Rules of Golf 2023 – Official Publications

1st November 2022 saw the Official Launch of the R&A and USGA Rules of Golf 2023

Rules of Golf 2023 Official Guide - Front Cover
Rules of Golf 2023 Official Guide

There will be no printed Player’s Edition from 2023, which is normally distributed free to all Golf Clubs. However, The full Rule book, The Official Guide to the Rules of Golf, and the Player’s Guide to the Rules of Golf will still be printed.

You can order these publications from the R&A Shop or Amazon

Meanwhile, you can read an online version of the Rules of Golf 2023 if you click on the link below:

Online version of Official Guide to the Rules of Golf 2023

You may also order a free copy of a hard publication from the R&A Shop.

This publication of Rules of Golf 2023 is intended for those who administer the game, and who need to answer the large variety of questions that can arise in relation to golf competitions.

It is an A5 sized book. You are encouraged, however, to download the Rules of Golf App, for iPhone, iPad or Android devices by clicking here.

Rules of Golf 2023 – Definitions

Rules of Golf 2023 – Definitions

The Definitions are listed alphabetically, you may download a copy of the 2023 Rules of Golf Definitions by clicking on the link at the bottom of the list 

About Definitions

There are over 70 defined terms and these form the foundation around which the Rules are written. A good knowledge of the defined terms (which are in a lighter blue and bold) is very important to the correct application of the Rules.

A

Abnormal Course Condition

Any of these four defined conditions:

  • Animal Hole,
  • Ground Under Repair,
  • Immovable Obstruction, or
  • Temporary Water.

Advice

Any verbal comment or action (such as showing what club was just used to make a stroke) that is intended to influence a player in:

  • Choosing a club,
  • Making a stroke, or
  • Deciding how to play during a hole or round.

But advice does not include public information, such as:

  • The location of things on the course such as the hole, the putting green, the fairway, penalty areas, bunkers, or another player’s ball,
  • The distance from one point to another,
  • Wind direction, or
  • The Rules.

Advice/1Advice/2Advice/3

Animal

Any living member of the animal kingdom (other than humans), including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates (such as worms, insects, spiders and crustaceans).

Animal Hole

Any hole dug in the ground by an animal, except for holes dug by animals that are also defined as loose impediments (such as worms or insects).

The term animal hole includes:

  • The loose material the animal dug out of the hole, 
  • Any worn-down track or trail leading into the hole, and
  • Any area on the ground pushed up or altered as a result of the animal digging the hole underground.

An animal hole does not include animal footprints that are not part of a worn-down track or trail leading into an animal hole.

Areas of the Course

The five defined areas that make up the course:

  • The general area,
  • The teeing area the player must play from in starting the hole they are playing,
  • All penalty areas,
  • All bunkers, and
  • The putting green of the hole the player is playing.

B

Ball-Marker

An artificial object when used to mark the spot of a ball to be lifted, such as a tee, a coin, an object made to be a ball-marker or another small piece of equipment.

When a Rule refers to a ball-marker being moved, this means a ball-marker in place on the course to mark the spot of a ball that has been lifted and not yet replaced.

Boundary Object

Artificial objects defining or showing out of bounds, such as walls, fences, stakes and railings, from which free relief is not allowed.

This includes any base and post of a boundary fence, but does not include:

  • Angled supports or guy wires that are attached to a wall or fence, or
  • Any gate, steps, bridge or similar construction used for getting over or through the wall or fence.

Boundary objects are treated as immovable even if they are movable or any part of them is movable (see Rule 8.1a).Boundary objects are not obstructions or integral objects. Boundary Object/1

Bunker

A specially prepared area of sand, which is often a hollow from which turf or soil was removed.

These are not part of a bunker:

  • A lip, wall or face at the edge of a prepared area and consisting of soil, grass, stacked turf or artificial materials,
  • Soil or any growing or attached natural object inside the edge of a prepared area (such as grass, bushes or trees),
  • Sand that has spilled over or is outside the edge of a prepared area, and
  • All other areas of sand on the course that are not inside the edge of a prepared area (such as deserts and other natural sand areas or areas sometimes referred to as waste areas).

Bunkers are one of the five defined areas of the course. A Committee may define a prepared area of sand as part of the general area (which means it is not a bunker) or may define a non-prepared area of sand as a bunker. When a bunker is being repaired and the Committee defines the entire bunker as ground under repair, it is treated as part of the general area (which means it is not a bunker).The word “sand” as used in this definition and Rule 12 includes any material similar to sand that is used as bunker material (such as crushed shells), as well as any soil that is mixed in with the sand.

C

Caddie

Someone who helps a player during a round, including in these ways:

  • Carrying, Transporting or Handling Clubs: A person who carries, transports (such as by cart or trolley) or handles a player’s clubs during play is the player’s caddie even if not named as a caddie by the player, except when done to move the player’s clubs, bag or cart out of the way or as a courtesy (such as getting a club the player left behind).
  • Giving Advice: A player’s caddie is the only person (other than a partner or partner’s caddie) a player may ask for advice.

caddie may also help the player in other ways allowed by the Rules (see Rule 10.3b).

Club-Length

The length of the longest club of the 14 (or fewer) clubs the player has during the round (as allowed by Rule 4.1b(1)), other than a putter.

club-length is a unit of measurement used in defining the player’s teeing area on each hole and in determining the size of the player’s relief area when taking relief under a Rule. For the purpose of measuring these areas, the length of the entire club is used, starting at the toe of the club and ending at the butt end of the grip. But any attachment to the end of the grip is not part of the club-length. Club-Length/1

Committee

The person or group in charge of the competition or the course.

Committee/1

Conditions Affecting the Stroke

The lie of the player’s ball at rest, the area of intended stance, the area of intended swing, the line of play and the relief area where the player will drop or place a ball.

  • The “area of intended stance” includes both where the player will place their feet and the entire area that might reasonably affect how and where the player’s body is positioned in preparing for and making the intended stroke.
  • The “area of intended swing” includes the entire area that might reasonably affect any part of the backswing, the downswing or the completion of the swing for the intended stroke.
  • Each of the terms “lie,” “line of play” and “relief area” has its own definition.

Course

The entire area of play within the edge of any boundaries set by the Committee:

  • All areas inside the boundary edge are in bounds and part of the course.
  • All areas outside the boundary edge are out of bounds and not part of the course.
  • The boundary edge extends both up above the ground and down below the ground.

The course is made up of the five defined areas of the course.

D

Drop

To hold the ball and let go of it so that it falls through the air, with the intent for the ball to be in play.

If the player lets go of a ball without intending it to be in play, the ball has not been dropped and is not in play (see Rule 14.4).Each relief Rule identifies a specific relief area where the ball must be dropped and come to rest. In taking relief, the player must let go of the ball from a location at knee height so that the ball:

  • Falls straight down, without the player throwing, spinning or rolling it or using any other motion that might affect where the ball will come to rest, and
  • Does not touch any part of the player’s body or equipment before it hits the ground (see Rule 14.3b).

E

Embedded

When a player’s ball is in its own pitch-mark made as a result of the player’s previous stroke and where part of the ball is below the level of the ground.

A ball does not necessarily have to touch soil to be embedded (for example, grass and loose impediments may be between the ball and the soil).

Equipment

Anything used, worn, held or carried by the player or the player’s caddie.

Objects used for the care of the course, such as rakes, are equipment only while they are being held or carried by the player or caddie. Objects, other than clubs, carried by someone else for the player are not equipment, even if they belong to the player.

Equipment Rules

The specifications and other regulations for clubs, balls and other equipment that players are allowed to use during a round. The Equipment Rules are found at RandA.org/Equipment Standards.

F

Flagstick

A movable pole provided by the Committee that is placed in the hole to show players where the hole is. The flagstick includes the flag and any other material or objects attached to the pole.

When an artificial or natural object, such as a club or a stick, is being used to show the position of the hole, that object is treated as if it is the flagstick for the purpose of applying the Rules. The requirements for a flagstick are stated in the Equipment Rules.

Four-Ball

A form of play where sides of two partners compete, with each player playing their own ball. A side’s score for a hole is the lower score of the two partners on that hole.

Four-Ball may be played as a match-play competition between one side of two partners and another side of two partners or a stroke-play competition among multiple sides of two partners.

Foursomes (also known as “Alternate Shot”)

A form of play where two partners compete as a side by playing one ball in alternating order on each hole.

Foursomes may be played as a match-play competition between one side of two partners and another side of two partners or a stroke-play competition among multiple sides of two partners.

G

General Area

The area of the course that covers all of the course except for the other four defined areas: (1) the teeing area the player must play from in starting the hole they are playing, (2) all penalty areas, (3) all bunkers, and (4) the putting green of the hole the player is playing.

The general area includes:

  • All teeing locations on the course other than the teeing area, and
  • All wrong greens.

General Penalty

Loss of hole in match play or two penalty strokes in stroke play.

Ground Under Repair

Any part of the course the Committee defines to be ground under repair (whether by marking it or otherwise). Any defined ground under repair includes both:

  • All ground inside the edge of the defined area, and
  • Any grass, bush, tree or other growing or attached natural object rooted in the defined area, including any part of those objects that extends up above the ground outside the edge of the defined area, but not any part (such as a tree root) that is attached to or below the ground outside the edge of the defined area.

Ground under repair also includes the following things, even if the Committee does not define them as such:

  • Any hole made by the Committee or the maintenance staff in:
    • Setting up the course (such as a hole where a stake has been removed or the hole on a double green being used for the play of another hole), or
    • Maintaining the course (such as a hole made in removing turf or a tree stump or laying pipelines, but not including aeration holes).
  • Grass cuttings, leaves and any other material piled for later removal. But:
    • Any natural materials that are piled for removal are also loose impediments, and
    • Any materials left on the course that are not intended to be removed are not ground under repair unless the Committee has defined them as such.
  • Any animal habitat (such as a bird’s nest) that is so near a player’s ball that the player’s stroke or stance might damage it, except when the habitat has been made by animals that are defined as loose impediments (such as worms or insects).

The edge of ground under repair should be defined by stakes, lines or physical features:

  • Stakes: When defined by stakes, the edge of the ground under repair is defined by the line between the outside points of the stakes at ground level, and the stakes are inside the ground under repair.
  • Lines: When defined by a painted line on the ground, the edge of the ground under repair is the outside edge of the line, and the line itself is in the ground under repair.
  • Physical Features: When defined by physical features (such as a flower bed or a turf nursery), the Committee should say how the edge of the ground under repair is defined.

When the edge of ground under repair is defined by lines or physical features, stakes may be used to show where the ground under repair is located. When stakes are used to define or show the edge of ground under repair, they are obstructions. Ground Under Repair/1Ground Under Repair/2Ground Under Repair/3

H

Hole

The finishing point on the putting green for the hole being played:

  • The hole must be 4 ¼ inches (108 mm) in diameter and at least 4 inches (101.6 mm) deep.
  • If a lining is used, its outer diameter must not exceed 4 ¼ inches (108 mm). The lining must be sunk at least 1 inch (25.4 mm) below the putting green surface, unless the nature of the soil requires that it be closer to the surface.

The word “hole” (when not used as a definition in italics) is used throughout the Rules to mean the part of the course associated with a particular teeing area, putting green and hole. Play of a hole begins from the teeing area and ends when the ball is holed on the putting green (or when the Rules otherwise say the hole is completed).

Holed

When a ball is at rest in the hole after a stroke and the entire ball is below the surface of the putting green.

When the Rules refer to “holing out” or “hole out,” it means when the player’s ball is holed.For the special case of a ball resting against the flagstick in the hole, see Rule 13.2c (ball is treated as holed if any part of the ball is below the surface of the putting green).Holed/1Holed/2

Honour

The right of a player to play first from the teeing area (see Rule 6.4).

I

Immovable Obstruction

Any obstruction that:

  • Cannot be moved without unreasonable effort or without damaging the obstruction or the course, and
  • Otherwise, does not meet the definition of a movable obstruction.

The Committee may define any obstruction to be an immovable obstruction, even if it meets the definition of movable obstruction. Immovable Obstruction/1

Improve

To alter one or more of the conditions affecting the stroke or other physical conditions affecting play so that a player gains a potential advantage for a stroke.

In Play

The status of a player’s ball when it lies on the course and is being used in the play of a hole:

  • A ball first becomes in play on a hole:
    • When the player makes a stroke at it from inside the teeing area, or
    • In match play, when the player makes a stroke at it from outside the teeing area and the opponent does not cancel the stroke under Rule 6.1b.
  • That ball remains in play until it is holed, except that it is no longer in play:
    • When it is lifted from the course,
    • When it is lost (even if it is at rest on the course) or comes to rest out of bounds, or
    • When another ball has been substituted for it, even if not allowed by a Rule.

A ball that is not in play is a wrong ball.The player cannot have more than one ball in play at any time. (See Rule 6.3d for the limited cases when a player may play more than one ball at the same time on a hole.)When the Rules refer to a ball at rest or in motion, this means a ball that is in play. When a ball-marker is in place to mark the spot of a ball in play:

  • If the ball has not been lifted, it is still in play, and
  • If the ball has been lifted and replaced, it is in play even if the ball-marker has not been removed.

Integral Object

An artificial object defined by the Committee as part of the challenge of playing the course from which free relief is not allowed.

Integral objects are treated as immovable (see Rule 8.1a). But if part of an integral object (such as a gate or door or part of an attached cable) meets the definition of movable obstruction, that part is treated as a movable obstruction. Artificial objects defined by the Committee as integral objects are not obstructions or boundary objects.

K

Known or Virtually Certain

The standard for deciding what happened to a player’s ball – for example, whether the ball came to rest in a penalty area, whether it moved or what caused it to move.

Known or virtually certain means more than just possible or probable. It means that either:

  • There is conclusive evidence that the event in question happened to the player’s ball, such as when the player or other witnesses saw it happen, or
  • Although there is a very small degree of doubt, all reasonably available information shows that it is at least 95% likely that the event in question happened.

“All reasonably available information” includes all information the player knows and all other information they can get with reasonable effort and without unreasonable delay. When searching for a ball, only information discovered within the three-minute search time is considered when determining whether knowledge or virtual certainty exists. Known or Virtually Certain/1Known or Virtually Certain/2Known or Virtually Certain/3

L

Lie

The spot on which a ball is at rest and any growing or attached natural object, immovable obstruction, integral object, or boundary object touching the ball or right next to it.

Loose impediments and movable obstructions are not part of the lie of a ball.

Line of Play

The line where the player intends their ball to go after a stroke, including the area on that line that is a reasonable distance up above the ground and on either side of that line.

