The Rules of Golf 2019, although having been modernised, still contain 24 Rules, 99 sub-sections, and 37 Exceptions to the Rules.
They also contain 74 Definitions, 42 clarifications of the Definitions, 100+ Interpretations of the Rules, as well as dozens of allowable Committee Procedures.
I am providing a link to a free educational website ‘The Roving Official’ which I think will provide you with an easy and intuitive approach to learning the Rules of Golf and testing your knowledge, rather than simply reading the Rules of Golf and then testing your knowledge with my previous quizzes.
The site teaches the Rules of Golf by providing actual Rules situations that you will encounter on the course or see in a Rules exam.
It contains separate sections on the Rules of Golf, for example, Rules about advice, clubs, putting greens, bunkers, practising, dropping, playing a wrong ball, and many others, together with tests which you can set at different levels of difficulty and use to review your knowledge of the Rules of Golf.
It will, I am sure, improve your understanding of the Rules of Golf.
Use the drop-down menus on the page to display the Rules topics. Each topic will provide you with some important elements of that section and links to the specific Rule, Definition, or Interpretation.
Once you have read those elements, continue on to test your knowledge of that section.
There are a minimum of 20 true/false and multiple choice questions in each section – over 1500 questions in all.
After each question is answered, you will be provided the correct answer as well as a link to the corresponding Rule, Definition, or Interpretation.
As you progress through the questions you will see a pattern to the Rules, your understanding increase, and you will become more comfortable with the types of questions you will encounter on the Rules Exam.
If you have trouble with a question, click the after the question to bookmark it. The will change to and you can review it again later in your Favorites. Then, after you have finished studying each section, take the Rules Review to test your overall knowledge of the Rules.
So give it a try by clicking on the button below and have fun!
When the fully updated and rewritten Rules of Golf went into effect in January 2019, there was a recognition that they would not be perfect and that the intent of certain Rules might need to be clarified. This led to the creation of a living document called the Clarifications of the 2019 Rules of Golf. This document is updated quarterly and allows golf’s governing bodies (the USGA and The R&A) to be more responsive and nimble in governing the game and applying the Rules.
When a Rule needs further clarification for it to apply the way it was intended to, the mechanism of Clarifications allows for quick implementation outside of any changes to the Rules. Information included in the Clarifications document generally will foreshadow likely revisions to the Rules themselves at the time of the next revision, which is currently scheduled for January 2023.
While a few dozen items have been added to the full Clarifications document to support the new Rules that went into effect in 2019, some have been particularly beneficial to the game, including caddie alignment, limitations to green-reading materials and additional messaging from the governing bodies on backstopping.
You may download a copy of the R&A and USGA most recent update to the Clarifications of the Rules of Golf 2019, by clicking on the download button below:
Clarifications will normally be updated on a quarterly basis each January, April, July, and October and the next quarterly update is likely to be in April 2022. The next revision to Rules of Golf will be January2023.
Although the R&A and USGA have simplified the Rules of Golf, in so doing they have introduced over 100 changes, which those new to golf will not have any trouble learning, but those who have been playing along time under the ‘Old’ Rules will almost have to learn afresh, This Quick Guide to the Rules of Golf, is a quick guide to the most common situations you may find yourself facing during your rounds of golf.
It does not contain situations that would relate to Local Rules such as ‘Alternative to Stroke and Distance’ and Relief on the Opposite Side of a Red Penalty Area’.
Reasons for this are:
They are Local Rules which a Club may adopt and not standard rules of Golf
Because of there status, there is no reference to them in the Player’s Rules of Golf
It is therefore up to individual Golf Clubs which decide to adopt these Local Rules, and any others, to inform players of these Local Rules and how they should proceed with taking the appropriate action.
If you wish you can view these Local Rules by clicking on:
If you would like to download and print a copy of this Quick Guide to the Rules of Golf, click on the link at the bottom of this page; there are also some useful instructions on how to print a Booklet from Adobe Reader.
Quick Guide to the Rules of Golf
This guide is not a replacement for the Rules of Golf but provides a simple explanation of some common Rules situations that you may come across during your rounds of golf. Whenever any doubt arises you should consult the full Rules of Golf and for more information on any points covered, refer to the relevant Rule.
Conduct Expected of All Players (Rule 1.2a)
All players are expected to play in the spirit of the game by:
Acting with integrity – for example, by following the Rules, applying all penalties, and being honest in all aspects of play.
Players are responsible for applying rules to themselves and calling penalties on themselves if and when due (Rule 1.3b).
Penalties also apply when the player sees another person about to take an action concerning the player’s ball or equipment that s/he knows would breach the Rules if taken by the player or caddie and does not take reasonable steps to stop it happening (Rule 1.3c).
Showing consideration to others – for example, by playing at a prompt pace, looking out for the safety of others, and not distracting the play of another player.
Taking good care of the course – for example, by replacing divots, smoothing bunkers, repairing ball-marks, and not causing unnecessary damage to the course.
There is no penalty under the Rules for failing to act in this way, except that the Committee may disqualify a player for acting contrary to the spirit of the game if it finds that you have committed serious misconduct.
Penalties other than disqualification may be imposed for player misconduct only if those penalties are adopted as part of a Code of Conduct under Rule 1.2b.
