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Stump the Rules

Have a nagging question on the Rules of Golf you want answered? Have an argument that needs to be resolved? Saw an incident on television that has you confused?Decisions2016

The NCGA wants your assistance in providing more information on the Rules of Golf. Put the NCGA’s team of rules officials to the test. Submit your question/situation below and receive an almost immediate answer.

For immediate Rules inquiries or inquiries specific to a current competition, please contact the Rules Hotline at 831-622-8229.

Author: rfarb

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  • James

    Player enters Red/hazed with two clubs. Chooses one for play and lays down other in the hazard. Is this a violation of grounding.

    • Ryan Farb

      No, Exception 1 to Rule 13-4 explicitly permits the player to place his clubs in a hazard without penalty, provided nothing is done that constitutes testing the condition of the hazard.

  • Bob Anderson

    Are you allowed to raise the pin on an elevated green to give direction to a player below who has a blind shot?

    • Ryan Farb

      Bob,
      Rule 17-1 permits the player to have the flagstick raised directly above the hole prior to the stroke (and if done prior to the stroke he can have it held up throughout the stroke).
      Other than with the flagstick directly over the hole, Rule 8-2 permits the player to have the line of play indicated to him prior to the stroke, but not during the stroke.

  • drwinn1@comcast.net

    A player’s ball lies on a cart path. Red stakes mark both sides of the cart path where tall brush prohibit access to nearest point of relief.
    1. Is the ball considered to be in the water hazard?
    2. what are the player’s options?
    Question #2.
    Given the situation above with a bridge connecting the cart path and the ball lies on the bridge. The bridge is considered an immoveable obstruction.
    Is the bridge considered in the water hazard?
    What option/s does the player have?

    • Ryan Farb

      Dwight,
      1. If the ball lies on the cart path in a position that is within the margin of the lateral water hazard (between the red stakes), the ball lies in the water hazard. 2. The player must play the ball as it lies or proceed under Rule 26-1. Also, when relief from an obstruction is available, remember the nearest point of relief is not necessarily the nicest point of relief. Even if a player cannot physically reach or play from the point that would be the NPR, that point is still the NPR.
      If the hazard is marked in a manner that the bridge is within the margins of the water hazard, the player must either play the ball as it lies or proceed under Rule 26-1. The bridge is still an immovable obstruction, but a player is not entitled to relief from an immovable obstruction when his ball lies in a water hazard. However, the player may ground his club on the bridge (Decision 13-4/30).

  • Ed

    Decision 31/1 is confusing me: A and B are partners playing C and D and also A vs. C and B vs D. “The exception …is with Rule 8-1 as the two partners may not exchange advice if both are playing in individual competition.” Does this mean A and B can’t give advice to each other?

    • Ryan Farb

      In a four-ball stroke-play competition with a concurrent individual competition if both A and B are playing in the individual competition they may not give each other advice. For match play see Decision 30-3/1 situation 9. The reason is to protect the field, but note also in match play if the four-ball match has concluded partners would be prohibited from giving each other advice because they would no longer be partners.

      • Ian Riggall

        In individual competition, during Four-Ball Stroke play or two man best ball stroke play, if one team player picks up after it becomes apparent he cannot contribute to the team score, what score does he use for the individual competition. For instance, he is a 9 handicap, hits into the water on the number 1 handicap par four hole, his partner hits great shot down the middle, so water ball guy hits again into water. so his next shot would have him hitting his 5th shot and he decides to pick up. For posting to handicap he correctly posts a 6. for the individual gross competition does he mark down a 6 and then for the individual net competition get a 5? Or is he DQ’d from the individual competition? In this case, Our group has been letting players take the gross 6 and net 5 and then use that for individual competition. I think that is not correct as it lets players remove “blow up” holes from their gross and net scores, assuming they knew of this local, undocumented, unshared “ruling”.

  • Benton Gross

    Last year, I asked if using a golf app on my iPhone was legal for NCGA events and you answered no, since the iPhone had a compass. However, in reading page 56 of NCGA Golf Winter 2014, I see that New decision 14-3/18 and Revised Decision 14-3/4 now permit golfers to access weather information on multi-functional devises without penalty and allow the use of a compass. Therefor, is the use of a golf app on my IPhone (which uses GPS to measure distances) now legal for NCGA events?

    • Ryan Farb

      Benton,

      Yes the new Decisions paved the way for distance-measuring apps to be permissible in competitions. Their use is still subject to certain stipulations and I highly recommend reviewing the NCGA’s Clarification on Smart Phones and Distance-Measuring Devices which can be found on the Tournament Central webpage under Regulations & Policies.

      • Benton Gross

        Thank you

  • Dennis

    I hit my ball into a hazard. After finding it I decide to play it and the ball is then lost in the same hazard. Where do I play my next shot from?

    • Ryan Farb

      Dennis,

      Rule 26-2 gives you several options. You may proceed under stroke and distance from the previous spot in the hazard. You may use the spot where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard (on the previous stroke) and proceed in accordance with Rule 26-1b or 26-1c(if a lateral water hazard). You may also play from where the last stroke outside the water hazard was made. All under penalty of one stroke. Note that if you drop a ball under stroke and distance and decide you don’t want to play it from in the hazard, you may add an additional penalty stroke and use the other listed options to play from outside the hazard. For the specific text see Rule 26-2.

  • Chuck Marshall

    The course I play has “waste areas” that because of sandy soil is hard to tell from a bunker. They are not hollowed out as most of the bunkers are but the definition for a bunker wherein it says “often a hollow” and where turf is replaced with “sand and the like” doesn’t provide me enough comfort to assume they are not hazards. Is there a way to positively tell the difference between a “bunker” and a “waste area”?

    • Ryan Farb

      It is the Committee’s responsibility to properly define which areas are “waste areas” and which are bunkers. There is no hard and fast Rule because in some events, areas that are clearly bunkers are defined as waste areas or vice versa (for example, in the 2012 PGA Championship all sandy areas were played as “through the green” which is the same status as a “waste area”).

  • Rick

    A fellow player accidentally hits the wrong ball. I understand it’s a two stroke penalty but if he hits the wrong ball two times in a row,
    is it another two strokes?

    • Ryan Farb

      The answer depends on whether or not the player becomes aware he has played a wrong ball between strokes at the wrong ball. If the player makes successive strokes at a wrong ball and finds out after those strokes that he had played a wrong ball, a single two-stroke penalty applies. If the player played a wrong ball, became aware of it, and then played a wrong ball again, separate penalties would be applied. See Decision 15-3b/2.

      • Rick

        Thanks

        Rick Caballero
        Ocean Press Multimedia
        408-453-2500

  • Michael (Tom) Terry

    Question regarding relief from a sprinkler head / drain. If a player’s ball lies in the 1st or 2nd cut just off the green and wants to putt his ball but a sprinkler head / drain is in the intended path of the put but not interfering with the player’s stance or stroke, is that player entitled to any relief? I think the answer is no but I would appreciate if you would confirm my thinking or provide the correct answer. Thanks.

    • Ryan Farb

      With no Local Rules in effect, the player is not entitled to relief for intervention by an immovable obstruction on his line of play.

      The Committee may put into a effect a Local Rule that permits a player to get relief for intervention on his line of play by an immovable obstruction that is within two club-lengths of the putting green and within two club-lengths of the ball.

  • Bruce Hoffman

    Must the golf scorecard be totaled and signed before turning it in?

    • Ryan Farb

      Rule 6-6b requires that the player ensure that the marker has signed the score card and that he signs it himself prior to returning it. The player is only responsible for the hole-by-hole scores. Rule 33-5 makes the Committee responsible for the addition of the score card.

  • Steve Dwelle

    A’s shot hit his partner’s cart, which was stopped, with his partner in the driver’s seat. His opponent was sharing the cart but was not in it at the time. Is there a 1 stroke penalty for hitting his (team”s) equipment?
    Steve Dwelle

    • Ryan Farb

      Yes. By definition the cart is deemed to be the equipment of the player or player’s side whose ball is involved, unless the cart is being moved when it is the equipment of the player moving the cart. Therefore, under Rule 19-2 the player incurs a one-stroke penalty for a ball deflected or stopped by a member of the side’s equipment.

  • john lee

    I understand that distance-measuring devices cannot factor slope. My question is if I am allowed to use a calculator (not from my smart phone, because it has a weather app that gives wind speed) to calculate uphill distances. I basically want to use a standard calculator to do the math. Its a simple geometry equation, but not always easy to do without a calculator.

    • Ryan Farb

      John,

      The use of a calculator in and of itself is not prohibited by Rule 14-3. However, the use of an electronic device, such as a calculator, to assist in calculating the effective distance between two points would be a breach of Rule 14-3 resulting in disqualification. See Decision 14-3/16 (last bullet point).

      Also, see new Decision 14-3/18 that permits the use of a Weather App during the stipulated round and the NCGA’s Clarification on Smart Phones and Distance-Measuring Devices at Tournament Central under Regulations & Policies.

  • Ed

    A player’s ball ends up buried in a bunker or in a sandy waste area. He searches for the ball and makes a good attempt to recreate the lie but clearly makes the ball much more visible than just “a small part of the ball.” If he plays the ball with the added visibility, is it a one or two stroke penalty?

    • Ryan Farb

      If the player fails to meet the requirements of Rule 12-1a by leaving a much larger portion of the ball visible than before the lie was disrupted, he would incur the general penalty for a breach of Rule 12-1, two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play.

  • gary e

    A players ball lodges in a gopher hole which is under the out side edge of low hanging branches of a pine tree. The hole is mounded with dirt, the ball is below ground level and can clearly be identified. The player takes stance and one club length laterally. This positions the ball from under the branches and just outside circumference of the tree branches but the tree still impedes backswing a great deal. The ball is played from this position. Was it proper relief?

    • Ryan Farb

      In taking relief under Rule 25-1b the player must drop the ball (if immediately recoverable) within one club-length of the nearest point of relief. I cannot tell from your description if a nearest point of relief was determined. There is also a question that the player may not have been entitled to relief because something other than the abnormal ground condition made the stroke clearly impracticable. Please see Rule 25-1 and the Exception to 25-1b for further guidance.

  • David F

    When taking relief from a cart path you must drop within one club length of nearest point of relief and the ball cannot roll more than two club lengths. Can you use any club to measure the distance? For example, if your ball drops into heavy rough and rolls farther than two wedges but not as far as two drivers, can you measure the distance with a lob wedge and redrop the ball?

    • Ryan Farb

      You must use the same club for measuring throughout an entire procedure. If you first measure your nearest point of relief with your driver, you may not then switch and measure if the ball rolled two club-lengths with a wedge. See Decision 20/1.

  • David Harmon

    We are an NCGA certified 9 hole course. We start on several holes. If we start a 4-some on Hole #9 is the next hole considered to be #10 or do you finish the front 9 and the next recorded would be #1?

  • john lee

    As a follow-up to your reply to my question on 2/19, can you clarify Decision 14-3/18? I wanted to clarify if a player can check his smartphone and weather at ANY time during a round or if its only allowed during “AN IMPENDING STORM TO PROTRCT THEIR OWN SAFETY.” If its a bright sunny day and a player is checking his phone simply to get wind speed and direction, is this allowed? The 2 sentences from the USGA website are a bit vague. Thanks.

    • Ryan Farb

      John,
      The player may access information from a Weather Application or internet website weather report without restriction so long as the phone itself is not measuring the temperature or wind direction/speed.

  • Ed

    A player was recently disqualified from an NCGA tourney for wearing metal spikes. (He obviously didn’t read the player info sheet). My question: Is there a specific moment when the dq takes place? The info sheet could be read that the dq takes place when the metal spikes touch a green for the first time or is it when the player makes his first stroke of the day?

    • Ryan Farb

      The condition against wearing traditional metal spikes would be breached once the player begins his stipulated round, so when he makes his first stroke. He can walk to the tee and has the opportunity to change his shoes before he starts his round without penalty.

  • Hee

    Q. Brian asked Kevin to mark his (Brian`s) ball while Brian was raking the bunker after playing his stroke. Is Kevin the only one who can replace Brian`s ball?

    • Ryan Farb

      Hee,

      Under Rule 20-3 there are three people who may always replace a ball, 1)the player, 2) the player’s partner, or 3) the person who originally lifted or moved the ball. So in your situation (assuming Brian has no partner), both Kevin or Brian may replace the ball.

  • BobG

    Sorry if this is a re-post, my original question does not appear. Under winter rules a player is allowed to mark, lift, clean, and place his ball (26-4). When exactly does the placed ball become “in play”? Is it when the ball touches the ground or when the mark is picked up? I thought I have seen pros fiddle with the placement to get it just so before picking up the mark.

    • Ryan Farb

      Bob,
      Under Preferred Lies, the Local Rule commonly known as Winter Rules, a player may place the ball only once. Once the hand leaves the ball on the ground, the ball is placed. Whether the mark is left in place or removed at that point is irrelevant with regards to the ball being in play.

  • Ed

    I hit my ball onto the green and notice an obvious dent on my line of putt probably put there by an angry golfer slamming his club on the green earlier in the day. What rights do I have regarding getting that damage repaired before I putt?

    • Ryan Farb

      Ed,
      If you believe the damage is severe enough to warrant the area being ground under repair, contact the Committee as soon as possible to see if they would deem it ground under repair or repair it themselves. If no Committee member is available, in stroke play you may proceed under Rule 3-3 playing one ball as it lies and the other with relief in accordance with Rule 25-1b and report to the Committee at the end of the round. In match play, you must continue the match without delay. If you take relief when not permitted or repair the damage your opponent may make a claim or overlook the breach (so long as there is no agreement to waive a Rule).

      • Ed

        In match play could my opponent agree that the damage should be gur and grant relief and we play on or would that be some sort of waiving the rules of golf problem?

        • Ryan Farb

          Ed,
          If you agree with your opponent to repair that damage or take relief when it isn’t GUR in and of itself and you are both aware that would be against the Rules, you both would be in violation of Rule 1-3. In match play, an opponent may overlook a breach, so with your opponent watching you can just repair it and take a chance that he doesn’t make a claim. If he makes a valid claim you would lose the hole under 16-1c. Not necessarily the wisest choice.

  • Dennis Anderson

    Provisional Ball question: I read is Golf Digest that a player can go forward up to 50 yards and then go back to where ball last hit and declare that player is going to hit a Provisional Ball. Is this true?
    Dennis

    • Ryan Farb

      Dennis,
      Decision 27-2a/1.5 Meaning of “Goes Forward to Search” was revised for 2014 and now provides an approximate distance of 50 yards that a player may walk forward before he is considered to have “gone forward to search.” This, however, would not necessarily apply in the (hopefully) rare cases where the original is likely to be only a short distance (i.e., under 50 yards) away.

  • pacific

    I’m about to make a stroke that gets me on the green. However, I notice loose impediments on my target landing spot or on the line that I want the ball to roll on. I could be in a greenside bunker or at 80 yards away or on the tee box of a short Par 3. Before I make my stroke, may I walk up to the green and clear the loose impediments and repair ball & spike marks?

    • Ryan Farb

      Pacific,
      If your ball is in a hazard (bunker or water hazard) you may not remove loose impediments that lie in the same hazard – Rule 13-4. However, you may remove loose impediments lying through the green or on the putting green at any time regardless of whether they are on your line of play so long as you don’t move your ball and the moved loose impediments would not influence the movement of a ball in motion – Rule 23-1. You may not repair spike marks on your line of play, putt or extension of your line of play/putt beyond the hole or anywhere if the repair might assist you in your subsequent play of the hole – Rule 16-1c. You are permitted to repair ball-marks on the putting green regardless of where your ball lies – Rule 16-1c. I would also stipulate that if you are 80 yards away or at the teeing ground of a par-3 you may be subject to penalty for undue delay (Rule 6-7) if you walked up to remove loose impediments 80 yards away or repair ball-marks on the green and then went back to play your stroke.