The line of play is not necessarily a straight line between two points (for example, it may be a curved line based on where the player intends the ball to go).

Loose Impediment

Any unattached natural object such as:

  • Stones, loose grass, leaves, branches and sticks,
  • Dead animals and animal waste,
  • Worms, insects and similar animals that can be removed easily, and the mounds or webs they build (such as worm casts and ant hills), and
  • Clumps of compacted soil (including aeration plugs).

Such natural objects are not loose if they are:

  • Attached or growing,
  • Solidly embedded in the ground (that is, cannot be picked out easily), or
  • Sticking to the ball.

Special cases:

  • Sand and Loose Soil are not loose impediments (this does not include a mound built by a worm, insect or similar animal).
  • Dew, Frost and Water are not loose impediments.
  • Snow and Natural Ice (other than frost) are either loose impediments or, when on the ground, temporary water, at the player’s option.
  • Spider Webs are loose impediments even though they are attached to another object.
  • Live Insect on a Ball is a loose impediment.

Loose Impediment/1Loose Impediment/2Loose Impediment/3Loose Impediment/4

Lost

The status of a ball that is not found in three minutes after the player or their caddie (or the player’s partner or partner’s caddie) begins to search for it. A ball does not become lost as a result of the player declaring it to be lost.

If a player deliberately delays the start of the search in order to allow other people to search on their behalf, the search time starts when the player would have been in a position to search had they not delayed getting to the area.If the search begins and is then temporarily interrupted for a good reason (such as when the player stops searching when play is suspended or needs to stand aside to wait for another player to play) or when the player has mistakenly identified a wrong ball:

  • The time between the interruption and when the search resumes does not count, and
  • The time allowed for search is three minutes in total, counting the search time both before the interruption and after the search resumes.

Lost/1Lost/2

M

Mark

To show the spot where a ball is at rest by either:

  • Placing a ball-marker right behind or right next to the ball, or
  • Holding a club on the ground right behind or right next to the ball.

This is done to show the spot where the ball must be replaced after it is lifted.

Marker

In stroke play, the person responsible for entering a player’s score on the player’s scorecard and for certifying that scorecard. The marker  may be another player, but not a partner.

The Committee may identify who will be the player’s marker or tell the players how they may choose a marker.

Match Play

A form of play where a player or side plays directly against an opponent or opposing side in a head-to-head match of one or more rounds:

  • A player or side wins a hole in the match by completing the hole in fewer strokes (including strokes made and penalty strokes), and
  • The match is won when a player or side leads the opponent or opposing side by more holes than remain to be played.

Match play can be played as a singles match (where one player plays directly against one opponent), a Three-Ball match or a Foursomes or Four-Ball match between sides of two partners.

Maximum Score

A form of stroke play where a player’s or side’s score for a hole is capped at a maximum number of strokes (including strokes made and any penalty strokes) set by the Committee, such as two times par, a fixed number or net double bogey.

Movable Obstruction

An obstruction that can be moved with reasonable effort and without damaging the obstruction or the course.

If part of an immovable obstruction or integral object (such as a gate or door or part of an attached cable) meets these two standards, that part is treated as a movable obstruction. But this does not apply if the movable part of an immovable obstruction or integral object is not meant to be moved (such as a loose stone that is part of a stone wall).Even when an obstruction is movable, the Committee may define it to be an immovable obstruction.

Moved

When a ball at rest has left its original spot and come to rest on any other spot, and this can be seen by the naked eye (whether or not anyone actually sees it do so).

This applies whether the ball has gone up, down or horizontally in any direction away from its original spot. If the ball only wobbles (sometimes referred to as oscillating) and stays on or returns to its original spot, the ball has not moved. Moved/1Moved/2

N

Natural Forces

The effects of nature such as wind, water or when something happens for no apparent reason because of the effects of gravity.

Nearest Point of Complete Relief

The reference point for taking free relief from an abnormal course condition (Rule 16.1), dangerous animal condition (Rule 16.2), wrong green (Rule 13.1f) or no play zone (Rules 16.1f and 17.1e), or in taking relief under certain Local Rules.

It is the estimated point where the ball would lie that is:

  • Nearest to the ball’s original spot, but not nearer the hole than that spot,
  • In the required area of the course, and
  • Where there is no interference (under the Rule being used) from the condition from which relief is being taken for the stroke the player would have made from the original spot if the condition were not there. 

Estimating this reference point requires the player to identify the choice of club, stance, swing and line of play they would have used for that stroke. The player does not need to simulate that stroke by taking an actual stance and swinging with the chosen club (but it is recommended that the player normally do this to help in making an accurate estimate).The nearest point of complete relief relates solely to the particular condition from which relief is being taken and may be in a location where there is interference by something else:

  • If the player takes relief and then has interference by another condition from which relief is allowed, the player may take relief again by determining a new nearest point of complete relief from the new condition.
  • Relief must be taken separately for each condition, except that the player may take relief from both conditions at the same time (based on determining the nearest point of complete relief from both) when, having already taken relief separately from each condition, it becomes reasonable to conclude that continuing to do so will result in continued interference by one or the other.

Nearest Point of Complete Relief/1Nearest Point of Complete Relief/2Nearest Point of Complete Relief/3Nearest Point of Complete Relief/4Nearest Point of Complete Relief/5

No Play Zone

A part of the course where the Committee has prohibited play. A no play zone must be defined as part of either an abnormal course condition or a penalty area.

The Committee may use no play zones for any reason, such as:

  • Protecting wildlife, animal habitats, and environmentally sensitive areas,
  • Preventing damage to young trees, flower beds, turf nurseries, re-turfed areas or other planted areas,
  • Protecting players from danger, and
  • Preserving sites of historical or cultural interest.

The Committee should define the edge of a no play zone with a line or stakes, and the line or stakes (or the tops of those stakes) should identify the no play zone as different than a regular abnormal course condition or penalty area that does not contain a no play zone. No Play Zone/1

O

Obstruction

Any artificial object except for integral objects and boundary objects.

Examples of obstructions:

  • Artificially surfaced roads and paths, including their artificial borders,
  • Buildings and rain shelters,
  • Sprinkler heads, drains and irrigation or control boxes,
  • Stakes, walls, railings and fences (but not when they are boundary objects that define or show the boundary edge of the course),
  • Golf carts, mowers, cars and other vehicles,
  • Waste containers, signposts and benches, and
  • Player equipment, flagsticks and rakes.

An obstruction is either a movable obstruction or an immovable obstruction. If part of an immovable obstruction (such as a gate or door or part of an attached cable) meets the definition of movable obstruction, that part is treated as a movable obstruction.Paint dots and lines, such as those used to define boundaries and penalty areas, are not obstructions. See Committee Procedures, Section 8; Model Local Rule F-23 (Committee may adopt a Local Rule defining certain obstructions as temporary immovable obstructions for which special relief procedures apply).

Opponent

The person a player competes against in a match. The term opponent applies only in match play.

Out of Bounds

All areas outside the boundary edge of the course as defined by the Committee. All areas inside that edge are in bounds.

The boundary edge of the course extends both up above the ground and down below the ground:

  • This means that all ground and anything else (such as any natural or artificial object) inside the boundary edge is in bounds, whether on, above or below the surface of the ground.
  • If an object is both inside and outside the boundary edge (such as steps attached to a boundary fence, or a tree rooted outside the edge with branches extending inside the edge or vice versa), only the part of the object that is outside the edge is out of bounds.

The boundary edge should be defined by boundary objects or lines:

  • Boundary objects: When defined by stakes or a fence, the boundary edge is defined by the line between the course-side points of the stakes or fence posts at ground level (excluding angled supports), and those stakes or fence posts are out of bounds. When defined by other objects such as a wall or when the Committee wishes to treat a boundary fence in a different way, the Committee should define the boundary edge.
  • Lines: When defined by a painted line on the ground, the boundary edge is the course-side edge of the line, and the line itself is out of bounds. When a line on the ground defines the boundary edge, stakes may be used to show where the boundary edge is located.

When stakes are used to define or show the boundary edge, they are boundary objects. Boundary stakes or lines should be white.

Outside Influence

Any of these people or things that can affect what happens to a player’s ball or equipment or to the course:

  • Any person (including another player), except the player or their caddie or the player’s partner or opponent or any of their caddies,
  • Any animal,
  • Any natural or artificial object or anything else (including another ball in motion), except for natural forces, and
  • Artificially propelled air and water, such as from a fan or irrigation system.

P

Par/Bogey

A form of stroke play that uses scoring as in match play where:

  • A player or side wins or loses a hole by completing the hole in fewer strokes or more strokes (including strokes made and any penalty strokes) than a fixed target score for that hole set by the Committee, and
  • The competition is won by the player or side with the highest total of holes won versus holes lost (that is, adding up the holes won and subtracting the holes lost).

Partner

A player who competes together with another player as a side, in either match play or stroke play.

Penalty Area

An area from which relief with a one-stroke penalty is allowed if the player’s ball comes to rest there.

penalty area is:

  • Any body of water on the course (whether or not marked by the Committee), including a sea, lake, pond, river, ditch, surface drainage ditch or other open watercourse (even if not containing water), and
  • Any other part of the course the Committee defines as a penalty area.

penalty area is one of the five defined areas of the course. There are two different types of penalty areas, distinguished by the colour used to mark them:

  • Yellow penalty areas (marked with yellow lines or yellow stakes) give the player two relief options (Rules 17.1d(1) and (2)).
  • Red penalty areas (marked with red lines or red stakes) give the player an extra lateral relief option (Rule 17.1d(3)), in addition to the two relief options available for yellow penalty areas.

If the colour of a penalty area has not been marked or indicated by the Committee, it is treated as a red penalty area. The edge of a penalty area extends both up above the ground and down below the ground:

  • This means that all ground and anything else (such as any natural or artificial object) inside the edge is part of the penalty area, whether on, above or below the surface of the ground.
  • If an object is both inside and outside the edge (such as a bridge over the penalty area, or a tree rooted inside the edge with branches extending outside the edge or vice versa), only the part of the object that is inside the edge is part of the penalty area.

The edge of a penalty area should be defined by stakes, lines or physical features:

  • Stakes: When defined by stakes, the edge of the penalty area is defined by the line between the outside points of the stakes at ground level, and the stakes are inside the penalty area.
  • Lines: When defined by a painted line on the ground, the edge of the penalty area is the outside edge of the line, and the line itself is in the penalty area.
  • Physical Features: When defined by physical features (such as a beach or desert area or a retaining wall), the Committee should say how the edge of the penalty area is defined.

When the edge of a penalty area is defined by lines or by physical features, stakes may be used to show where the penalty area is located. When stakes are used to define or show the edge of a penalty area, they are obstructions. If a Committee has mistakenly excluded an area of water that is clearly part of a penalty area when defining its edge (such as by placing stakes in a location that means there is a portion of water from the penalty area that appears to be in the general area), that area is part of the penalty area. When the edge of a body of water is not defined by the Committee, the edge of that penalty area is defined by its natural boundaries (that is, where the ground slopes down to form the depression that can hold the water).If an open watercourse usually does not contain water (such as a drainage ditch or run-off area that is dry except during a rainy season), the Committee may define that area as part of the general area (which means it is not a penalty area).

Point of Maximum Available Relief

The reference point for taking free relief from an abnormal course condition in a bunker (Rule 16.1c) or on the putting green (Rule 16.1d) when there is no nearest point of complete relief.

It is the estimated point where the ball would lie that is:

  • Nearest to the ball’s original spot, but not nearer the hole than that spot,
  • In the required area of the course, and
  • Where that abnormal course condition least interferes with the stroke the player would have made from the original spot if the condition was not there.

Estimating this reference point requires the player to identify the choice of club, stance, swing and line of play the player would have used for that stroke. The player does not need to simulate that stroke by taking an actual stance and swinging with the chosen club (but it is recommended that the player normally do this to help in making an accurate estimate).The point of maximum available relief is found by comparing the relative amount of interference with the lie of the ball and the player’s area of intended stance and swing and, on the putting green only, the line of play. For example, when taking relief from temporary water:

  • The point of maximum available relief may be where the ball will be in shallower water than where the player will stand (affecting the stance more than the lie and swing), or where the ball is in deeper water than where the player will stand (affecting the lie and swing more than the stance).
  • On the putting green, the point of maximum available relief may be based on the line of play where the ball will need to go through the shallowest or shortest stretch of temporary water.

Provisional Ball

Another ball played in case the ball just played by the player may be:

  • Out of bounds, or
  • Lost outside a penalty area.

provisional ball is not the player’s ball in play, unless it becomes the ball in play under Rule 18.3c.

Putting Green

The area on the hole the player is playing that:

  • Is specially prepared for putting, or
  • The Committee has defined as the putting green (such as when a temporary green is used).

The putting green for a hole contains the hole into which the player tries to play a ball. The putting green is one of the five defined areas of the course. The putting greens for all other holes (which the player is not playing at the time) are wrong greens and part of the general area.The edge of a putting green is defined by where it can be seen that the specially prepared area starts (such as where the grass has been distinctly cut to show the edge), unless the Committee defines the edge in a different way (such as by using a line or dots).If a double green is used for two different holes:

  • The entire prepared area containing both holes is treated as the putting green when playing each hole.
  • But the Committee may define an edge that divides the double green into two different putting greens, so that when a player is playing one of the holes, the part of the double green for the other hole is a wrong green.

R

Referee

An official named by the Committee to decide questions of fact and apply the Rules.

In match play, a referee’s duties and authority depend on their assigned role:

  • When a referee is assigned to one match for the entire round, the referee is  responsible for acting on any breach of the Rules that they see or are told about (see Rule 20.1b(1)).
  • When a referee is assigned to multiple matches or to certain holes or sections of the course, they have no authority to become involved in a match unless:
    • A player in a match asks for help with the Rules or requests a ruling (see Rule 20.1b(2)).
    • A player or players in a match may be in breach of Rule 1.2 (Standards of Player Conduct), Rule 1.3b(1) (Two or More Players Agree to Ignore any Rule or Penalty they Know Applies), Rule 5.6a (Unreasonable Delay of Play) or Rule 5.6b (Prompt Pace of Play).
    • A player arrives late to their starting point (see Rule 5.3), or
    • A player’s search for a ball reaches three minutes (see Rule 5.6a and definition of lost).

In stroke play, a referee is responsible for acting on any breach of the Rules they see or are told about. This applies whether the referee is assigned to one group for the entire round or to monitor multiple groups, certain holes or parts of the course. A referee’s duties may be limited by the Committee in match play and stroke play.