Before starting your round, you are advised to:
read the Local Rules on the score card and the notice board put an identification mark on your ball; many golfers play the same brand of ball and if you can’t identify your ball, it is considered lost (Rules 6.3a and 7.2)
count your clubs; you are allowed a maximum of 14 clubs (Rule 4.1b).
During the round:
don’t ask for advice from anyone except your caddie, your partner (i.e. a player on your side) or your partner’s caddie; don’t give advice to any player except your partner; you may ask for or provide information on the Rules, distances and the position of hazards, the flagstick, etc. (Rule 10.2)
don’t play any practice shots during play of a hole (Rule 5.2)
play at a reasonable pace and allow faster groups through
you may play out of turn, playing ‘Ready Golf’ if, and when, it is safe to do so (Rule 6.4b Exception) At the end of your round:
in match play, ensure the result of the match is posted
in stroke play, ensure that your score card is completed properly and signed by you and your marker, and return it to the Committee as soon as possible (Rule 3.3b(2)).
Provided you have not already played your ball you may correct a possible breach of a rule, without penalty.
The Rules of Play
Tee Shot (Rule 6)
You may change your ball before playing your tee shot, but it is good practice to advise a player in your group if you are changing your ball.
Play your tee shot from between, and not in front of, the tee-markers. You may play your tee shot from up to two club-lengths behind the front line of the tee-markers.
If you play your tee shot from outside this area:
in match play there is no penalty, but your opponent may require you to replay your stroke provided he does so immediately; in stroke play you incur the General Penalty (two penalty strokes), the stroke itself does not count and you must play a ball from within the correct area.
Playing the Ball (Rules 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11)
If you think a ball is yours but cannot see your identification mark, you may mark the position of the ball and lift it to identify it. When lifted under this Rule, your ball must be marked (do not use a loose impediment to mark the ball, if you do you incur a 1-stroke penalty) and may not be cleaned except to the extent necessary to identify it (Rule 7.3).
Play the ball as it lies. Don’t improve your lie, the area of your intended stance or swing, or your line of play (Rule 8.1) by:
moving, bending or breaking anything fixed or growing, except in fairly taking your stance or making your swing, or
pressing anything down (Rule 8.1a), including your club behind or in front of your ball; you may however lightly rest your club behind or in front of your ball (Interpretaion 8.1b/1)
if your ball is in a divot hole, there is no free relief, the ball must be played as it lies or declared unplayable (Rule 19)
If your ball is in a bunker, don’t;
touch the ground in front of or behind your ball with your club before your downswing, or touch the sand with your hand to test the condition of the bunker
you may move loose impediments or movable obstructions (Rule 12.2b(1)).
If you play a wrong ball (i.e. stray ball or ball being used by another player):
in match play you lose the hole
in stroke play you incur the general penalty (two penalty strokes), the strokes made with the wrong ball do not count and you must correct the mistake by playing the correct ball (Rule 6.3c).
If you play from the wrong place (Rule 14.7a), If it is not a serious breach you incur the General Penalty of 2-strokes and may continue playing the ball you played from the wrong place. If however it is a serious breach i.e. you have gained a considerable advantage from playing from the wrong place, then you incur the General Penalty but MUST correct your mistake by playing another ball from the correct place; failure to correct your error will lead to your disqualification
On the Putting Green (Rules 13)
On the putting green, you may:
mark, lift and clean your ball (always replace it on the same spot), and
repair all damage except that caused naturally or by routine maintenance to the putting green e.g. aeration holes (Rule 13.2c).
leave the Flagstick in the hole (Rule 13.2a), your decision to have the Flagstick left in the hole must be made before you make your stroke, or
you may also have the flagstick removed or attended when the ball lies on or off the putting green; your decision to have the Flagstick removed or attended must be made before you make your stroke, (Rule 13.2).
Ball at Rest Moved (Rule 9)
Generally, when your ball is in play, if you accidentally cause it to move, touch it or lift it when not permitted, add a penalty stroke and replace your ball.
If someone other than you, your caddie, your partner or your partner’s caddie moves your ball at rest, or it is moved by another ball, replace your ball without penalty.
If a ball at rest is moved by natural forces or it moves of its own accord, play the ball as it lies without penalty, except when you have already marked, lifted and replaced your ball when you must then replace your ball on its original spot.
Ball in Motion Accidentally Hits Outside Influence or is Deliberately Deflected or Stopped (Rule 11)
If your ball in motion accidentally hits a person or outside influence there is no penalty, unless it is played from on the putting green and, in Stroke Play, it hits another ball, you then receive the general penalty of 2 penalty-strokes,(Rule 11.1a Exception) 1 You play the ball as it lies. If your ball was played off the green and comes to rest on a person or moving outside influence you do not play the ball as it lies but instead must take relief under Rule 14.3, dropping a ball in the appropriate relief area.
If your ball was played from the putting green and accidently hits a person, animal or movable obstruction, your stroke does not count, and you must replace your ball on the original, or estimated, spot, unless it hits a ball at rest or a ball-marker when the stroke counts and you play the ball as it lies. (Rule 11.1b).
