise, the ball, if moved, must be placed on the lip of the hole, without penalty (Rule 17-4).”


“A player marks his ball on the putting green using a twenty pence coin as his marker.

Does this incur a penalty as the coin is not round and how big a marker are you allowed to use.”


“You may use anything to mark the position of a ball, though the recommendation is that it should be a small coin or other similar object. It certainly does not have to be round. I think that you will be interested in Decision 20-1/16, which deals with the method used to mark the position of a ball, even though it is a bit lengthy;

‘Q. The Note to Rule 20-1 provides that ‘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.’ Is a player penalized if he uses an object that is not similar to a ball-marker or small coin to mark the position of his ball?

A. No. The provision in the Note to Rule 20-1 is a recommendation of best practice, but there is no penalty for failing to act in accordance with the Note.

Examples of methods of marking the position of a ball that are not recommended, but are permissible, are as follows:

placing the toe of a club at the side of, or behind, the ball; using a tee; using a loose impediment; scratching a line, provided the putting green is not tested (Rule 16-1d) and a line for putting is not indicated (Rule 8-2b). As this practice may cause damage to the putting green, it is discouraged.

However, under Rule 20-1 it is necessary to physically mark the position of the ball. Reference to an existing mark on the ground does not constitute marking the position of a ball. For example, it is not permissible to mark the position with reference to a blemish on the putting green.

When moving a ball or ball-marker to the side to prevent it from interfering with another player’s stance or stroke, the player may measure from the side of the ball or ball-marker. In order to accurately replace the ball on the spot from which it was lifted, the steps used to move the ball or ball-marker to the side should be reversed.”


“I am in need of some direction in respect of the etiquette of the game and where penalties may be allocated for abuse.

For this example I would like to suggest a player in the fourball is of a bad tempered and grumpy disposition. Often swearing after yet another poorly executed shot. What can one do about it? It can be intimidating to say the least.

But, a bigger problem is the character who throws clubs after a poor shot. Apart form being dangerous in the extreme, it is intimidating. Is there a rule that allows me to disqualify him from a club stableford competition because he has surely affeced the play of the three other players in the fourball. I have raised it with the committee but their response was that ‘I should speak with him…. ‘

Is there a ruling I could point out to them?

I have noticed a lot of youngsters throw their clubs around following a bad shot, is this an unpleasant trend creaping into the game. I have heard of Pro’s being cited for actions and being fined but what about the amateur in a club weekend comp?

Would appreciate your feedback.”


“Rule 33-7 states, ‘If a Committee considers that a player is guilty of a serious breach of etiquette, it may impose a penalty of disqualification under this Rule.’ Therefore, your only course of action is to report breaches of etiquette to the Committee. In my experience, in Club golf a caution from the Committee is usually sufficient to bring players who have poor etiquette into line.

However, this sanction is not much help on a municipal course.

The only Decision on what constitutes a serious breach is Decsion 33-7/8; Q. In Rule 33-7, what is meant by a “serious breach of etiquette”?

A. A serious breach of etiquette is behavior by a player that shows a significant disregard for an aspect of the Etiquette Section, such as intentionally distracting another player or intentionally offending someone.

Although a Committee may disqualify a player under Rule 33-7 for a single act that it considers to be a serious breach of etiquette, in most cases it is recommended that such a penalty should be imposed only in the event of a further serious breach.

Ultimately, the application of a penalty for a serious breach of etiquette under Rule 33-7 is at the discretion of the Committee.’

I regret that, without the assistance of the Committee, there is very little you can do personally in this regard.”


“What is the ruling if your ball is plugged or against the face of a bunker where you feel you will not be able to hit the ball out of the sand hazard properly, can you deem the ball unplayable in this case?”


“Yes, a 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 (Rule 28).

However, note that if the player opts to take relief, under penalty of one stroke, under options b) or c) of this Rule he must drop the ball in the bunker.”


“Two questions come to mind regarding the ‘addressing the ball’ question.

I have always addressed my putts by grounding my club somewhere in the area between my feet and the ball but not behind the ball, then I hover the putter behind the ball before stroking.

I assumed that since I had not grounded my club behind the ball I was okay. But you offer no such exclusion. Am I to assume then, that once my stance has been taken, that grounding my club behind the ball or virtually anywhere else constitutes ‘grounding’?

Second, what is the ruling if, when addressing the putt properly by hovering the putter, a sudden gust of wind blows the ball off its resting spot into the putter blade and comes to rest in a different location?”


“Yes, your putting routine does meet the definition of addressing the ball; ‘A player has addressed the ball when he has taken his stance and has also grounded his club, except that in a hazard a player has addressed the ball when he has taken his stance.’

Note that there is no mention of where the putter is grounded. This is borne out by Decision 18-2b/5.5; ‘Q. A player takes his stance and places his clubhead on the ground in front of the ball without pressing anything down. Before the player grounds the club behind the ball, the ball moves. Has the player “addressed the ball” so that he is subject to penalty under Rule 18-2b?
A. Yes.’

Your second question is covered by Decision 19-2/1.5;

‘Q. A player’s ball lies on a steep slope through the green. The player takes his stance but, fearing the ball might move, does not ground his club and so has not addressed the ball. The ball rolls backwards and is stopped accidentally by the player’s club. The player then removes his club and the ball rolls farther down the slope. Is the player subject to the penalty of one stroke under Rule 19-2?