Relief Area

The area where a player must drop a ball when taking relief under a Rule. With the exception of back-on-the-line relief (see Rules 16.1c(2)17.1d(2)19.2b and 19.3), each relief Rule requires the player to use a specific relief area whose size and location are based on these three factors:

  • Reference Point: The point from which the size of a relief area is measured.
  • Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: The relief area is either one or two club-lengths from the reference point, but with certain limits:
  • Limits on Location of Relief Area: The location of the relief area may be limited in one or more ways so that, for example:
    • It is only in certain defined areas of the course, such as only in the general area, or not in a bunker or a penalty area,
    • It is not nearer the hole than the reference point or must be outside a penalty area or a bunker from which relief is being taken, or
    • It is where there is no interference (as defined in the particular Rule) from the condition from which relief is being taken.

With back-on-the-line relief, the player must drop on the line in a location allowed by the Rule being used and the spot where the ball first touches the ground when dropped creates a relief area that is one club-length in any direction from that point. When a player is required to drop again or for a second time using back-on-the-line relief, the player may:

  • Change the spot on which the ball is dropped (such as dropping nearer to or farther from the hole), and the relief area changes based on that point, and
  • Drop in a different area of the course.

But doing so does not change how Rule 14.3c applies. In using club-lengths to determine the size of a relief area, the player may measure directly across a ditch, hole or similar thing, and directly across or through an object (such as a tree, fence, wall, tunnel, drain or sprinkler head), but is not allowed to measure through ground that naturally slopes up and down. See Committee Procedures, Section 2I (Committee may choose to allow or require the player to use a dropping zone as a relief area when taking certain relief).Relief Area/1

Replace

To place a ball by setting it down by hand and letting it go, with the intent for it to be in play.

If the player sets a ball down without intending it to be in play, the ball has not been replaced and is not in play (see Rule 14.4).Whenever a Rule requires a ball to be replaced, the Rule identifies a specific spot where the ball must be replaced. See Rules 25.3d and 25.4e (for players who are amputees or use an assistive mobility device, the definition is modified to allow replacing the ball by using equipment).

Round

18 or fewer holes played in the order set by the Committee.

S

Scorecard

The document where a player’s score for each hole is entered in stroke play.

The scorecard may be in any paper or electronic form approved by the Committee that allows:

  • The player’s score to be entered for each hole, and
  • The marker and the player to certify the scores either by physical signature or by a method of electronic certification approved by the Committee.

scorecard is not required in match play but may be used by the players to help keep the match score.

Serious Breach

In stroke play, when playing from a wrong place could give the player a significant advantage compared to the stroke to be made from the right place.

In making this comparison to decide if there was a serious breach, the factors to be taken into account include:

  • The difficulty of the stroke,
  • The distance of the ball from the hole,
  • The effect of obstacles on the line of play, and
  • The conditions affecting the stroke.

The concept of a serious breach does not apply in match play, because a player loses the hole if they play from a wrong place.

Side

Two or more partners competing as a single unit in a round in match play or stroke play.

Each set of partners is a side, whether each partner plays his or her own ball (Four-Ball) or the partners play one ball (Foursomes).A side is not the same as a team. In a team competition, each team consists of players competing as individuals or as sides.

Stableford

A form of stroke play where:

  • A player’s or side’s score for a hole is based on points awarded by comparing the player’s or side’s number of strokes on the hole (including strokes made and any penalty strokes) to a fixed target score for the hole set by the Committee, and
  • The competition is won by the player or side who completes all rounds with the most points.

Stance

The position of a player’s feet and body in preparing for and making a stroke.

See Rule 25.4d (for players who use an assistive mobility device, the definition is modified to include the position of the assistive mobility device in preparing for and making a stroke).

Stroke

The forward movement of the club made to strike the ball.

But stroke has not been made if the player:

  • Decides during the downswing not to strike the ball and avoids doing so by deliberately stopping the clubhead before it reaches the ball or, if unable to stop, by deliberately missing the ball.
  • Accidentally strikes the ball when making a practice swing or while preparing to make a stroke.

When the Rules refer to “playing a ball,” it means the same as making a stroke. The player’s score for a hole or a round is described as a number of “strokes” or “strokes taken,” which means both all strokes made and any penalty strokes (see Rule 3.1c).Stroke/1

Stroke and Distance

The procedure and penalty when a player takes relief under Rule 1718 or 19 by playing a ball from where the previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6).

The term stroke and distancemeans that the player both:

  • Gets one penalty stroke, and
  • Loses the benefit of any gain of distance towards the hole from the spot where the previous stroke was made.

Stroke Play

A form of play where a player or side competes against all other players or sides in the competition.

In the regular form of stroke play (see Rule 3.3):

  • A player’s or side’s score for a round is the total number of strokes (including strokes made and any penalty strokes) to hole out on each hole, and
  • The winner is the player or side who completes all rounds in the fewest total strokes.

Other forms of stroke play with different scoring methods are Stableford, Maximum Score and Par/Bogey (see Rule 21).All forms of stroke play  can be played either in individual competitions (each player competing on their own) or in competitions involving sides of partners (Foursomes or Four-Ball).

Substitute

To change the ball the player is using to play a hole by having another ball become the ball in play.

Another ball has been substituted when that ball has been put in play in any way (see Rule 14.4) to take the place of the original ball, whether the original ball was:

  • In play, or
  • No longer in play because it had been lifted from the course or was lost or out of bounds.

substituted ball is the player’s ball in play even if:

  • It was replaced, dropped or placed in a wrong way or wrong place, or
  • The player was required under the Rules to put the original ball back in play rather than to substitute another ball.

T

Tee

An object used to raise a ball above the ground to play it from the teeing area. It must be no longer than four inches (101.6 mm) and conform with the Equipment Rules.

Teeing Area

The area the player must play from in starting the hole they are playing.

The teeing area is a rectangle that is two club-lengths deep where:

  • The front edge is defined by the line between the forward-most points of two tee-markers set by the Committee, and
  • The side edges are defined by the lines back from the outside points of the tee-markers.

The teeing area is one of the five defined areas of the course. All other teeing locations on the course (whether on the same hole or any other hole) are part of the general area.

Temporary Water

Any temporary accumulation of water on the surface of the ground (such as puddles from rain or irrigation or an overflow from a body of water) that:

  • Is not in a penalty area, and
  • Can be seen before or after the player takes a stance (without pressing down excessively with their feet).

It is not enough for the ground to be merely wet, muddy or soft or for the water to be momentarily visible as the player steps on the ground; an accumulation of water must remain present either before or after the stance is taken. Special cases:

  • Dew and Frost are not temporary water.
  • Snow and Natural Ice (other than frost) are either loose impediments or, when on the ground, temporary water, at the player’s option.
  • Manufactured Ice is an obstruction.

Three-Ball

A form of match play where:

  • Each of three players plays an individual match against the other two players at the same time, and
  • Each player plays one ball that is used in both of their matches.

W

Wrong Ball

Any ball other than the player’s:

  • Ball in play (whether the original ball or a substituted ball),
  • Provisional ball (before it is abandoned under Rule 18.3c), or
  • Second ball in stroke play played under Rules 14.7b or 20.1c.

Examples of a wrong ball are:

  • Another player’s ball in play,
  • A stray ball, and
  • The player’s own ball that is out of bounds, has become lost or has been lifted and not yet put back in play.

Wrong Ball/1

Wrong Green

Any green on the course other than the putting green for the hole the player is playing. Wrong greens include:

  • The greens for all other holes that the player is not playing at the time,
  • The normal putting green for a hole where a temporary green is being used, and
  • All practice greens for putting, chipping or pitching, unless the Committee excludes them by Local Rule.

Wrong greens are part of the general area.

Wrong Place

Any place on the course other than where the player is required or allowed to play their ball under the Rules.

Examples of playing from a wrong place are:

  • Playing a ball after replacing it on the wrong spot or without replacing it when required by the Rules,
  • Playing a dropped ball from outside the required relief area,
  • Taking relief under a wrong Rule, so that the ball is dropped in and played from a place not allowed under the Rules, and
  • Playing a ball from a no play zone or when a no play zone interferes with the player’s area of intended stance or swing.

A player has not played from a wrong place in the following situations:

  • When a ball has been played from outside the teeing areain starting play of a hole or in trying to correct that mistake (see Rule 6.1b), or
  • When a ball has been played from where it comes to rest after the player has failed to replay a stroke when required to do so.

2023 Rules of Golf Review

2023 Rules of Golf Review

Below is a summary of the updates of the Rules of Golf for 2023.

You can download a copy of the summary as a Word Doc or PDF file, by clicking on a download button at the bottom of the page.

  • Rules for players with disabilities has been incorporated into the Rules in Rule 25.
  • The Interpretations are now called Clarifications.
  • The penalty for playing an incorrectly substituted ball is 1 penalty stroke6.3b(3)
  • A player may repair or replace a damaged club unless the damage was caused by abuse. 4.1a(2)
  • After a ball is dropped or replaced and is moved by natural forces into another area of the course, the ball is replaced without penalty. 9.3 Exception 2
  • When taking back-on-the-line relief the player must drop the ball on the line14.3b(3)
  • When taking back-on-the-line relief the dropped ball may roll 1 club-length in any direction (including forward) after hitting the ground. 16.1c(2), 17.1d(2), and 19.2b
  • When a ball played from the putting green hits the player, the player’s putter, or an insect (or similar) the stroke counts. 11.1b(2)
  • If a player fails to replay a stroke when required, the penalty is the general penalty not a wrong place penalty which would be subject to disqualification. 11.1b11.2c, and Wrong Place
  • When there is not a spot in the general area immediately behind an embedded ball to use as a reference point for taking relief, the player may find a reference point at the nearest location (no closer to the hole) in the general area. Clarification 16.3b/1
  • The Committee (not the player) is responsible for including the player’s handicap on the player’s scorecard. 3.3b(4)
  • A player is not allowed to set anything down on the course to assist in determining the line of play (even if the object is lifted prior to the stroke). 10.2b(1) and 10.2b(2)
  • When multiple penalties occur (including different penalties), a player is only penalized for the larger of the two penalties unless there an intervening event (a stroke or the player becomes aware of the breach)1.3c(4)
  • A player is disqualified for giving any information to an opponent which results in a player getting too few strokes or giving to many strokes. Clarification 3.2c(1)/2
  • Multiple markers do not need to certify the hole scores on the scorecard if one marker sees the player play all of the holes. 3.3b(1)
  • A player is permitted to remove an external attachment (ex. a sticker on the clubface) on a club without penalty if the club has not been used4.1a(3)
  • A player must not build a club from parts carried by anyone on the course. 4.1b(4)
  • The limitations on green reading material only applies to strokes made on the putting green. Clarification 4.3a/1
  • A player is allowed to practice on any holes not being played on the day of the competition. Clarification 5.2/1
  • In Stroke Play, when a local rule does not allow a player to practise on the course before a round in stroke play. The penalty statement in Rule 5.2b is not limited to making a stroke as the term “practising on the course” also includes testing the surface of the putting green by rolling a ball or rubbing the surface. If a player rubs the surface of a single green, they have only breached Rule 5.2b once no matter how many times they rub the surface of the same green. Clarification 5.2b/3 (Added December 2022)
  • When players agree to play out of turn to gain an advantage, those players are penalised when one of the players makes a stroke out of turn6.4b(1)
  • The conditions affecting the stroke that are worsened by a referee may be restored. 8.1d(2)
  • The area behind the player while the player is taking their stance is referred to as the “Restricted Area”. 10.2b(4)
  • A player’s caddie may stand in the “Restricted Area” prior to the player making their stroke if they are not assisting the player with aim. 10.2b(4)
  • A player must not stand on or close to an extension of the line of play behind the ball while their partner is making a stroke to gain information for their (the player’s) next stroke. Rule 22.6 and Rule 23.8
  • A player is not allowed to set a self-standing putter down to help with alignment. Clarification 10.2b/1
  • When attempting to correct playing from a wrong place, a player is only required to report the facts to the Committee when the player plays 2 balls. 14.7b(2)
  • An additional minute is the amount of time a player has to identify their ball after the 3 minute search time has elapsed. Clarification 18.2a(1)/3
  • Important Model Local Rule Changes
    • When a player does not replay a stroke that hits a power line, the stroke counts and the player gets the general penalty. MLR E-11
    • The Committee may allow relief from immovable obstructions in a penalty area. MLR F-24
    • The penalty for a breach of the one-ball rule is 1 penalty stroke. MLR G-4
    • The Committee may restrict the damage to a club before it can be replaced. MLR G-9
    • The Committee can prohibit the use of green reading material on the putting green. MLR G-12
    • The Committee can prohibit practice on practice putting greens. MLR I-1
    • Bad times can be carried over to subsequent rounds in stroke play competition. MLR K-2
    • The Committee may modify the penalty for a non-certified score card to 2 penalty strokes. MLR L-1

Amendments to the Model Local Rules for 2023

New Model Local Rules for 2023

Shown below is a table of the amendments made to the Model Local Rules for the Rules of Golf 2023 indicating the New Model Local Rules and those withdrawn for 2023

New Model Local Rules for 2023

New Model Local Rules for 2023
A-3Boundary Fence to be Treated in a Different Way
Purpose. When defined by a fence, the boundary edge is defined by the line between the course-side points of the fence posts at ground level (excluding angled supports), and those fence posts are out of bounds. But the Committee may choose to treat a boundary fence in a different way due to the nature of the fence, or vegetation surrounding the fence.
The Committee cannot change how the boundary is defined in relation to a line or stake.
Model Local Rule A-3
“A ball is out of bounds when it is beyond the fence [specify hole number] at ground level (excluding angled supports).”
D-4.2Prohibiting Play from Fringe of Wrong Green
Purpose. If balls played on a particular hole often come to rest on the green of a nearby hole:
• The nearest point of complete relief when taking relief from that wrong green under Rule 13.1f will usually be on the apron or fringe next to that green, and
• That apron or fringe may become damaged as a result.
To prevent such damage, the Committee can choose to require players to take relief under Rule 13.1f by reference to a modified nearest point of complete relief that avoids interference with both the wrong green and the apron or fringe or by using a dropping zone (see Model Local Rule E-1).
Model Local Rule D-4.2
“Wrong greens are treated as including [specify distance from edge of wrong greens /area around wrong green ]. When a player has interference from a wrong green under Rule 13.1f, including this expanded area, the player must take free relief.
[Interference does not exist when the area only interferes with the player’s stance.]
Penalty for Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Local Rule: General Penalty Under Rule 14.7a.”
E-10.2E-10 Protection of Young Trees
Purpose. To help prevent damage to young trees when a player makes a stroke, a Committee can choose to designate the young trees as no play zones so that:
• If a player has any type of interference as defined in Rule 16.1 from such a tree designated as a no play zone, they must take relief under Rule 16.1f.
• If the player’s ball lies in a penalty area, they must either take free relief under the Local Rule within the penalty area or proceed with penalty under Rule 17.1.
Similarly, the Committee may mark a collection of young trees as a single no play zone.
Alternatively, the Committee may choose to define young trees to be abnormal course conditions so that the player is not required to take relief.
In either case, such trees should be identified by stakes, tape, or in some other clear way.
When the tree has matured and no longer needs this protection, the Committee should withdraw the Local Rule and/or remove the identifying object from the tree.