Lifting, Dropping and Placing the Ball (Rule 14)
Prior to lifting your ball that has to be replaced (e.g. when you lift your ball to identify it or on the putting green to clean it), the position of the ball must be marked (Rule 14.3). When your ball is being lifted in order to drop or place it in another position (e.g. dropping within two club-lengths under the unplayable ball Rule), it is not mandatory to mark its position although it is recommended that you do so. When dropping, hold your ball at knee-height and drop it.
Common situations where a dropped ball must be re-dropped include when it:
rolls to a position where there is interference from the same condition from which free relief is being taken (e.g. an immovable obstruction)
comes to rest outside the relief area from where it was dropped, or
comes to rest nearer the hole than its original position, the nearest point of complete relief or where the ball last crossed the margin of a penalty area.
If a ball dropped for a second time rolls into any of these positions, you place it where it first struck the course when re-dropped (Rule
14.3c(2)); this can mean, however, that if a ball cannot come to rest within a relief area e.g. because it is on a severe slope, the point that the ball can come to rest on may be outside the relief area, as long as the point is not nearer the hole etc.
Ball Assisting or Interfering with Play (Rule 15.3b)
lift your ball or have any other ball lifted if you think the ball might assist another player, or
have any ball lifted if it might interfere with your play. You must not agree to leave a ball in position in order to assist another player.
A ball that is lifted because it is assisting or interfering with play must not be cleaned, except when it is lifted from the putting green.
Loose Impediments (Rule 15.1)
You may move a loose impediment (i.e. natural loose objects such as stones, detached leaves and twigs) if you remove a loose impediment and this causes your ball to move, the ball must be replaced and (unless your ball was on the putting green) you incur a one-stroke penalty.
If your ball lies on a loose impediment which, if moved, would move your ball, and you have to mark, lift and replace your ball (e.g. for identification), you must not remove the loose impediment before replacing your ball in its original position.
Movable Obstructions (Rule 15.2)
Movable obstructions (i.e. artificial movable objects such as rakes, bottles, etc.) located anywhere may be moved without penalty. If your ball moves as a result, it must be replaced without penalty.
If your ball is in or on a movable obstruction, the ball may be lifted, the obstruction removed, and the ball dropped, without penalty, on the spot directly under where the ball lay on the obstruction, except that on the putting green, the ball is placed on that spot.
Immovable Obstructions and Abnormal Ground Conditions (Rules 16)
An immovable obstruction is an artificial object on the course that cannot be moved (e.g. a building) or cannot readily be moved (e.g. a firmly embedded direction post or stone). Objects defining out of bounds are not treated as obstructions.
An abnormal course condition is temporary water, not in a penalty area, ground under repair or a hole made by an animal or an immovable obstruction.
Except when your ball is in a penalty area, relief without penalty is available from immovable obstructions and abnormal ground conditions when the condition physically interferes with the lie of the ball, your stance or your swing. You may lift the ball and drop it within one club-length of the nearest point of complete relief (see Definition of “Nearest point of complete relief”), but not nearer the hole than the nearest point of complete relief (see diagram below). If the ball is on the putting green, you place it at the nearest point of complete relief, which may be off the putting green.
There is no relief for intervention on your line of play unless both your ball and the condition are on the putting green.
There is no relief if it is clearly impossible for you to make a stroke at your ball because of where your ball lies, or another condition or obstruction would interfere with your stroke e.g. your ball may be in a bush.
As an additional option when your ball is in a bunker, you may take relief from the condition by dropping the ball outside on back-of-line relief the bunker under penalty of one stroke (Rule 16.1c(2))
When relief is Allowed for Abnormal Course Condition
The diagram assumes you are right-handed. Free relief is allowed for interference by an abnormal course condition (ACC), including an immovable obstruction, when the ball touches or lies in or on the
condition (B1), or the condition interferes with the area of intended stance (B2) or swing. The nearest point of complete relief for B1 is P1 and is very close to the condition. For B2, the nearest point of complete relief is P2, and is farther from the condition as the stance has to be clear of the Abnormal Course Condition.
Free Relief from Abnormal Course Condition in General Area
Free relief is allowed when your ball is in the general area and there is interference by an abnormal course condition. The nearest point of complete relief should be identified, and a ball must be dropped in and come to rest in the relief area. The relief area is one club-length from the reference point, is not nearer to the hole than the reference point and must be in the general area. When taking relief, you must take complete relief from all interference by the abnormal course condition.
Relief from Abnormal Course Condition in a Bunker
The diagram assumes you are a right-handed player. When there is interference from an abnormal course condition in a bunker, free relief may be taken in the bunker under Rule 16.1b or relief may be taken outside the bunker for one penalty stroke. Relief outside the bunker is based on a reference line going straight back from the hole through the spot of the original ball in the bunker. The reference point is a point on the course outside the bunker chosen by you that is on the reference line and is farther from the hole than the original spot (with no limit on how far back on the line). The relief area is one club-length from the reference point, is not nearer to the hole than the reference point but may be in any area of the course. In choosing this reference point, you should indicate the point by using an object (such as a tee).
Penalty Areas (Rule 17)
If your ball is in a penalty area (yellow or red stakes and/or lines) you may play it as it lies or, under penalty of one stroke:
play a ball from where your last shot was played, or drop a ball any distance behind the penalty area keeping a straight line between the hole, the point where the ball last crossed the margin of the penalty area and the spot on which the ball is dropped.