      • pacific

        What if my ball is not on the green and I need one stroke to get onto the green. Before I take my stroke, may I walk up to the green to remove loose impediments lying on the green? (Rule 23 is not explicit regarding removing loose impediments on the green when the ball is NOT on the green.)

        • Ryan Farb

          Pacific,

          Rule 23-1 states, “Except when both the loose impediment and the ball lie in or touch the same hazard, ANY loose impediment may be removed without penalty.” So except for in the same hazard, it makes no difference where the ball or loose impediment lie, just don’t cause the ball to move and don’t remove the loose impediment while another ball is in motion heading toward it.

  • Larry

    I am the first to putt from 15′ away and my 3 competitors are all on the green and marked. I miss the putt and it goes 18″ past the hole. I now stand on the side where the putt came from with feet astride the line of putt and make a pulling stroke as to avoid standing on anybody’s line. Is this a penalty per 16-1e or not a penalty per 16-1e exception?

    • Ryan Farb

      Larry,
      16-1e covers standing astride your line of putt. The line of putt does not extend beyond the hole(Definition of Line of Putt), so if you are on the opposite side of the hole you cannot stand on your line of putt or an extension of that line behind the ball, and you could not breach 16-1e. However, you must be careful when you say “pulling stroke” because you must make sure that you do not push, scrape or spoon the ball into the hole as that would be a violation of 14-1.

  • Bruce Hoffman

    I’m watching the Arnold Palmer golf tournament and Ian Poulter was in the water hazard…..wind is minimal, but still creating small waves. The ball was moving back and forth in the water when Poulter hit the ball. I thought, under no circumstances, are you allowed to hit a moving ball. What’s the call???

    • Ryan Farb

      Bruce,

      There was no penalty in the situation you mentioned for two reasons: 1) Although the ball was oscillating with the waves, it was not changing its position and therefore it was not “moving” according to the Rules of Golf. An oscillating ball is not a moving ball, Decision 18/2; and 2) there are several exceptions to playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 and one of them is for a ball moving in water in a water hazard (Rule 14-6). Had Poulter’s ball been moving, there would be no penalty for playing a ball moving in water in a water hazard provided he did not delay to let the ball move to a more favorable position.

  • Julian Venturi

    what is the rule if your ball hits a power line?

    • Ryan Farb

      Julian,
      With no Local Rules in effect the ball must be played as it lies. Decision 33-8/13 provides the Local Rule for a ball that is deflected by a power line. When in effect, the player MUST cancel and replay the stroke if the ball is deflected by a power line.

  • Ian Riggall

    In individual competition, during Four-Ball Stroke play or two man best ball stroke play, if one team player picks up after it becomes apparent he cannot contribute to the team score, what score does he use for the individual competition. For instance, he is a 9 handicap, hits into the water on the number 1 handicap par four hole, his partner hits great shot down the middle, so water ball guy hits again into water. so his next shot would have him hitting his 5th shot and he decides to pick up. For posting to handicap he correctly posts a 6. for the individual gross competition does he mark down a 6 and then for the individual net competition get a 5? Or is he DQ’d from the individual competition? In this case, Our group has been letting players take the gross 6 and net 5 and then use that for individual competition. I think that is not correct as it lets players remove “blow up” holes from their gross and net scores, assuming they knew of this local, undocumented, unshared “ruling”.

    • Ryan Farb

      Ian,

      According to your question I must assume you have a four-ball stroke play tournament with concurrent individual stroke play.

      In the individual stroke play, the player MUST hole out. If he fails to do so he is disqualified from the individual competition under Rule 3-2. For posting purposes, however, the player should use the most likely score he would’ve made. In your scenario it is not clear the most likely score would be a 6. It may even be necessary to use Equitable Stroke Control and post the maximum score if that is what would be his most likely score for the hole.

      For the Four-Ball stroke play card you mark down the most likely score with an X to signify that the player did not hole out. In four-ball only one partner has to hole out. Note if both partners fail to hole out in the four-ball competition, the side is disqualified from the competition.

      • Ian Riggall

        Would the same rulling apply to individual competition in two man best ball. We award prizes for team reults and award Fedx championship type points for individual scores.

        • Ryan Farb

          Ian,

          Two-man best ball is the common term name for Four-Ball. Four-Ball is the proper Definition for that form of play.

  • jim atchison

    Is there “ground under repair” on a green? While playing in a tournament, I hit my ball onto the green. In between my ball and the hole was a fairly large bare spot whit no grass. Can I move my ball to the nearest point , without having to putt over the spot? If my ball was actually on the bare spot, would I be entitled to any relief? Or if no relief is given, may I repair the bare mark? I understand players must play over or around such conditions while elsewhere on the course. However, when on the putting green, and the proper play is to putt the ball, I believe some relief must be given, otherwise players might elect to chip the ball, thus causing more damage to the putting green. Any advice would help . Thanks

    • Ryan Farb

      Jim,

      Ground under repair can exist anywhere on the course (even in a water hazard, but if your ball were in the water hazard you would not get relief). However, areas such as you describe would not be automatically ground under repair, it would have to be declared as such by the Committee. Bare spots in and of themselves do not constitute ground under repair.

      If it were declared as GUR by the Committee, when your ball lies on the putting green you are entitled to relief for intervention by GUR on the putting green on your line of putt. You would place the ball at the nearest point of relief, and that point may be off the putting green (Rule 25-1b). You are not entitled to repair the bare spot.

  • HSX

    An area near the green directly beside a water hazard has turf missing – an area of 2 ft x 4 ft.
    This area is normally rough and never included as part of the hazard. This area is adjacent the hazard.
    This area was scheduled to be be repaired imminently per the committee. In the interim the greens keeper inadvertently painted the red line around this area which therefore included that area within the hazard.
    During play is the Club Pro/rules official allowed to intercede and state that it really is ground under repair?
    Therefore should a ball come to rest within that area should one get a free drop re Ground Under Repair? Or must it be deemed part of the hazard even though it will be repaired and should not have been part of the hazard in the first place?

    • Ryan Farb

      It is the Committee’s responsibility to ensure that the course is correctly marked under Rule 33-2. Decision 33-2a/2 permits the Committee to declare an area as ground under repair during the stipulated round, however, the Committee should not alter the marking of a boundary or hazard during a stipulated round. Therefore they could declare that area as GUR, but a player would only be entitled to relief for interference by that area if the ball lies outside the hazard margin.

  • QWERTY

    I have some rules questions relating to the putting green.
    1. A`s ball is on the putting green. B has a tap in directley in A`s line. B holes out.. What is the ruling?
    2. A marks his ball but in doing so walks in B’s line. What is the ruling?
    3 . The first described senario occurs but before B tapped in, A said “Could you please mark your ball.” What is the ruling?
    4. The first describe senario occurs but A said “Go ahead and finish.”

    • Ryan Farb

      Much depends on the form of play.
      Stroke Play:
      1. No penalty, provided the the players did not agree to play out of turn in order to give an advantage. See Rule 10-2c.

      2. Rude, but no penalty unless A did so purposely to influence the movement of B’s putt. If intentional, A would incur a two-stroke penalty under Rule 1-2. See also decision 16-1a/13.
      3. No penalty. Under Rule 22-2 in stroke play a player may play first rather than mark.
      4. No penalty.
      Match Play (assumes match between A and B):
      1. B has played out of turn and A has the right to recall the stroke and have B play in the correct order, or he may let it stand. No penalty strokes. See Rule 10-1c.

      2. See 16-1a/12 and 16-1a/13 again. Provided the action was unintentional there is no penalty. If intentional, A would lose the hole for a breach of Rule 1-2.
      3. See answer to scenario 1.
      4. B has still played out of order. A does not have the right to permit a player to play out of turn in match play in this instance, but provided he said it in ignorance of that and then did not recall the stroke, there would be no penalty and the hole would stand as played.

  • Ed

    Hi,

    During my round today the screw that allows changing the loft of my driver became loose in the normal course of play (no anger management needed). Is it ok to tighten up the screw?

    • Ryan Farb

      Ed,

      Yes you may tighten the screw to its original position. Rule 4-3a permits you to repair a club damaged in the normal course of play provided that the repair does not unduly delay play. However, you would not be permitted to tighten the screw to a new position (if it’s a slider) or change the loft.

  • Ed

    HI,
    My ball ended up on a bridge over a water hazard marked as environmental. Can I play off the bridge; doing so won’t hurt he environment.

    • Ryan Farb

      Ed,
      No. If the water hazard was not marked as an ESA, you would be permitted to ground your club on the bridge as it is not considered “ground” in the hazard (Decision 13-4/30), however, the bridge and ball are still in the hazard. Since the ball is still in the hazard, if the hazard is marked as an ESA, you are required to take relief in accordance with Rule 26 under penalty of one stroke and may not play the ball as it lies on the bridge.

  • Bruce Hoffman

    I just received my NCGA Golf, Volume 34. Number2 magazine. On page 71, Stump the Rules Expert, it states that the player is only responsible for the hole-by-hole scores. My question is this….concerning the PGA, when the pros go in to the tent to sign and turn in their score cards, does the above also apply to them or are they required to total the entire card and sign before turning it in?

    • Ryan Farb

      Bruce,

      Yes, Rule 33-5 makes the Committee responsible for the addition of the score card. Rule 6-6 only requires the player to check his hole-by-hole scores in any form of stroke play. Decision 33-1/7 specifically prohibits the Committee from making competitors responsible for the addition of their scores.

  • Ed

    A vs. B in a match. A takes relief from an unmarked area that he thinks should be relief for gur. B sees what A is doing but doesn’t say anything until after the hole is completed which A won. Before teeing off on the next hole B says, “I don’t think you should have taken relief back there.” I’m making a claim and I win the hole because you played from a wrong place. Who actually wins the hole?

    • Ryan Farb

      Ed,
      My answer would depend on whether the players agreed to the GUR procedure at the time or B just simply watched. If the two players agreed then Decision 2-5/8.5 applies and the hole stands as played. If B just simply watched, the claim was timely as it was made prior to any player in the match playing from the next teeing ground.

  • Mel

    In stroke play, a fairway mower broke down in front of the bunker guarding a 106 yard, par 3. Player A hit his shot over the green, and completed the hole with a triple bogey 6. The mower was moved, and player A replayed his shot saying the mower visually distracted him and he was entitled to replay the shot. His second score on the hole was a 4, which he recorded. Was player A entitled to replay the shot? If not, what is the penalty for replaying the shot and recording the second score?

    • Ryan Farb

      Mel,
      Absolutely not, this is not a cancel and replay situation. When the player had completed the hole, Rule 7-2 would permit the player to practice putting or chipping on or near the putting green of the hole last played, but not from a hazard. If he made strokes from a hazard (bunker or water hazard) or made any full practice strokes he was in breach of Rule 7-2 and incurred a penalty of two-strokes in addition to the 6 he actually made. If he unduly delayed play by replaying the hole from that spot, he could be subject to a two-stroke penalty under Rule 6-7.

  • Armando

    Can a senior of 76 years of age with a 18 Hcp from the white tees be allowed to play from the ladies red tees? If so how do you adjust his score and Hcp to play at the shorter tees?

    • Ryan Farb

      Armando,
      A player of any age can play from any tees as the Committee allows. Preferably the tees should be rated for men. If not the USGA Handicap manual has adjustments for unrated tees if needed. You would calculate his course handicap according to the applicable slope (either as rated for men or using the adjustment in the USGA Handicap Manual). Then calculate the difference between the two course ratings rounded to a whole number and in the case specified he would have that difference subtracted from his course handicap.

  • Walter

    When is the only time you can hit a moving ball?

    • Ryan Farb

      There are several times you can play a moving ball listed under Rule 14-5:
      When a ball is falling off the tee (Rule 11-3, no penalty but the stroke counts), When you have struck the ball more than once (Rule 14-4, one-stroke penalty), or when the ball is moving in water in a water hazard (Rule 14-6, no penalty, stroke counts).
      When the ball begins to move after you have begun the backward movement for the stroke (back-swing) and the stroke is made, you are not penalized for playing a moving ball, however you might be subject to penalty under Rule 18-2a or 18-2b for a ball at rest moved.

  • Bruce Hoffman

    I believe it is okay to repair a golf hole by way of patting the sides to even it out as long as you have completed the hole. I believe this holds true even if there are one or more golfers in your foursome still to putt. If this is true, here’s my question. My wife did just this on a particular hole. She was told that it was against their club rules to do so because it no longer allows the field to putt under the same conditions. Are they allowed to have a rule like this? My thought is, the only golfers that would play a damaged hole are those that play after it was damaged. Therefore, before the damage and when damaged are no longer playing an equal hole which would nullify their thinking. What say you???

    • Ryan Farb

      There are two applicable Decisions depending on the situation.
      To the first question: No, the club may not make a Local Rule as such.
      To the second question, it is permissible to smooth the ragged edge of a hole provided she was doing so for the sole purpose of caring for the course and not to influence the movement of a fellow-competitor’s ball – Decision 1-2/3.5
      When a hole is damaged prior to yourself putting Decision 16-1a/6 gives us guidelines for how a player should proceed depending on whether the hole’s proper dimensions have been altered.

  • Green man

    Is it within the rules to play say the fourth hole with a titleist golf ball and then tee off on the fifth hole with a Bridgestone ball ?

    • Ryan Farb

      Yes. Rule 15-1 only requires the player to hole out with the ball played from the teeing ground unless another Rule applies, therefore it is permitted to substitute golf balls of any conforming kind between the play of two holes. There is an optional Condition, commonly called the “One-Ball Rule” that is used in USGA and other high level competitions that would limit a player to one single type of golf ball for a stipulated round (so not just Titleist, but Titleist Pro-V1). See Appendix I-C-Ic.

  • David F

    Is it legal to use grip wax products during play to improve your grip on a club? What if the wax ends up on the ball or club face?

    • Ryan Farb

      Rule 14-3 permits a player to use “resin, powder and drying or moisturizing agents” in order to assist in gripping the club. Provided this wax does not materially change the shape of the grip I believe it would fall under that category. If the wax made its way onto the club face or ball there would likely be a violation of Rule 4-2b or 5-2 respectively and any stroke made with a club face or ball with the foreign material applied would likely result in disqualification.

  • Larry

    A ball is hit into an area of many gopher holes beyond a small rise such that nobody actually saw the ball roll into the animal hole. Is free relief granted or does the usual rule for lost balls apply?

    • Ryan Farb

      If it is not virtually certain that the ball is lost in an abnormal ground condition (burrowing animal hole in this case) and the ball is not found within 5 minutes, then the ball is lost and Rule 27-1 applies so the player must proceed under penalty of stroke and distance.

  • Oli

    Hi, I was recently playing in a singles knockout game and I went on my phone during the match. My opponent said that he is claiming the match because I was on my phone. He later let me off and warned me for the future and we carried on. Is that rule true? Could he have actually claimed the match?
    Thanks

    • Ryan Farb

      The Rules of Golf do not prohibit the use of a cell phone as a cell phone (i.e to make business calls, text, etc) provided the phone is not used to breach any other Rule (obtain advice, video tape the swing for advice purposes, measure the slope of a green, etc). However, if the use of the cell phone is disruptive to the proper play of the game, you could be subject to penalty under Rule 33-7 for a serious breach of etiquette. Many clubs have made it a condition of their competitions to prohibit cell phone use, which could lead to disqualification under Rule 33-7, however in the circumstances described I do not believe your opponent’s claim was valid. See Decision 14-3/16 regarding the use of Electronic Devices.