A. Yes, and the ball must be replaced on the spot at which it was stopped. A further penalty under Rule 18-2a (Ball at Rest Moved by Player) would not be appropriate in the circumstances provided the player replaces the ball. If the ball is not replaced before the player makes his next stroke, the failure to replace the ball is considered a separate act (see Decision 1-4/12) and he loses the hole in match play or incurs an additional penalty of two strokes in stroke play under Rule 18-2a, for a total penalty of three strokes. (Revised)’

Thank you for your question.”


“Just thinking about the statement ‘take you time’, a phrase heard at our club a lot in the same situation is ‘have a rest’ or ‘do you want to rest’ meaning they should mark and let someone else take their shot. Do either of these break the rules?”


“Very strictly speaking, I would say that, ‘Take a rest’ is similar to, ‘Take your time’ and does meet with the strict definition of offering advice; ‘Advice’ is any counsel or suggestion that could influence a player in determining his play, the choice of a club or the method of making a stroke.” However, in my opinion, asking the question, ‘Do you want a rest?’ is not a breach. But please don’t misunderstand me. I am not suggesting that anyone tries to penalise a fellow competitor, or opponent, for making any such comment, and I am a stickler for the Rules! The reason being that there is obviously no intent to give advice by using one of these phrases.”


“While I was playing the other week with 3 other fellow golfers, one guy had hit his 2nd shot out of the rough and was taking some practice swings while waiting for other golfers in the group to hit their shots, so during one of his practice swings a lump of dirt flew out sideways and knocked his ball a couple of feet from where it was originally lying, is there a penalty of 1 stroke or just a simple replace and no penalty?”


“The circumstances in Decision 18-2a/20.5 are similar to those in your question; Q. In making a practice swing, a player dislodges a loose impediment (e.g., a stone), which causes his ball in play to move. What is the ruling?

A. The loose impediment is an outside agency; however, as the player’s actions caused his ball in play to move, he incurs a one-stroke penalty under Rule 18-2a and must replace the ball.”


“During a game this week my friend playing a par three which is all water from tee to green hit the green with his tee shot but ran through into the bunker.

He had a very bad lie and came out, ran over the green and into the water.

Barry`s ruling is that the line from the flag to his point of entry would mean he would have to go back to the tee.

My question: Is there an alternative ruling that he could have taken the penalty and re-played the ball from the bunker?”


“Yes, one of the options for taking relief from a water hazard permits a player to play a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played, under penalty of one stroke (Rule 26-1a). In other words, in your question the player could have dropped his ball in the bunker at the place where he last played from under penalty of one stroke. He is permitted to rake the bunker first to re-create a similar lie to that which he had before his first stroke from the bunker.

I did mention this in my short video but used the example that the player wanted to take this option after his first stroke (i.e. from the tee). Of course, the player has the same option when his second (or any other stroke) comes to rest in a water hazard.”


“Would it be possible for you to send me the rule on the 3 option, when you take a penalty in a bunker”


“I believe that you are referring to when you declare your ball unplayable in a bunker. The three options, under Rule 28, all incurring a penalty of one stroke, are;

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 in the bunker 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 in the bunker within two club-lengths of the spot where the ball lay, but not nearer the hole.

There is another situation when a player’s ball lies in an abnormal ground condition in a bunker (e.g. casual water); ‘Rule 25-1b. If the ball is in a bunker, the player must lift the ball and drop it either:

(a) Without penalty, in accordance with Clause(i) above, except that the nearest point of relief must be in the bunker and the ball must be dropped in the bunker 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.’

Remember, that the options under Rule 25-1b only apply when there is an abnormal ground condition in the bunker. Some players mistakenly think that they have the option to drop their ball outside a bunker, under penalty of one stroke, whatever the circumstances.”


“Are all the rules international rules?

i.e. the same rules, whether you play golf in Denmark, Germany, the UK, the USA, Japan, China, and so on……. the world around ?”


“Yes, there is only one unified Rules of Golf. The Royal & Ancient (R&A) is the governing body for the Rules of Golf and the Rules of Amateur Status in all parts of the golfing world, except the United States and Mexico, which are governed by the United States Golf Association (USGA).

The R&A and USGA agreed on the first uniform issue of the Rules of Golf worldwide back in 1952.

There were still some differences in the Appendices, relating to equipment and Local Rules, but in 2000 these were also harmonised. Any agreed changes to the Rules of Golf are made every four years and the current edition is for 2008 – 2011. You can find them on-line here.”


“Would moss be classified as a living thing?”


“I think that your point is whether moss is a loose impediment. The answer is that if it is detached then it is, but if it is still rooted in the ground then it is not. Similarly, if a divot made by a player is still attached to the ground at any point then it is not a loose impediment, whereas if it is totally detached then it is. In this video there was a loose bit of moss in the bunker (it could have been a leaf, a twig or any other natural object) and so a penalty was incurred. If the moss that Michelle had touched on her backswing was rooted in the bunker then no Rule would have been breached.”