Relief for Ball in Yellow Penalty Area
When it is known or virtually certain that a ball is in a yellow penalty area and you wish to take relief, you have two options, each for one penalty stroke:
You may take stroke-and-distance relief by playing the original ball or another ball from a relief area based on where the previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6 and Diagram 14.6).
You may take back-on-the-line relief by dropping the original ball or another ball in a relief area based on a reference line going straight back from the hole through point X. The reference point is a point on the course chosen by you that is on the reference line through point X (the point where the ball last crossed the edge of the yellow penalty area). There is no limit on how far back on the line the reference point may be.
The relief area is one club-length from the reference point, is not nearer to the hole than the reference point and may be in any area of the course, except the same penalty area. In choosing this reference point, you should indicate the point by using an object (such as a tee).
Relief for Ball in Red Penalty Area
When it is known or virtually certain that a ball is in a red penalty area and you wish to take relief, you have three options, each for one penalty stroke:
You may take stroke-and-distance relief (see point (1) in the Diagram ).
You may take back-on-the-line relief (see point (2) in the Diagram).
You may take lateral relief (red penalty area only). The reference point for taking lateral relief is point X, which is the estimated point where the original ball last crossed the edge of the red penalty area. The relief area is two club-lengths from the reference point, is not nearer to the hole than the reference point and may be in any area of the course, except the same penalty area.
Ball Lost or Out of Bounds; Provisional Ball (Rule 18)
Check the Local Rules on the score card to identify the boundaries of the course. These are normally defined by fences, walls, white stakes or white lines.
If, after playing a shot, you think your ball may be lost outside a penalty area or out of bounds you should play a provisional ball from the spot where the last shot was played, under penalty of one stroke, i.e. stroke and distance You must announce, and use the word ‘provisional’, that it is a provisional ball.
You are allowed 3 minutes to search for a ball. If it is not found within 3 minutes, it is lost, (Rule 18.2), and you continue play with your provisional ball.
If you have gone forward and started a search for your ball but it has not been found and you are still within your 3 minute search time, so your ball is not yet deemed lost, and you will still have time to go back and play a ball from where you played your previous stroke from, you may still play a provisional ball.
If your original ball is then found still within time, you are allowed time to walk to the ball and identify it.
If you have to temporarily stop your search while another player plays their shot, this stoppage time is not deducted from your 3-minute allowance for a search.
NOTE: Check the Golf Club’s Local Rules in case it has adopted a Local Rule to allow an alternative to Stroke-and-Distance, in which case do not play a provisional ball if you wish to take relief under that local rule; by playing a provisional ball you lose the relief offered by the alternative to Stroke-and-distance and if you do not find your original ball you \must continue play with your provisional ball.
If the original ball is lost (other than in a penalty area) or out of bounds, you must continue with the provisional ball, under penalty of one stroke. If the original ball is found in bounds within 3 minutes, you must continue play of the hole with it, and must stop playing the provisional ball.
Ball Unplayable (Rule 19)
RELIEF OPTIONS FOR BALL UNPLAYABLE IN GENERAL AREA
A player decides that his or her ball in a bush is unplayable. You have three options, in each case adding one penalty stroke: (1) You may take stroke-and-distance relief by playing the original ball or another ball from a relief area based on where the previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6 and Diagram 14.6). (2) You may take back-on-the-line relief by dropping the original ball or another ball in a relief area based on a reference line going straight back from the hole through the spot of the original ball. The reference point is a point on the course chosen by you that is on the reference line and is farther from the hole than the spot of the original ball. There is no limit on how far back on the line the reference point may be. The relief area is one club-length from the reference point, is not nearer to the hole than the reference point and may be in any area of the course. In choosing this reference point, you should indicate the point by using an object (such as a tee). (3) You may take lateral relief. The reference point is the spot of the original ball. The relief area is two club-lengths from the reference point, is not nearer to the hole than the reference point and may be in any area of the course.
If your ball is in a penalty area and you do not wish to play it as it lies, you must proceed under the Penalty Area Rule – the unplayable ball Rule does not apply. Elsewhere on the course, if you believe your ball is unplayable, you may, under penalty of one stroke:
play a ball from where your last shot was played, or
drop a ball any distance behind the point where the ball lay keeping a straight line between the hole, the point where the ball lay and
the spot on which the ball is dropped, or
drop a ball within two club-lengths of where the ball lay not nearer the hole.
If your ball is in a bunker you may proceed as above, except that if you are dropping back on a line or within two club-lengths, you must drop a ball in the bunker.
RELIEF OPTIONS FOR BALL UNPLAYABLE IN BUNKER
A player decides that his or her ball in a bunker is unplayable. You have four options:
For one penalty stroke, you may take stroke-and-distance relief.
For one penalty stroke, the player may take back-on-the-line relief in the bunker.
For one penalty stroke, you may take lateral relief in the bunker.
For a total of two penalty strokes, you may take back-on-the-line relief outside the bunker based on a reference line going straight back from the hole through the spot of the original ball.
R&A, www.randa.org, for the illustrative diagrams.
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With the New Rules of Golf 2019, I expect you will have many questions about them and situations you may find yourself in while playing a round of golf, or generally discussing the vagaries of the Game of Golf in the Clubhouse with your friends. I hope that 2019 Rules of Golf – FAQs will provide you with all your answers.