  • Ross Owen

    A certain large warehouse store has 2 Bushnell range finders on sell. One had a “slope” function (reads terrain and shows adjusted
    distance) which if I read NCGA correctly, would make scores non-postable and
    not be usable in tournaments. One can turn that function off, but I am guessing still cannot be used. I hate to not get all of the technology available. Would you please give meyour thoughts.

    My biggest reason to get is between practice and play have
    same readings. My biggest concern being able to use. And woudl like to use when allowed if “slope” function off.

    Thank you.

    • Ryan Farb

      Ross,

      If the device has a slope function available at all, it cannot be used in tournament play and would make a score ineligible for posting (see USGA Handicap Manual Decision 5-1e/2).

      If you are looking for a distance-measuring device to use with postable scores and/or for tournament play you must make sure that it does not have the capability to measure other conditions that might affect your play, including slope, temperature or club selection advice. See Decision 14-3/0.5.

    • Ross Owen

      They should have made the advanced rangefinders with a lock out on all the non allowed features that only officials could turn off.
      Thank you.

  • Kent

    Ball lands In a sand trap, on loose burrowed animal soil at entrance to burrow (squirrel). I can drop no closer to hole in trap with no penalty, correct?

    Kent

    • Ryan Farb

      Kent,

      If you have interference from a burrowing animal hole in a bunker, you may take relief without penalty in accordance with Rule 25-1 by dropping the ball within one club-length of the nearest point of relief, no nearer the hole and within the bunker.

      • Kent

        Thanks Ryan – that is what I did and my competitor had ok’d the drop, but I wanted to just confirm.
        Kent

  • I hit my approach shot, hit the top of the bunker and rolled into it. No big deal. I get to my ball–a previous player had destroyed the side of the bunker for a stance and did not rake it or make any effort to restore the bunker to its previous state. My ball is in a 6 inch deep foot print on the side of the bunker, under the lip. The entire area around my ball was deep foot prints of someone who dug into the side to make a stance, but yet could not make an effort to restore the bunker.

    I understand a footprint in the bunker happens. But this was a destroyed area. Do to the extreme situation was I entitled to relief without penalty proceeding under 1-4 (equity) by taking a free drop in the bunker? Had the bunker been raked, my ball would’ve been playable.

    Should I have proceeded under 3-3 and take it up with the committee (this was a tournament) after the round?

    Or would I have had to take an unplayable and get penalized a stroke because of an inconsiderate moron who apparently intentionally left the bunker in shambles ( the rake was 4 ft away from this area)

    I just chopped it out to get it out of the hole, all the time wondering if I should’ve used 3-3. Thank you for the clarification.

    • Ryan Farb

      Maureen,

      If you are ever in doubt, you should use Rule 3-3 to protect your interests. However, a player is not entitled to relief from un-raked footprints in a bunker and you would not have been granted relief had you used Rule 3-3. Relief from damage in bunkers is usually reserved for situations where the bunker has been significantly damaged or altered and un-raked footprints, however deep, generally do not fall under that category.

      • I can see your point, Ryan. However, this was damage that was unreasonable. Why wouldn’t the equity rule come into play in this situation? One would be granted relief from a burrowing animal, I would call the individual who did this a burrowing animal — a pig!

        • Ryan Farb

          Equity doesn’t apply because a bunker is a hazard. A player is not entitled to have an easy shot out of a hazard. However, in severe cases the Committee is able to declare an area of severe damage to be ground under repair, which would get you relief. See Decision 33-8/9.

          • Thank you Ryan. This is good to know for the future. Generally, and thankfully, such apparent inconsideration doesn’t happen on a regular basis.

  • Debby

    Are you allowed to put your knee on the green when lining up a putt? What rule covers this?

    • Ryan Farb

      Debby,

      There is no Rule prohibiting kneeling on the putting green provided that in doing so you do not touch your line of putt (Rule 16-1a) or test the surface of the putting green by roughening or scraping (Rule 16-1d).

  • Arnel

    We were on the teeing ground before our tee time, after the rules official explained the rules too us, my partner walk off to wet his towel, upon walking off the rules official stated that he was going to give him a two stroke penalty for being late. My partner was back before the first person in our foursome had tee’d off. We brought this up after the round and the penalty was waived. Who is right in this case, us or the rules official?

    • Ryan Farb

      Arnel,
      Decision 6-3a/2.5 states in its answer:
      A. When a time of starting is listed as 9:00 AM, the starting time is deemed to be 9:00 AM and the player is subject to penalty under Rule 6-3a if he is not present and ready to play at 9:00:00 AM.

      If the player is not present and ready to play on the tee at the time of starting, he is subject to penalty under Rule 6-3a. Whether or not the first person has actually teed off does not matter unless he has not teed off because the group was delayed and could not start at the appointed time (Decision 6-3a/4).

      • Arnel

        The first player teed off at our appointed time and my partner was on the tee box before the appointed time, so the according to the rules above, was the official wrong in trying to assess a penalty?

        • Ryan Farb

          At the appointed time the player was not at the tee but off wetting his towel. The fact that he was previously on the tee is irrelevant. I won’t comment further on a ruling from today as I am the staff in charge, but feel free to contact me tomorrow at the office if you wish to discuss it further.

  • David F

    One of our players was taking a drop yesterday for cart path relief and a rules official observing the drop deemed he had tossed or flicked the ball during his drop and assessed him a 2-stroke penalty. I am not sure if he hit his ball yet or not but is there a penalty for dropping improperly or do you simply re-drop the ball again?

    • Ryan Farb

      David,

      Under Rule 20-2a if a ball is dropped in an improper manner and not corrected (by lifting and dropping in the correct manner) the player incurs a one-stroke penalty. If as a result of the improper drop the ball is dropped in a wrong place and then played, the player would incur a two-stroke penalty or loss of hole in match play.

  • David F

    A question arose yesterday after our round regarding tending the flag. If you are off the green and someone is tending the flag and your chip strikes the flag is there a penalty?

    • Ryan Farb

      David,
      Yes. The player’s ball must not strike an attended flagstick, regardless of whether the stroke was from on or off the putting green. Rule 17-3. It is a two-stroke penalty in stroke play, loss of hole in match play.

  • BobG

    If a player hits a ball into a hazard but the player feels he can play the ball if he can find may the player hit a provisional ball and then go look in the hazard for the first ball? If the player finds the ball in the hazard may he abandon the provisional and play the first ball?

    • Ryan Farb

      Bob,
      No. A provisional ball is only for a ball that may be lost outside a water hazard or out of bounds. If a player puts another ball into play because his ball is in the water hazard he has put another ball into play under penalty of stroke and distance and the original is lost. He would not be permitted to play the original if found. See Decision 27-2a/2.

  • Debby

    My ball is sitting right off the green on the first cut. In front of my ball on the green is a bad patch of sanded green not marked GUR. My opponent said I could not take relief because I had the option of chipping over the bad spot instead of putting from where I was off the green. Who is right? Thanks

    • Ryan Farb

      Debby,
      When your ball lies off the putting green you are not entitled to relief for intervention by GUR on your line of play even if the area had been marked.

  • NewSpring

    4man2bb stroke play ( i.e. a 4 men team). Pairing is done so that each team is split in 2 groups (A and B) of 2 players with a different tee time. Question: can the 2 groups share their scores during play, in other words during play can any player from group A communicate with another player from group B about their scores ? if Yes, can they use a cell phone to communicate their scores? I think communicating scores is not OK. Thanks.

    • Ryan Farb

      Sharing score information in person or via cell phone is permitted.

  • C. Silva

    I was recently informed it was a two stroke penalty for what I call ‘raking’ my putt back into the hole. My putt ran by the hole and I reached over the hole and pulled/tapped it back towards me into the hole. I was told I had to be on the side of the ball or behind it and not in front of it. Can you please tell the rule #.. Thanks

    • Ryan Farb

      C. Silva,

      Rule 14-1 states the ball must not be pushed, scraped (raked) or spooned. If you fairly made a stroke at the ball (tapped and not raked) from the opposite side of the hole, there is no prohibition against such a stroke.Rule 16-1e prohibits a player from standing astride his line of putt or an extension of that line behind the ball, however the line of putt does not extend beyond the hole, so standing on the other side of the hole to play a stroke is not prohibited provided it is not pushed, scraped or spooned.

      • C. Silva

        Thank you very much Ryan.. As I understand you interpretation of the rules I must make a stroke at the ball.. I must tap it.. I understand I cannot pull it or ‘rake’ it back towards me but I can clearly tap it towards me from the other side of the hole.. Thanks again…

  • David F

    Is there a recommended procedure for verifying scores in NCGA tournaments prior to signing and submitting cards? It always seems a little hectic at the end of a tournament and I wondered if there is a preferred method or routine for players to use to make sure their scores are correct.

    • Ryan Farb

      David,

      The scoring area is for verifying scores. The marker should have kept the correct scores on the card throughout the round. All players should come to the scoring area and verify their scores with each other and resolve any questions at the scoring table prior to returning their card to the Committee.

  • Tyler Vergho

    Can the Committee of a competition declare an obstruction to be an integral part of the course during the course of the competition (stroke play) – e.g. change the local rules?

    • Ryan Farb

      Tyler,
      Nothing in the Rules permits the Committee to change the status of an obstruction to an integral part of the course during a stipulated round. They could between the play of two rounds, however, such a change could lead to confusion and penalties caused by misunderstanding the change and would not be recommended.

  • Monty Ichinaga

    If a player takes a Mulligan, not on the green, how should his ESC score be entered, if at all? (1) If the Mulligan is a tee shot? (2) If the Mulligan is a fairway shot that lands on the green, whereas the original shot landed in a trap or not in a trap? (3) If the Mulligan is a fairway shot that doesn’t land on the green, whereas the original shot landed in a trap or not in a trap?

    • Ryan Farb

      Monty,
      There is no such thing as a mulligan in real Golf. Therefore, if a player plays out a mulligan he has played that ball under penalty of stroke and distance as that is the only Rule that applies, regardless of where the original ball is in relation to the second ball.

  • Monty Ichinaga

    So, for our everyday imaginary golf, we should post a score that adds 2 strokes for every unreal Mulligan we take. Is this correct?

    • Ryan Farb

      The Rules of Golf and the Handicap System do not contemplate mulligans. The only Rule that permits you to play another stroke from where the previous stroke was made is Rule 27-1, stroke and distance.

  • Monty Ichinaga

    I want to be absolutely certain of the NCGA posting rules. For those who play Mulligans, they should NOT post their score since Mulligans don’t exist in the rules of golf.

    • Ryan Farb

      Monty,
      You should not play with mulligans as they do not exist in the game of Golf. And no, you absolutely should post your score however, you must factor in the stroke and distance penalty for playing from where the previous stroke was made.

  • Debby

    There is still some confusion within my club members about
    an immovable object.

    We have a railing right off the green that is part of the
    water feature on that hole. Many times
    our ball will roll right up again this railing making it almost impossible to
    make your next stroke toward the hole.
    Some members say it’s part of the course design and therefore is not
    considered an immovable objects. No free
    relief. Others say it is possible to take free relief from this immoveable
    object which they feel this is and being part of the course design has nothing
    to do with it. Will you tell me which side
    comes out the winner on this? Thanks

    • Ryan Farb

      Debby,
      Any immovable artificial object not defining out of bounds, not lying out of bounds and not deemed to be an integral part of the course is an immovable obstruction. The player would be entitled to relief under Rule 24-2 for a ball lying outside the hazard. However, on the NCGA hard card and USGA hard card, artificial walls and pilings located within hazards are deemed to be integral parts of the course and relief without penalty is not available. Whether or not relief is available depends on whether or not this object has been deemed an “integral part of the course” which is a Decision the Committee makes.

  • Paul

    A golf ball is hit into an area where there are many small burrowing animal holes. What are the rulings for the following scenarios:

    1. The ball is not observed going specifically into any of several small burrowing animal holes in the landing area and it cannot be found anywhere in the vicinity within 5 minutes. It is common for this player who plays this course often (for over 30 years) to find the ball in this general area if it did not go into a small burrowing animal hole. In fact, he has routinely found his ball in this same area in some of the shallow small burrowing animal holes, over the past 30 years, but not today. The area is perfectly flat and there are no other explanations for the ball not being found in this area, i.e. there is no tall grass, obstructions, trees, water, wet areas, sand, etc. In other words the only remaining explanation is that the ball is in one of the deeper holes made by small burrowing animals, in this area where this player normally hits the ball. Also there are no other players on any adjacent hole, that could have erroneously picked up the ball. No marshal is on duty on this hole.

    2. A ball is observed in a small burrowing animal hole in the area where player’s ball landed, it is not identified as the player’s, and in the process of either the player or his opponent attempting to retrieving it, the ball is pushed further back into the hole and is not identified and or recovered within 5 minutes.

    3. A ball is observed and identified as the player’s in a burrowing animal hole, but it is not retrievable within 5 minutes.

    4. A ball is observed and identified as the player’s in a burrowing animal hole and it is retrieved within 5 minutes.

    5. The player’s ball is observed by only the player, or the player and a playing partner, or the player and a playing opponent, or just his playing partner, or just a playing opponent, or only by an observer – say a member of the group ahead, or a course marshal, going into a specific and positively identifiable small burrowing animal hole. The ball cannot be seen when looking into that specific burrowing animal hole, therefore the ball is not identified or found within 5 minutes.

    6. The ball is struck towards a sand bunker. It is observed by the player as entering the bunker and not exiting. As the player approaches the bunker no ball is observed, yet there is now observed a single hole made by a small burrowing animal at the far end of the bunker. The ball cannot be found anywhere else in the vicinity within 5 minutes. There is no other reasonable explanation for the missing ball except that it went into the single small burrowing animal hole. What is the ruling? Would there be a difference if there were two or more burrowing animal holes in this same bunker? Would it make a difference if a fresh ball mark and or ball trail is observed leading directly to the single small burrowing animal hole? Would it make a difference if a fresh ball mark and or ball trail is observed in the sand leading directly to only one of many small burrowing animal holes in the bunker? Would it matter if the sand is compacted and or raked in such a way that no ball marks or ball trails are left in the sand and there is just one – or several – small burrowing animal hole(s)? Thanks for your help on this.

  • Mike

    This
    question is in regards to the 12-man competition. We played a team 4 weeks ago
    and some of their players shot some very low scores which have not been posted
    at this time. Is there a rule about this, because we are playing them again and
    some of their handy caps have not reflected the low scores?

  • Mike

    This
    question is in regards to the 12-man competition. We played a team 4 weeks ago
    and some of their players shot some very low scores which have not been posted
    at this time. Is there a rule about this, because we are playing them again and
    some of their handy caps have not reflected the low scores?

  • Dwaine

    If a player has addressed the ball on the teebox and you noticed that he is at the wrong set of tees (Ladies) , can you warn him or is that giving advice? Thanks

    • Ryan Farb

      Dwaine,

      Information on the Rules is not advice. It would be appropriate to warn a player about to incur an infraction.

  • Craig Cannaday

    A player in match play tees off on a short par 4 dogleg. The ball can’t be located and said player returns to the tee to rehit. As the group is coming on the green, the ball is located in the hole as a hole in one.
    Does the first ball count since it is in the hole and the play has concluded for him or does he have to use his second ball having abandoned the first with a second tee shot.
    Also, what are the parameters regarding having a group looking for and finding the first ball after the player retees and within the time limit for a lost ball search? Thanks.

