Eight Golf Rules About The Golf Ball

Golf rules expert and author of “999 Questions on the Rules of Golf” Barry Rhodes answers eight questions relating to the golf ball and the rules of golf below.

But first I wanted to report that I’m very happy to announce that Barry will personally sign your own copy of “999 Questions on the Rules of Golf” and post it to you anywhere in the world for free!

Grab your copy here, remember no shipping fees.

In fact if you order 3 copies you will receive a great 20% discount, and even better 25% discount for an order of 5 copies.

Please email Barry direct at if you would like to order more than 3 copies (e.g. for your Golf Club). Take a look here, to find out how this outstanding book will save you many shots as I can highly recommend it.

The book contains:

* 999 questions in 3 sections; easy, moderate and harder
* 3 formats for the questions; true/false, open ended, multiple choice
* Reference to the relevant Definition, Rule or Decision for every answer
* Explanations to aid readers understanding of the Rule
* An easy, look-up index to resolve the myriad situations that occur on the course
* Questions on all 34 Rules and 126 sub-sections

Here are the 8 questions on the rules of golf:


I take address on a T-box. On my downswing a gust of wind blows the ball off the tee and it rolls about an inch away. I am unable to stop the swing and strike the ball. Do I incur a penalty stoke? What is the ruling?


This is an interesting question that is answered by Rule 11-3, which states;

“If a ball, when not in play, falls off a tee or is knocked off a tee by the player in addressing it, it may be re-teed, without penalty. However, if a stroke is made at the ball in these circumstances, whether the ball is moving or not, the stroke counts, but there is no penalty.”


Regarding GPS systems on golf buggies, many clubs are now allowing these in competitions but I cannot see where this has been sanctioned by the rules of golf. Can you advise, thanks


The Note to Rule 14-3, Artificial Devices, Unusual Equipment and Unusual Use of Equipment, states,

“The Committee may make a Local Rule allowing players to use devices that measure or gauge distance only.”

So, GPS devices may only be used in competition if there is a Local Rule permitting their use. It is important to check this before the competition starts as the penalty for a breach of Rule 14-3 is disqualification.


What is meant by casual water being an abnormal ground condition?


An Abnormal Ground Condition is defined in the opening pages of the Rules book as follows;

“An abnormal ground condition is any casual water, ground under repair or hole, cast or runway on the course made by a burrowing animal, a reptile or a bird.”

Casual water is further defined as follows;

“Casual water is any temporary accumulation of water on the course that is not in a water hazard and is visible before or after the player takes his stance. Snow and natural ice, other than frost, are either casual water or loose impediments, at the option of the player. Manufactured ice is an obstruction. Dew and frost are not casual water.

A ball is in casual water when it lies in or any part of it touches the casual water.”

Decision 25/1, relating to casual water, states;
“Q. Is soft, mushy earth casual water?

A. No. Soft, mushy earth is not casual water unless water is visible on the surface before or after the player takes his stance — see Definition of “Casual Water.”


My wife was playing in a singles stableford competition and began playing with a Titleist ball. However, she had two balls in her pocket and inadvertently teed off with a Nike ball on the 4th tee without informing her playing partners. She only realised her mistake when she located her ball just off the fairway. Neither her playing partner nor herself were aware of the Rule and she continued to play the Nike ball finishing with a 4. She then announced that she was going to tee off with the Titleist, which she played with until the end of the round. She submitted her card duly signed by one of her playing partners. However she is now concerned that she acted incorrectly and should advise the club secretary and effectively disqualify herself for submitting an incorrect card. What is the appropriate Rule in this situation and what action should she take?


You can tell your wife that she can relax as she did not break any Rule of Golf. Players may change their ball, and brand of ball, between holes unless the competition has a one ball rule, which is typically only used in tour events. Whilst it is courteous to tell your fellow competitors that you have changed balls there is no Rule that requires you to do so. Of course you cannot substitute a ball during the play of a hole. Rule 15-1 states;

“A player must hole out with the ball played from the teeing ground unless the ball is lost or out of bounds or the player substitutes another ball, whether or not substitution is permitted (see 15-2). If a player plays a wrong ball, see Rule 15-3.”