If you need a quick answer about a rule, you can get it here, by clicking on a subject below when you will be directed to the USGA 2019 Rules of Golf Webpage and links to some Videos are also included at the end of the list.
Why the USGA Website; because the R&A have not published anything as informative and the Rules of Golf are Universal having been agreed by both the R&A and USGA?
The list is not exhaustive, but I hope it covers most of your initial questions.
I have included some other FAQs that are not specifically covered by the USGA Webpage and hope to update the list as time goes on and I receive more questions as you play Golf under the 2019 Rules of Golf.
2019 Rule: “Maximum Score” will be a new, additional form of stroke play:
A player’s score for each hole is capped at a maximum set by the Committee, which may be fixed (such as 6, 8, 10, etc.), related to par (such as two times par or triple bogey), or related to the player’s handicap (such as net double bogey).
A player who does not complete a hole (often referred to informally as “picking up”) will not be disqualified, but simply gets the maximum score for the hole.
2019 Local Rule: A new local rule will provide an alternative to stroke and distance relief for a ball that is lost outside a penalty area or out of bounds
For two penalty strokes, the player may take relief by dropping the original ball or a substituted ball in the vicinity of the spot where a ball is considered to be lost or went Out of Bounds. relief area.
Some video links to help better bring the Rules of Golf – 2019 to life.
Insisting on High Standards of Conduct and Trusting Player Integrity
Playing in the spirit of the game: New provisions are added to reinforce the high standards of conduct expected from all players on the course and the Committee’s discretion to disqualify players for serious misconduct. Code of player conduct: Committees are given authority to adopt their own code of player conduct and to set penalties for the breach of standards in that code. Elimination of need to announce intent to lift ball: When you have good reason to lift your ball to identify it, to see if it is cut or cracked or to see if you are entitled to relief (such as to see if the ball is embedded), you are no longer required first to announce to another player or your marker that you intend to do so or to give that person an opportunity to observe the process. Reasonable judgment standard: When you need to estimate or measure a spot, point, line, area or other location under a Rule, your reasonable judgment will not be second-guessed based on later evidence (such as video review) if you did all that could reasonably be expected under the circumstances to estimate or measure accurately.
Penalty areas expanded beyond water hazards: Allowing committees to designate “penalty areas” (currently called water hazards) for areas that don’t contain water and to mark all penalty areas as red (so that lateral relief is always allowed) if they choose to do so. Expanded use of red penalty areas: Committees are given the discretion to mark all penalty areas as red so that lateral relief is always allowed (but they may still mark penalty areas as yellow where they consider it appropriate). Elimination of opposite side relief option: You are no longer allowed to take relief from a red penalty area on the opposite side from where the ball last entered the penalty area (unless a Committee adopts a Local Rule allowing it). Touching or removing loose impediments or touching ground in a penalty area: There is no longer a penalty if you touch or move loose impediments (such as leaves, stones and sticks) or touch the ground or water with your hand or your club in a penalty area. You can also make practice swings that touch the ground.
Ball at Rest
Accidentally moving your ball while searching for it: There is no longer a penalty. Replace the ball in the original / estimated spot and condition. Standard for deciding if you caused your ball to move: You will be found to have caused your ball to move only if that is known or virtually certain that it is at least 95% likely that you were the cause – and you will incur a 1 stoke penalty. Otherwise simply play the ball from the new location. (except on green) Replacing Ball When Original Spot is Not Known: You must replace the ball on its estimated original spot (rather than drop the ball at that spot); and if the estimated spot was on, under or against growing, attached or fixed objects (such as grass), you must replace the ball on, under or against those objects.
Reduced time for ball search: A ball is lost if not found in three minutes (rather than the current five minutes) after you begin searching for it.
Where a dropped ball must come to rest: Your ball must come to rest in the relief area, within 1 club length of the drop point (think of half circle) where it was dropped, or else it must be re-dropped.
New dropping procedure: Likely you will only need 1 drop. Your ball must be let go from knee height and fall through the air without touching any part of your body or equipment. If you forget and drop from shoulder height, simply drop again.
Taking relief in Red penalty areas: In taking lateral relief, you will drop within two club-lengths of where your ball entered the penalty area, not on the opposite side unless your your Golf Club has introduced a Local Rule, either generally for all Red Penalty Areas or for specific Red Penalty Areas, allowing relief on the opposite side of the Penalty Area Taking Back-on-the-Line Relief: dropping procedure will be in a specific “relief area”
Model Local Rule: Alternative to Stroke and Distance for a Ball That is Lost or Out of Bounds
Note: this rule cannot be used if you have already hit a provisional ball
Relief for embedded ball in the general area: You may take relief if your ball is embedded anywhere (except in sand) in the general area (which is the new term for “through the green”), except where a Local Rule restricts relief to the fairway or similar areas (this reverses the default position in the current Rules).
Substituting another ball for a cut or cracked ball: You may substitute another ball if your ball in play on a hole has become cut or cracked while playing that hole; but you are no longer allowed to change balls solely because the ball has become “out of shape.”
Use of damaged clubs: You may keep using any club that is damaged during the round, no matter how it happens (for example, even if you damaged it in anger). Replacement of damaged clubs: You may not replace a damaged club, unless you were not responsible for causing the damage.