    • Ryan Farb

      Craig,
      The first ball counts as the hole was complete when it was holed – Decision 1-1/2.

      Once a player has put another ball into play under penalty of stroke and distance, the original ball is lost, regardless of whether it is found within the five minutes – Definition of Lost Ball.

      Note also, that once a player has gone forward to search he may not go back to play a provisional ball, a ball played under such a circumstance would be his ball in play – Rule 27-2a.

      • Craig Cannaday

        Thank you for the quick response…. I assume then even though he left the tee and searched, went back and reteed , that the only exception is when the ball is in the hole on the original shot?

        • Ryan Farb

          Craig,
          To my knowledge that is the only time, because the hole was complete once the original ball was holed.

  • Marie

    A player in match play has a caddie with a golf cart for medical use. The other player has a caddie with no cart. The caddie with the cart uses the cart to drive ahead of his player’s ball at rest to examine what “lies ahead” and what the rest of the hole looks like. The other player and caddie without the medical cart are at a disadvantage because they are on foot. It seems there should be some sort of a penalty for this type of activity like improving the line of play? It definitely isn’t what the use of the cart was intended for and it provides a huge advantage for the player who knows what “lies” ahead or is in the way.

    • Ryan Farb

      Unless the caddie actually breaches a Rule of Golf by actually improving the line of play as in Rule 13-2, or breaches another Rule such as 8-2 Indicating Line of Play there is no golf penalty for driving ahead to view the hole. If the caddie delays play in repeatedly driving ahead and then back to converse with his player, he could be subject to penalty for Undue Delay under Rule 6-7.

  • Debby

    A player hit her second shot and went forward to find it. She could not find it where she normally hits a ball. She went back and hit another ball at the place where she hit her last shot. She hits the second ball twice before getting to the green. Once on the green she finds her first ball on the green pass the hole.

    1. Her second ball is on the green also but has not been hit pass the original
    ball. Can she play the original ball into the hole now that she has found it?

    2. In researching this ruling, I’ve found that you cannot go back to the original spot. You must hit a provisional ball before going forward to search for the first ball. Is this true?

    3. IF number two is correct, wouldn’t it make for a lot of extra balls being hit in the case of not finding your ball?

    4. Please define when and when you should not hit a provisional ball in the case of not finding your ball. I know the rulings on lost in water hazards and out of bounds. Are there others instances?

  • Larry Nathan

    I have a question regarding a ball coming to rest on a bridge which spans a water hazard. Is the ball “in the hazard” or “on an immovable obstruction”? Can you please cite the rule/decision which clarifies this? Thanks. – Larry

    • Ryan Farb

      Larry,

      The answer is both. The ball lies in a water hazard because the margins of a water hazard extend vertically upward and downward (Definition of Water Hazard). The bridge is an immovable obstruction, however, since the ball lies in a water hazard the player is not entitled to relief for the obstruction. The player is allowed to ground his club on the bridge in playing the ball. See Decision 13-4/30.

  • David F

    A question came up yesterday in our group at the Poppy Ridge Zinfandel course. The No. 7 par three has a water hazard (yellow stakes) fronting the green. There was a designated drop zone for balls in the water so there was no question where to drop. A discussion came up when our tee shot cleared the hazard, landed just short of the green and backed up into the hazard. Without a designated drop zone could you: a) drop your ball behind the point the ball first crossed over the hazard in line with the flag which is just off the tee, or 2) drop your ball across the hazard in line with the flag and the point the ball entered the hazard up near the green which would put you in the No. 6 fairway?

    • Ryan Farb

      David,
      The drop zone is an additional option under Rule 26-1. When your ball comes to rest in a water hazard (yellow stakes) you always have two penalty options for relief 26-1a) proceed under penalty of stroke and distance or 26-1b) drop a ball behind the hazard keeping the point where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped. Where the ball LAST crossed the margin of the hazard is your reference point. Where the ball FIRST crossed is completely irrelevant.

  • Robert Molyneaux

    With respect to Rules 1-2 and 19-1, 19-2, 19-3.

    Stroke play
    In this case I and my equippment are considered an “outside agency”.

    My competitor is in a greenside bunker. I am standing on the green beyond the hole and off to the side. My wedge and towel are at my feet my putter in my hand. My competitor plays out of the bunker and the ball is rolling towards me. If the ball strikes me or my equippment it is rub of the green according to 19-1 provided it is considered accidental.

    Q1: If I pick up my wedge and towel and move out of the way am I in violation of 1-2?
    a: if it hurts my opponent?
    b: if it helps my opponent?

    Q2: If I deliberately do not pick up my wedge and towel and allow his ball to be stopped or deflected by them am I in violation of 1-2 or is 19-1 “rub of the green” the ruling here? “Deliberately” implies that I could have reasonably avoided the interference but choose to leave the equippment as it lay either because I saw an advantage in doing so or because I thought that I would be in violation of 1-2 by moving it.
    a: if it hurts my opponent?
    b: if it helps my opponent?

    Match play
    In this case I and my equippment are NOT considered an “outside agency”.

    My partner is in a greenside bunker. I am standing on the green beyond the hole and off to the side. My wedge and towel are at my feet my putter in my hand. My partner plays out of the bunker and the ball is rolling towards me. If the ball strikes me or my equippment it is a one stroke penatly according to 19-2.

    Q1: If I pick up my wedge and towel and move out of the way am I in violation of 1-2?

    My competitor is in a greenside bunker. I am standing on the green beyond the hole and off to the side. My wedge and towel are at my feet my putter in my hand. My competitor plays out of the bunker and the ball is rolling towards me. If the ball strikes me or my equippment there is no penatly according to 19-3 provided it is considered accidental. My opponent has the option to play the ball as it lies or replay the stroke.

    Q1: If I pick up my wedge and towel and move out of the way am I in violation of 1-2?

    Q2: If I deliberately do not pick up my wedge and towel and allow his ball to be stopped or deflected by them am I in violation of 1-2? “Deliberately” implies that I could have reasonably avoided the interference but choose to leave the equippment as it lay either because I saw an advantage in doing so or because I thought that I would be in violation of 1-2 by moving it.

  • steve

    On the subject of tee markers. If a player tees his ball just inside one of the markers makes a stroke and steps on the tee marker in his follow thru and moves it is this a penalty

    • Ryan Farb

      There is no penalty. See Decision 11-2/2 situation (c).

  • Scott Peterson

    While playing a match play event with a friend the other day a question came up. My opponent we will call him player B, tees off. The ball goes right and there is a question of weather it carried the hazard. Player B then re tees and hits a ball into hazard. Player B then re tees and before he hits I tell him if he puts this ball in play the first ball is no longer an option. I may be wrong but my thinking was you can not have more than two balls in play at any given time, (provisional and ball of unknown status). The potential to find and play first ball should no longer be an option.
    What’s the correct ruling?

    • Ryan Farb

      Scott,

      You only have one ‘ball in play’ at any given time. A provisional ball is not your ball in play (it may become the ball in play). With the facts you have given me, if B re-tees and puts another ball into play under stroke and distance, the original ball becomes lost and he would no longer be able to play the original – see Definition of Lost Ball.

      • Bruce

        Ryan,

        Unless Player B stated it was provisional, aren’t any
        subsequent tee shots considered ball in play? But if he states his retee
        is provisional, couldn’t he have reteed the third time, and still be
        considered provisional? Since he has not reached/passed the area of the
        suspected first tee shot, aren’t all of his subsequent shots considered
        provisional until it reached that point? Or does the “provisional” tag
        get lost once his provisional tee shot gets lost in the hazard?

        • Ryan Farb

          Bruce,
          If a provisional is not announced it is not a provisional and the original is lost and the new ball becomes the ball in play.
          A provisional is for a ball that may be lost OUTSIDE a water hazard or out of bounds – Rule 27-2a. In the situation above the player was hitting another ball for a ball that might be in a water hazard which is not a provisional.
          If a player properly plays a provisional and it then becomes known or virtually certain that the original ball is in a water hazard, the provisional MUST be abandoned and the player may play the original or proceed in accordance with Rule 26-1 – Rule 27-2c.

          • Bruce

            Ryan,

            I am still having a problem here:

            Ball 1 Original (May be in hazard)
            Ball 2 Provisional (In hazard)

            Since the rule you stated says: ” known or virtually certain that the original ball is in a water hazard”. The state of the original Ball 1 is still in question. But since we have not found the status of Ball 1, how should he proceed?

            1. Abandon Ball 2, hit another tee shot (Ball 3) as a provisional (In fairway, but laying 5 if used). Or additional tee shots as necessary (Taking into account penalty strokes). Then go and look for Ball 1, and proceed as normal from there?

            2. Abandon Ball 1 and 2, and hit Ball 3?

            3. Go up and look for Ball 1, if in hazard, come back and hit Ball 3?

            I only bring this up because during a qualifier tournament, we asked the Rules person almost this scenario. He told us that we would proceed using scenario #1, citing rule 27-2b.

            But it looks like you are stating we should be using scenario #3.

            I think the problem comes about the terminology being used. I do understand that 27-2a has a note about a provisional of a provisional. So calling Ball 3 a provisional is probably incorrect, but I am not sure what else to call it at this point.

            Thanks,

            Bruce

  • Ashley Cox

    A player marks his ball, replaces it, and removes the marker. He then adjusts the line on the ball without remarking the ball. What’s the penalty in match play?

    • Ryan Farb

      The player incurs a one-stroke penalty in both stroke play and match play for touching the ball other than as provided in the Rules. See Decision 18-2a/33. In match play, a timely claim must be made (see Rule 2-5).

  • Robert Crooks

    A player plays from the Silver tees 9 (rating 68.1) against another player playing from “Gold” tees (rating 70.4) How much is the first player’s handicap reduced?

    • Ryan Farb

      Robert,
      The Silver player’s course handicap is reduced 2 strokes OR the Gold player has 2 strokes added to his course handicap. See Section 3-5 of the USGA Handicap Manual.

      • Robert Crooks

        Thank you. Usual rounding rules should be used. If the differential was 2.8, would I round up to 3?

  • Ed Tatarian

    A player hits a shot onto a green with a false front..The ball comes to a stop on the green. Another player in the foursome runs over and marks the ball stating he did it before the ball could start rolling back off the green. Is there a penalty on the player marking the ball for assisting another player?

    • Ryan Farb

      Ed,
      The form of play matters in this situation. If the ball on the green was at rest: In stroke play, there is no penalty and the ball must be replaced, Rule 18-4 and Decision 20-1/4. In match play, if the ball was lifted by his partner there is no penalty, a ball may be lifted by a player’s partner – Rule 20-1. If the ball was lifted by the opponent, then the opponent incurs a one-stroke penalty and the ball must be replaced (unless the lifting was authorized by the player) – Decision 20-1/2 and Rule 18-3.

  • Larry Preszler

    No where can I find a rule that prohibits removing loose impediments from the green when my ball is off the green and I am about to chip on. Several people seem to think this is not allowed. Need help.

    • Ryan Farb

      Larry,
      Such a rule does not exist. Rule 23-1 permits a player to remove loose impediments at any time (except when the ball and loose impediment lie in the same hazard – Rule 13-4 or when the ball is in motion and the loose impediment might influence the movement of the ball – Rule 23-1), even if the loose impediment is on the putting green and the ball lies elsewhere.

  • Jim Boesiger

    A ball in flight strikes golf cart, whether it be your opponents or partner, what is the ruling?

    • Ryan Farb

      Jim,
      If a ball in motion is stopped or deflected by his or his partner’s golf cart, the player incurs a one-stroke penalty and must play the ball as it lies – Rule 19-2. If a ball in motion is stopped or deflected by his opponent’s golf cart, there is no penalty to either player, and the player has the option to play the ball as it lies, or cancel the stroke and replay from the previous spot – Rule 19-3.

  • John Carrillo

    I saw a professional chip on a grren, is that legal?

    • Ryan Farb

      Yes. The Rules do not require you to use a putter on the putting green. Proper etiquette would suggest that you ensure not to take a divot.

  • Kevin Traynor

    Is it legal to use a flashlight or phone to light your ball at address during an evening round of golf?

    • Ryan Farb

      Kevin,
      No. Rule 14-3 prohibits using artificial devices that might assist the player in making a stroke.

  • javier gutierrez

    if you are standing on a squirrel mound do you get relief ?

    • Ryan Farb

      Rule 25-1 grants players relief from burrowing animal holes if the hole, cast or runway interferes with the player’s lie, stance or area of intended swing,, unless the Committee has enacted a Local Rule that interference with a player’s stance alone does not warrant relief (see Note to Rule 25-1a).

  • Charles Lee

    Is it legal to use a range finder with slope function turned off in a ncga competition?

    • Ryan Farb

      No. You may not use a range finder that has a slope function ability in ANY competition even if it is turned off.

  • rich

    Two players land in front of the green one ball directly behind the other the player with the ball behind the first chooses to putt his ball can the ball in front be marked off the green?

    • Ryan Farb

      Rich,

      Yes. Under Rule 22-2 except when a ball is in motion, if a player considers that a ball might interfere with his play he may have it lifted. When the ball is lifted it must not be cleaned. In stroke play, the player could play first rather than mark and lift the ball.

      • rich

        Thank you very much Ryan, ordered a book after your reply again thanks

  • Debby

    If you are in a back bunker which has been marked GUR, must
    you keep the flight of the ball and the pin in line when taking free relief? This would probably mean chipping over the
    bunker. Or may you just take relief to
    the side of the bunker?

    • Ryan Farb

      Debby,

      If an entire bunker has been marked as GUR you must find the nearest point of relief that is not nearer the hole. This point may be in any direction not closer to the hole provided it is the nearest point to where the ball lay. See Rule 25-1b(i) – Note when a whole bunker has been deemed as ground under repair it loses its status as a hazard and it classified as through the green (Decision 25/13).

  • JR

    Hi – question regarding relief from a cart path, which we encountered yesterday at Harding Park.

    Ball comes to rest to the side of a cart path. My stance is directly on the path, so I am entitled to relief.

    However, the nearest point of relief where my stance is no longer on the path (and no closer to the hole) is behind me and *in a ground under repair* area. What options do I have? Can I take further relief from the ground under repair? If so, where?

    • Ryan Farb

      JR,

      If your nearest point of relief is in the GUR, you may drop the ball in the GUR within one club-length of the nearest point of relief no nearer the hole. You would then be entitled to either play the ball as it lies or take relief from the GUR in accordance with Rule 25-1.

      • JR

        Awesome, thanks!

  • Ed

    Similar to the previous question: my ball is on a cart path and the nearest point of relief is in a bunker. Do I drop in the bunker?

    • Ryan Farb

      Ed,

      No, when your ball lies through the green, your nearest point of relief must also be through the green, it is not in a bunker or hazard.

  • George Carriker

    I have two question on which I can not get answers to. Number one; My ball landed in greenside bunker about 25 inches from an open Gopher Hole. I could play with out any problems, but the question came up how do you treat this situation if the ball had gone down the hole? I would not have tried to retrieve the ball as reaching down into the hole could result in being bitten, All parties im group saw my ball go in trap and no other balls were in the trap so one would have to assume mine was in the gopher hole. What is the ruling? Question number two; MY ball was in the greenside rough about 10 inches from the bunker. I could not get a stance to hit the ball as when I stepped into the bunker the ball was over my head. I declared an unplayable lie. I took relief into the trap, one club length no clser to the hole. Could I have taken relief by dropping behind the bunker? Thanks George Carriker

    • Ryan Farb

      George,

      1. If it is known or virtually certain that a ball which has not been found is lost in an abnormal ground condition (burrowing animal hole) then Rule 25-1c applies. Since the point where the ball last crossed the outermost limits of the AGC is in a bunker, the player may substitute a ball and drop it within one club-length not nearer the hole than the nearest point of relief which must be in the bunker, without penalty. Under penalty of one stroke, the player could drop a ball outside the bunker, keeping the point where the ball last crossed the outermost limits of the AGC between where the ball is dropped and the hole, with no limit to how far behind the bunker the ball may be dropped.