Please advise under what circumstances a player would declare his ball as “unplayable”?


Rule 28 states;
“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.”

Usually, a player invoke this Rule when their ball is in a place where they would have trouble in making their next stroke and it is probably better for them to incur a penalty stroke and drop under one of the three options available under this Rule. Examples would be when your ball lies deep in a bush, or in very thick rough, or in the roots of a tree.


After a tee shot a player’s ball crosses the course boundary, hits a tree that is wholly out of bounds and then bounces back onto the fairway. What is the ruling on this?


It is of no consequence if a player’s ball travels out of bounds providing it lands back on the course. They play their ball as it lies without penalty.


In a foursome, player A’s tee ball could not be found, but it might have entered a lateral water hazard. No one in the foursome saw the ball enter the hazard. Can an assumption be made that the ball entered the hazard, and then is Player A allowed to drop within 2 club lengths of where the ball is thought to have entered the hazard, and incur a one stroke penalty?


Rule 26-1, Relief From Water Hazard (which includes a lateral water hazard) states;

“It is a question of fact whether a ball that has not been found after having been struck toward a water hazard is in the hazard. In order to apply this Rule, it must be known or virtually certain that the ball is in the hazard. In the absence of such knowledge or certainty, the player must proceed under Rule 27-1.”

So, where it is only likely that a ball might have come to rest in a lateral water hazard the only way to proceed is to go back to where the last stroke was made and drop a ball under penalty of stroke and distance (Rule 27-1, Ball Lost or Out of Bounds).


After a stroke a player’s ball ends near, or maybe even touching, a white stake. Can you take relief without a penalty or do you play ball from where it lies?


White stakes identifying out of bounds are not obstructions and are deemed to be fixed (see Definition of Out of Bounds). There is no relief from them. Therefore, the player must either play their ball as it lies or deem it unplayable and drop it according to one of the three options available under Rule 28, under penalty of one stroke.

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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 GolfSwingSecretsRevealed.com, 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 “Eight Golf Rules About The Golf Ball”

  1. Aditya says:

    I have a question on Rule 15 of golf, and would request your input. Thanks

    Upon playing my 3rd shot on a par 5, about 160 yards to the green, i cud not find my ball. The putting green was guarded by a bunker in which I saw a ball that was covered with sand, and the logo was barely visible. I assumed that this is my ball. However, after I played my 4th shot from the bunker, one of my playing partners made me realize I played his ball (we were a foursome). I conceded that hole, and allowed the other 3 to continue. When we walked to the flag on the putting green, my ball was found inside the cup. Thus, since that incident occured before I played the wrong ball ie. my own ball caught the hole first, would I still be Disqualified for the hole?

  2. Sandie Johnson says:

    What happens if the ball I have just hit lands under a Buggy which has broken down on the course?

  3. Afridi says:

    Hi i need to clearify a confusion. I’ll narate the story as i was unable to find a solid answer for it. We were playing four ball in which one of the opponent changed his ball after completing the 6th hole and did not inform us. We continued to think that he was playing with the same ball. His T-off on the last hole went in to the rough and as the shot was hit we immediatly told him that you wont find the ball due to the light condition. We did not follow him to search the ball as light was getting dim and went to play our own shots with his permission. After some time he declared that he found his ball and played it and hit direct green. This was the first time while approaching green he announced that he was playing with some other ball. Our confusion spiked up more that why did he tell us now. We expect that it was a lost ball and he played a new ball where by we have no method to prove it other wise. please need a reply and thanx in advance.

  4. Jon Bowles says:

    Hi. Very good article.

    I have a question.

    This happened to me the other week and none of my playing partners knew what the rule was.