Model Local Rule E-10.2
"The young trees identified by [identify markings] are abnormal course conditions. The player may take relief under Rule 16.1.
Penalty for Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Local Rule: General Penalty Under Rule 14.7a.”
E-12E-12 Compulsory Use of Fairway Mats
Purpose. It may be necessary to protect parts of the course from damage during play, such as when prolonged periods of cold weather are limiting the amount of grass growth. When this is the case, a Committee may decide to require the use of mats on parts of the general area cut to fairway height or less, when a putter is not being used for the stroke.
The use of this Local Rule outside the fairway in the general area is not recommended and it is not authorized to restrict the use of putters to specific areas.
For guidance on when and how this Local Rule may be used in order for acceptable scores to be submitted for handicap purposes, consult the rules or recommendations contained within the World Handicap System™ publications or other guidance as provided by the handicapping body in the local jurisdiction.
Model Local Rule E-12
“When a player’s ball lies in a part of the general area cut to fairway height or less and a putter is not being used for the stroke, the player must take free relief by lifting the original ball and placing the original ball or another ball on an artificial mat and play it from there. The mat must be placed on top of the spot where the ball came to rest.
If a ball when placed rolls off the mat, the player must try to place it a second time. If the ball again does not stay on the mat, the mat must be moved to the nearest spot, not nearer the hole, where the ball will come to rest on the mat when placed.
If the ball on the mat is accidentally moved before a stroke is made, there is no penalty and the ball must be placed again on the mat.
If a tee is used to secure the mat into the ground, the ball must not be placed on the tee.
Penalty for Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Local Rule: General Penalty Under Rule 14.7a
F-5.2Model Local Rule F-5.1
“Relief from interference by an immovable obstruction may be taken under Rule 16.1.

The player has an extra option to take relief when such immovable obstructions are on or close to the putting green and on the line of play:
Ball in General Area. The player may take relief under Rule 16.1b if an immovable obstruction is:
• On the line of play, and is:
o On or within two club-lengths of the putting green, and
o Within two club-lengths of the ball.
But complete relief must be taken, which includes both physical and line of play interference.
Exception – No Relief If Line of Play Clearly Unreasonable. There is no relief under this Local Rule if the player chooses a line of play that is clearly unreasonable.
Penalty for Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Local Rule: General Penalty Under Rule 14.7a.”
Model Local Rule F-5.2
Model Local Rule F-5.1 applies but with the following addition to the second paragraph:
This Local Rule only applies when both the ball and the obstruction are in part of the General Area cut to fairway height or less.
F-24F-24 Free Relief From Immovable Obstruction in Penalty Area
Purpose. When a player’s ball is in a penalty area and the player has interference from an immovable obstruction, free relief is not available (see Rule 16.1a(2)). However, there may be instances where a Committee may wish to provide free relief within the penalty area from certain obstructions.
When using this Local Rule, the Committee should specify which immovable obstruction it applies to (rather than allowing free relief from all immovable obstructions) and on which hole it apples if it does not apply to all holes.
Model Local Rule F-24
“Relief from interference by [specify which immovable obstructions ] located in the penalty area on [specify hole number] is allowed under Rule 16.1b, with the following modifications:
• Reference Point: The nearest point of complete relief must be in the penalty area.
• Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: One club-length, but with these limits:
• Limits on location of Relief Area:
o Must be in the penalty area in which the ball came to rest,
o Must not be nearer the hole than the reference point, and
o There must be complete relief from all interference by the immovable obstructions.

Penalty for Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Local Rule: General Penalty Under Rule 14.7a.”
F-25.1 & F25.2F-25 Nearest Point of Complete Relief to be Determined Without Crossing Over, Through or Under Abnormal Course Condition
Purpose. There are times when a player may have interference from an abnormal course condition, such as a narrow fence or wall, and their nearest point of complete relief may be on the other side of the abnormal course condition, which may have a significant and undesirable impact on the outcome of the relief.
Although the player is allowed to measure their club-lengths across or through objects, the Committee may wish to require that the nearest point of complete relief be determined without crossing over, through or under the abnormal course condition.
The Committee may also wish to use this Model Local Rule to prevent players from being able to measure across or through an object.
Model Local Rule F-25.1
“When taking relief under Rule 16.1, the nearest point of complete relief must be determined without crossing over, through or under the [specify abnormal course condition and hole number].
Penalty for Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Local Rule: General Penalty Under Rule 14.7a.”
Model Local Rule F-25.2
“When taking relief from [specify abnormal course condition and hole number], the relief area must be on the same side of the abnormal course condition as the reference point.
Penalty for Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Local Rule: General Penalty Under Rule 14.7a.”
F-26F-26 Gates in Boundary Fences and Walls
Purpose. If a Committee wants to prohibit players from getting free relief from closed gates in boundary fences or walls (such as when it is an entrance to a private property) they may treat such a gate as part of the boundary object when in a closed position.
The implications of this Local Rule should be fully considered by the Committee in advance as it may result in players breaching Rule 8.1 by moving the gate.
Model Local Rule F-26
“All closed gates that are attached to boundary walls and fences are part of the boundary object. Relief is not allowed from such a gate under Rule 15.2 or 16.1.
But an open gate is not treated as part of the boundary object and may be closed or moved to a different position.”
G-9G-9 Replacing Club That is Broken or Significantly Damaged
Purpose: Rule 4.1a(2) allows a player to repair or replace a club that is damaged during the round, except in cases of abuse. But a Committee may adopt a Local Rule to restrict replacement of a club to cases where the club is broken or significantly damaged, which does not include a club that is cracked.
Model Local Rule G-9
“Rule 4.1b(3) is modified in this way:
If a player’s club is “broken or significantly damaged” during the round by the player or caddie, except in cases of abuse, the player may replace the club with any club under Rule 4.1b(4).
When replacing a club, the player must immediately take the broken or significantly damaged club out of play, using the procedure in Rule 4.1c(1).
For the purposes of this Local Rule:
• A club is “broken or significantly damaged” when:
o The shaft breaks into pieces, splinters or is bent (but not when the shaft is only dented)
o The club face impact area is visibly deformed (but not when the club face is only scratched)
o The clubhead is visibly and significantly deformed
o The clubhead is detached or loose from the shaft, or
o The grip is loose.
Exception: A club face or clubhead is not “broken or significantly damaged” solely because it is cracked.
Penalty for Breach of Local Rule – See Rule 4.1b.”
G-10G-10 Prohibiting Clubs Longer than 46 Inches
Purpose. To limit the maximum allowable club-length, a Committee may choose to adopt a Local Rule which restricts the maximum length for clubs, other than putters, to 46 inches.
A measurement tolerance of 0.20 inches is allowed above 46 inches.
For an explanation of the measurement of a club, see Figure 3 under Part 2.1c of the Equipment Rules.
This Local Rule is recommended for use only in competitions limited to highly skilled players (that is, professional competitions and elite amateur competitions).
For the avoidance of doubt, when this Model Local Rule is in effect, the application of the physical need exception allowing a player to use clubs longer than 46 inches is not available.
Model Local Rule G-10
"In making a stroke, the player must not use a club, except for a putter, which exceeds 46 inches in length.
Penalty for Making a Stroke with a Club in Breach of this Local Rule: Disqualification.
There is no penalty under this Local Rule for carrying but not making a stroke with a club that does not conform to these length specifications."
G-11G-11 Restricting Use of Green-Reading Materials
Purpose. Rule 4.3, and specifically Clarification 4.3a/1, puts limitations on the size and scale of detailed green-reading materials. But to ensure that players and caddies use only their eye and feel to help them read the line of play on the putting green, the Committee may further restrict the use of green-reading materials by requiring that players are limited throughout their round to using only the yardage book that has been approved for use in the competition.
This Local Rule is intended only for the highest levels of competitive golf and, even then, only to competitions where it is realistic for the Committee to undertake an approval process for yardage books.
When introducing this Local Rule, the Committee is responsible for approving the yardage book that players may use, and the approved yardage book should contain diagrams of putting greens with minimal detail only (such as significant slopes, tiers or false edges that indicate sections of greens).
Players and caddies may add handwritten notes to the approved yardage book to help them read the line of play on a putting green, so long as those notes are allowed under this Local Rule.
Model Local Rule G-11
"Rule 4.3a is modified in this way:
During a round, the player may use only the yardage book(s) approved by the Committee. This restriction also applies to any other maps of the course, including hole-location sheets.
Additional restrictions apply to handwritten notes and any other materials used by the player that could help read the line of play on the putting green:
• Handwritten notes may be added to an approved yardage book or approved hole-location sheet before or during the round by the player or the player’s caddie only and are limited to information gathered by the player or caddie only.
• Handwritten notes may contain information gained only through personal experiences of the player or the player’s caddie from the course or by watching a televised broadcast, but are limited to information gained:
o While observing a ball that was rolled or played (whether by the player, caddie or someone else) or
o Through the player’s or caddie’s feel or general observations of the putting green.
These additional restrictions on handwritten notes or other materials do not apply to such information when they could not help the player read the line of play on the putting green (such as handwritten or printed information containing swing thoughts or listing carry distances for the player’s clubs).
During a round, if a player uses:
• A yardage book, other maps of the course or a hole-location sheet that has not been approved by the Committee,
• An approved yardage book or approved hole-location sheet that contains a handwritten note or information gained in a manner that is not allowed, or
• Any other materials that could help with reading the line of play on the putting green (whether a specific putting green or greens in general),
the player is in breach of this Local Rule.
“Use” means to look at:
• Any page of a yardage book or other maps of the course or a hole-location sheet that has not been approved by the Committee, or
• Any of the following when doing so could help the player or caddie read the line of play on the putting green:
o A page in an approved yardage book or an approved hole-location sheet that contains a handwritten note or information gained in a manner that is not allowed, or
o Any other materials.
Penalty for Breach of this Local Rule:
• Penalty for first breach: General Penalty
Penalty for second breach: Disqualification
G-12G-12 Prohibiting Use of Materials to Help Read the Line of Play for Stroke from Putting Green
Purpose: Clarification 4.3a/1 limits the size and scale of detailed putting green maps and any similar electronic or digital materials that a player may use during a round to help with reading their line of play on the putting green so that a player's ability to read a green remains an essential part of the skill of putting. But a Committee may choose to place even greater emphasis on the judgment, skills and abilities of the player to read their line of play on the putting green by prohibiting the use of any materials for such a purpose.
Model Local Rule G-12
“Rule 4.3a is modified in this way:
During a round, a player must not use any written, printed, electronic or digital materials to help with reading their line of play for any stroke to be made from the putting green.
Penalty for Breach of this Local Rule:
• Penalty for first breach: General Penalty
• Penalty for second breach: Disqualification.”
L-1L-1 Modification of Penalty Under Rule 3.3b(2) for Missing Player or Marker Certification
Purpose. Rule 3.3b(2) imposes a penalty of disqualification when the hole scores on the scorecard have not been certified by the player, the marker or both.
But in situations where the Committee feels it is more appropriate to modify the penalty to two strokes, it may choose to do so.
Model Local Rule L-1
“Rule 3.3b(2) is modified in this way:
If a player returns a scorecard without the hole scores being certified either by the player, the marker or both, the player gets the general penalty (two penalty strokes).
The penalty applies to the last hole of the player’s round.”
L-2L-2 Making Player Responsible for Handicap or Scorecard
Purpose. Rule 3.3b(4) states that there is no requirement for a player’s handicap to be shown on the scorecard and that it is the Committee’s responsibility to calculate the player’s handicap strokes for the competition in order to calculate the player’s net score.
But in some circumstances, it can be difficult for the Committee to calculate players’ handicaps, for example, where the Committee does not have a computer system to help with the administration of the competition or where they do not have access to a database of player handicaps.
In such situations, the Committee may choose to modify Rule 3.3b(4) to require players to show their handicap on the scorecard. Depending on the handicap system operating in the local jurisdiction, the Committee may need to specify which handicap must be shown on the scorecard.
Model Local Rule L-2
“Rule 3.3b(4) is modified in this way:
The player is responsible for showing their handicap [specify what handicap is to be shown, for example, handicap index, course handicap, playing handicap] on the scorecard.
Once the Committee receives the scorecard from the player at the end of their round, the Committee is responsible for:
• Adding up the player's score, and
• Applying the player's handicap strokes to calculate the player's net score
If the player returns a scorecard without the right handicap:
• Handicap on Scorecard Too High or No Handicap Shown. If this affects the number of strokes the player gets, the player is disqualified from the handicap competition. If it does not, there is no penalty.
• Handicap on Scorecard Too Low. There is no penalty and the player's net score stands using the lower handicap as shown."
M-1M-1 Placing the Ball for Players Using Wheeled Mobility Devices
Purpose. The function of some wheeled mobility devices creates a situation where the player’s stance (based on where the device is first positioned) cannot be promptly and consistently taken in relation to where the ball comes to rest.
This Local Rule can be adopted by the Committee to assist a player who uses a wheeled mobility device so that they do not have to reposition the device multiple times to achieve the desired set-up position.
This Local Rule may be applied anywhere on the course, including the putting green, the general area, penalty areas and bunkers.
It is not the purpose of this Local Rule to impact on the decision that a player using a wheeled mobility device needs to take in relation to safety (such as positioning the device on steeply sloped ground). In such situations, other relief Rules (such as unplayable relief under Rule 19 or penalty area relief under Rule 17) may be applied.
Model Local Rule M-1
“Before making a stroke, a player using a wheeled mobility device may take free relief by placing the original ball or another ball in and playing it from this relief area:
• Reference Point: Spot of the original ball
• Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: 6 inches from the reference point, which may be nearer the hole, but with these limits:
• Limits on Location of Relief Area:
o Must be in the same area of course and
o Must not be in an area of grass cut to fairway height or less unless the original ball came to rest in a part of the general area cut to fairway height or less (this means, for example, that a ball in the rough may not be placed in the fairway).
When taking relief under this Local Rule, the player is allowed to place a ball more than once (such as when the first attempt to place a ball is slightly too far back in their stance).
Exception – No Relief When Clearly Unreasonable to Play Ball. Relief is not available under this Local Rule when playing the ball as it lies would be clearly unreasonable (such as when the ball has come to rest in a bush and it is in such a position where the player would be unable to make a stroke).
Penalty for Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Local Rule: General Penalty Under Rule 14.7a.”
M-2M-2 Free Relief from Specified Bunkers for Players Using Wheeled Mobility Devices
Purpose. The design and shape of certain bunkers create a situation where it is very hard or virtually impossible for a player in a wheeled mobility device to get in and/or out of the bunker to play their ball.
Rule 25.4n modifies Rule 19.3 so that when a player with a wheeled mobility device takes relief for an unplayable ball in a bunker, the player may take back-on-the-line relief outside that bunker for one penalty stroke. But, particularly in competitions involving only players using wheeled mobility devices, if a Committee feels that it would be appropriate to give free relief from certain bunkers or all bunkers on a course, it may do so.
Model Local Rule M-2
“For players who use wheeled mobility devices, [identify specific bunker(s) or all bunkers on the course] are ground under repair in the general area. The player may take relief under Rule 16.1b.”
M-3M-3 Limited Exemption from Rule 10.1b (Anchoring the Club) for Players with Ataxia or Athetosis
Purpose. Players with ataxia or athetosis resulting in severe jerking and/or shaking movements can find it almost impossible to putt without being able to use some form of anchored stroke. These conditions particularly impact on putting due to the minimal movement involved in making such a stroke when combined with the extreme body movements that are a symptom of the conditions.
This Local Rule allows a Committee to exempt such players from penalty under Rule 10.1b (Anchoring the Club) provided the following three requirements are met:
• The player holds a WR4GD pass or EDGA Access pass,
• The player has ataxia or athetosis, and
• The Committee determines that there is clear evidence that the condition significantly and negatively impacts the player's ability to putt (for example, the player regularly takes 50 or more putts per round).
Model Local Rule M-3
“Where the Committee has determined that there is clear evidence that a player’s ability to putt is significantly and negatively impacted by ataxia or athetosis, and the player holds a WR4GD pass or EDGA Access pass, that player is exempt from penalty under Rule 10.1b (Anchoring the Club).”
Withdrawn Model Local Rules for 2023
A-3Out of Bounds When Public Road Runs Through Course
Combined with Local Rule A-2
F-9.2Relief From Tree Roots in or Close to Fairway
Combined with Local Rule F-9.1
K-3Hole-by-Hole and Shot-by-Shot Pace of Play Policy for Stableford
Withdrawn on basis of revised application of penalties in Rule 21.1c
K-4Hole-by-Hole and Shot-by-Shot Pace of Play Policy for Par/Bogey Competitions
Withdrawn on basis of revised application of penalties in Rule 21.3c
Section 8LUnauthorised Local Rules
The information from Section 8L has been incorporated into an introductory section to Section 8