      2. Under Rule 28, for a penalty of one stroke, you may drop the ball within two club-lengths of where the ball lay no nearer the hole (the option you chose). Provided your ball was not in a water hazard to begin with, you could drop the ball on any part of the course including in the bunker. However, you also have two other options available to you (both under penalty of one stroke): b) Since your ball lay through the green, you could drop the ball on a line keeping the point where the ball lay directly between where the ball is dropped and the hole. This could get you behind the bunker. c) You also have the option to proceed under stroke and distance, by playing a ball from where the previous stroke was made.

  • Tim Groden

    In golf competition with men and woman, do woman receive extra strokes because they are play against men even when they are playing from different tees?

    • Ryan Farb

      Tim,

      Section 3-5 of the USGA Handicap manual addresses playing from tees with different ratings. This would lead to women receiving additional strokes if they are playing a tee that is rated higher than the tee you are playing. It could also lead to women getting less strokes if their tee is rated lower.

  • Michael Kristie

    I hit through the green on my second shot. The ball came to rest within inches of the red staked hazzard behind the green, Question, While taking my stance both my feet were in large ( 4-5″) Adobe eroding cracks which during non-drought conditions do not exist. Do I get relief? Does rule 25-2 or some other rule apply?

    • Ryan Farb

      Michael,
      Rule 25-2 is for an embedded ball, it does not apply. Unless the Committee has declared a specific large crack to be ground under repair then a player is not entitled to relief. See Decision 25/12.

  • Bruce Hoffman

    I was watching the last FEDEX Tournament when I saw one of the golfers attempting a 40′ putt. He was on the green. The flag was unattended. He putted and while the ball was in motion his caddie noticed the ball heading for the hole. His caddie ran over to the flag and pulled it out. The ball went into the hole. I always thought that an unattended flag can not be pulled out once the ball is in motion if the ball has a chance to go in…..please update me.

    • Ryan Farb

      Bruce,

      I can’t comment on the specific ruling during the Fedex event as I did not see it. However, Rule 17-1 does prohibit a player from removing (or having his caddie remove) an unattended flagstick while a ball is in motion if doing so might influence the movement of the ball. The penalty is two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play.

  • Mike Irving

    Our club held a couples event where players were competing with
    each other and playing from different tee boxes. It was the Tournament Chairman’s intent to
    use Section 3-5 to adjust scores for those playing the more difficult
    tees. The event took place and prizes
    were awarded. A few days later it was
    noted the Section 3-5 was NOT used because of a simple computer input error.

    My question is; If the club reviews the results using
    Section 3-5 and the results are different what if anything should the club do?

    • Ryan Farb

      Mike,
      If it was a Condition of the event that Handicaps would be adjusted using Section 3-5, there is no time limit on correcting such an error. The club should adjust the results accordingly, retrieve the awards and give them to the correct players if necessary. See Decisions 6-2b/3 and 33-5/2.

  • Debby

    In stroke play a player hits a “provisional ball” over a water hazard but not in the original spot as the first ball. She moves up to the edge for her “provisional shot.” She finds her first ball on the other side and proceeds to chip this ball onto the green. She then abandons her first ball and plays out her second ball. Isn’t it correct that you do not hit a “provisional ball” over water? If you chose to hit a second ball then that is the ball in play. What if any penalty does she incur for hitting her first ball after putting a second ball in play? Is she disqualified?

    • Ryan Farb

      Debby,
      It is not quite clear exactly what the ruling needs to be from your statement. I will restate the facts and Rule accordingly as restated:
      1. A provisional ball may be played anytime the ball might be lost outside a water hazard. The fact that the ball might also be in a water hazard does not preclude a player from playing a provisional (Dec. 27-2a/2.2).
      2. Once the original ball is found the player MUST abandon the provisional ball (Rule 27-2c).
      So for the case stated above, I will rule on the assumption that the “provisional” was actually played correctly, however the original ball was then found:
      Once the player found the original ball within 5 minutes of beginning to search and before making a stroke at the provisional from closer to the hole than where the original was likely to be, she was required to abandon the provisional. So the chip to the green with the original ball was correct, but when she then went and played the provisional, she played a wrong ball and incurred a two-stroke penalty under Rule 15-3 and was required to correct the mistake by playing the original ball. If she did not correct the mistake and did not hole out with the original prior to playing from the next teeing ground she is disqualified.

      The ruling changes if the “provisional” was not actually a provisional. The “provisional” would NOT be a provisional and would become her ball in play if:
      1. She did not announce the second ball as a provisional on the tee (Dec. 27-2a/1).
      2. She played the provisional solely because she thought the original was in the water hazard (Dec. 27-2a/2).
      If either of those two occurred, the second ball was her ball in play under penalty of stroke and distance and she was required to play out the hole with it. When she makes a stroke at the original, she has played a wrong ball and incurs a two-stroke penalty under Rule 15-3 and must correct the mistake by playing the second ball into the hole, which she did.

      So the facts of the situation make a huge difference in the result of the ruling. Hopefully, between the two scenarios above you have the right set of facts and answer.

  • Debby

    Let me see if I have this correct. She may play a provisional ball at the
    original spot of her last ball if and only if she calls it as a provisional
    ball. If she elects to move to the water edge and hit from there, than that is her ball in play. Her original ball, if found is now no longer in play.

    • Ryan Farb

      Debby,
      You must announce a provisional ball at the time you are playing it (literally, before you play it and before you go forward to search for the original – Rule 27-2a). If she properly announces and plays a provisional, she may continue play with the provisional until a point nearer the hole than where the original is likely to be. If she makes a stroke at the provisional from nearer the hole than where the original is likely to be, the original would be lost. (Def. Lost Ball)

  • Jim

    In the USGA senior ametuer qualifier last month , I was told that my caddy could not sit in or ride in my cart even though we only had 2 carts in our group . With seve rheumatoid arthritis , I am unable to walk . We kept up our pace of play but my caddy struggled to keep up with her duties as my caddy . She is young and was able to run to keep up however it was a real pain in the neck for me and I often felt rushed to chose a club. I see clearly that in the California state am senior qualifier coming up that only two carts are allowed in each group . If in fact my group only has 2 carts I just don’t see how her riding with me gives me any advantage ?? Pace of play is my point ! Note the rule sheet for CGA clearly calls for maximum of 2 carts which I understand . No one wants a whole bunch of carts running around with spectators but geez my caddy should be able to ride with me if in fact my group only has two carts and only 3 riding golfers . ??

    • Ryan Farb

      Jim,
      A different policy is in effect for CGA Senior Qualifying. If there is an empty seat available, your caddie may ride in CGA Senior Qualifying. However, as you stated, your group is only entitled to two carts maximum so if everyone has a caddie you would have to work out who rides with your fellow-competitors.

  • David F

    Is it ever permissible to play a provisional ball if you are unsure if your ball has cleared a water hazard? This is more of a pace of play issue and would not seem to give you an advantage since you would be prohibited from playing the first ball unless it is outside the water hazard.

    • Ryan Farb

      David,
      If there is a possibility that the original might be lost outside the water hazard, the fact that it might also be in the hazard does not preclude a player from playing a provisional ball – Decision 27-2a/2.2. A player may not player a provisional solely because the ball might be in the water hazard – Decision 27-2a/2. The only potential slow play issue is if the player prefers to return to the tee if his ball is in the water hazard. His other option(s) under Rule 26-1 would not slow pace at all.

      There is a local Rule in Appendix I that permits playing a provisional ball for a ball that might be in a water hazard, however there are VERY specific requirements to applying this local Rule and I strongly recommend NOT using it unless someone from the USGA or NCGA have recommended it.

  • Mario

    This past weekend I was in a local club tournament in which we where in 2 man teams playing alternate shot for 6 holes, best ball for 6 holes and scramble for 6 holes. After 9 holes our playing partners/competitors left do to various reasons and left me and my (teammate) playing partner by ourselves. Could we proceed to play the last 9 holes by ourselves signing our own scorecard?

    • Ryan Farb

      Mario,
      Scramble or the 6×3 is not a format of golf covered by the Rules of Golf so there is no official answer to your question. In a format of Golf, if your marker(s) withdraw mid-round you should consult the Committee immediately who will either assign you to a new group with a playing marker, or assign you a non-playing marker. A side or player that plays holes without a marker does not have an acceptable score (Decision 6-6a/2).

  • Ed

    Hi Ryan,
    Please help me with Decision 24-2b/3.7. The player drops his ball as required at P2 and would be standing on the boundary wall to play his next shot which is nearly impossible so he reasonably decides he’ll try hitting the ball left handed with the back of the club which gets him standing back on the cart path. Can he now take relief again which would probably be on the other side of the path? And then after dropping on the other side of the path, if he turns around to hit right handed, which again puts him back on the path, can he drop again and end up after all these new situations with a fairly good lie on the opposite side of the path from the boundary wall?

    • Ryan Farb

      Ed,
      Your assessment looks on track. If one nearest point of relief put a player in a situation that requires a different stance or direction of play, and that stance or direction of play is reasonable under the circumstances, if the player then has interference from the condition, he is entitled to relief for that stance/direction of play (see Decision 24-2b/9.5). Once he takes relief for that stance/direction, he could then turn around and play with a normal stance. If that normal stance then has interference from the path, he is entitled to relief for that stance and he may potentially get additional relief away from the path as a result. If these circumstances bounce the player back and forth between the same two positions, then Decision 1-4/8 applies and in equity you would find the nearest point of relief for both situations.

  • Frank

    You are playing in a tournament,and you tee off, and your ball lands in the fairway. Before you can get there you see a tournament official who is picking up range balls, pick up your ball, but before you can get to him he is gone. When you go to check your score card before you turn it in, you ask the official what the ruling is, when an official picks up your ball. He admits to picking up your ball and says that, “You have to treat it as a lost ball, and it’s a two stroke penalty.” Is this correct?

    • Ryan Farb

      Frank,
      That ruling is incorrect. If there is knowledge or virtual certainty that the ball has been moved by an outside agency (official), Rule 18-1 applies, and the player must replace the ball (if the ball is not immediately recoverable another ball may be substituted). If the exact spot is not determinable then the player would drop a ball at the estimated spot (Rule 20-3c).

      Secondly, a lost ball is not a two-stroke penalty. When a ball is lost or out of bounds, the player must proceed under penalty of stroke and distance. So one penalty stroke and play from where the previous stroke was made.

      If you did not have virtual certainty that the official had picked up the ball, then it would be a lost ball when you did not find the original within 5 minutes of beginning to search. (Definition of Lost Ball).

  • T Alt

    Playing the first at Avila Beach and tee shot heads towards lateral hazard. We can not find ball and we agree (virtually certain) ball entered hazard and we also agree on the point it entered. Drop accordingly and finish hole with a hard par. As we were leaving the area of the second shots a group in the adjacent fairway came toward the hazard and we jokingly said that if they found the ball to hit it to us. We are on the green when one of them shouts they have found the ball in our fairway outside of the hazard approximately ten yards from the drop but on the corresponding line of (no longer virtually certain) entry. The ball was nestled in a depression covered by deep rough and was not seen by any of our group.
    My playing partners said that I should keep the par on the card because I acted in good faith and proceeded with what we all thought was the correct rule. I am uncertain that we followed the correct procedures. I know I can not return to the original ball once the second ball is in play, but after that IDK?

    • Ryan Farb

      T Alt,
      If you had virtual certainty that your original ball was in the hazard, then when you dropped the ball in accordance with Rule 26-1 the original ball was lost and the dropped ball was your ball in play with the one-stroke penalty prescribed by Rule 26-1 (relief from a water hazard). At that point you were required to proceed with the dropped ball even if the original ball had been found within five minutes of beginning to search for it. See Decision 26-1/3.5.

  • Ed

    The wind was blowing hard today and after grounding the putter behind the ball to putt, the wind (with certainty) moves the ball a few inches. Is it correct to say that there is not penalty and the ball is played from the new position?

    • Ryan Farb

      Ed,

      If you are virtually certain that you did not cause the ball to move by way of having knowledge or virtual certainty that the wind caused the movement, there is no penalty and the ball is played from its new position. See Rule 18-2b and the Exception.

  • Bruce Hoffman

    I was playing stroke play, sharing a golf cart with another player. I was getting ready to hit my ball when the other person in the cart drove the cart 20 feet in front of me and to the right. I shanked my shot and hit the cart. Have I committed a rules violation for hitting what would be considered my equipment?

    • Ryan Farb

      Bruce,

      Under the Definition of a equipment, a shared golf cart is the equipment of the player whose ball is involved EXCEPT when being moved, in which case the cart and everything in it become that player’s (the one moving it) equipment. The answer depends on whether you hit the cart while it was being moved or while it was stopped. If you hit it while being moved, you struck your fellow-competitor’s equipment and it was a rub of the green. There is no penalty and play the ball as it lies (after the stroke). If it was stopped, since it was a shared cart it was your equipment and you incur a one-stroke penalty and must play the ball as it lies. See Decision 19/1.

  • Tyler Vergho

    When a ball or ball marker is moved accidentally in the act of marking/lifting the ball, there is no penalty, provided that the ball or ball marker is replaced (rule 20-1). When a ball or ball marker is moved in the act of replacing the ball, there is also no penalty (rule 20-3a).

    Am I correct in saying that there is a penalty if the ball is moved in the act of lifting the ball marker under rule 18-2? If there is a penalty, I assume that the ball must be replaced. If the ball is not replaced, the player has played from the wrong place and incurred a two-stroke penalty under rule 20-7. But it also says under rule 18 that “If a player who is required to replace a ball fails to do so… he incurs the general penalty under Rule 18” which is two strokes.

    My main question is this: does the player incurs a 2-stroke penalty under rule 18-2 and a 2-stroke penalty under rule 20-7? Decision 1-4/12, “Related Acts [that] Result in Two Rules Being Breached” seems to me that the player incurs only a 2-stroke penalty. Is this the case? Thank you for clearing this matter up.

    • Ryan Farb

      Tyler,
      If the ball is moved in the act of marking, lifting or replacing the ball there is no penalty under any Rule provided the movement is directly attributable to the act of lifting, marking or replacing. See Decision 20-1/15 for Meaning of Directly Attributable.

      For the second part of your question, look more carefully at Rule 20-7. Under Rule 20-7 you would get a two-stroke penalty (or loss of hole in match play) “under the applicable Rule”, not under 20-7 itself. This means that if you incur a one-stroke penalty under Rule 18-2 for moving your ball at rest and fail to replace it, you get a two-stroke penalty (total) for playing from a wrong place in breach of Rule 18 (the general penalty statement you mentioned). Therefore there is no need to use 1-4/12. See the asterisk in the penalty statement which says, “If a player who is required to replace a ball fails to do so…he incurs the general penalty for a breach of Rule 18, but there is no additional penalty under this Rule.”

      For the edit, when digging into a Decision like 1-4/12 you must read very, very carefully. You’ve misapplied Example 2 under clause 5. This is a very specific situation where the player actually breached two Rules with his initial action (ball coming to rest against putter then moving the ball). Because he incurred one stroke under 19-2 and 18-2 (which was negated to just one stroke instead of two separate one stroke penalties), the failure to replace as required by 18-2 after his ball moved is a separate act and his one stroke under 18-2 which was originally negated by the multiple penalty situation, comes back and grows to the general penalty for playing from a wrong place in breach of Rule 18. It’s a complicated situation from which it is difficult to apply general statements.