    I played a ball off the tee that went straight down the fairway not hitting anything except grass. when i came to my resting ball i noticed a large crack in it with the core showing.(unusual as it was only three holes old and a titliest)

    As it was only a friendly round we all agreed to let me replace the ball with a new one no penalty as we were not playing competitively.

    What would happen in a comp?

    two shot penalty?
    return to the tee and hit three?

    Any help greatly appreciated. Jon

  5. peter says:

    hi barry thanks for all the rules. i remember years ago i had to learn the hard way.my elderly friend penalized me all the time till i made an effort to learn the rules of golf . i used to get so cross with him at the time.i just about had a fit inside of me ha ha ha. i wish players would do that today . we will only have better golfers out on the courses.

  6. Colin says:

    hello, i was wondering if you are playing in a match where you must play the ball down at all times, and when you adDress the ball in the fairway your club touches the ball and the ball shakes and rotates forward no more than a half an inch. Is this considered a stroke or not even though you were not intending to hit the ball. Thank you.

  7. Barry Rhodes says:

    John Riley,


    The penultimate paragraph to Decision 14-1/5 clearly supports the fact that a stroke was indeed made;

    “If the player had not successfully checked his downswing (i.e., he had struck the ball), he is considered to have made a stroke.”

    In other words, once the player has commenced his downswing the only way he can cancel the stroke is to intentionally miss the ball and succeed in doing so.



  8. Barry Rhodes says:


    Fortunately, there is only one set of unified Rules now, as published separately by the USGA and R&A. In fact, there is just one subject that they have failed to agree on and when my book is delivered you will be able to check it out at Q.999.

    Decision 14-3/0.5 is relevant to your question;

    “Q. May a Committee, by Local Rule, permit the use of distance-measuring devices?

    A. Yes. A Committee may establish a Local Rule allowing players to use devices that measure or gauge distance only (see the Note to Rule 14-3). However, the use of a distance-measuring device that is designed to gauge or measure other conditions that might affect a player’s play (e.g., gradient, wind speed, temperature, etc.) is not permitted regardless of whether such an additional function is used.

    In the absence of such a Local Rule, the use of a distance-measuring device would be contrary to Rule 14-3.”



  9. John Heanaghan says:

    Good day from New Zealand Barry, I have just bought your book because I always enjoy rules and your knowledge on rules.

    Therefore I have both a comment and a question at the end.

    Q2 re GPS devices and that the committee may make a local rule that allows the use of devices that measure or gauge distance only.

    Although I was born in England and now live and play in NZ and therefore still come under the auspices of the R & A I am a member of the USGA. When this rule was introduced they sent emails out to members stating that the devices measuring distance is very strict. There are devices that give other information such as wind speeds and and Gradients, These devices the USGA stated are not allowed to be carried during a round even if these extra functions are “turned off” under penalty of disqualification. Please can you comment and say whether this view is also taken by the R & A. I don’t have a GPS as our committe won’t allow them at present.

  10. Larry Quah says:

    Many thanks for sharing this, Barry. I find it most useful as a refresher for rules which sometimes get forgotten or become rusty with time.

  11. Barry Rhodes says:


    I think that Rule 5-3 answers ll your questions;

    “A ball is unfit for play if it is visibly cut, cracked or out of shape. A ball is not unfit for play solely because mud or other materials adhere to it, its surface is scratched or scraped or its paint is damaged or discolored.

    If a player has reason to believe his ball has become unfit for play during play of the hole being played, he may lift the ball, without penalty, to determine whether it is unfit.

    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 and examine it, provided that he gives his opponent, marker or fellow-competitor an opportunity to examine the ball and observe the lifting and replacement. The ball must not be cleaned when lifted under Rule 5-3.”



  12. john Riley says:

    hi Barry,

    thanks for your golf rules articles. most informative.

    however your ruling on the rule when the ball falls of the tee is i believe
    wrong. the definition of a stroke is that there must be intention to strike and move the ball. therefore there is no penalty or stroke.

  13. Michael Black says:

    When exactly can a ball be declared unfit for play?

    What state must the ball be in?

    Must a hole have been completed first?

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