Golf Rules Test – Eleven Questions And Answers

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

If you would like you can read through and test yourself on each one and let me know how you did in the comments section below. There are no prizes, it would just be fun to know what answers came as a surprise, if any of them did.

Here goes with the first question:


Is it OK for a player to stick a lump of lead tape on her driver, for the purpose of adjusting its weight, before starting her round?


Yes, but not during her round. Decision 4-1/4.


If your ball lies in a red staked hazard – can the stake be removed if it’s obstructing your swing?


Yes, stakes defining water hazards, whether red (lateral water hazards) or yellow (water hazards), may be removed providing that they can be moved without unreasonable effort, without unduly delaying play and without causing damage. If the Committee intends that the hazard stakes should not be removed (which is unusual) they will impose a Local Rule that states that they are immovable obstructions.


Do you have to make a reasonable effort to find a ball that may be lost or out of bounds if you would prefer to continue play with a provisional ball that you have played to the middle of the fairway?


No, there is nothing in the Rules to say that a player must search for their ball. However, if the original ball is found on the course before the player has played their next stroke with the provisional ball they have to continue play with it, even if it is unplayable (Rule 27-2c). If they do deem their original ball unplayable they are penalised one stroke and must choose one of the three relief options available under Rule 28.


If you think that your ball is lost so you play another ball (not a provisional) are you permitted to search quickly for the original ball?


Decision 27/9 directly answers your question;
Q. According to Rule 27, if a player hits his tee shot into the woods and tees up and plays another ball without announcing it as a provisional ball, the second ball becomes the ball in play and the original ball is lost. In such a case, is the player precluded from searching for his original ball?
A. No. But the player may not play the ball if he finds it and must not unduly delay play.


You are on the putting green and your opponent in match play, or playing partner in a monthly medal stroke competition, makes a putt to the hole. Whilst his ball is in motion on its way to the hole, you bend down and mark your ball, are you penalised? Note, your ball is not interfering with his line of putt, you just happen to be standing over it and decide it maybe needs a bit of a clean etc. So in short, is there a penalty for you marking your ball on the putting green whilst another ball is in motion?


If, as you say, a ball is not interfering with the line of putt (which includes a reasonable distance on either side of the intended line) then there is no penalty for marking and lifting it while another ball is in motion. Part of Rule 24-1 states;

“When a ball is in motion, an obstruction that might influence the movement of the ball, other than equipment of any player or the flagstick when attended, removed or held up, must not be moved.”

Note that the lifted ball must not have been in a position to influence the movement of the ball in motion; otherwise there is a penalty under Rule 1-2, Exerting Influence on Ball. Also, the Definition of ‘Equipment’ makes it clear that a player’s ball in play is not part of his equipment for this situation.


I have always understood that you cannot clean the ball by wiping it on the putting green but a fellow competitor disagrees. What is the correct ruling?


Decision 16-1d/5 states that a ball may be cleaned by rubbing it on the putting green provided the act is not for the purpose of testing the surface of the putting green. However, it is recommended that a ball be cleaned in other ways to eliminate any question as to the player’s intentions and to protect the playing surface of the putting green.


Today in stroke play I placed my club behind my ball and the ball moved. I replaced the ball and then took my shot. One of my paying partners said that was a penalty. Please what is the ruling?


Yes, you definitely incurred a penalty of either one or two strokes, depending on whether you had addressed your ball, or not. If you had completed your address, that is you had taken your stance and had also grounded your club, then you are deemed to have moved the ball and must replace it under penalty of one stroke, Rule 18-2b. If you had not addressed your ball and did not cause it to move (e.g. it had been moved by the wind or gravity) then you should have played the ball from where it came to rest. By replacing the ball you incorrectly touched a ball in play (a one stroke penalty) and then played from the wrong place (a two stroke penalty, but the penalty for touching your ball is overridden, making two strokes in total) – Rule 20-7c.


In a four-ball match my partner and I had teed off on the 18th hole when our opponents claimed that we had played out of turn, as they won the 16th and we had halved the 17th. They then claimed that we had lost the hole for playing out of turn. We asked them if they wanted to tee off and then we will play again but they insisted they had won the hole. Is this correct? The club has a Local Rule to play ‘as ready’ golf.


Your opponents did not win the hole. In stroke play there is no penalty for paying out of turn, which is why so many Clubs encourage their members to play ‘as ready’. In match play there is no penalty, but there is an important difference, which is explained in Rule 10-1c;

“If a player plays when his opponent should have played, there is no penalty, but the opponent may immediately require the player to cancel the stroke so made and, in correct order, play a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played (see Rule 20-5).”