DMDs allowed: You may use DMDs to measure distance, except when prohibited by Local Rule (this reverses the default position in the current Rules).
Encouraging you to play promptly: It is recommended that you make each stroke in no more than 40 seconds – and usually more quickly than that. Prepare in advance for each stroke. Move at a good pace between strokes and holes Playing out of turn in stroke play (“Ready Golf”) This has always been allowed without penalty, and now you are affirmatively encouraged to do so in a safe and responsible way for convenience or to save time. New alternative form of stroke play: The Rules recognise a new “Maximum Score” form of stroke play, where your score for a hole is capped at a maximum (such as double par or triple bogey) set by the Committee, so that you can pick up and move to the next hole when your score will be at or above the maximum.
Local Rule for an Alternative to Stroke and Distance for Lost Ball or Ball Out of Bounds
Under the new Rules of Golf 2019 a Local Rule may be adopted as an alternative to Stroke and Distance:
If your ball is lost or out of bounds, you must take stroke-and-distance relief by adding one penalty stroke and playing the original ball or another ball from where the previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6)
However to help with Pace of Play in General Golf a Committee may introduce a Local Rule offering an alternative option to Stroke and Distance.
The purpose of this Local Rule is to allow a Committee to provide an extra relief option that allows a player to play on without returning to the location of the previous stroke.
When a provisional ball has not been played, significant issues with pace of play can result for a player needing to take stroke-and-distance relief for a ball that is out of bounds or cannot be found.
The Local Rule is appropriate for general play where golfers are playing casual rounds or playing their own competitions. The Local Rule is not appropriate for competitions limited to highly skilled players (that is, professional competitions and elite amateur competitions). For guidance on when and how this Local Rule may be used in order for scores to be submitted for handicapping purposes, consult the Rules of Golf Committee Procedures Section 8-E
Where a Committee has introduced such a Local Rule for general play, and removes it for competitions, it should ensure that all players are aware of this before play begins.
A Committee may introduce such a Local Rule for all play on the course or only for one or two specific holes where it may be especially useful (for example, where players are unable to see the landing area and therefore may not know whether or not to play a provisional ball).
This option allows you to drop in a large area between the point where the ball is estimated to have come to rest or gone out of bounds and the edge of the fairway of the hole being played that is not nearer the hole.
You get two penalty strokes when using this relief option. This means that the relief is comparable to what could have been achieved if the player had taken stroke and distance relief.
This Local Rule cannot be used for an unplayable ball, or for a ball that is known or virtually certain to be in a penalty area.
If a provisional ball is played and neither the original ball nor the provisional ball can be found, then the Local Rule may be applied for the provisional ball that cannot be found.
Model Local Rule E-5
“When a player’s ball has not been found or is known or virtually certain to be out of bounds, the player may proceed as follows rather than proceeding under stroke and distance.
For two penalty strokes, the player may take relief by dropping the original ball or another ball in this relief area (see Rule 14.3):
Two Estimated Reference Points:
(a). Ball Reference Point: The point where the original ball is estimated to have:
Come to rest on the course, or
Last crossed the edge of the course boundary to go out of bounds.
(b). Fairway Reference Point: The point of fairway of the hole being played that is nearest to the ball reference point but is not nearer the hole than the ball reference point.
For purposes of this Local Rule, “fairway” means any area of grass in the general area that is cut to fairway height or less.
If a ball is estimated to be lost on the course or last crossed the edge of the course boundary short of the fairway, the fairway reference point may be a grass path or a teeing ground for the hole being played cut to fairway height or less.
Size of Relief Area Based on Reference Points:
A line from the hole through the ball reference point (and within two club-lengths to the outside of that line), and
A line from the hole through the fairway reference point (and within two club-lengths to the fairway side of that line).
But with these limits:
Limits on Location of Relief Area:
Must be in the general area, and
Must not be nearer the hole than the ball reference point.
Once the player puts a ball in play under this Local Rule:
The original ball that was lost or out of bounds is no longer in play and must not be played.
This is true even if the ball is found on the course before the end of the three-minute search time (see Rule 6.3b).
But the player may not use this option to take relief for the original ball when:
That ball is known or virtually certain to have come to rest in a penalty area, or
The player has played another ball provisionally under penalty of stroke and distance (see Rule 18.3).
A player may use this option to take relief for a provisional ball that has not been found or is known or virtually certain to be out of bounds.
Penalty for Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Local Rule: General Penalty Under Rule 14.7a.”
See the Video and Diagrams below for application of this Local Rule under different situations:
You may download England Golf’s and CONGU’s directive on the adoption of the Alternative to Stroke and Distance by clicking in the download button below:
Preparation by Clubs or Committees for 2019 Changes to the Rules of Golf
The R&A and the USGA have announced many changes to the Rules of Golf to come into effect on 1 January 2019. Are you 2019 Rules of Golf Ready?
They represent the most substantial Rules overhaul since 1984. Because of the amount of reform, this modernisation of the Rules of Golf is likely to require at least some degree of change by every Golf Club.
I will consider the categories of information that I think golf clubs should be considering to ensure they are 2019 Rules of Golf ready and would encourage the appropriate person or committee within a club to consider this information as a part of their planning for the transition to the new Rules. I hope to provide further information and updates between now and 1st January 2019 as it becomes available.