I watched both videos but they brought another related question to mind: is water considered to be a loose impediment? In other words, if you decide to hit it out of a water hazard, and if your club brushes the water on the takeaway, is it a penalty?”


“Water is not a loose impediment. However, Rule 13-4b states that before making a stroke at a ball that is in a hazard the player must not ‘touch the ground in the hazard or water in the water hazard with his hand or a club’. As a stroke does not commence until the forward movement of the club the player does incur a penalty for brushing the water on his backswing.”


Referring to this video, does Barry’s last comment make a difference then, if the moss in the bunker was growing in the bunker.”


“Yes, If the moss was actually growing in the bunker then there would be no penalty. The note to Rule 13-4 states; ‘At any time, including at address or in the backward movement for the stroke, the player may touch, with a club or otherwise, any obstruction, any construction declared by the Committee to be an integral part of the course or any grass, bush, tree or other growing thing.’

You can catch more rules of golf videos here.”


“Hi – Following the seagull video I am told by our pro that if a bird catches he ball in flight and drops in into the water, the ball (or rather another ball) must be dropped outside the hazard applying a penalty shot for the drop.

Had the bird dropped the ball into the hole (green) the ball would be considered as holed out.

Is this correct please?”


“Your Pro is correct, assuming the ball was not played from the putting green, which seems likely as the ball was ‘in flight’! The bird is an outside agency and Rule 19-1 states, ‘If a player’s ball in motion is accidentally deflected or stopped by any outside agency, it is a rub of the green, there is no penalty and the ball must be played as it lies’.

The circumstances of Decision 19-1/6 are not too dissimilar; Q. A ball played from off the green was about a foot from the hole and still in motion when it was moved by a dog to a spot about 10 feet from the hole. The ball was either deflected by the dog or the dog picked it up, ran with it and dropped it. What is the ruling?
A. If the ball was deflected, it would be played as it lay, without penalty, from the spot to which it was moved by the dog — Rule 19-1.

In your scenario when the bird dropped the ball in the water hazard so the player would have to take relief under Rule 26-1, incurring a one stroke penalty.

However, If a ball at rest is moved by an outside agency, there is no penalty and the ball must be replaced, Rule 18-1.”


“In these times of difficult winter golf when preferred lies are the norm, I find a lot of confusion about this rule more than any other, except perhaps the WATER question.

My club rules state that Preferred lies are available ‘Through the Green’ The R&A Rules of Golf give a definition of this meaning, but still most golfers whom I play with insist that balls may only be lifted, cleaned and placed when they lie on the fairway, which, I believe, is incorrect.

Would you please relate the rules on this matter, as seen from your point of view.

Thanks for all the other info and videos.”


“You are obviously correct in your understanding of your Club’s Local Rule re preferred lies if you have quoted from it correctly. The way that it is worded means that players may not only take relief from the fairway but from anywhere on the course other than the teeing ground and putting green of the hole being played and all hazards on the course. I think that the confusion arises because the specimen Local Rule for Preferred Lies in Appendix l.B.4c. refers to “a ball lying on a closely mown area through the green”, which obviously does not include the rough.”


“Have a question for your rules person. This actually happened today.

A ball appeared to be hit OB from the tee. There was no doubt it was visually going out by about 1 metre. The OB area had some cattle and one of the cattle picked the ball up and dropped it back in bounds. No one actually saw it come to rest OB but the cow was seen to bend down presumably to pick it up and it then it dropped it over the fence. The ball was seen to fall from the cows mouth, is the ball still in play or is it deemed to be still OB?”


“Although no-one actually saw that the ball had come to rest out of bounds I think that we can be virtually certain that it did. A cow does not not usually move fast enough to field or pick-up a moving ball! Therefore, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, my ruling would be that the ball was out of bounds (Rule 18-1 and Decision 15/9). However, I am impressed by the well-trained and courteous cows neighbouring your course!”


“During a recent round one of the players in our groups ball became lodged in a tree, this tree was measured to be under 2 club lengths high. is the ruling for this situation the same as a ball coming to rest under a tree 2 clubs lengths high with a free drop, or does the rule regarding an unplayable shot apply which results in a penalty? One would assume that the first ruling comes in to play, can you carifiy this for me.”


“There is no relief without penalty (‘free drop’) for a ball lodged in a tree, no matter how tall the tree is. The player may either play the ball as it lies from the tree or take one of the three relief options under Rule 28 – Ball Unplayable, for a penalty of one stroke.

Decision 28/11 relates to a similar situation; Q. A player’s ball is eight feet off the ground, lodged in a tree. The player deems the ball unplayable. May the player proceed under option c of Rule 28 which permits him to drop a ball within two club-lengths of where his ball lay unplayable?
A. Yes. The player would be entitled to drop a ball within two club-lengths of the point on the ground immediately below the place where the ball lay in the tree. In some instances this may allow the player to drop a ball on a putting green.

Note that this option under Rule 28c incurs a penalty of one stroke.”


“When you are on the tee bed I know you can stand on the outside of the grid but can you have your feet over the front line of the grid?”


“In the Rules of Golf the ‘tee bed’ as you describe it is known as the teeing ground.