  • Tyler Vergho

    Also, in a separate round, I witnessed a competitor in my group picking up the ball in the hole while it was still moving around in the hole. Under the definition of “Holed,” it states that the ball needs to be “at rest within the circumference of the hole.” By picking up the ball before it was at rest within the hole, was the competitor actually “holed out?”

    • Ryan Farb

      Tyler,
      The ball was holed. See Decision 16/5.5.

  • Saratoga CC Proshop

    If a caddie may be employed by more than one player, would there be any prohibition under the rules that he be employed by two players who were playing individual matches in the same grouping (four players total), i.e. not Four-Ball, Foursomes, or any other partnership format matches, but were on the same “team” in the overall competition comprised of such individual matches? The competition format keeps the team mates from being partners or part of a side. Both the definition of caddie and Decision 8-1/12 (which specifies only that the two players sharing the caddie are not partners and does not reference either form of play, match or stroke) seem to imply that this is allowed. If you could confirm that for me, I’d be grateful, so that I may head off any possible arguments!

    Micah Hall, PGA Head Professional

    • Ryan Farb

      Micah,

      Form of play does not matter. A caddie may be employed by any two (or more) players regardless of format, team or partnership and each player is entitled to any information the caddie has (Dec. 8-1/12). It would be recommended, if the players are opponents in a single match, that they inform the caddie not to inform opponents of club information to avoid arguments, even though it would not be a breach of the Rules.

  • Steve Detjen

    My opponent’s partner drives up to the 18th green and parks their cart outside of the out of bounds stake on the left side of the green. My partner hooks his ball and it strikes the cart and comes back into play. We contend that our opponents should receive a 2 stroke penalty for their equipment interference. They disagreed.

    • Ryan Farb

      Steve,
      While your partner’s ball did strike your opponent’s equipment, there is no penalty. Your partner was entitled to immediately cancel and replay the stroke without penalty or play the ball as it lay where it came to rest. See Rule 19-3.
      Also note that in match play there are not two-stroke penalties. In most cases (but not all) breaches that would be two-stroke penalties in stroke play would be loss of hole penalties in match play.

      • Steve Detjen

        What if it was my cart and not the opponent’s, does that make a difference?

        • Ryan Farb

          Steve,

          Yes. If your partner’s ball had struck your cart, your partner would have incurred a one-stroke penalty and must play the ball as it lay. See Rule 19-2.

  • Johnny

    A player hits his ball into a bunker. He walks up to it and notices that it lies on
    a mesh, placed there by the course. He asks
    the other players if he can get relief. The other players tell him that he
    can’t. He then asks them if he should play two balls but they keep insisting
    that a player should never get relief from a hazard. The player then says fine, I will play the shot
    as it lies. He hits the ball onto the
    green and begins to walk to green. Then the group decideds that he should play
    a second ball “just in case”. So he does and puts it on the green as
    well. He then putts the original ball
    first and makes it. He states that he wishes to play original ball and picks up
    the second ball (doesn’t putt the second ball).

    What is the ruling here?

    • Ryan Farb

      Johnny,

      To proceed under Rule 3-3 and play two balls, the player must do so before proceeding from the doubtful situation. Since he played the original before he officially decided to play two balls, the original ball has to count regardless of the further actions. See Decision 3-3/6.

      I cannot tell the nature of the mesh from the question, therefore here are some possibilities for future reference: A player is entitled to relief from an immovable obstruction in a bunker (but not a water hazard), however for relief without penalty the relief must be taken in the bunker (Rule 24-2b(ii)). If it were movable and the ball lay on top of it, the player could have lifted the ball, removed the mesh and dropped the ball on the spot directly underneath where it lay on the mesh (Rule 24-1b). In some cases, courses have declared mesh linings of bunkers to be integral parts of the course in which case no relief would be available.

      • Johnny

        Is there a penalty or disqualification for playing second ball and not putting out?

        • Ryan Farb

          Not in this situation. See Decision 3-3/6.

          • Johnny

            Thank you for your time. One side reads the rules one way and the other reads it another way. Nice to have an UNBIASED decision.

  • David F

    Is a player entitled to relief from an interior fence separating the golf course from an equipment storage yard? Or would this be considered a boundary fence?

    • Ryan Farb

      David F,

      That is for the Committee to decide. The Committee may deem the equipment storage to be out of bounds defined by the fence, in which case the fence would not be an obstruction. In other cases, the Committee may deem the equipment storage area defined by the fence to be an immovable obstruction, in which case relief would be available from the fence under Rule 24-2.

  • Greg McIntosh

    I hit my ball into a hazard and it came to rest in an area of matted grass. When I hit my ball it only popped a couple of feet in the air – along with 3 other balls that were hidden under mine. Is there a rule that applies here?

    • Ryan Farb

      Greg,
      There is no penalty. See Decision 15/2 for a stroke at own ball dislodging concealed golf balls.

  • Larry

    My opponent’s ball landed in a lateral hazard. The hazard is a hill that comes down to the cart path. To hit his ball where it lies, he would have to stand on the cart path. Does he have any free relief options? What are his options. What is the rule so I can share this info.

    • Ryan Farb

      Larry,
      If the ball lies in a lateral water hazard, a player is not entitled to relief from an immovable obstruction, even if the obstruction lies outside the water hazard. See Rule 26-1. He can play the ball as it lies or take relief from the water hazard under penalty of one stroke in accordance with Rule 26-1.

  • Ed

    Playing a course that is not well groomed, I find my ball in a bunker but sitting on top of a weed patch. By rule is the ball really in the bunker? Can I touch sand on my backswing, etc.?

    • Ryan Farb

      Ed,
      In such a situation, the Committee should determine in advance that ground covered by weeds in a bunker is to be considered part of the bunker (see Decision 33-8/39.5). In the absence of such a determination, a ball that is at rest on grass-covered ground, a bush, tree or in this case, weed, but not touching the sand is technically not in the bunker.

  • Charlie Christensen

    My opponents tee shot was up against a fence which prevented him from getting a stance to advance the ball toward the hole. However, he could get a stance hitting the ball back toward the tee box – in doing so however, he was now standing on the cart path and then took nearest relief on the other side of the path and was now able to get a stance and hit it toward the hole. Is this legal? It seemed so… but tricky nonetheless…

    • Ryan Farb

      Charlie,

      To understand the facts I will answer with the assumption that the fence you are describing is a boundary fence, which is not an obstruction.
      If the stroke back toward the teeing ground was his best shot and was reasonable, then he was entitled to relief for that stroke. That does not guarantee, however, that his relief would be on the other side of the path. Without seeing the specific situation I cannot say for sure that the relief was correct, however I can say from the facts given that he was entitled to relief for the stroke toward the teeing ground and if after relief he was then able to turn around and play toward the hole that was permissible as well. See Decision 24-2b/17. Also see Decision 24-2b/9.5 which is similar but has a diagram that helps explain this kind of unusual relief.

  • Tyler Vergho

    Two balls lie on a putting green; mine and my fellow-competitor’s. I accidentally mark my competitor’s and pick it up. I replace the ball at its mark and hole it out. What is the ruling?

    • Ryan Farb

      Tyler,

      You have substituted a ball when not permitted and as a result played from a wrong place in breach of Rule 13-1 which required you to play your original ball as it lay. You incur a two-stroke penalty and unless a serious breach of playing from a wrong place is involved (highly unlikely with both balls on the putting green), the ball is holed. There is no penalty to the fellow-competitor provided he replaces his ball at the original spot and plays it.

  • Ed

    HI,
    Decision 18-2b/2 says “…generally the player cannot address his ball in a hazard without…penalty.” What would be an example of addressing a ball in a hazard and not getting the penalty?

    • Ryan Farb

      Ed,
      If your ball lies on a bridge over water in a water hazard and you ground your club immediately behind the ball on the bridge, you have addressed the ball in a hazard without penalty. See Decision 13-4/30.

  • Bruce Hoffman

    My understanding is that the tee box is two club lengths back. I was on a par three, I was going to use my seven iron to hit with, but used my driver to measure the two club lengths. My opponent claimed that the measurement must be done with the club I intend to use. Was I in the wrong?

    • Ryan Farb

      Bruce,
      As the Definition and Rules do not specify, any club may be used.

  • Jim Enos

    The #2 fairway on our course is torn up for pipe work and has tractors, pipes, etc on it with a chain link fence surrounding this area. They have put in a temporary tee for #2 and all is good there. Problem is when you tee off on #8, if you push your drive, you may end up in the construction area or against the chain link fence on #2. Can our club/committee deem this area as a “TEMPORARY” Immovable Obstruction versus just an I.O. only because T.I.O. also brings in “Line of Sight” relief which definitely comes into play as an advantage? Or am I wrong about T.I.O./I.O. and is it just an abnormal ground condition situation? Or none of the above, lol?? Thanks.

    • Ryan Farb

      Jim,
      From your description it sounds like it would be appropriate to make the fence a Temporary Immovable Obstruction which would give relief in accordance with the Local Rule in Appendix I (which includes intervention on line of play). It would not be appropriate to do so if the chain link fence is intended to be a permanent addition.

  • Steve Jenkins

    Four ball match play.
    If best score on each side is the same, go to second player to break tie.
    Player hits into hazard, does not say anything, but moves to green with
    other three players,assuming he is out of hole. Ten minutes after “abandoning”
    ball, decides second player situation may happen and wants to go back to
    hazard, drop ball and finish hole. Can he? Seems like there should
    be a time limit, but I can’t find one. Can you reference the Rule or
    Decision?

    • Ryan Farb

      In four-ball, there is no “tie-breaker” by using the second ball, so a Rules reference doesn’t really apply. However, in a situation where one player has “picked up” and then realizes he needs to finish the hole, he may do so without penalty only if in doing so he does not unduly delay play. There is no official time limit for “unduly delaying play”, but generally returning from the green to the spot of a full approach shot would constitute delaying play.

  • BobG

    A player makes a practice swing to the side of his ball and in doing so creates a divot between himself and the ball. The divot was not there when his ball came to rest. The player then taps down and compresses the divot with his foot and addresses his ball. I originally thought that no penalty applies because a player is entitled to the lie he got when the ball came to rest. However, I think I read that rule only applies if something other than the player creates the disruption, like a leaf or other player. What is the ruling when a player fixes the disturbed ground next to his ball created by his practice swing?

    • Ryan Farb

      BobG,

      If his lie, area of intended stance or swing, or line of play were improved by replacing the divot the player would incur the general penalty (two strokes in stroke play, loss of hole in match play) for a breach of Rule 13-2. While the player is entitled to the lie/line he had when his ball came to rest, he is not entitled to restore that condition if he worsened it himself. See Decision 13-2/29.

  • BobG

    When a fellow competitor notices a possible rules infraction that can not be corrected (knocking leaves off branches during practice swings) should the fellow competitor:
    Say something immediately to the player?
    Wait until the group holes out in order to not rattle the player?
    Wait until the end of the round?
    Ask the player to go the rules committe together with the observer to review the situation?

    This is always an akward situation.

    • Ryan Farb

      BobG,
      In stroke play it is the fellow-competitor’s responsibility to protect the field. If you witness a Rules infraction it is important that your bring it to the player’s attention as soon as possible. Typically, between the play of two holes is soon enough but it also depends on the nature of the breach. For example, if a player has played from a wrong place and it was a serious breach, it needs to be corrected prior to playing from the next tee. Same with a wrong ball. Those need to be addressed immediately.

      Also remember Rule 20-6. If you notice a breach ABOUT to happen, you need to speak up. A player can correct an incorrectly dropped or substituted ball prior to playing it and avoid penalty altogether.

      If you notice an infraction like grounding your club in a hazard, while it may seem nicer to wait until scoring to bring it to the player’s attention, what if he does it again throughout the round? It may be an awkward situation, but it is necessary to protect the field. The key to handling this situation is the approach. Using a non-officious manner and re-framing it to show that your intent is to help the player avoid a worse penalty (either repeating the offense or potential disqualification) will ensure a more amicable outcome.

  • Larry Preszler

    The golf course I regularly play has dug drainage channels inside the bunkers leading to the outside of the bunkers. If my ball lands in this channel or the mounds of sand created by this digging may I get ground under repair relief inside the bunker?

    • Ryan Farb

      Larry,
      A hole made by a greenskeeper is ground under repair by definition. It is unclear whether the channel would automatically fall under that category, however the Committee (in this case the course staff) would be justified in declaring the channels and surrounding mounds as ground under repair with relief available under Rule 25-1.

  • Bob

    I understand the local rule regarding sprinkler heads within 2 clubs of the green and 2 clubs of the ball. However, I can’t find whether it’s allowed, given the local rule for a player to take relief from the sprinkler heads and then chip the ball as opposed to putting the ball. I thought you only got relief if you are intending to putt the ball not chip it. Can you clarify for me? Thanks.

    • Ryan Farb

      Bob,
      The local Rule does not stipulate whether the ball must be putted or chipped, it only deals with intervention on the line of play. A player who takes relief under this local Rule may then play the ball in whatever manner he wishes. The local Rule should only be used at courses where putting or low-running shots are prevalent from off the green and this kind of intervention interferes with playing the game throughout the course.

  • Mary

    I sometimes “hold” my towel between my legs when putting…. not to assist in any way but so that I don’t have to keep picking it up and carrying it. I usually only do this with very short putts. Is there a penalty for doing this? I’m thinking it is no different than holding the flagstick in one hand and putting in short putts. Please advise. Thanks

    • Ryan Farb

      Mary,
      Rule 14-3 prohibits the player from using equipment in an unusual manner to assist in making a stroke. Provided the sole purpose of carrying the towel is not to assist in making the stroke, there is no violation of the Rules for holding the towel while putting.

  • Sean Hewitt

    I got this and asked my local pro he said that he doesn’t see why not the questions is. You can change your shoes during a round but can you change your golf spikes during a round since they are equipment?

    • Ryan Farb

      Sean,
      There is no prohibition against changing shoes or spikes during a round.

  • Ron

    I think two of the worst rule,s in golf are not being able to fix spike mark,s on the green and having to hit out of a divot since both are from other player,s.If your playing the first group out has less of a chance to have to hit out of a divot and there is less damage from player,s walking on the green.Can you tell me why these are rule,s?

    • Ryan Farb

      Ron,
      The two fundamental principles to the game of golf are “play the ball as it lies and play the course as you find it.” The Rules of Golf are designed around those principles and mean that the player simply must accept that good or bad lies and good or bad conditions are simply intrinsic to playing the game.

  • Ron

    On our course there is a situation on the left side of one
    of the fairways where the first 50 yards are marked with white O.B. stakes. The next 200 yards are marked with red lateral
    hazard stakes.

    The question is: If the line of flight of a struck ball
    crosses the line marked O.B., then rolls far enough to lie
    beyond the last O.B. stake to a point left of the area mark by the red hazard stakes,
    is the ball O.B. or in the hazard? If it is considered in the hazard, what
    are the options for relief as the ball never crossed the hazard line.

    • Ryan Farb

      It must be determined where the ball came to rest. If the ball came to rest the out of bounds, the player must proceed under penalty of stroke and distance (Rule 27-1). If the player finished in the hazard, the player may proceed under Rule 26-1. The point where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard is determined by where the transition between out of bounds and hazard begins. To visualize this, imagine a pane glass window that runs horizontally from where the out of bounds and hazard stakes meet. If the ball broke through that window, it came to rest in the hazard and where it broke the window is where it last crossed the margin of the hazard. In cases like this, the only available option under Rule 26-1 to the player may be stroke and distance anyway.