You can download a copy of the amendments by clicking on the download button below:

Amendments to the Clarifications and Committee Procedures for the 2023 Rules of Golf

Amendments to the Clarifications and Committee Procedures for the 2023 Rules of Golf

1.3c(4)/1 – Player Gets Two One-Stroke Penalties When There Is an Intervening Event

If a player breaches a Rule with one penalty stroke, becomes aware of that breach and then breaches the same Rule or a different Rule with one penalty stroke, the player gets both penalties for a total of two penalty strokes.

For example, a player lifts their ball in the general area to identify it without marking the spot of the ball. Another player tells the player about the penalty and that they get one penalty stroke under Rule 7.3. Before replacing the ball, the player cleans the ball more than necessary to identify it, also in breach of Rule 7.3. When the player was made aware of the first penalty, that was an intervening event and so the player also gets one penalty stroke for cleaning the ball, which means that the player gets two penalty strokes in total. (New)

When a player breaches multiple Rules or the same Rule multiple times, any relationship between the breaches is broken by an intervening event and the player will get multiple penalties.

1.3c(4)/2 – Player Breaches Rule Then Breaches Another Rule as Part of Their Next Stroke

If a player breaches a Rule without becoming aware of that breach and then breaches the same Rule or another Rule in playing their ball, the player gets only one penalty.

For example, in stroke play, a player takes relief from an immovable obstruction near a putting green but mistakenly drops a ball in a wrong place. Before playing the ball, the player removes sand on their line of play in the general area in breach of Rule 8.1a and then makes a stroke from the wrong place. As there was no intervening event between the removal of the sand and playing the ball from the wrong place, the player gets only one general penalty of two strokes. (New)

3.2c(1)/2 – Player Gives Opponent Incorrect Handicap Information Before Handicap Match.

If a player gives the opponent incorrect information in relation to their handicap and this results in the player giving too few or getting too many strokes, the player is disqualified under Rule 3.2c(1).

For example, a player tells an opponent an incorrect Handicap Index TM, or a Course Handicap TM or Playing Handicap TM that they (the player) calculated incorrectly, and this is used to determine how many handicap strokes there will be in the match. If this means the player will get too many or give too few handicap strokes because of the incorrect information, and this error is not corrected before the opponent makes their next stroke, the player is disqualified. (New)

3.2d(4)/1 – Meaning of “Agree” in Rule 3.2d(4)

A player in a match who knows or believes that their opponent has breached a Rule that has a penalty may choose not to act on the breach, but the player and opponent may not agree to ignore a breach or penalty they know applies. For there to be an agreement, both players need to have been involved in the decision to ignore the breach or the penalty.

The following examples illustrate when there is not an agreement between a player and an opponent:

  • During play of a hole, the player sees their opponent lift their ball for identification without first marking its spot. The player tells the opponent that failure to mark is a breach of the Rules but advises the opponent that they (the player) are not going to act on the breach. It was the player’s sole decision not to act on the breach and, consequently, there has not been an agreement.
  • During play of a hole, the opponent advises the player that they (the opponent) touched sand on their backswing in a bunker. The player confirms that this is a loss of hole penalty, but advises the opponent that they (the player) are not going to act on the breach. It was the player’s sole decision not to act on the breach and, consequently, there has not been an agreement.

In such cases when a player makes a sole decision not to act on a breach and tells the opponent of that decision, the player may not change that decision after either player makes another stroke  on the hole, or if no more strokes are made on that hole, once either player makes a stroke from the next teeing area.

The following examples illustrate when there is an agreement between the player and the opponent:

  • During play of a hole, the player sees their opponent lift their ball for identification without first marking its spot. The player tells the opponent that failure to mark is a breach of the Rules but, after discussion, the player and opponent conclude that they don’t want to apply penalties in situations where there is no clear advantage from the breach of the Rule. As both players were involved in determining the outcome of the situation, and they then agreed not to apply the penalty, there has been an agreement to ignore the breach of the Rules, and both players are disqualified under Rule 1.3b.
  • During play of a hole, the opponent advises the player that they (the opponent) touched sand on their backswing in a bunker. The player confirms that this is a loss of hole penalty, but the opponent suggests to the player that they overlook the breach as no real advantage was gained. The player decides not to apply the penalty. As the player was influenced by the opponent in their decision not to act on the breach there has been an agreement, and both players are disqualified under Rule 1.3b. (New)

3.3b(4)/1 – Penalty for Player Who Deliberately Fails to Alert Committee to an Administrative Mistake

The Committee is responsible for adding up the player’s hole scores and, in a handicap competition, for determining how many handicap strokes the player will get for the round and calculating the player’s net score.

If the Committee makes an error in carrying out any of these responsibilities, this is an administrative mistake and there is no time limit to correct such a mistake (Rule 20.2d(2)). But if a player notices such a mistake, they are responsible for alerting the Committee to the mistake. If it is discovered that the player noticed such a mistake and they deliberately failed to bring it to the attention of the Committee, the Committee should disqualify the player under Rule 1.2a (Serious Misconduct). (New)

4.3a/1 – Limitations on Using Green-Reading Materials

Rule 4.3 limits the use of equipment and devices that might help a player in their play, based on the principle that golf is a challenging game in which success should depend on the judgement, skills and abilities of the player.  This Clarification of Rule 4.3 limits the size and scale of detailed putting green maps and any similar electronic or digital materials that a player may use during a round to help with reading their line of play for any stroke made from the putting green so that a player’s ability to read a green remains an essential part of the skill of putting.

Putting Green Maps

The player is allowed to use a putting green map or other putting green information, except that:

  • Any image of a putting green must be limited to a scale of 3/8 inch to 5 yards (1:480) or smaller (the “scale limit”). 
  • Any book or other paper containing a map or image of a putting green must not be larger than 4 1/4 inches x 7 inches (the “size limit”), although a “hole location sheet” that displays 9 or more holes on a single sheet of paper may be larger, provided that any image of a single putting green meets the scale limit.
  • No magnification of putting green information is allowed other than a player’s normal wearing of prescription glasses or lenses.
  • Hand drawn or written information about a putting green is only allowed if contained in a book or paper meeting the size limit and written by the player and/or their caddie.

Electronic or Digital Putting Green Maps

In electronic or digital form, any image of a putting green must meet the above scale and size limits.  Even when an electronic or digital putting green map meets the above limits, the player is still in breach of Rule 4.3 if the player uses any device in a manner not consistent with the purpose of these limits, such as by:

Increasing the size of the green’s representation beyond the scale or size limits;

Producing a recommended line of play based on the location (or estimated location) of the player’s ball (see Rule 4.3a(1)).

4.3a/2 – When Use of Alignment Device Results in Breach

If a player places an “alignment device” (see definition in Equipment Rules) to show the line of play and then positions their ball based on the direction of that alignment device, the player is in breach of Rule 4.3a.

For example, a player’s ball comes to rest on the putting green and the player marks the spot of their ball with an “alignment device.” When doing so, the alignment device is placed to show the line of play. If the player then lifts and replaces their ball (which includes rotating it) so that a marking on the ball is lined up with the alignment device, the player is in breach of Rule 4.3a. (New)

5.2/1 – Meaning of “Course” in Rule 5.2

For the purpose of Rule 5.2, the word “course” (when not used as a definition in italics) is used to mean the holes being used for any rounds of the competition to be played on that day.

Examples of when practising is allowed before a round include when:

  • A player who is due to play a competition on one course may play on the other course earlier on the same day, even if both courses are situated on the same property with no boundaries between the two.
  • A player who is due to play a competition on holes 1–9 may play on holes 10–18 earlier on the same day. (New)

6.4b(1)/1 – Meaning of “Same Order” in Rule 6.4b(1) When Players Played Out of Turn at Previous Teeing Area 

The term “same order” in Rule 6.4b(1) refers to the order in which the players in the group should have played from the previous teeing area, even if they played in a different order.

For example, Player A has the honour on the 6th hole, but Player B plays first from the teeing area to save time. If the players have the same score on the 6th hole, the honour on the 7th hole remains with Player A as that is the same order that the players would have played in from the previous teeing area had they not chosen to play “ready golf”. (New)

9.2b/1 – Determining Whether the Player’s Actions Caused the Ball to Move When Equipment Is Involved 

Rule 9.4 applies when it is known or virtually certain that the player’s actions caused their ball to move. This includes when a player’s actions cause an object to move the ball. But Rule 9.4 does not always apply when the player’s ball has moved and their equipment is involved. 

Examples of when Rule 9.4 applies because it is known or virtually certain that the player was the cause of the ball’s movement include when the player:

  • Puts down their bag on a slope and the bag immediately falls onto the ball and moves it.
  • Drops a club which causes the ball to move.

Examples of when Rule 9.6 applies because it is not known or virtually certain that the player was the cause of the ball’s movement include when the player:

  • Puts down his bag and there is a period of time before the bag falls onto to the ball and moves it.
  • Leaves a towel on top of their bag which then blows onto the ground and causes the ball to move.

These principles would also apply in determining whether an opponent’s actions caused a player’s ball to move (Rule 9.5). (New)

10.2b/1 – Use of Self-Standing Putter for Alignment Help Is Not Allowed

Provided a self-standing putter conforms to the Equipment Rules, it may be used to make a stroke (Rule 4.1a(1)). But the player (or their caddie) is not allowed to set such a putter down to get help in any way that would breach Rule 10.2b.

For example, the player must not set the putter down in a standing position right behind or right next to the spot where the ball lies on the putting green to show the line of play or to help the player in taking their stance for the stroke in breach of Rule 10.2b(3). (New)

11.1b/3 – What to Do When Ball Played from Anywhere Except Putting Green Is Deflected or Picked Up by an Animal

If a ball played from anywhere except the putting green is in motion and is stopped or deflected by an animal, there is no penalty and the ball must be played as it lies (see Rule 11.1).

But if an animal picks up a ball in motion, the ball has come to rest on the animal and free relief must be taken using the point where the animal picked up the ball as the reference point (see Rule 11.1b(1)).

For example, a ball played from the fairway is picked up by a dog while it is still in motion. The ball has come to rest on the animal at the point where the dog picked up the ball. 

  • If the ball was picked up on the fairway, a ball must be dropped within one club-length of and no nearer the hole than the point where the ball was picked up by the dog in the general area
  • If the ball was picked up on the putting green, a ball must be placed on the putting green on the estimated spot where the ball was picked up. (New)

14.1c/2 – When a Moved Ball May Be Cleaned

When a moved ball has been lifted because a Rule requires it to be replaced, the ball may always be cleaned, except in the four situations described in Rule 14.1c.

For example, if a player’s ball has come to rest against a movable obstruction and the ball moves when the movable obstruction is removed, the player is required to replace the ball on the original spot (Rule 15.2a(1)) and may clean the ball before doing so. (New)

14.2c/3 – Ball Must Not Be Pushed into Ground When Replacing It

When replacing a ball, it must be replaced on its original spot. The original spot includes the same vertical position the ball was in before being lifted or moved. If the ball will not remain at rest when attempting to replace it, the player must follow the procedure in Rule 14.2e (What to Do If Ball Does Not Stay on Original Spot) rather than push the ball into the ground.  

For example, a player’s ball comes to rest against a movable obstruction on the slope of a bunker. If the ball moves when removing the obstruction, the ball must be replaced. If the ball will not stay at rest on the original spot, the player must replace the ball on the nearest spot in the bunker where the ball will remain at rest that is not nearer to the hole. If instead, the player pushes the ball into the sand, the player has replaced the ball in a wrong place (Rule 14.7) and has altered their lie (Rule 14.2d) and must correct the mistake by lifting the ball (Rule 14.5b(2)), re-creating the original lie and replacing the ball under Rules 14.2c and 14.2e. (New)

15.3/1 – Methods for Moving Ball or Ball-Marker Helping or Interfering with Play

When a player is moving their ball or ball-marker under Rule 15.3, it should be placed to the side by measuring with a club, such as by using the clubhead or the full length of a club. This can be done by measuring directly from the ball or by marking the spot of the ball and measuring from there.