Matters for you to consider or be aware of are:
When ordering scorecards clubs should be mindful that at least some of their local rules will change on 1st January 2019. Note: There will be no requirement for clubs to stop using any pre-2019 scorecards come 1st January 2019. Supplies of old scorecards can continue to be used until they have been exhausted (provided players in competitions operate under 2019-compliant local rules).
The R&A “Committee Toolkit” feature will include a Local Rules “creator” which will allow committees to select the Model Local Rules they need to create the Local Rules sheet for their course and to pass on to their score card printer. [The R&A advised this would be at least partially functional by the week of 10-14 September.
2. Whether to use the new stroke-and-distance local rule
Significant issues with pace of play can result from players needing to take stroke-and- distance relief for a ball that is out of bounds or cannot be found when a provisional ball has not been played. As a result, The R&A has made available a new stroke-and- distance Local Rule. The purpose of this new Local Rule is to allow a Committee to provide an extra relief option that will allow a player to play on without returning to the location of the previous stroke.
This option allows the player to drop in a large area between the point where the ball is estimated to have come to rest or gone out of bounds and the edge of the fairway that is not nearer the hole.
The player gets two penalty strokes when using this relief option, so the relief is comparable to what could have been achieved if the player had taken stroke-and- distance relief.
The Local Rule is appropriate for general play where golfers are playing casual rounds or playing their own competitions. The Local Rule is not appropriate for competitions limited to highly-skilled players (that is, professional competitions and elite amateur competitions). Clubs may choose to operate it only on a specific hole or holes. For holes with features that make it unusually difficult to establish a relief option, a club may choose to use dropping zones in addition to the new stroke-and-distance local rule option.
Events such as corporate days will generally be well-suited to this new Local Rule option. However, it would be permissible for it to be adopted for use in any club competition.
More detailed guidance on the new stroke-and-distance Local Rule will be available upon the release of the Committee Procedures resource (see item B6).
3. Whether to mark any new ‘penalty areas’
The Rules for ‘penalty areas’ (currently called ‘water hazards’) will be relaxed.
Under the new Rules, red and yellow-marked penalty areas may cover areas of desert, jungle, rough that is deep and thick, etc.
As is currently the case with red and yellow hazards, penalty areas under the new Rules must still be clearly and accurately marked or defined.
Committees will now have the discretion to mark all penalty areas as red so that lateral relief is always allowed (but they may still mark penalty areas as yellow where they consider it appropriate). Under the 2019 Rules The R&A encourages committees to mark most penalty areas red to give players the additional option of lateral relief. However, where part of the challenge of the hole is to carry over a penalty area such as a stream that crosses the front of the putting green and there is a good chance that a ball that carries over the stream could fall back into it, the committee can decide to mark the penalty area as yellow.
4. Whether to bring in a local rule permitting lateral relief on opposite side of penalty area
The new Rules of golf give a player, the option to take lateral relief or back-on-the-line relief based on where his or her ball last crossed the edge of a red penalty area. But in some cases (for example, due to the location of the red penalty area right next to a course boundary), those options may leave the player with no reasonable option other than to take stroke-and-distance relief.
A Committee can introduce a Local Rule to allow lateral relief on the opposite side of the red penalty area as an extra relief option under Rule 17.1d.
When considering a Local Rule to allow additional relief:
The Committee should consider introducing the Local Rule in situations when a player could be seriously disadvantaged if it was not introduced. Two such examples are:
Where a boundary coincides with the edge of a penalty area down the side of a hole such that if a ball last crossed into the penalty area on the boundary side, the player would be likely to have no realistic relief option other than to play again under stroke and distance.
Where the layout of the penalty area is such that there could be doubt as to where the ball last crossed into the penalty area and the decision on which side of the penalty area the ball last crossed has a considerable impact on where to take relief. This applies if a relatively narrow penalty area is bounded by bushes or thick rough on one side and fairway on the other.
It is recommended that the Committee specify the location of specific penalty areas that the Local Rule applies to, rather than applying it to all red penalty areas on the course. This Local Rule should not be used to allow a player to use this opposite side relief option to get across a red penalty area to a more favourable location than is available if only normal lateral relief under Rule 17.1d is used and available.
It may also be desirable to mark the penalty areas where this option is available in a special way such as putting a different coloured top on any stakes where the extra option is available, and this should be stated in the Local Rule.
Instead of using this Local Rule, the Committee may decide to put one or more dropping zones in place (see Model Local Rule E-1)
5. Whether to bring into effect a Code of Conduct for on-course activity with penalties that apply to a player’s competition score
Under the new Rules, committees are given authority to adopt their own code of player conduct and to set penalties for a breach of the standards in that code.
A code of conduct will be able to provide for the application of any of the following penalties: warning, 1 stroke, 2 strokes (in Stableford or Par or stroke play), loss of hole (in match play), disqualification.
Examples of the type of player activity that may attract penalties under this new code of conduct capability include: failure to rake bunkers, failure to repair divots, failure to repair ball damage on a green, failure to adhere to required dress standards, etc.
Detailed guidance is be available under the Committee Procedures resource (see item B6). Note that I recommend that a Code of Conduct should apply both to members and Visitors.