  • Ed

    A player hits his ball (with virtual certainty) into a staked cypress tree that serves as a 150 yard marker. What are the player’s options if 1) the ball can be spotted and identified and 2) the ball can not be spotted?

    • Ryan Farb

      Ed,
      1) If the ball can be spotted and identified the player may declare the ball unplayable and proceed under any of the options under Rule 28, using the point on the ground directly below where the ball lay in the tree as the point of reference for Rule 28c (Decision 28/11). Alternatively, if the player can play the ball, he may play the ball as it lies in the tree.
      2) If the ball cannot be found or identified within 5 minutes of beginning to search for it, the ball is lost and the player must proceed under penalty of stroke and distance (Definition of Lost Ball and Rule 27-1).

      The virtual certainty that the ball is in the tree is irrelevant in this case. Even though the cypress tree identifies 150 yards, it is not an obstruction and is just like any other tree.

      • Ed

        Just to double check: the tree is staked…does that change anything?

        • Ryan Farb

          Ed,
          The fact that the tree is staked does not change anything in and of itself. If, however, the tree is staked because the course has put the Protection of Young Trees local Rule into effect and young trees are identified by stakes, the player would be permitted to proceed in accordance with Rule 24-3 so long as there is virtual certainty that the ball was in the tree. But also see this FAQ from the USGA website:

          Q. Our course has installed bushes that serve as 150-yard markers. Are players entitled to relief from these bushes?

          A. No. A bush is a natural object, not artificial, thus it is not an obstruction (Definition of “Obstruction”). The answer is the same regardless of whether it is used to indicate yardage.

  • Bob Newman

    Hello Ed,
    A player in our group this weekend hit his tee shot high right into the ice plant and very close to the OB stakes. We didn’t know if he would find the ball at all and if we did, it could be OB. He called and hit a provisional ball down the middle. We did find the fist ball and it was in bounds. It was fairly deep in the ice plant and close to a bush and less than a foot in-bounds. He had no swing. He did not have the option to go backwards as this would have put him OB. 2 club lengths no closer would still leave him in the ice plant. At this point does he continue on to his provisional ball? Since the first ball was found in bounds does he have to take a drop in the ice plant and take his chances? What is the ruling here?

    • Ryan Farb

      Bob,
      Once the player found the original ball in bounds, he was required to abandon the provisional ball (Rule 27-2c). He could then declare the ball unplayable and proceed under any of the options of Rule 28. If he decides to proceed under 28a (stroke and distance), he is not permitted to use the provisional. He must return to the tee and play again from within the teeing ground. See also Decision 28/5.

  • Scott

    A guy plays 10-15 rounds a month and only has 20 postings all the way back to May. Including 12 last month and no postings. I sthis player eligible to play in any NCGA sanctioned events or tournaments ?

    • Ryan Farb

      Scott,
      Eligibility for NCGA Championships is dependent on having a Handicap Index and being on the club’s active roster. We do have a system for reducing handicaps for players that have over-performed against the odds in NCGA net competitions, but that does not apply to club competitions or posting habits. If you have a concern about the accuracy of a player’s handicap you must consult your club’s handicap chairperson.

      • Scott

        Thanks for prompt reply. He is an active member and does compete in theses competitions . I and the handicap chairperson are newly on the board and are looking for confrontation guidance backed by NCGA rules or guidelines. I have heard other clubs have banned members from NCGA competitions until paid tee times matched postings more closely but we want to take in appropriate action.

        • Ryan Farb

          Scott,
          I recommend that you contact Jim Cowan, our Director of Handicapping, for further guidance in this situation.

  • Mike Day

    playing stroke play I am receiving 8 strokes and my opponent gets 10 so I am giving him two strokes on the #1 and #2 handicap holes, why am I not giving him strokes on the #9 and #10 handicap holes as clearly we both get strokes on the 8 most difficult holes?

    • Ryan Farb

      Mike,
      In stroke play the handicap is deducted from your total score at the end of the round, and you do not have an opponent he is your fellow-competitor.
      In match play, the opponent who receives strokes is awarded the strokes on the lowest number handicap holes consistent with the difference between the two handicaps as he is only entitled to 2 strokes, not 10. . For further guidance on the handicapping system please contact our Handicapping department.

  • Clay Nicolsen

    This isn’t necessarily a Rules question, but I’m positive the answer is in here. I don’t see where to order the new NCGA Big Little Book. I have the 2012-2013 version. Is that the most current? This spring’s Workshop is coming up!

    • Ryan Farb

      We’re working on having the Rule books “shop” added back into the website. We should have it up within the next few weeks. If you need one sooner, please call us at 831-625-4653.

      • Clay Nicolsen

        Good morning, Ryan, and thanks for the reply. I will give you a call!

  • Ed

    A player drops from an unmarked area that he thinks should be GUR. Before he plays the dropped ball, he or another player or official questions what he is doing. Can he still use 3-3 and replace another ball at the original spot and play both balls and let the committee decide the GUR question? Or was the first drop a “further action” and he is stuck with either playing from there or returning the ball to the original spot with an 18-2a penalty?

    • Ryan Farb

      Ed,
      The situation in doubt is the ground under repair. The player took further action by lifting and dropping the ball in accordance with Rule 25-1 and therefore Rule 3-3 does not apply. Without authority from the Committee, he was not entitled to relief and must either play the ball at its new position under penalty of two strokes for playing from a wrong place or return the ball to its original position with a one-stroke penalty under 18-2a.

      • Ed

        Could the player at the end of the round ask the committee to check the area he dropped from and hope to get lucky and get a favorable ruling?

        • Ryan Farb

          Ed,
          No. The player should have proceeded under Rule 3-3 when the doubtful situation occurred, ie. before taking relief from the area. The area was not marked as GUR, therefore he was not entitled to proceed under Rule 25-1 without authority(prior to proceeding) from the Committee.

          If a player believes an area should be GUR and it is not so marked, if he wishes to obtain relief he must use Rule 3-3 prior to doing anything with the ball in the questionable area.

  • Arthur Tam

    When a 4-some with various handicaps play skins, should we use full handicap or spin off from the lowest handicapper?

    • Ryan Farb

      Arthur,
      Skins is not a specific format of golf, so I cannot answer the question as worded. In stroke play, each player is entitled to his full handicap. In match play, you spin off the lowest handicap who plays as scratch.

  • Lance Parker

    Player E’s stroke on the putting green is deflected by a dead bird which landed on the Putting Green
    moments before the ball struck the bird. Now what?

    • Ryan Farb

      Lance,
      If the dead bird were moving at the time it struck the ball, Rule 19-1b applies and the stroke must be canceled and replayed. If the bird were not in motion at the time the ball struck it, 19-1 applies: it is a rub of the green and the ball must be played as it lies. In this case, I would think any doubt as to the motion of the bird should be resolved in favor of the player.

      • Lance Parker

        Thank you Ryan. It was the Outside Agency “moving” part of 19-1b that I missed. I remember now, big leaf blowing across the green defects the ball in motion, cancel and replay. Ball in motion hits stationary big leaf on putting green, rub of the green.

  • Daniel Coran

    In playing a golf round , either in competition or just with friends, can you envoke abnormal ground conditions or ground under repair rules, even if the area is not marked? This comes into play mostly on public courses which sometimes are not in the best of condition.

    • Ryan Farb

      Daniel,
      The Rules of Golf only contemplate playing with a Committee who defines ground under repair. In competition, a player’s only option would be to properly invoke Rule 3-3 and proceed by playing two balls, one as it lies and one from the GUR. The Committee may then make a decision as to whether relief is warranted. If you fail to do so and take relief, you would be playing from a wrong place.

      When playing with friends, under the Rules of Golf the Committee are those in charge of the course. The Rules would only permit you to proceed as above (by using Rule 3-3) and asking the course staff to make a decision.

      Also, ground under repair is an abnormal ground condition. If the condition is not abnormal, it should not be considered ground under repair by the Committee. Poor conditions consistent throughout the course are not justification for declaring ground under repair.

  • Bob Cashbaugh

    when does the term “must take complete relief” come in to play

    • Ryan Farb

      Bob,
      A great question but not the simplest of answers, so forgive me that I cannot be brief:
      Believe it or not, the actual phrase “complete relief” never occurs in the text of the Rules of Golf in the manner you’re looking for (Rule 25-1 has the maximum available relief clauses for when “complete relief” is impossible, but that doesn’t really cover what you’re asking). “Complete relief” as you’re asking is the colloquial phrase used to describe something that occurs in three ways when proceeding under a Rule that requires “complete relief” to be taken:

      1. Nearest Point of Relief: The Nearest Point of Relief is the reference point for relief under three Rules (24-2 Immovable Obstructions, 25-1 Abnormal Ground Conditions and 25-3 Wrong Putting Green). By Definition that reference point has “no interference by the condition from which relief is sought” for the stroke the player would have made if the condition did not exist. If you have not taken “complete relief” at your selected reference point i.e., you still have interference from the condition, then it is not the nearest point of relief.

      2. The Rule you are proceeding under: Under Rules 24-2 and 25-1 & 3 or Local Rules providing free relief, the Rule will tell you that the ball when dropped (or placed if applicable) must first strike a part of the course “that avoids interference by” the condition. If you drop the ball or place the ball at a spot where you still have interference from the condition (interference for immovable obstructions or abnormal ground conditions is lie of the ball, area of intended stance or area of intended swing), then you have not taken “complete relief” and have dropped the ball in a wrong place. A ball played after being dropped in a wrong place will cost two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play.

      3. When a re-drop is required under Rule 20-2c: Rule 20-2c gives you 7 instances when a player must re-drop the ball if it rolls into one of the listed situations. 20-2c (v) requires the ball to be re-dropped if a dropped ball “rolls and comes to rest in a position where there is interference by the condition from which relief was taken” under RUles 24-2b, 25-1b, 25-3 or a Local Rule, or if the ball “rolls back into the pitch-mark from which it was lifted under Rule 25-2 (embedded ball).” This means that if a ball when dropped in the correct spot initially (a spot which avoids interference from the condition and in the area or on the spot the Rule requires), and then rolls into a position where there is still interference by the condition, the ball must be lifted and re-dropped because the ball would be in a position where “complete relief” has not been taken. If the ball when re-dropped in the correct spot rolls into such a position again, the ball must then be placed on the spot where it first struck the course on the re-drop.

      So as you can see, the meaning of “complete relief” is not exactly an easy thing to highlight in the Rules, but in general it just means that once you take relief from something under a Rule providing free relief, the ball must be dropped at a spot that no longer has interference from the condition and must not roll into a position where there is still interference. If ANY interference exists at either the spot where the ball is dropped or after the ball has come to rest after a drop, it is not in the right place.

  • Bob Cashbaugh

    I understand, I think, the issue came about when a player felt he could get relief from a cart path for his ball but, because of a tree, wanted to drop the ball in a place that would require him to stand on the cart path. In this case I thought that relief meant not only his ball but his stance also.

    • Ryan Farb

      Bob,
      That is correct. It is the nearest point of relief, not the nicest. The fact that it would be difficult or even impossible to physically play a stroke from the nearest point of relief is irrelevant. See Decisions 24-2b/3, 3.5 and 3.7 illustrating this point.

  • BobG

    Clarification on Rule 3-3. On the tee box we are often instructed when in doubt as to a rule application play two balls under Rule 3-3. Rule 3-3 states that you shall declare you are playing two balls and you shall declare which ball should count. Most players don’t declare which ball should count feeling that the correctly played ball will count. I think they fail to consider what if both balls are correctly played.

    If a player does declare and both balls were played within the rules then the declared ball is the one that counts. That might be the first or second ball correct?

    If a player does not declare and the first ball is played within the rules then does that automatically count? And if the first ball is not played within the rules then the second ball counts?

    An example might be a suspected unmarked drain area where all drain areas have been declared ground under repair with optional relief. The player invokes rule 3-3 and declares ball 2 to count. He plays ball 1 as it lies then drops ball 2 according to the rules and plays it. He birdies ball 1 and bogies ball 2. Both balls were played in accordance with the rules. Since the player declared ball 2 to count does he take that score?

    Conversely, same situation but the player does NOT declare which ball to count. Since both balls were played according to the rules, ball 1 counts. Correct?
    So if I want ball 1 to count if I play it according to the rules, and ball 2 to count only if I mess up and play ball 1 not according the rules, then why would I declare ahead of time which ball to count?

    • Ryan Farb

      Bob,

      If the player follows the correct procedure and both balls are played in accordance with the Rules, the selected ball counts, regardless of whether it was the better or worse score. If the player does not select in advance, and both balls were played in accordance with the Rules, the original ball counts, regardless of whether that is the one with relief or that seemed the “obvious” choice. See Decision 3-3/0.5. It clarifies all the various scenarios depending on whether the player correctly followed the procedure or not.

      One thing I want to clarify for you, is that, if the original ball is one of the two balls being played, the order the two are played in is irrelevant. It only matters which ball was put into play first if the original ball is not one of the balls being played.

      The player must declare which ball he wants to count because generally the Rules don’t give the player a “choosey.” The player must select how he wants to proceed if the Rules allow, but because he is unsure, Rule 3-3 gives the player the opportunity to cover all bases.

  • BrianA

    4-4c/1

    Excess Club Declared Out of Play Before Round and Placed on Floor of Golf Cart

    Q.Before the start of around, a player discovers that there are 15 clubs in his golf bag. He declares one of the clubs out of play, removes it from his bag, places it on the floor of his golf cart and begins the round. Is the player subject to penalty?

    A.Yes, for starting the round with more than 14 clubs. Rule 4-4c has to do with declaring an excess club out of play on discovery of a
    breach after a round has started. There is nothing in the Rules to permit carrying, during a round, an excess club declared out of play before the round

    Why is a penalty applied if the 15th club was declared out of play prior to the start of the round?

    • Ryan Farb

      Brian,
      The point of the Decision is to show that if the 15th club is discovered prior to the start of the round, it must not be carried by the player in any way, shape or form. Declaring the club out of play only comes into play, or holds true meaning, when the breach is discovered during the round.

  • Ed

    Decision 23-1/10 tells us that a player could replace loose impediments removed by another person in the group if the player thinks the loose impediments could serve as a backstop. What if the other person was the player’s partner? Could he still replace the loose impediments? If the player himself had removed them, could he put them back?

    • Ryan Farb

      Ed,
      per the Definition of Competitor, a player’s partner is not a fellow-competitor. If a player’s partner moved the loose impediments, as far as the Rules are concerned the player might as well have moved the impediments himself. So no, Decision 23-1/10 would not apply if the loose impediments were moved by the player’s partner.

  • Lavelle Gibson

    Is the Garmin Approach G8 approved for NCGA tournaments?

    • Ryan Farb

      According to the website, the Approach G8 has a slope adjustment feature to tell the player an adjusted yardage based on uphill or downhill. Such a feature makes the device ineligible for use in NCGA competition or any competition where Distance-measuring devices are permitted.

  • Armond Roque

    A cart path splits two hazards, is the cart path considered in the hazard, or do you get relive form the path with no penalty?

    • Ryan Farb

      Armond,
      You really have two questions there:
      1) If a player’s ball lies outside a water hazard, he is entitled to free relief for interference from the path in accordance with Rule 24-2, even if the part of the path that is interfering lies inside the water hazard. It is where the ball lies, not the obstruction.
      2) When a path splits two separate hazards, the Committee should mark the hazards so that the cart path is NOT in the water hazards (see #9 at Poppy Hills). However, if the path is simply bridging over two parts of the same extended hazard, the path should be marked as inside the water hazard (like the bridge at #2 of Poppy Hills).