Rule 11-1 states, ‘A player may stand outside the teeing ground to play a ball within it.’ Therefore it does not matter whether a player has a foot in front of, to the side, or behind the teeing ground when he makes his stroke, providing the ball is played from within the teeing ground.”


“Regards to out of bounds. We have a barbwire fence that defines the out of bounds line on a couple of holes. It is what we use in the wild, wild west at times.

My question is if the ball is in bounds next to the parallel line of the fence and restricts my swing when ball is in bounds. Is a free drop permitted since the fence is a man made object?”


“The Definition of Out of Bounds states that objects defining out of bounds such as walls, fences, stakes and railings, are not obstructions and are deemed to be fixed. Therefore, there is no relief from the barbed wire fence defining out of bounds on your course. What happens if someone takes relief in these circumstances? Decision 18-2a/3 deals with this situation;

‘Q. A player’s swing is interfered with by a stake defining out of bounds. The player mistakenly considers the stake an obstruction and he lifts his ball and drops it in the manner prescribed in Rule 24-2b.

What is the ruling?

A. The player incurs a penalty of one stroke under Rule 18-2a and he must replace his ball before playing his next stroke. Otherwise, he loses the hole in match play or he incurs a total penalty of two strokes in stroke play — see penalty statement under Rule 18.’

Thanks for your rules of golf out of bounds question”


“Can you clear this up for me?

I sliced my tee shot onto the adjacent fairway, this put a hazard with tall trees standing in it between me and; the green I was playing to… I tried to go over trees but hit into the hazard … I was taking a drop at the point of entry, the trees were now directly in front so I would had to have to hit sideways onto or near the tee of the adjacent fairway when a rules official told me I could drop the ball at the opposite end of the hazard as long as it was no nearer the hole… this took me to the end of the hazard that was on the hole I was playing and also gave me a clear shot to the
green… this didn’t seem right?”


“No, his ruling certainly doesn’t seem right to me either. Because you had lifted your ball and had chosen not to go back to where you played your last stroke from, your only remaining option (under Rule 26-1) was to 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. It does not seem to me that this is what the Rules Official was saying to you.

If the hazard was a lateral water hazard (red stakes) then there were two more options; drop a ball outside the water hazard within two club-lengths of and not nearer the hole than (i) the point where the original ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard or (ii) a point on the opposite margin of the water hazard equidistant from the hole. Again, this does not seem to fit with what you were being advised.”


“Do the rules say that anything touching the ball is deemed to be adhered to the ball? If not, then as long as the blade of grass was merely touching and not adhered, there should be no penalty as long as the ball was not moved. Now one could under the rules, and without penalty, rotate the ball in order to make a positive identification. An un-adhered blade of grass would fall off.”


“Decision 21/2 specifically prohibits removing cut grass adhering to a ball.
‘Q. Through the green, is it permissible to remove cut grass adhering to a ball?
A. No. Such action is prohibited by Rule 21. Anything adhering to a ball is not a loose impediment – see Definition of Loose Impediments.’

Note that this Decision is under Rule 21 – Cleaning Ball. So, in the second part to your question, if a player rotated his ball in order to identify it and a cut blade of grass fell from the ball the player would be penalised under Rule 12-2, which says that the ball must not be cleaned beyond the extent necessary for identification.

Of course, if the blade of grass touching the ball was still growing then Rule 13-2 still prohibits the player from moving or bending it to improve his shot.

Remember also, that under Rule 12-2 a player may only touch his ball if it is necessary to lift his ball in order to identify it and he must announce his intention to his opponent in match play, or his marker or a fellow-competitor in stroke play, mark the position of the ball and give them an opportunity to observe the lifting and replacement. In other words, he cannot use the Rule to replace his ball in a more favourable position where a blade of grass may not then be between his ball and club-face when he makes his stroke.”


“I was on the last hole and drove the ball right down the middle, not as far as I normally hit it. As I began my downswing with my 3 wood, a ball hit by one in the foursome behind rolled past my ball.

I was startled and could not stop my downswing. I hit my ball the the toe of the club and it went into the water hazard to the right, about a 100 yards away. I was told I had to play the bad hit since there is no rule allowing me to hit another ball without penalty from where my ball was originally. Is there a rule on this situation?”


“There is no rule to answer your question, but there is a Decision that is relevant and your fellow competitor/opponent/partner was correct in telling you to play the ball as it lay.

Decision 1-4/1: As A was making his backswing, B accidentally dropped a ball, which rolled within six inches of A?s ball. The appearance of the dropped ball startled A, causing him to top his shot. In equity, should A be permitted to replay his stroke?
A. No. Distractions are a common occurrence which players must accept.

Of course, it was extremely poor etiquette from the player behind and if they had not apologised to you they should have been advised. Lack of knowledge of the Rules is one thing but bad etiquette on the course can upset everyone’s game.”


“Here is a very interesting scenario involving water. I’m still not sure what the correct ruling is, but I have given a possible solution at the end. Will be great to hear what you say.

It’s a par five with a split fairway. From the end of the righthand side fairway there is water for +- 170 yeards up to the edge of the green. The golfer played his perfect t-shot to this island fairway and struck his second, well but could not see the end-result as it was straight into the sun.

He did not feel comfortable that he reached the green and assumed the ball was in the water. He dropped another ball at the edge of the fairway and hit his next shot onto the green.