6. Whether to bring in a Pace of Play Policy
The new Rules of Golf recommend a Committee Pace of Play Policy. To encourage and enforce prompt play, the Committee should adopt a Local Rule setting a Pace of Play Policy.
This Policy may set a maximum time to complete a round, a hole or series of holes and a stroke, and it may set penalties for not following the Policy.
See Committee Procedures, Section 5G (recommendations on contents of Pace of Play Policy).
7. New permission under the Rules to officially return scores digitally.
Under the existing Rules, the only permitted method for a player to officially return a competition score to the committee is on a paper (or cardboard) scorecard. From 1 January 2019, the Rules will allow committees to provide players with a digital submission option (or options) for the official return of scores.
It will be acceptable under the Rules for committees to permit each competitor to choose whether they submit their score digitally or on a paper scorecard. It will also be acceptable for committees to choose to accept paper scorecards only.
This may not apply to majority of clubs in the UK
8. Introduction of new stroke play format – Maximum Hole Score.
Under the existing Rules of Golf, a competitor in a stroke play competition (ie medal play competition) is required to hole out on every hole or they will be disqualified. ‘Maximum Score’ stroke play is an official new competition format that will be available to clubs from 1 January 2019 in addition to regular stroke play.
Under this new format a club will be permitted to set its own maximum score for a hole (eg 10, or 2 x par of hole, or net quadruple bogey, etc). If a player doesn’t finish a hole, or has more than the maximum score, they must be credited for competition purposes with whatever the committee has set as the maximum score (for handicapping purposes the player would be credited with whatever their Stableford score would have been for that hole).
It will not be mandatory for ISV Handicap Systems to offer functionality to support the new ‘Maximum Score’ competition format. At this stage it is unclear how attractive this option will be to golf clubs or how many have already expressed an interest to the R&A in this new format – probably with a view to trying to make medal play days a more attractive proposition for beginners and other high-handicap players.
Clubs will have to await advice from their ISV on the potential availability of functionality to support the new ‘Maximum Score’ competition format. I anticipate this advice will be provided in the coming weeks. I don’t think It will be mandatory for providers to offer ‘Maximum Score’ functionality to Golf Club.
The Definitions are listed alphabetically, you may download a copy of the 2019 Rules of Golf Definitions by clicking on the link at the bottom of the list
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, or • The Rules.
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.
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 he or she is playing, • All bunkers, • All penalty areas, and • The putting green of the hole the player is playing.
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 steps, bridge or similar construction used for getting over 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.
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.
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. A 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. For example, if the longest club (other than a putter) a player has during a round is a 43-inch (109.22 cm) driver, a club-length is 43 inches for that player for that round. Club-lengths are 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.
Committee The person or group in charge of the competition or the course. See Committee Procedures, Section __ (explaining the role of the Committee).
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. These terms mean: • The “area of intended stance” includes both where the player will place his or her 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.
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).
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.
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 [cite to equipment website].
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. 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 his or her 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.
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 he or she is playing, (2) all bunkers, (3) all penalty areas, 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, but they have no other meaning.
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).
Honour The right of a player to play first from the teeing area (see Rule 6.4).
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.
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.
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 he or she can get with reasonable effort and without unreasonable delay.
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 his or her 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. • 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.
Lost The status of a ball that is not found in three minutes after the player or his or her caddie (or the player’s partner or partner’s caddie) begins to search for it. 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.
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.
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 13.1e) 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 the condition does not interfere 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 he or she 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.
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.
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. • 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. See Committee Procedures, Section __ (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.
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 his or her caddie or the player’s partner or opponent or any of their caddies, • Any animal, and • Any natural or artificial object or anything else (including another ball in motion), except for natural forces.
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, but they have no other meaning. Boundary stakes or lines should be white.
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. A 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. A 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, but they have no other meaning. • 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. A 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.
Referee An official named by the Committee to decide questions of fact and apply the Rules. See Committee Procedures, Section __ (explaining the responsibilities and authority of a referee).
Relief Area The area where a player must drop a ball when taking relief under a Rule. 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 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. 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 __ (Committee may choose to allow or require the player to use a dropping zone as a relief area when taking certain relief).
Replace To place a ball by setting it down 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.
Round 18 or fewer holes played in the order set by the Committee.
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, • The player’s handicap to be entered, if it is a handicap competition, and • The marker and the player to certify the scores, and the player to certify his or her handicap in a handicap competition, either by physical signature or by a method of electronic certification approved by the Committee. A 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 he or she plays 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 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.
Stroke The forward movement of the club made to strike the ball. But a 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 club-head 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 and Distance The procedure and penalty when a player takes relief under Rules 17, 18 or 19 by playing a ball from where the previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6). The term stroke and distance means 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 his or her 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. The player has substituted another ball when he or she puts that ball in play in any way (see Rule 14.4) instead of the player’s 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. A 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.
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 he or she is 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 his or her 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 his or her matches.
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. • 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 Green Any green on the course other than the putting green for the hole the player is playing. Wrong greens include: • The putting green for all other holes which 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 his or her 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. • 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. Playing a ball from outside the teeing area in starting play of a hole or in trying to correct that mistake is not playing from a wrong place (see Rule 6.1b).
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