Some examples of this include:

  • The player may mark the spot of the ball and then move the ball-marker one or more clubheads to the side.
  • The player may mark the spot of the ball and then move the ball-marker a clubheads to the side.
  • The player may lay a club or clubhead down immediately to the side of the ball and move the ball to the other end of the club or clubhead, or place a ball-marker at that point.

In moving the ball or ball-marker, the player should align the club with a fixed object (such as a blemish on the green or a sprinkler head) to ensure that when replacing the ball, the steps can be reversed and the ball be replaced on the spot from which it was lifted. (New)

16.3b/1 – Taking Embedded Ball Relief When Spot Immediately Behind Ball is Not In General Area

When a player is allowed to take relief from a ball embedded in the general area, there are situations where the spot immediately behind where the ball is embedded is not in the general area.

When this occurs, the relief procedure requires the player to find the nearest spot in the general area that is not nearer the hole to the spot immediately behind where the ball embedded, and this spot becomes the reference point for establishing a relief area under Rule 16.3b.

While this spot is normally very close to the spot behind where the ball embedded, it could be some distance away (such as when a ball embeds just outside a penalty area and, based on the shape of the penalty area, the player would need to go some distance to the right or left in order to find a spot in the general area that is not nearer the hole).

This procedure also applies when a ball is in bounds but embeds right next to out of bounds or when it embeds in the wall or face right above a bunker. (New)

Advice/3 –When Statements That Include Public Information Are Advice

Statements of public information may be given without penalty. But it is advice when the statement also contains information intended to influence a player in choosing a club, making a stroke or deciding how to play during a hole or round.

Examples of statements that are not advice include:

  • “The penalty area is 5 yards short of the front edge of the green.”
  •  “The wind is blowing from the west, which means that on this hole the wind is blowing from the right.”

Examples of statements that are advice include:

  • The penalty area is 5 yards short of the front edge of the green, so you may want to use enough club to make sure you carry the ball to the middle of the green.”
  • “The wind is behind us on this hole, so be sure to land the ball short of the green.” (New)

Committee/1 – Limiting a Committee Member’s Duties and Responsibilities

Committee may choose to limit the role of some members, require that certain decisions have the agreement of specific members or delegate some responsibilities to people outside the Committee.

Examples include:

  • Limiting a referee’s duties in match play or stroke play.
  • Specifying that only certain referees or members of the Committee can enforce a Pace of Play Policy.
  • Stating that a minimum of three members of the Committee are required to decide whether a player will be disqualified for serious misconduct under Rule 1.2.
  • Giving authority to the club professional, club manager or other designated person to make rulings on behalf of the Committee
  • Authorizing the head of the maintenance staff to suspend play on behalf of the Committee.
  • Limiting which referees have the authority to define an unmarked area to be ground under repair during a competition. (New)

Relief Area/1 – Determining Whether Ball Is in Relief Area

Generally, a ball has come to rest in a relief area if any part of the ball is within the one or two club-length measurement.

But when taking relief under a Rule that has a reference point (such as when taking relief from an immovable obstruction), a ball is not in the relief area if any part of the ball is nearer the hole than the reference point.

When taking back-on-the-line relief or if a dropping zone is being used as a relief area, as there is no reference point, the ball is in the relief area when any part of the ball touches or overhangs the relief area. This is true even if part of the ball is nearer the hole than the front edge of the relief area. (New)

Moved Clarifications

6.5/1 – When a Player or Side Has Completed a Hole

When a player has holed out, the play of that hole is completed and the player gets no penalty for playing another ball.

There are several Rules (such as Rules 4.1b4.35.5b and 20.1b(2)) where it is important to understand when a hole has been completed.

Match Play:

Single: When the player has holed out, their next stroke has been conceded, or the outcome of the hole has been determined.

Foursome: When the side has holed out, its next stroke has been conceded, or the outcome of the hole has been determined.

Four-Ball: When both partners have holed out, their next strokes have been conceded, or the outcome of the hole has been determined.

Stroke Play:

Individual: When the player has holed out.

Foursome: When the side has holed out.

Four-Ball: When both partners have holed out, or one partner has holed out and the other cannot better the side’s score.

StablefordPar/Bogey, and Maximum Score: When the player has holed out, or has picked up after scoring zero points, losing the hole or reaching the maximum score.

Moved from 5.5b/1

7.4/3 – Ball Moved When Search Temporarily Stopped

In Clarification 7.4/2, a player gets a penalty if the ball is moved when they are not trying to find it.

However, if a player accidentally moves their ball when a search is temporarily stopped due to circumstances outside the player’s control, the player gets no penalty for moving the ball.

For example:

  • The player stops searching for their ball to get out of the way of another group who is going to play through. While getting out of the way, the player accidentally moves their ball.
  • The Committee suspends play and the player begins to leave the area and accidentally steps on and moves their ball.

Moved from 9.4b/3

New Sections Introduced to the Committee Procedures for 2023

4A(1) Starting Intervals

Overcrowding the course is a common cause of rounds taking longer than necessary. The bigger the gap in tee times, the better play will flow. But the Committee will often need to balance this with the desire to allow as many players as possible to have the opportunity to play the course or competition. 

When play is in two-balls an interval of at least 8 minutes is recommended. When play is in three-balls, the interval should be increased to at least 10 minutes. For four-balls, 11 or 12 minute intervals should be considered.

Even with appropriate starting intervals, delays can arise on the course due to a number of factors, such as ball searches or a hole that is playing particularly hard or easy. The impact of such delays can be minimized by having empty starting intervals, sometimes referred to as “starter’s gaps”.

If, for example, the starting intervals are 10 minutes and the Committee has an empty starting time after every 10th group, there will be a 10 minute break in play from the 1st tee every 90 minutes. If a delay has built up on a particular tee early on in the round, the starter’s gap should help to minimize the impact of the delay. Without the empty starting interval, the likelihood is that waiting on that hole will increase as the day goes on.

5D Eligibility Requirements for Players with Disabilities to use Rule 25

As provided in Rule 25.1, the modified Rules for players with disabilities apply to all competitions, and it is a player’s category of disability and eligibility that determine whether they can use specific modified Rules in Rule 25.

 It is not necessarily the role of a Committee to make assessments on player eligibility. Determining a player’s eligibility to use specific Rules in Rule 25 can be straightforward, but in some cases it is less obvious. Eligibility for Rule 25 is based on the impact that a player’s impairments have on their ability to play golf rather than being a determination of whether someone is disabled.

A Committee may ask for evidence of a player’s disability in order to confirm the eligibility of a player to use Rule 25. Such evidence could be in the form of a medical certificate, confirmation from a national governing body, a pass issued by an officially accredited medical authority, or something similar. 

Alternatively, a Committee may specify that only players who hold a specific pass or certificate are eligible to compete in a competition (with players who are eligible then using the modified Rules applicable to their category of disability).

Examples of passes that a Committee may choose to require as evidence of a category of disability or may require for players to be eligible for specific competitions are the WR4GD Pass and the EDGA Access Pass. These passes are administered and issued by the EDGA Eligibility Team and the application process for golfers to get an EDGA Pass is free of charge. More information can be found at: http://www.edgagolf.com/online/pass/pass_info.php

(7) Guidance and Explanation of Best Practice to Help Prevent “Backstopping”

“Backstopping“ is the common term used to describe the following situation in stroke play: 

A player, without agreement with any other player, leaves their ball in place on the putting green close to the hole in a position where another player, who is about to play from off the putting green, could benefit if their ball struck the ball at rest.

As there has been no agreement to leave the ball in place to help any player, there is no breach of the Rules (see Rule 15.3a).

However, The R&A and USGA take the view that “backstopping” fails to take into account all of the other players in the competition and has the potential to give the player with the “backstop” an advantage over those other players. 

As a result, the following guidance and explanation of best practice is available for Committees to provide to players to help prevent backstopping:

  • In stroke play, the competition involves all players and, because each player in the competition cannot be present to protect their own interests, protecting the field is an important responsibility that all players in the competition share. 
  • Therefore, in stroke play, if there is a reasonable possibility that a player’s ball close to the hole could help another player who is about to play from off the green, both players should ensure that the player whose ball is close to the hole marks and lifts that ball before the other player plays.
  • If all players follow this best practice, it ensures the protection of the interests of everyone in the competition.

Duties and Authority of Referees and Committee Members

As detailed in the definition of “referee”, a referee’s duties and authority in match play depends on their assigned role, whereas in stroke play, a referee is responsible for acting on any breach of the Rules they see or are told about.

Whether or not a referee is assigned to one match, they cannot act on a request for a ruling if the facts were known to the opponent at the time and no request was made in time. See Clarification Committee/1 for limitations that can be put on the role of some referees or some Committee members.

(5) Player Responsible for Providing Correct Information to Referee

A referee will often rely on the assistance of a player to determine the facts of a situation before making a ruling. In these situations, the player needs to do their best to provide correct information to the referee so that the referee can make a ruling. 

If the ruling given turns out to have been wrong when additional information is brought to the attention of the Committee (such as by reviewing video), the action the Committee should take is based on whether the player did their best to provide the correct information to the referee.

If the player failed to do their best (such as by deliberately giving the referee misleading comments or deliberately withholding information) and this resulted in the referee directing the player to play from a wrong place, the Committee should correct the ruling so that the player is in breach of Rule 14.7 on the hole in question. The same would be true if a referee did not penalize the player when a penalty should have been applied (such as when the player improved their conditions affecting the stroke). The Committee should also consider whether the player should be disqualified for serious misconduct under Rule 1.2a.

However, if the player did do their best to provide correct information, and the referee made a ruling based wholly or in part on information the player provided, the player should not be penalized retrospectively for playing from a wrong place. But, the player may still be penalized retrospectively if their actions before speaking to the referee were a breach of the Rules. 

For example, a player sees their ball at rest move in the rough before a stroke and does not believe they were the cause of the movement. They then speak to a referee and state that they do not think they touched the grass near the ball prior to its movement. Based on that information, the referee rules that the ball will be played as it lies without penalty. Later in the round, video evidence shows that the player did touch the grass very close to the ball causing it to move. By doing so, the player should have been given one penalty stroke and replaced the ball before making the next stroke. In this situation, the Committee should retrospectively add one penalty stroke to player’s score on that hole for causing their ball to move. But, because the player did their best to help the referee with the ruling, the player would not be penalized for playing from a wrong place.

A similar example would be when a player improves the conditions affecting their stroke while preparing to play (such as by walking across the fringe of the putting green and unknowingly stepping on and pressing down a small pile of sand on their line of play). A nearby referee with an incomplete view of the player’s actions is concerned the player may have improved their lie. When asking the player what they did, the player states they thought they stepped over the line of play. Based on this information the referee rules there is no penalty. It is later discovered the player did walk on their line and, in doing so, pressed down sand that improved their line of play. Even though the player did their best to provide the referee with correct information, the action had already occurred at the time of the conversation so the Committee should correct the ruling and retrospectively rule that the player gets the general penalty on that hole.

Substantive Changes

Before the Competition

5A(1)c Amateur Status

A competition may be limited to amateur golfers only, professional golfers only or may allow all players to compete against each other. When a competition is open to all players, the Committee should ask players to identify their status (for example, “amateur”) in advance of the competition, such as on an entry form.

5F(2) Selecting Hole Locations

New holes should ideally be made on the day on which a competition begins and at such other times as the Committee considers necessary, provided all players in a single round play with each hole cut in the same location.

But when a single round is to be played on more than one day (such as when players may choose which day to play in a competition), the Committee may advise players in the Terms of the Competition that the holes and teeing areas will be located differently on each day of the competition. But on any one day, all players must play with each hole and each teeing area in the same location.

The locations of the holes on the putting greens can have a considerable effect on scoring and pace of play during competitions. Many factors go into the selection of hole locations, with emphasis on the following points:

  • In selecting the locations, the ability of the players should be considered so that the locations selected are not so difficult as to slow down play significantly or so easy as not to challenge better players.
  • The speed of the greens is a significant factor in choosing the location of the hole. While a hole location may work well for a slower green, it may prove to be too severe when the speed of the greens is increased.
  • The Committee should avoid placing a hole on a slope where the ball will not come to rest. When the contours of the green allow, holes should be placed where there is an area of two to three feet around the hole that is relatively level so that putts struck at the proper speed will stop around the hole.

Some additional considerations include:

  • Setting holes where there is enough putting green surface between the hole and the front and sides of the putting green to accommodate the approach on that particular hole. For example, placing the hole immediately behind a bunker when a long approach is required by the majority of the field is usually not recommended.
  • Balancing hole locations for the entire course with respect to left, right, centre, front and back locations.

5I Code of Conduct Policy

The Committee may set its own standards of player conduct in a Code of Conduct adopted as a Local Rule (see Rule 1.2b). The purpose of such a Code is to outline the standards of conduct the Committee expects of the players while playing the game of golf and the penalties that may apply for breaches of that Code. But the Rules of Golf determine what actions a player may and may not take while playing the game and a Committee does not have the authority to change those permissions and restrictions by applying penalties differently through a Code of Conduct.

If a Code of Conduct has not been established, the Committee is limited to penalizing players for inappropriate conduct usingRule 1.2a. The only penalty available for an act that is contrary to the spirit of the game under that Rule is disqualification (see Section 5I(5) for more information).

(1) Establishing a Code of Conduct

In establishing a Code of Conduct, the Committee should consider the following:

When setting limits or prohibiting a player’s actions, the Committee should consider the different cultures of the players. For example, something that may be considered inappropriate behaviour in one culture may be acceptable under another.

The penalty structure that will apply for a breach of the Code (see Section 5I(4) for an example).

Who will have the authority to decide penalties and sanctions. For example, it could be the case that only certain Committee members have the authority to apply such penalties, a minimum number of Committee members need to be involved in making such a decision or any member of the Committee has authority to make such a decision.

Whether there will be an appeals process.