On reaching the green both balls were on the green. Which ball is now in play?

Problem is as you have said in your email that a ball in the water is a matter of fact and therefore the second ball can not be in play as he could not have proceeded under this rule. Is he now disqualified or penalised because he played a wrong ball? Remember he could not have played a provisional ball, as he thought the ball might be in the water.

Someone said that because of the fact that the layout of the hole makes it impractical to actually first walk up to the green to try and find the ball on or around the green, the first ball should be treated as if in play when found on the green. Furthermore it is felt that the committee should actually set out on the local rules the correct procedure to follow on this specific hole.

Your comments will be appreciated..”


“There are a couple of points here which need to be clarified. The first is that you did not say whether the player had declared that his ball was to be a provisional before playing it onto the green. If he had not, then he had obviously put that ball into play and the original ball was lost within the Rules.

As it happens, the outcome was the same anyway, because under Rule 27-2a a provisional ball may only be played if ‘a ball may be lost outside a water hazard or may be out of bounds’. In this case the ball was obviously not lost outside of a water hazard; because of the layout of the hole it was either on the green or in the hazard.

Therefore, even if the player had declared his ball provisional it would not have mattered, it was still the ball in play and the original ball had to be picked up. Greg Norman made this mistake in 2004.

What your player should have done is to walk up to the green to see if his ball was there. If it was not then he had to take one of the options under Rule 26-1 Water Hazards), one of which is to 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.

If your player played his original ball and did not correct the situation before teeing off at the next hole he is disqualified for playing a wrong ball.

I think that the Committee on this course would be totally wrong to introduce a Local Rule for a situation that is adequately covered within the Rules. What you have to remember is that there is only one option where a ball is lost or out of bounds; to go back to where you played your last stroke from. When a ball is lost in a water hazard there is the additional option referred to above.

I understand the point you are making in that the player would have to tale the long walk back 170 yards to the point where his ball last crossed the margin of the hazard, but feel that this is necessary to maintain the integrity of the Rules.”

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.

31 Responses to “Thirty Rules Of Golf For The Beginner And Pro”

  1. Zlatan says:

    Was it ever allowed for professional golfers to tap down spike marks?

    When you watch them on TV it appears as if they were taping anything down on the line of putt.



  2. Barry Rhodes says:


    There is no penalty for a player who putts their ball whilst their ball marker is still in place, unless it was placed by the player to indicate their line of putt (Rule 8-2b). I would certainly question a player who did this more than once as to why they were leaving their ball marker there.

    Barry Rhodes



    I played with a player who marks his ball on the green. When it is his turn to putt, he places the ball next to the ball maker and doesn’t pick up the ball marker and then proceeds to putt. Is this any violation of the rules.

    Robert Kamienski

  4. Alan Pojur says:

    Whilst playing with a partner against another pair, one of my opponents (player A) chipped his own ball onto the green whilst his partner (player B) was waiting on the green to put his own ball. Player A’s ball landed farther way from the hole than player B and since player A’s golf bag was away from the green player B leant him his putter. Thereafter player B took his putter back from player A and used it himself.

    Question No 1 –Does this mean that player A was effectively playing with 15 available clubs and should be disqualified.

    Question No 2 — Should player B be allowed to use his putter after lending it to his partner

    Question No 3 — Is the answer to No 2 different if one of the opponent pair is generous enough to lend a club to player A.

  5. Leander says:

    My ball rests about 100 meters from the green. The problem is there is a tall grass about 3 inches behind my ball. The grass is not supposed to be there as it is in the middle of a fairway. If I uproot that annoying grass, I can make my swing with ease.

    Am I allowed to uproot that grass?

  6. Barry Rhodes says:


    A ball is “holed” when it is at rest within the circumference of the hole and all of it is below the level of the lip of the hole. If the ball was resting against the flagstick and all of it was not below the level of the lip of the hole when the player removed the flagstick, the ball was not holed and it must be placed on the lip of the hole, without penalty.

    Barry Rhodes

  7. Brenda says:

    A chap chipped in the hole, when the flag was removed the ball came out with the flag – is this a penalty?

  8. René V Grandmaison says:

    Hi Andy,

    Thank’s for everything. Keep up the good work , and looking forward to the new four magic moves.


  9. Dave Savage says:

    I have been playing golf for 45 plus years and still continue to learn more about the rules (I guess wrong on probably 40% of the questions). Keep up the good work!

  10. Dennis says:

    If a ball lands in a tree…can one shake the tree to have the ball to fall out and if it does is there a stroke added ? and can anyone shake the tree ? Thanks

  11. Barry Rhodes says:


    The people that you were playing with were wrong. When you read the Decision below you will see that this can be a subjective issue, but in your case where you did not remove any branches or leaves with your practice swings there was definitely no penalty incurred.

    Q. A player’s ball lies near a tree or bush. The player takes a practice swing near his ball and knocks down leaves in the area of his intended swing. Is this a breach of Rule 13-2?

    A. The answer depends on whether the area of the intended swing is 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 Rules. In other cases, the knocking down of one leaf might improve the area of the intended swing, in which case there would be a breach of Rule 13-2.