Players A and B are involved in a match. A enters the teeing ground with two clubs, decides on one and places the other at one side, but inside both the tee markers. After A has holed out B informs him that he transgressed on the teeing ground and has incurred a loss of hole penalty. Is this right?


Well this is one of the strangest (wrong) rulings that I have heard. No, there is categorically no Rule that prevents a player taking two clubs, ten clubs, or even a trolley containing a bag of clubs onto the teeing ground, though obviously I do not recommend the latter! Therefore, no penalty was incurred


A player hits his approach shot to a wrong green by mistake (shank, wrong alignment, etc,), and this wrong green is about 100m or so away from the intended green. I believe the player may not chip or play an iron shot from the green. Should the player putt his ball off that wrong green and then play a normal approach shot to the intended green or can he pick up his ball, drop it on the apron of the wrong green, nearest to the point of entry to this green?


The answer to your question is in Rule 20-7b, which states;

If a player’s ball lies on a wrong putting green, he must not play the ball as it lies. He must take relief, without penalty, as follows:

The player must lift the ball and drop it within one club-length of and not nearer the hole than the nearest point of relief. The nearest point of relief must not be in a hazard or on a putting green. When dropping the ball within one club-length of the nearest point of relief, the ball must first strike a part of the course at a spot that avoids interference by the wrong putting green and is not in a hazard and not on a putting green. The ball may be cleaned when lifted under this Rule.

Penalty for Breach of Rule:
Match play – Loss of hole; Stroke play – Two strokes.


On leaving the putting green in a stroke play competition can you play your ball to the next tee? I had heard that this incurs a penalty. Please can you advise?


Part of Rule 7-2 states that players are permitted to practice putting or chipping on or near the putting green of the hole last played, any practice putting green, or the teeing ground of the next hole to be played in the round, provided a practice stroke is not made from a hazard and does not unduly delay play. The reason that some players think that these actions incur a penalty is because most Pro Tour events have a Condition of Competition that prohibits players from practising between holes.

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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, 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.

10 Responses to “Golf Rules Test – Eleven Questions And Answers”

  1. Bruce Wakeman says:

    A player plays his second shot to a green that is blocked from view because of trees, he and his playing partners where not sure if the ball might be lost outside a hazard so a provisional ball was played when reaching the spot where all had seen the provisional ball go, a ball believed to be the original ball was found and struck onto the green the provisional ball was picked up when they walked onto the green there was a ball which turned out to be the original ball and that ball was putted out. The assumed ball played turned out to have been a ball he had lost days before, I believe he incurs a 2 stroke penalty for playing a wrong ball

  2. Andy Mcarthur says:

    I have the 999 questions and answers on the rules of golf to help me through arguments with fellow players who argue the toss on some situations and I swear that most of them have never opened a rule book in their lives. The questions are good and cover most of the situations that happen on the course, everyone playing this great game should read this book and realise what little they really know. Reading the R&A Decisions on the Rules is also quite an eye opener. Andy

  3. Barry Rhodes says:


    When you are playing from a water hazard you do not incur a penalty for touching any grass, bush, tree or other growing thing on your backswing. However, if your club touches any loose impediment ( e.g. twigs, leaves, dead palm fronds, pine cones) on your backswing you do incur the general penalty.


  4. John Tobin says:

    When playing out of a water hazard when I take the club back if I touch anything such as grass/ trees etc am I penalised?

  5. Barry Rhodes says:

    Donald C,

    No, from the question we do not know if the player had completed his address, which through the green requires the player to have completed their stance (unknown in this question) and ground their club.

    Therefore, I gave the ruling for both possible situations; one of which only incurs a penalty of ones stroke and the other two strokes.

    Barry Rhodes for miscellaneous content on the Rules of Golf

  6. Edwin Allan Munro says:

    Good questions I think I got them all ok.

  7. Donald C says:

    Please look at your answer to No 7, as I am baffled and not certain you have calculated the penalty correctly in this scenario. Surely he incurs just a one-stroke penalty going by the rules quoted in your answer: the guy has already told you that he had completed his address when the ball moved. In which case, he was correct to have replaced it and should have incurred just a one-stroke penalty, surely?

  8. Sam McMullan says:

    Thoroughly enjoy your deliberations on explaining the rules of golf. The rules of golf are many and varied and it is no surprise that so many golfers, old and new, are so unsure of what to do when faced with with making a decision. Thank you.

  9. Kenneth Cushwa says:

    Hey Andy I got them all correct before looking at the answers, not bad for a 65 year old guy.

  10. Rob McIntyre says:

    Great quiz – – only one that I got wrong was the last one . . .

    Appreciate the time you spend helping educate golfers on the rules of the greatest game in the world.

    Rob McIntyre , Vancouver British Columbia, Canada

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