(2) Allowed and Prohibited Uses of a Code of Conduct

a. Allowed

The Committee may include the following within a Code of Conduct:

  • Specific details of unacceptable behaviour that a player may be penalized for during a round, for example:
  • Failure to care for the course, such as not raking bunkers or not replacing or filling divots.
  • Unacceptable language.
  • Abuse of clubs or the course.
  • Failing to show proper consideration for other players, referees or spectators.
  • A prohibition on players entering all or specified no play zones.
  • Limitations on the use of social media
  • Details on acceptable clothing 

b. Not Allowed

The Committee may not use a Code of Conduct to:

  • Change existing penalties in the Rules of Golf, such as by increasing the penalty for a player who fails to mark their ball before lifting it on the putting green, from one stroke to two strokes.
  • Introduce new penalties for actions unrelated to player behaviour, for example a Committee may not use a Code of Conduct to introduce an unauthorized Local Rule, such as penalizing a player for hitting a ball over properties located out of bounds, or introducing a penalty for a player who fails to announce to another player that they are going to lift a ball to identify it.
  • Apply stroke penalties for inappropriate player behaviour before or between rounds. But the Committee may apply other sanctions, such as withdrawing the player from the competition or refusing to allow the player to enter future competitions. 
  • Penalize a player under a Code of Conduct for a breach of a spectator code by the player’s family or supporters, such as by penalizing a player when a family member walks on the fairway in a junior competition when they are not allowed to do so.

(3) Determining Penalties for Breach of Code

When determining the sanctions and penalty structure that will apply, the Committee should consider:

  • If there will be a warning system before any penalty or other sanction is imposed.
  • If the sanctions will be of a disciplinary nature or involve stroke penalties or other penalites under the Rules. Disciplinary sanctions that a Committee may impose include refusing to allow the player to enter one or more future competitions run by the Committee or requiring the player to play at a particular time of day. Such sanctions are separate from the Rules of Golf and it is a matter for the Committee to write and interpret any such sanctions.
  • If the penalty for each breach will be set as one penalty stroke or the general penalty and if penalties will escalate, such as one penalty stroke for the first breach and the general penalty for the second breach. The Committee should not use any other types of penalties that would apply to a player’s score.
  • If a penalty will automatically apply whenever a player breaches one of its standards or if such a penalty will be left to the Committee’s discretion.
  • If breaches of a Code of Conduct will be carried forward to later rounds in multiple round events where there are escalating penalties for multiple breaches. For example, in a 36-hole competition, where a first breach results in a warning and a second breach results in one penalty stroke, the Committee may provide that any breaches from round 1 carry forward to round 2.
  • If different penalties will apply for breaching different aspects of the Code.
  • If the Code of Conduct is to be applied to a player’s caddie. A Code of Conduct automatically applies to a player’s caddie through Rule 10.3c, therefore, if the Committee does not want any aspects of a Code of Conduct to apply to a player’s caddie, this aspect needs to be stated in the Code of Conduct

(4) Sample Penalty Structure for a Code of Conduct

The following model penalty structures give examples of how the Committee may choose to penalize breaches of a Code of Conduct in the Local Rule.

The Committee may decide to implement such a penalty structure without a warning or sanction for a first breach, or it may provide different penalties for each item within the Code of Conduct. For example, certain breaches may result in one penalty stroke, with other breaches resulting in the general penalty.

Model Penalty Structure 1

  • First breach of the Code of Conduct – warning or Committee sanction.
  • Second breach – one penalty stroke.
  • Third breach – general penalty.
  • Fourth breach or any serious misconduct – disqualification.

Model Penalty Structure 2

  • First breach of the Code of Conduct – one penalty stroke.
  • Second breach – general penalty.
  • Third breach or any serious misconduct – disqualification.

If a breach happens between two holes, the penalty applies to the next hole

(5) Spirit of the Game and Serious Misconduct

Under Rule 1.2a, a Committee may disqualify a player for serious misconduct for acting contrary to the spirit of the game. This applies whether or not there is a Code of Conduct in place for a competition.

When deciding whether a player is guilty of serious misconduct, the Committee should consider whether the player’s conduct was do far removed from the expected norm in golf that the most severe sanction of removing a player from the competition is justified. 

Examples of actions that could warrant disqualification under Rule 1.2a can be found in Clarification 1.2a/1.

5J Information for Players and Referees

(1) Local Rules

The Committee should ensure that any Local Rules are posted for players to see, whether on a separate handout on the first tee (sometimes referred to as a “Notice to Players”), the scorecard, a notice board or by digital communication methods.

Many organizations that run multiple competitions create a document which contains all the Local Rules they commonly use in all of their competitions. Historically this document has been printed on card stock and is known as a “Hard Card”.

If players are required to play balls on the List of Conforming Ball List (see Model Local Rule G-3) or use clubs on the List of Conforming Driver Heads (see Model Local Rule G-1) or that meet the groove and punch mark specifications (see Model Local Rule G-2), the Committee should consider making the lists available for players to view or provide access to the applicable online databases.

(2) Grouping or Draw Sheets

Sheets that provide the groupings for the round along with their starting times should be produced and posted in locations where players can check them. While players are frequently sent their starting time and groups electronically or can check them on a website, they should also be available at the course so that players can reconfirm their starting time.

(3) Hole Location Sheets

The Committee may wish to provide players with a sheet that shows them the position of the holes on the putting greens. These may be circles with the distance from the front of the green and the nearest side, a piece of paper with just the numbers or a more detailed set of drawings of the green and its surrounds with the location indicated.

(4) Scorecards Including Handicap Stroke Index Allocations

The Committee is responsible for publishing on the scorecard or somewhere else that is visible (for example, near the first tee) the order of holes at which handicap strokes are to be given or received. This allocation will be used for handicap matches and in some forms of net-score stroke  play such as Four-Ball, Stableford, Maximum Score (when the maximum score is linked to the player’s net score) and Par/Bogey competitions. For guidance on how to determine the order of handicap strokes, consult System Rules of Handicapping or other guidance as provided by the handicapping body operating in the local jurisdiction. 

Match Play – In a handicap match, the Committee should clarify the following in the Terms of the Competition:

  • If a handicap allowance will apply and what the handicap allowance will be. 
  • The stroke index allocation to be used to identify the order of holes where players will give or receive handicap strokes.

Where the Committee has authorized a match to begin at a hole other than the 1st, the Committee may alter the stroke index allocation table for such matches.

Stroke Play – In a net-score competition, the Committee should determine the handicap allowances in accordance with the rules or recommendations contained within the World Handicap System publications or other guidance as provided by the handicapping body operating in the local jurisdiction. 

(5) Pace of Play and Code of Conduct Policies

Copies of the Pace of Play and Code of Conduct policies should be available to players before the competition begins. When players are unfamiliar with these policies, the Committee may wish to explain them to the players in advance of the competition.

Referees and others who will be enforcing these policies should be trained and provided with any other additional materials, such as timing sheets or scripts with the specific language they should use to inform players of warnings or possible breaches.

(6) Evacuation Plan

Each Committee should consider how to evacuate players in case of severe weather or another emergency. If it is felt necessary, an evacuation plan may be created and provided to the players. 

(7) Guidance and Explanation of Best Practice to Help Prevent “Backstopping”

“Backstopping“ is the common term used to describe the following situation in stroke play: 

A player, without agreement with any other player, leaves their ball in place on the putting green close to the hole in a position where another player, who is about to play from off the putting green, could benefit if their ball struck the ball at rest.

As there has been no agreement to leave the ball in place to help any player, there is no breach of the Rules (see Rule 15.3a).

However, The R&A and USGA take the view that “backstopping” fails to take into account all of the other players in the competition and has the potential to give the player with the “backstop” an advantage over those other players. 

As a result, the following guidance and explanation of best practice is available for Committees to provide to players to help prevent backstopping:

  • In stroke play, the competition involves all players and, because each player in the competition cannot be present to protect their own interests, protecting the field is an important responsibility that all players in the competition share. 
  • Therefore, in stroke play, if there is a reasonable possibility that a player’s ball close to the hole could help another player who is about to play from off the green, both players should ensure that the player whose ball is close to the hole marks and lifts that ball before the other player plays.
  • If all players follow this best practice, it ensures the protection of the interests of everyone in the competition.

During the Competition

6C(9)a Correction of Wrong Ruling by a Referee During a Match

a. Correction of Wrong Ruling by a Referee During Match

  • A referee should not correct a wrong ruling after either player makes their next stroke. But if a player should have been disqualified and was not, that ruling may be corrected any time before the start of the player’s next match, or before the result of the competition is final (but there is no time limit on disqualifying a player under Rules 1.2 or 1.3b(1).
  • If no more strokes are made on a hole after a ruling has been made, a referee should not correct a wrong ruling once either player makes a stroke from the next teeing area.
  • If neither of the above bullet points apply, a wrong ruling by a referee should be corrected.
  • In a situation where a wrong ruling can be corrected, if the wrong ruling has resulted in one or more players lifting their ball, the referee is responsible for directing the players to replace their balls and complete the hole, with the correct ruling applied.
  • The principles above also apply where a referee fails to penalize a player for a breach of a Rule due to misunderstanding the result of a hole.
  • For example, a referee fails to advise a player of a loss of hole penalty for a breach of the pace of play policy as the referee believed the player had already lost the hole. On the next hole, the referee learns that the player had not lost the hole. If the player or the opponent has made a stroke from the teeing area of that next hole, the referee can no longer correct the error.

6C(10)d Referee Gives Player Incorrect Information, Player Acts on Information in Subsequent Play

If a referee provides a player with incorrect information on the Rules, the player is entitled to act on such information in their subsequent play.

Consequently, the Committee may be required to make a judgment as to both the duration of the player’s entitlement and their proper score when, as a result of proceeding according to the incorrect information provided, the player is liable to a penalty under the Rules.

In these situations, the Committee should resolve the matter in whatever manner it considers most fair, in light of all the facts and with the objective of ensuring that no player receives an undue advantage or disadvantage. In cases where the incorrect information significantly affects the results of the competition, the Committee may have no option but to cancel the round. The following principles are applicable:

  • General guidance on the Rules

When a member of the Committee or a referee provides incorrect information in the nature of general guidance about the Rules, the player should not be exempt from penalty.

For example, a player asks a referee, for future reference, if they are allowed to remove sand surrounding their ball in the general area. The referee incorrectly advises the player they are allowed to do so. Because the question did not relate to a specific situation, the player would not be exempt from penalty if the player breached that Rule later in the round.

  • Specific ruling

When a referee gives a wrong ruling, the player is exempt from penalty. The Committee should extend this exemption for the duration of the competition in circumstances where the player proceeds incorrectly on their own in exactly the same manner as advised by a referee earlier in the competition. However, that exemption ceases if, in that competition, the player becomes aware of the proper procedure or has their actions questioned.

For example, a player asks a referee for help in taking relief from a red penalty area and the referee incorrectly tells the player that they must drop again because their stance is in the penalty area. If the player drops again for that same reason when taking relief from a red penalty area later in the round or during the next round of the same competition the Committee should not penalize the player for playing from a wrong place.

  • Guidance on Local Rules or Terms of the Competition

When a member of the Committee or a referee gives incorrect information on whether a Local Rule or Term of the Competition is in effect, the player is exempt from penalty for acting on that information. This exemption applies for the duration of the competition unless corrected earlier, in which case, the exemption ends at that point.

For example, if the player is told by a referee that distance-measuring devices are allowed even though the Local Rule prohibiting their use is in effect, that player does not incur a penalty for using the distance-measuring device during the competition. However, if the Committee learns of the wrong ruling, the player should be informed of the mistake as soon as possible.

  • Equipment Ruling 

When a member of the Committee or a referee rules that a non- conforming club is conforming, the player is exempt from penalty for using the club. This exemption applies for the duration of the competition unless corrected earlier, in which case, the exemption ends at the completion of the round during which the correction was made.

After the Competition

7C Awarding Prizes

If the competition involves amateur golfers, the Committee should only award prizes to amateur golfers that are allowed under the Rules of Amateur Status. Committees should refer to the Rules of Amateur Status and the accompanying Guidance Notes which are available at www.USGA.org.

2023 Updates to the Rules of Golf

Key Changes to the Rules of Golf Set to Take Effect in 2023 (NOVEMBER 7, 2022)

Information that many of you have been eagerly waiting for has finally been published.

The USGA and the R&A have unveiled a regular update to the Rules of Golf as they continue to make the Rules easier to understand and apply. The new Rules will go into effect on January 1, 2023.

You can download a Poster detailing 5 Key Rules by clicking on the download button below:

You can also download a document ‘Outcome Changes: 2019 Rules to 2023 Rules Comparison’, which details the changes to the Rules of Golf for 2023, by clicking on the download button below:

The 2023 edition continues the modernization process, with an emphasis on both inclusion and sustainability. For the first time, the modified Rules for players with disabilities have been fully incorporated into the playing rules without the need to adopt a local rule. The governing bodies, supported by longstanding partner Rolex, will also promote digital and mobile app access to the Rules while significantly reducing the production and distribution of more than 4 million printed books.

Several penalties have been relaxed and language has been clarified to help golfers at all levels of play.

Key changes include:

  • Modifications for Players with Disabilities: The modifications to the Rules for players with disabilities have been made part of the Rules and are in effect for all players who are classified in the categories covered in Rule 25.
  • Handicap Usage in Stroke Play: With the continued growth of score-posting technology following the adoption of the World Handicap System™, players are no longer penalized for failing to put their handicap on their scorecard in stroke play. The committee will be responsible for ensuring the accuracy of each player’s handicap.
  • Club Damaged During Round: The Rule has been amended to allow a player to replace a club that is damaged during a round, provided the player did not damage it through abuse.
  • Ball Moved by Natural Forces: A new exception provides that a ball at rest must be replaced if it moves to another area of the course or comes to rest out of bounds after being dropped, placed or replaced.
  • Back-on-the-Line Relief Procedure: The back-on-the-line relief procedure, often used for penalty area and unplayable ball relief, has been simplified so that the player now drops their ball on the line, and the ball must come to rest within one club-length of where it is dropped.
Taking Back on the Line Relief Rules of Golf 2023
Taking Back on the Line Relief Rules of Golf 2023

The new Rules will go into effect on 1 January 2023 but remember that the current edition of the Rules of Golf (2019) still applies when playing or posting scores for the remainder of 2022.

From 2023, you are being encouraged to download and use the R&A’s Rules of Golf App. There is a real push towards the Rules of Golf app and other digital offerings.

The R&A are printing four million fewer books than last time round, so reducing their distribution operation in getting those around the world, which also fits in with their emphasis on sustainability.

A full update to the Rules of Golf App will be available for download from mid-December and will include the following developments:

  • The Player’s Rule Finder will replace the Player’ s Edition and the Visual Search. It is intended to help you quickly find a summary of the Rule you need to answer your Rules questions for the majority of scenarios.
  • A new video section will allow you to access all Rules videos in one location. 
  • A new Quick Guide video is aimed at players who are transitioning from learner golfer to a competitive golfer (for example those who are looking to gain a handicap). It will provide new golfers with the minimum Rules information that they need to get around the course. 
  • A new set of short, animated videos will be available to help you understand the most frequently used Rules.
  • A new Rules News section will include Rules articles and news (available in English language version only) and you will have the option to turn on push notifications so that you never miss a new Rules article or update.
  • The quiz will be updated to allow you to select the length of the quiz as 6, 9 or 18 questions and will provide you with immediate feedback after every question.