    Barry Rhodes

  12. KATE says:

    When my ball dropped to the ground near a tree, I decided to play the shot. Whilst carrying out a practice shot, I caught the branches of the tree but being winter no leaves fell off – as there were none. I immediately lowered my grip on my club so that I would miss the branches on my proper golf swing – and again did a practice shot to check that I was now missing the branches and not impeding my swing. When happy that I was missing the branches – I carried out my swing and completed my shot. My playing partners then informed me that I was not allowed to do a practice shot like that as it may be deemed that I was trying to improve my shot by knocking twigs off of the branches . They said my action was a 2 shot penalty – which would have been pointed out by the oposition – had this friendly game been a match.

  13. Gerard Carroll says:

    Q. if a ball come to rest in a bunker, when u reach it, it is directly in front of a stone or as happens a lot this time of year a leaf, can you move either if obstructing your swing or stroke on the ball?

    Thanks Gerard

  14. Barry Rhodes says:


    We re-sighted some 40 trees on my own golf course three weeks ago, so I can appreciate how this incident happened. My ruling would be that if the replanted tree had interfered with your lie, or area of intended stance or swing, then you would have been entitled to relief as you are entitled to the lie that you had when your ball came to rest. However, this does not apply to your line of play from which there can be no relief. It is not technically a ‘rub of the green’ but the outcome is the same.


  15. piet says:

    My club has a nursery area for growing trees which it periodically replants on the, relatively new, course. The process is mechanised and takes moments to complete. During a recent round I drove to the edge of the fairway and left my ball in a favourable position to attack the green. I then assisted my opponent to find his ball from the rough and on returning to my ball found a tree had been placed directly in front of it. (The committee were trying to increase the difficulty of the hole by making the shot I had played less advantageous.) No local rule had been put in place so we played it as it lies but is this a unique(?) case which the rules of golf do not cover? I lost the hole but won the match as a passing comment.

  16. Paul Hautz says:

    Just read you ruling on water hazard. The same thing happened in an outing in castleknock. Par 5 with second shot over a lake, we were waiting on next tee watching those behind playing over the lake. Going for the green the players ball splashed into the lake but unknown to the player the ball skipped over the lake to 40 yards from the green. He dropped another ball and put it close to the green. On coming around the lake we showed him where his original ball was, he thanked us and went on to play it. Only when he came in did we tell him that he had played a wrong ball and was out of that hole. Good job it was a better ball competition.

  17. Dawn says:

    I played in a championship and the two ladies I was playing with on the 11th hole played each others ball. The mistake was found out before they hit the putting green as one lady went into a water hazard and when she retreived her ball realised she had played a wrong ball. Accepting a two stroke penalty they both continued to hole out with the wrong ball without rectifiying their mistake. I did offer to get the rule book, but they seemed to think this was the correct procedure. According to my book they are disqualified as they did not rectify their mistake and holed out. Would welcome your thoughts.

    Barry’s Reply:


    You are correct. The two players both played a wrong ball and Rule 15-3b reads as follows; “If a competitor makes a stroke or strokes at a wrong ball, he incurs a penalty of two strokes.

    The competitor must correct his mistake by playing the correct ball or by proceeding under the Rules. If he fails to correct his mistake before making a stroke on the next teeing ground or, in the case of the last hole of the round, fails to declare his intention to correct his mistake before leaving the putting green,he is disqualified.”

    The reason for this is quite logical. If player A’s ball was 20 yards behind player B’s ball and she played Player B’s ball by mistake, she obviously wouldn’t have played the stipulated course, because she did not play from where her ball came to rest.


    Barry Rhodes

  18. J Tison says:

    I was playing no 15 at Augusta National. I had to lay up. My wedge hit short and was about to roll into the water. Well, there was a large turtle on the bank. My caddy ran up and put his foot on the turtle. My ball had come to rest on the side of the turtle. The turtle was about to go into the water. So with the pin on the far left I was able to turn my putter to the side and hit the ball up for a 2 putt birdie. The fellows said my caddy could not put his foot on the turtle??

    Could I put my foot on the turtle. If my ball was cut could I mark it before the turtle moved and then get a drop on the bank.

    Barry’s Reply:


    1) I cannot think of anything in the Rules that would prevent the caddie from keeping the turtle (an outside agency) from moving.
    2) Similarly, there is nothing to stop a player from putting their foot on the turtle, providing they do not breach Rule 13-3, “A player is entitled to place his feet firmly in taking his stance, but he must not build a stance.”
    3) You are not permitted to lift your ball to see if it is damaged unless you have good reason to believe that it has been damaged during the hole being played. If you do so you incur a one stroke penalty (Rule 5-3). If you do have reason to believe that it may have been damaged during the hole in play you have to follow the procedure specified in this Rule and then replace the original or replacement ball, not drop it.


    Barry Rhodes

  19. Joe Welsh says:

    I was playing the 18th at The Old Course and hit my drive right OB… After hitting ‘a provisional’ and walking up the 18th fairway, my ball was found in bounds… Obviously a tourist had thrown my ball back in bounds (or an amazing kick off the Rusacks Hotel)… Our caddies said this was called ‘rub of the green’ and by rule I could play my
    first ball lying 1 (I went onto make par)… Was this a correct ruling?

    Barry’s Reply:


    I think that your caddie may already thinking of the size of tip that he might receive!

    There is a relevant Decision, which am replicating in full in so far as it relates to stroke play;

    “15/10 Ball Thrown into Bounds by Outside Agency and Played; Neither Player Nor His Caddie Aware of Action of Outside Agency

    Q. Decision 15/9 states that, if an outside agency throws a player’s ball back onto the course from out of bounds and advises the player’s caddie to this effect, the player is penalized for playing a wrong ball if he plays the ball from its position in bounds. What would be the ruling if neither the player nor his caddie knew the player’s ball had been thrown back onto the course?

    A. In stroke play, in equity (Rule 1-4), there would be no penalty for playing a wrong ball (Rule 15-3). If the player discovers before playing from the next teeing ground (or in your case leaves the 18th putting green) that the original ball was out of bounds, he must go back and proceed under Rule 27-1. If the discovery is not made until later than this, the score with the wrong ball stands.”

    Kind Regards

    Barry Rhodes

  20. Denis Hanson says:

    I’m a bit confused about the ball in a tree situation. An opponent was about to call a ball lost but then said he’d shake the tree to see if it was there and indeed it was and it fell out. He took a two club length drop and counted 1 penalty stroke. I say he dislodged the ball and should count another (maybe 2?) stroke(s) as he hadn’t seen that there was a ball there and called it unplayable first (which would allow him to shake the tree).

    Barry’s Reply:


    You are absolutely right the player must be able to positively identify his ball before he can deem it unplayable. In your situation the player moved the ball without having identified it and is therefore penalised two strokes, under Rule 18-2a, and is required to replace the ball back in the tree where it was, or incur a further penalty stroke.

    I covered ‘Ball Lodged in Tree – What Are Your Options’ on my blog on the Rules at and I recommend that you check it out.


  21. Kelvin says:

    HI andy, as a regular receiver and follower of everything golf by your goodself and Barry may I first say how much I enjoy all instruction and emails re the rules of golf. May I though make a suggestion for future consideration, a DVD featuring the basic rules of golf and perhaps a little more, whilst listening and reading are great a DVD where you can see the actual situation would be great. ps at present I am reading through “999 questions” on the rules of golf.

  22. Hugh James Copeland says:

    Hi Barry, I recently played in a competition, in my flight I had a player who constantly swore, kicked the flag stick on the ground when he missed a putt, threw or struck his bag with his club after a bad shot, moaned about the conditions of the golf course and made it difficult for us to concentrate on our game. I later found out he was the team captain for the golf club, my query is can he be penalised for bad etiquette in a competion.


  23. Chuck Davis says:

    It is a little “misleading” to say you “can’t” use the unplayable rule for a ball hit into a water hazard, but the same effect is achieved under the water hazard rules, ie to go back to the spot you last hit from — 26-1a, which is the same as the one of the unplayable lie rules. As a general “rule”, you always have the option to invoke stoke and distance penalty on any shot made on the course — sometimes you “may” and other times you “must”.

    Very informative, thank you

    Chuck Davis

    Barry’s Reply:


    I fully understand the point you are making. However, Rule 28 clearly states “The player may deem his ball unplayable at any place on the course, EXCEPT when the ball is in a water hazard.” Therefore, in my opinion, it would be more misleading, for those that do not have a good knowledge of the Rules, to say that one of the three options is actually available, albeit under a completely different Rule.

    I guess that we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one!


  24. Fred Wilkinson says:

    I love the answer to question one regarding putting the ball Into a bunker.

    Does the same rule apply If you putt the ball off the green Into the water?


    Fred Wilkinson

    Barry’s Reply:


    No, if you read the second sentence in my answer to that question you will see that I said “A player may deem his ball unplayable for a penalty of one stroke at any place on the course, except when the ball is in a water hazard.” If your ball is within the margins of a water hazard you must play the ball as it lies or take one of the relief options under Rule 26-1, under penalty of one stroke. Rule 28, Ball Unplayable does not apply.

    Kind Regards


  25. Jim Cline says:

    :smile:Very good site have passed it on.

    Question: Stroke play, player leaves a putt foot or less short. He walks up and in anger he hits the ball off the green. Does he have to play next shot from were lies or replace to orginal spot and penalty of one stroke. Someone told me that there is not penalty for hitting a ball in anger.




    To my knowledge there is no relevant Decision on these circumstances but in my opinion the player would have to continue play of the hole, without penalty but counting the stroke made in anger, from where his ball came to rest. My opinion is based on the definition of stroke; “A “stroke” is the forward movement of the club made with the intention of striking at and moving the ball, but if a player checks his downswing voluntarily before the clubhead reaches the ball he has not made a stroke.”

    The player obviously did mean to strike his ball, albeit away from the hole, which I admit is unusual! In stroke play Rule 3-2 states that the ball must be holed out at each hole, or the player is disqualified.


    Barry Rhodes

  26. Octavio says:


    Are the rules of play of the PGA Tour tournaments different from the R&A and USGA Rules?

    If so, where can I find which ones ?

    Thanks for your answer and congratulations for your work.


    Barry’s Reply:


    The Rules of Golf are uniform, no matter where golf is played.