The full Rule book will still be printed but there will be no printed Player’s Edition from 2023, which is normally distributed free to all Golf Clubs.

You can learn about all the major changes and take a deeper look at the 2023 Rules of Golf, by visiting the R&A and USGA websites.

NOTE: The online version of the Rules of Golf 2023 does not include Clarifications, these are only contained in the published 2023 Official Guide to the Rules of Golf

CLICK HERE TO BUY THE 2023 OFFICIAL GUIDE TO THE RULES OF GOLF

However, the USGA Online Version does, and you can view that by clicking here

Although the R&A and USGA have concentrated on the 5 Key changes the 2023 Rules of Golf contain many other Rule changes, New Clarifications and Local Rules that you should know about because they could impact on your Round of golf.

You can read more details of the 2023 changes to the Rules of Golf and also details of the Additional Rule Changes which may impact on your round of golf by clicking on the link below:

2023 Updates to the Rules of Golf

2023 Updates to the Rules of Golf

2023 Updates to the Rules of Golf

On Tuesday 1st November 2022, the R&A and USGA announced updates to the Rules of Golf.

Where the Rules of Golf 2019 were quite radical asking you to relearn some Rules of Golf and take a different approach to some situations, the Rules of Golf 2023 updates are designed to make the Rules easier to understand and apply and where possible to relax penalties and the outcomes of some situations. Some clarifications have been introduced to help golfers at all levels of play.

The intention is to make the Rules easier to understand and access for all golfers and making the sport more inclusive and welcoming for golfers with disabilities.

The R&A and USGA are also working to ensure golf has a sustainable long-term future and making more resources available digitally is key to achieving their goal

The R&A and USGA are continuing their focus on trying to reduce penalties where possible, relax penalties, produce outcomes that are more appropriate in certain situations, and continue to try and reflect the way the modern game is played.

The new Rules will go into effect on 1 January 2023 but remember that the current edition of the Rules of Golf (2019) still applies when playing or posting scores for the remainder of 2022.

From 2023, you are being encouraged to download and use The R&A’s Rules of Golf App. There is a real push towards the Rules of Golf app and other digital offerings.

The R&A are printing four million fewer books than last time round, so reducing their distribution operation in getting those around the world, which also fits in with their emphasis on sustainability.

A full update to the Rules of Golf App will be available for download from mid-December and will include the following developments:

  • The Player’s Rule Finder will replace the Player’ s Edition and the Visual Search. It is intended to help you quickly find a summary of the Rule you need to answer your Rules questions for the majority of scenarios.
  • A new video section will allow you to access all Rules videos in one location. 
  • A new Quick Guide video is aimed at players who are transitioning from learner golfer to a competitive golfer (for example those who are looking to gain a handicap). It will provide new golfers with the minimum Rules information that they need to get around the course. 
  • A new set of short, animated videos will be available to help you understand the most frequently used Rules.
  • A new Rules News section will include Rules articles and news (available in English language version only) and you will have the option to turn on push notifications so that you never miss a new Rules article or update.
  • The quiz will be updated to allow you to select the length of the quiz as 6, 9 or 18 questions and will provide you with immediate feedback after every question.

The full Rule book will still be printed but there will be no printed Player’s Edition from 2023, which is normally distributed free to all Golf Clubs.

You can learn about all the major changes, and take a deeper look at the 2023 Rules of Golf, by visiting the R&A and USGA websites.

NOTE: The online version of the Rules of Golf 2023 does not include Clarifications, these are only contained in the published 2023 Official Guide to the Rules of Golf

CLICK HERE TO BUY THE 2023 OFFICIAL GUIDE TO THE RULES OF GOLF

However, the USGA Online Version does and you can view that by clicking here

There are several changes to the Rules of Golf, but the R&A and USGA have focussed on five significant ones.

You can download a Poster detailing these Rules by clicking on the download button below:

You can also download a document ‘Outcome Changes: 2019 Rules to 2023 Rules Comparison’ by clicking on the download button below:

So, what are the Rules that the R&A and USGA have focussed on?

  • There is a new rule!

The Modifications for Players with Disabilities are now part of the overall Rule Book as a new Rule of Golf, Rule 25

Rule 25 now applies to all competitions and all forms of play. It will be a player’s category of disability and eligibility that will determine whether they can use the specific modified Rules in Rule 25.

The categories are:

  • Players who are blind (which includes certain levels of vision impairment;
  • Amputees (those with limb deficiencies and those who have lost a limb);
  • Players who use assistive mobility devices; and
  • Players with intellectual disabilities.

Modifications include, depending on category of disability:

  • Allowing the setting down of objects to help with aiming, stance and swinging;
  • Anchoring; and
  • Touching sand in a bunker with a club in front or behind the ball. 
  • There is no penalty for failing to put your handicap on the scorecard

This used to come with a heavy penalty. Failing to put your handicap on your scorecard meant disqualification. Now, an amendment to Rule 3.3b (4) means you are no longer required to show your handicap on your scorecard.

Instead, committees will be responsible for ensuring the accuracy of each player’s handicap and calculating it for the competition. This change has been made to keep up to date with the continued growth of digitally posting score, following the introduction of the World Handicap System.

Rule 3.3b (4) now says a player is no longer required to show their handicap on their scorecard or to add up their own scores.

It is the committee’s responsibility to calculate the player’s handicap strokes for the competition and to use that handicap to calculate the player’s net score.

The Rule states, “If the player returns a scorecard on which they have made a mistake in showing or applying a handicap, or on which they have made a mistake in adding up the scores, there is no penalty.”

A committee, however, can employ a new Local Rule – Model Local Rule L-2 – which puts the responsibility back on the player.

  • You can replace a damaged club

This is a change to Rule 4.1a (2) and it allows players to replace a club that is damaged during a round. The caveat is the club must not have been damaged through abuse. Except in cases of abuse, Rule 4.1a (2) says you can use, repair, or replace any club damaged during a round with another club.

A Model Local Rule, G-9, can be employed by committees to limit when a damaged club can be replaced to cases where it is “broken or significantly damaged”.

NOTE: that does not include a club that is cracked.

  • You can replace a ball moved by natural forces

There is a new exception to Rule 9.3, which says that if a ball at rest is moved by natural forces after being dropped, placed, or replaced and “comes to rest in a different area of the course or out of bounds”, the ball must be replaced and played from its original spot.

  • Taking back-on-the-line relief is now simpler

You’ve all used this when taking relief from a penalty area, bunker or an unplayable ball. The procedure has been made a little easier in the 2023 Rule Book.

Now, you must drop your ball on the line, not within a club-length of the line. The ball must then come to rest within a club-length of where it was dropped. That club length can be in any direction, which includes going forward, nearer to the hole!

The change is reflected in Rule 14.3b (Ball must be dropped in the right way), Rule 16.1c (2) (Playing from outside bunker), Rule 17.1d (2) (Back-on-the-line relief in penalty areas), Rule 19.2b (Unplayable ball) and Rule 19.3 (Unplayable ball in bunker), as well as in the definition of relief area.

It says the player must drop the ball on the line and the spot on the line where the ball first touches the ground “creates a relief area that is one club-length in any direction from that spot”.

See the image below:

 

Taking Back on the Line Relief Rules of Golf 2023
Taking Back on the Line Relief Rules of Golf 2023

NOTE:

  • That can also be forward.
  • The ability to re-drop that was in the Model Local Rule has been removed. If the ball comes to rest within that one club length, it’s now in play.

You can download a copy of the Back on the Line Relief by clicking on the download button below:

There are also Additional Rule Changes, Clarifications and Local Rules which may impact on your round of golf.

These are:

  • Applying Penalties to Multiple Beaches of the Rules

Rule 1.3c(4) has been amended so that determining whether breaches are related is no longer part of its application, meaning that there will be fewer instances where multiple penalties will be applied.

Committees no longer have to determine whether acts are related or unrelated. Intervening events are used to determine whether a player gets multiple penalties. There are only two intervening events, completion of a stroke and awareness of a breach of the Rules.

  • You can’t replay your stroke if your ball hits an insect on the green

An exception to Rule 11.1b said that when a ball played from the putting green accidentally hit any person, animal, or movable obstruction on the green, that stroke didn’t count. Model Local Rule D-7, though, limited a lot of those instances.

The rule has now been amended so if a ball played from the putting green hits the player, the club the player used to make the stroke, an insect or similar animal defined as a loose impediment, the stroke counts and the ball is played as it lies. That Local Rule was employed on tour but, as it was introduced in January 2021, it didn’t appear in the Official Guide to the Rules of Golf and many at club level were probably none the wiser to its existence.

So, Rule 11.1b (2) has now brought in those important elements.

It means if a ball played from the putting green accidentally hits an insect, the player, or club used in the stroke, it counts. The ball is played as it lies, and the stroke is not replayed.

There are still several incidences where you’d still have to take the shot again – if it was known or virtually certain that it hit any other person, a movable obstruction (that isn’t a ball marker, a ball at rest, a flagstick or the club used to make the stroke), or an animal which isn’t defined as a loose impediment.

But if your ball accidentally hits a worm, or a speedy beetle, claiming a Mulligan is no longer an option.

  • Some penalties for Stableford have changed

Penalties that related to having excess clubs, time of starting, and unreasonable delay will now be applied to a hole in the same way as regular stroke play.

Rule 21.1c has been amended so those penalties are now applied to the hole in the same way as regular stroke play. So, for example, having 15 clubs in your bag in stroke play would mean adding two penalty strokes for each hole where a breach happened, up a maximum of four penalty strokes in the round.

This amendment also applies to the same penalties in Par/Bogey competitions as well.

After applying any penalty strokes, a player’s Stableford score for a hole “cannot be lower than zero points”.

  • You can’t stand behind your partner to gain information about your side’s next stroke

You are in breach of Rule 10.2b (4) if, once you begin taking a stance for a stroke, your partner is stood in a location “on or close to an extension of the line of play behind the ball”.

Now, in addition, Rule 22.6 in foursomes and Rule 23.8 in fourballs bans a player from doing this while their partner is making a stroke to “gain information for their next stroke”.

However, the Rule now allows for someone other than the player’s caddie (or partner) to stand in the restricted area to track the flight of their ball. While it may always have been implied in Rule 10.2b (4) that you couldn’t crowd your partner’s line to get a read on where your next putt or shot might go, it is now explicitly written into the rules on foursomes (Rule 22.6) and fourball (Rule 23.8).         

Restriction on Player Standing Behind Partner when Stroke made states that, in addition to the limitations in Rule 10, a player “must not stand on or close to an extension of the line of play behind the ball while their partner is making a stroke to gain information for their (the player’s) next stroke”.

If you’re caught doing this, you’ll get the general penalty, which is two shots in stroke play or loss of hole in match play. In foursomes, that penalty applies to the side. In fourball, there are even examples where it could apply to both players.

Indeed, there’s a fuller explanation for fourball play in a new clarification, which reveals that how a penalty will be applied depends “on the reason the player stood there” and, if there’s a breach, “whether either the player or their partner was helped by the breach”.

The most relevant example talks about a player standing on, or close, to an extension of the line of play to “learn information about how their upcoming putt might break based on how their partner’s ball breaks on the putting green”.

So, the Rule in foursomes and fourball is now very clear. Don’t stand behind your partner while they’re making a stroke. It’ll cost you a penalty if you do.

NOTE:

The Rule, however, allows for someone other than the player’s caddie or partner to stand behind the player to track the flight of their ball.

  • Player allowed to remove the external attachment before club is used to make a stroke without penalty.

If player starts a round with a non-permissible external attachment on a club, such as a sticker or sharpie marks on a clubface, there is no penalty provided the external attachment is removed before club used to make a stroke, player disqualified if club used to make a stroke with external attachment still attached. Rule 4.1a(3)

  • Practice on course or holes not being used for competition allowed

There is no penalty for a player practising on holes not being used for any rounds of the competition to be played on that day. Rule 5.2 & C. 5.2/1

For example:

If a competition is being played over Holes 1-9, you can practise on Holes 10-18 and vice versa.

  • Relief for an embedded ball

The reference point must be in the general area. If the spot right behind the ball is not in the general area, the player must find the nearest spot (no closer to the hole) in the general area and use that as the reference point – see Clarification 16.3b/1.

  • Meaning of “reasonable time” when identifying a ball found within search time

A new Clarification has been added to clarify that one minute is the most time a player should be given by the committee to identify a found ball when it is found toward the end of the search time.

  • Local Rule: Relief from immovable obstructions in penalty areas

A committee can allow players relief from immovable obstructions when their ball is in a penalty area. They should specify which obstructions relief is allowed from, rather than allowing relief from all obstructions.

  • Local Rule: Player has interference from abnormal course condition such as a narrow fence or wall where the nearest point of complete relief may be on the other side of the abnormal course condition

Local Rule available to state that the nearest point of complete relief must be determined without crossing over, through or under the abnormal course condition.

  • Local Rule: Modification of penalty under Rule 3.3b(2) when scorecard missing player or marker certification

A committee can modify the disqualification penalty to two penalty strokes in the event it is returned without the player or marker certification

Rule 3.3b (2) imposes a penalty of disqualification when the hole scores on the scorecard haven’t been certified by the player, the marker, or both.

Under Local Rule L-1

In situations where a committee feels it to be “more appropriate”, competition committees will be able to modify the cost of missing player or marker certification from disqualification to two shots.

That penalty would apply to the last hole of a player’s round. So while signing a scorecard would remain an important responsibility of both player and marker, failing to do it – depending on the reason – may not always now be the round-wrecking punishment that currently befalls offenders.

  • Substitution of another ball while playing a hole

If a player makes a stroke at an incorrectly substituted ball, it is now only a one-stroke penalty and not a General Penalty.

There are further Amendments to the Clarifications and Committee Procedures for the 2023 Rules of Golf which you can read more about by clicking here.

2023 Rules of Golf – Outcome Changes 2019 vs 2023

2023 Rules of Golf – Outcome Changes 2019 vs 2023

The chart below summarises the substantive changes between the 2019 and 2023 Rules of Golf. While this document provides more detail than the principal changes noted in the front of both the Rules of Golf and Official Guide to the Rules of Golf, it does not detail every minor change that has been made. This chart does not detail points that were covered by the 2019 – 2022 Clarifications document as many of those points have been incorporated into the applicable Rule without the outcome changing.

You can download a copy of the chart by clicking on the download button below.