    However, there are many differences in Local Rules for local abnormal conditions, providing they are consistent with the policy set forth in Appendix I of the Rules book, and Conditions of Competition. The PGA, and other tour tournaments, have Conditions of Competition that are not usually found in amateur golf competitions. The three that I am most familiar with are, line of play relief from temporary immovable Obstructions (TIOs), not being able to play any practice stroke on or to any putting green, including the putting green of the last hole played, and the ‘one ball rule’, which requires players to play the same brand and type of ball throughout their stipulated round.

    It is my understanding that players receive a tournament rules and information sheet prior to each event to help determine most rulings.

    For a good example of Local Rules and Conditions of Competition click here and for an example of a Player’s Sheet click here.

  27. Mark Veasey says:


    This could be a little hard to explain, but recently in playing a competition my ball came to rest on the far bank of a little stream, in side the stakes so it was obviously inside the water hazard. However it was very playable as the water was a good yard behind it. The problem was that about 4 inches behind my ball was a clump of thin taller grass, I could line my shot and preposition my club (obviosly not grounding it) but the tops of the clump would be hit with my swing (unlikely to break the blades of grass).

    My fellow competitors told me that should I take the shot and hit the grass in either direction of my swing I would incur penalty (and would have to drop for further penalty). not knowing if this was correct I took the appropriate drop and single penalty in any case.

    Was this correct or not?



    Barry’s Reply:


    The information on the Rules that your fellow competitors gave you was incorrect. It is a common misunderstanding. The Note to Rule 13-4, Ball in Hazard; Prohibited Actions, states;

    “Note: At any time, including at address or in the backward movement for the stroke, the player may touch, with a club or otherwise, any obstruction, any construction declared by the Committee to be an integral part of the course or any grass, bush, tree or other growing thing.” So, providing you do not ground your club in the hazard there is no penalty for touching anything growing on your backswing or your stroke.



  28. Alfonso says:


    There is a Course in Monterrey, Mexico near the Intl Airport where high voltage towers go across a par 3 hole. There is an out bounds line right under the power cables. When teeing off I’ve seen shots that hit the power cable and the ball may just die to the hole fairway side or to the out of bounds mark, some fellows say you can tee off again disregard where the ball fell with no penalty, others say if the ball falls out of bounds then you tee off with penalty other wise you hit it off the fairway, what rule would explain such case? Regards

    Barry’s Reply:


    I regret that I cannot give you a definitive answer to your question without knowing whether there is a Local Rule dealing with overhead power cables. My guess is that there is, as it is usual for golf courses with this type of immovable obstruction on the course to include a Local Rule, similar to the specimen in Appendix B of the Rule book, which says’
    “If a ball strikes an elevated power line or cable, the stroke must be cancelled and replayed, without penalty (see Rule 20-5). If the ball is not immediately recoverable, another ball may be substituted.”

    So if there is no Local Rule the player whose ball came to rest out of bounds must play his third stroke from the teeing ground, whereas the player whose ball came to rest on the fairway must play his second stroke from there. If there is a Local Rule in place, similar to that above, then in both cases the player must replay their first stroke from the teeing ground.

  29. e. f. Pattillo says:

    You mentioned that brushing the water on the backswing in a water hazard does not incurr a penalty. What about brushing sand in the backswing in a bunker?


    Barry’s Reply:


    Where did we mention that brushing water on the backswing in a water hazard does not incur a penalty? It certainly does. Rule 13-4b says, “the player must not touch the ground in the hazard or water in the water hazard with his hand or a club.” As a stroke does not begin until the forward movement of the club, made with the intention of striking at and moving the ball, touching the water on the backswing incurs a two stroke penalty in stroke play, or loss of hole in match play..

    Similarly, brushing the sand in the backswing when the ball is in a bunker incurs the same penalty. Decision 13-4/31;

    “Q. A player playing a shot in a bunker accidentally touched the sand when making his backswing. What is the ruling?

    A. The player was in breach of Rule 13-4b when he touched the ground in the bunker with his club before making the stroke ? see Definition of ‘Stroke’?



  30. Mick FitzPatrick says:

    Very enjoyable, acurate and concise situations and answers. In relation to the last situation described( answer #30 RULES OF GOLF Answer:) with the water hazard covering the area in front of the green for 170 yards and the player unsure whether the ball has made the green or may be in the hazard. It is permissable (I would suggest encouraged,) in order to save time, to introduce a local rule to allow a Provisional ball to be played for a ball that may be lost in a water hazard for special conditions such as this , see Rules of Golf Appendix 1.Specimen Local Rules…1.Water Hazards; Ball Played Provisionally Under Rule 26-1….Page 127 Rules of Golf book.

    Barry’s Reply:

    Of course you are correct and in my opinion more Committees should look at this option to speed up play. In fact, my own Club is currently developing a new water feature and we will definitely be giving consideration to introducing such a Local Rule. Personally, I am not too keen on the other option of establishing a dropping zone in these circumstances.

  31. Robert Crawford says:

    Andy: Thanks for the question and answer format on the rules of golf. It makes me , and others , review and learn. Sometimes ,to be corrected. And a practice not all of abide by. Just lazy I guess. Interesting format. Have a good day.

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