  • James

    A drive hits and stops up against the root of a tree. Is this an unplayable lie or considered an immovable obstruction under Rule 24-2?

    • Ryan Farb

      James,
      A tree is not an obstruction. A player is not entitled to relief without penalty from interference by a tree or its roots. The player must try to play the ball or proceed under Rule 28 (Ball Unplayable).

  • Bruce Walker

    Does the rules of golf allow for 2 putters in the bag as long as the bag has only up to the 14 club limit?

    • Ryan Farb

      Bruce,

      Yes. Rule 4-4 permits the player to carry up to 14 clubs for the stipulated round. It does not limit the type of club.

  • cindy

    If a player hits his/her tee shot into a water hazard on a par 3 and decides to re-tee and hits their 3rd shot and it goes in the hole, is it still considered a “hole in one” but a 3 for a score? And more important, does that person have to buy the drinks?!

    • Ryan Farb

      Cindy,
      That isn’t really a Rules of Golf question, whether or not she buys drinks is totally up to the person. It is not a hole-in-one, because it took two strokes and one penalty stroke in order to get the ball into the hole. Either way, nice shot!

      • cindy

        Thanks! I thought it was not a hole in one, it was just a question that came up. I was trying for humor there on the drink part… :-)

  • stephen

    I recently played a course where, on a par four, due to circumstances, they moved the tee up to a place in the fairway that essentially turned the hole into a par three.
    I hit to the green on my tee shot and two putted for a 3. For posting purposes, how do I treat that hole?

    • Jim Cowan

      Stephen, thank you for your post. Assuming the club did not contact us and we did not issue Temporary Ratings to reflect this change, award yourself a “par, plus any handicap strokes you are entitled to” on the par FOUR, and post to the normal ratings. In effect, treat the hole as if you didn’t play it at all (because you didn’t play it as the par four it was rated for), and fill in the blank with the “par+.” Thanks again, Jim Cowan, Director of Course Rating and Handicapping

  • Beryl

    Can a “SKILZ Gold Flex” swing aid be used to practice my swing during a golf tournament?

    • Ryan Farb

      No. Using the SKILZ Golf Flex during the stipulated round would be a breach of Rule 14-3 with a penalty of disqualification.

  • Anne

    A local course recently underwent aerification to its fairways and greens. The course cut 8″ cups on the greens during the ‘healing’ process. In playing under these conditions, should a player post his/her score.

    • Ryan Farb

      No, a round played on a course with 8″ holes should not be posted. A hole in accordance with the Rules of Golf is 4 1/4″.

  • arthur knapp

    Due some course grass planting work, diseases & water issues a course plays as ‘lift clean & place’ through the green. Are these rounds postable? If so, how about for a tournament, is that a valid “T” score?

    • Ryan Farb

      Arthur,
      Posting while using “Preferred Lies”, even through the green rather than in a “closely-mown area” through the green, is still required unless the appropriate Committees have determined that conditions are so poor as to not warrant posting.

      • arthur knapp

        Hi Ryan, thanks. If you use ‘Preferred Lies in Fairway only’ for a Tournament, while postable, is that a valid “T” score which can carry forward for a longer period than the last 20 rounds & into periods where conditions are more normal and thus without Preferred Lies?

        • Ryan Farb

          Arthur,
          If it is a tournament score, it is a T score and carries forward.

  • Edward Graham

    While taking practice strokes on the green with his putter, my competitor accidently hits his ball. The ball moves, he replaces the ball where it was. Is there a penalty for accidentally moving his ball? Also, what if the same occurs on the fairway? Thanks.

    • Ryan Farb

      Edward,
      He incurs a one-stroke penalty for accidentally moving his ball in play under Rule 18-2a. He was required to replace the ball, which he did. Had he not replaced it, he would incur a two-stroke penalty in stroke play loss of hole in match play. The same ruling applies anywhere on the course.

  • Robert Crooks

    Player A places extra clubs on the putting green. Player B putts his ball and it appears that it will strike the extra club of player A. Can A remove the extra club while B’s ball is in motion? If not, who gets the penalty for altering the path of the ball?

    • Ryan Farb

      Robert,
      Rule 24-1 permits any player to move without penalty the equipment of any player while a ball is in motion, even if the movement might influence the ball in motion.

  • Bob Cashbaugh

    A players ball lies off the green but he intends to putt. On the fringe there are seed pods that he brushed off with his hand, is there a penalty?

    • Ryan Farb

      Bob,
      The seed pods are loose impediments. Loose impediments through the green (the fringe in thise case) may be removed without penalty provided the ball is not moved in the process. This may be done even if the loose impediments are on a player’s line of play.

  • Eva pazan

    In a four person MATCH play tournament I chipped my ball onto the green believing that I was furthest away. My opponent then chipped her ball as she was next. After she chipped she stated to me, “you were not away and you went out of turn but I am going to ignore it and not do anything about it.” Was she in any violation by admitting and stating out loud that she was ignoring a rule? I believed that I was away and went in proper order when I took my shot. By the time it was pointed out to me that I was wrong there was nothing I could do about it as she had already hit her next shot. Is she permitted to declare that is is choosing to ignore a Rule violation?

    Additionally a slightly different twist……. She continued to state that she said ahead of time that I was not away but I did not her her say that. She decided to let me chip anyway.
    Thanks!
    Eva

    • Ryan Farb

      Eva,
      In match play a player may overlook a breach of the Rules provided there is no agreement to waive them. As she told you of the breach after she had the ability to recall the stroke there was no agreement to waive the Rules.

      If you did not hear her there was no agreement. There is also no penalty in match play for playing out of turn(unintentionally) but the opponent may immediately recall the stroke. This generally means before the opponent plays her next stroke.

  • Bob Cashbaugh

    Sorry, the question is not that the loose impediments could be removed but how they were removed, using the palm of his hand,

    • Ryan Farb

      Bob,
      There is no penalty, the player may use a variety of methods. Rule 16-1d prohibits testing the surface of a putting green by roughening or scraping the surface. There is no such prohibition through the green (fringe).

  • Brian Scott

    What is the best way to define a lateral water hazard that has towering eucalyptus trees on the perimeter? About 100 yards out from the tee the hazard veers to the right and sometimes a tee shot will carry the hazard through the trees and land in the rough, not in the hazard. The problem is the status of the ball cannot be discerned from the tee. Do we need a local rule allowing for a drop provided the ball cannot be found and definitely crossed the margin of the hazard but would allow the player to play his original ball if found further to the hole?

    • Ryan Farb

      Brian,
      Lines and stakes defining the margins of water hazards should be placed along the natural limits of the hazard, i.e. where the ground breaks down to form the depression containing the water (or that could contain water). Decision 33-2a/4. With lateral hazards some consideration should be taken so that if a player drops and the ball rolls close to the line but not back into the hazard the player still has a reasonable stance. The fact that large trees surround the area is irrelevant, the hazard is the water course, not the trees. A local Rule as you describe is not permitted. If a player drops a ball with virtual certainty that the ball is in the hazard the original ball is lost, see also Decision 26-1/3.5. If it is later determined that the reference point used for the drop was incorrect, that’s ok provided you used all knowledge available to you at the time, see Decision 26-1/17.

      • David F

        This sounds more like a pace of play issue, not a location for a drop. So, it is not permitted to allow a local rule to hit a provision ball in case your drive cleared the hazard and is still in play? You would have to walk out beyond the hazard and if the ball is not found, return to the tee side of the hazard and play your third shot?

        • Ryan Farb

          David,
          There is a permitted local Rule that allows a player to play a ball provisionally for a ball that might be in a water hazard. However, the hazard must meet two specific requirements: 1)It must be situated in such a way that determining that status of the ball is impracticable or delays play and 2) if the original ball is not found, it is known or virtually certain that the ball is in the hazard. Your situation as described meets requirement 1, but absolutely does not meet requirement 2 and therefore this local Rule does not apply here.

          A provisional ball under Rule 27-2 is for a ball that may be lost outside a water hazard or out of bounds, not for a ball that might be in a water hazard.

  • j. Chen

    My club change the OB white stakes which is on the perimeter of the golf course to lateral hazard red stakes for the sake of speeding up play. Is that against the rules of golf?

    • Ryan Farb

      J. Chen,
      It is not permissible for a club or Committee to define something as a lateral water hazard that does not meet the definition of a water hazard. See Decision 33-8/35 regarding treating rough as a lateral water hazard. Therefore, changing OB to lateral would also not be permitted unless the course happens to be bounded by a river, ocean or other open water course. To speed up play, the club should strongly recommend players play provisional balls.

      • j. Chen

        I was informed that the changes of the OB stakes with the water hazard stakes on #6 hole was suggested by NCGA when they came and toured Crystal Springs GC in Burlingame a few years ago. Is that against the rules of golf?

        • Ryan Farb

          J Chen,
          At Crystal Springs, the boundary stakes that were removed on 6 and changed to lateral were due to the large lake that is at the bottom of the hill. That hill is where the ground breaks down toward the lake, despite it being some distance away. That is why we made the recommendation and it is not against the Rules of Golf.

  • Delius Cheng

    Oh a shared green with two different cups for the different holes, what is the ruling if an shot/putt goes into the wrong hole?

    • Ryan Farb

      Delius,
      The additional hole is a hole made by a greenkeeper and therefore is ground under repair by definition. The player is entitled to relief in accordance with Rule 25-1 (in this case place the ball at the nearest point of relief).

  • Steve

    Is a player required to post all rounds that he or she has played before the next revision period? even if the club has a 72 hour rule?

    • Ryan Farb

      Steve,
      There is no Rule of Golf regarding handicap posting requirements. However, the USGA Handicap Manual states in Section 5-2a, “Posting scores in person immediately following the round at the course where the round is played is the preferred way to expose scores to peer review. This method of posting must be used whenever possible.” It then states that if returning the score is not immediately possible, then it must be done as soon as practicable prior to the next revision so the scoring record is up-to-date.
      Intentionally waiting until after a revision to post a score is falsely manipulating a handicap index and should not be done.

  • Bob Cashbaugh

    It is my understanding that when a ball is buried in a bunker the player may find the ball and lift it to identify it. Once identified he must replace the ball and cover it to duplicate as close as passable the original position of the ball, is this correct?

    • Ryan Farb

      Bob,
      Rule 12-1 permits a player to search for a ball covered by sand (either in a bunker or elsewhere) and if the ball is found and identified as the player’s, the player must re-create the lie as nearly as possible, however, the player is permitted to leave a small part of the ball visible, even if it was previously completely covered. If the ball is moved in the process, the ball must be replaced and then the lie re-created but there is no penalty if the ball is moved in the process of searching for it covered by sand.

  • Anthony Eddie Ramos

    USGA’s defination of a “caddie” is one who assists the player in accordance with the Rules, which may include carrying or handling the player’s clubs during play.

    If a player enjoys carrying their own bag, can the player designate a person as their caddie so not to volatile rule 8.1?

    • Ryan Farb

      Anthony,
      Absolutely. A caddie does not have to actually carry your clubs.

  • andrew

    Are you required to alert your playing partner they are about to make, or have made a rules violation?

    • Ryan Farb

      Andrew,
      In stroke play, you should help your fellow-competitor by warning them if you see they are about to breach a Rule. You should inform them if they have committed a breach as soon as practicable, but most importantly before returning their score card. If you knowingly allow a player to submit a score card without a penalty included that they incurred, you could be subject to disqualification. See Decision 33-7/9.

      In match play, a player may disregard a breach of the Rules by his opponent provided there is no agreement to waive the Rules. See Note 1 to Rule 2-5.

  • Ed

    My ball ended up in bounds but very close to the driving range which was out of bounds. The driving range fence is actually a mesh net that was very loose and on this very windy day the netting was flapping in the breeze making it very hard to time my swing without having someone hold the netting still. Would be a rules violation to have someone hold the netting still while I made the shot?

    • Ryan Farb

      Ed,
      The course or Committee should do their best to make sure this kind of situation does not occur, i.e. the netting should be secured in such a fashion that it does not flap in the wind. In such a situation as described, the consensus is that the netting is a movable part of an immovable artificial object and that the player would be entitled to have it moved out of the way for the stroke.

      • Ed

        Doesn’t the netting constitute an ob fence? And, if so, it’s not an obstruction moveable or otherwise. Certainly, the netting should be tied down, but if it serves as the boundary ob fence isn’t it deemed to be fixed, flapping or otherwise?

        • Ryan Farb

          Ed,
          The netting only constitutes a boundary fence if defined as such. Typically when a driving range is out of bounds with loose netting, the out of bounds is specifically defined by the inside edges of the posts at ground level because the net does not provide a constant boundary and it would not be appropriate to define out of bounds with a moving object.

  • Aptosian

    A cart path runs up the right side of the hole between rough and a large berm protecting balls from rolling down into a hazard. Balls that roll right enough get to the cart path and rest against the berm, leaving the right handed golfer standing on the cart path. Nearest relief would be toward the hazard, but the berm is too vertical a bump for mowing and is severely overgrown, hardly relief. Could the ball be dropped on the hole side of the cart path, opposite the berm?

    • Ryan Farb

      Aptosian,
      The nearest point of relief is not necessarily the nicest point of relief. If the NPR happens to be in the overgrown grass, that is the NPR and you are not entitled to relief on the other side of the path. But also remember the NPR must not be in a hazard. It may leave you standing in the hazard, but the NPR itself must not be in the hazard.

  • sam

    In a two man best ball competition; if a partner hits his own partner’s ball by accident is the team penalized or just the partner that hit the wrong ball?

    • Ryan Farb

      Sam,
      If a player hits his partner’s ball, he incurs a two-stroke penalty (stroke play) and must correct the error, but the partner incurs no penalty. See Rule 31-5.

  • David F

    My drive landed on the right side of a drainage ditch on the edge of a fairway and nestled down inside a low shrub. The ball was easily addressed but my stance was in the concrete drainage ditch. I should have the right to take relief for interference with an immovable obstruction but there was little chance of making a legitimate swing at the ball because the shrub blocked any chance to swing at the ball other than to reach in a poke it out. Would I still get relief or be required to take an unplayable lie?

    • Ryan Farb

      David F,
      The Exception to Rule 24-2 states that, “A player may not take relief under this Rule if (a) interference by anything other than an immovable obstruction makes the stroke clearly impracticable.” It sounds like this is the case in your situation and you would not be entitled to relief under Rule 24-2 for interference by the immovable obstruction.

      Also, not that a surface drainage ditch is by definition a water hazard. Depending on where the margin of the water hazard was placed, if your ball was in the water hazard, no relief would be granted for interference by an immovable obstruction.

  • Leo Nordin

    An approuch shot to the green lands on top of some railroad ties which border a pond, at ground level to the left side of the fairway.
    There are no lines or stakes indicating a hazard. Does the player get a free drop from the railroad tie, or does he play it as it lies.
    (we played it both ways with a second ball, but scored bogeys with both so it was a non issue.)

    • Ryan Farb

      Leo,
      It all depends on how the water hazard is defined. The Committee must accurately define the margins of water hazards. If the ball lay in the water hazard, the player is not entitled to relief from the obstruction. If the ball is outside the water hazard, the player is entitled to relief in accordance with Rule 24-2b. Also, frequently in such situations the Committee deems such wooden pilings bordering water hazards to be an integral part of the course in which case the player is not entitled to relief.

  • Brian Scott

    A ball lies on a cart path (immovable obstruction) inches from the right edge leaving no doubt as to the nearest point of relief (right of path no closer to the hole). The player takes his stance, heels right up against the edge of the cart path but not on the path. Is it mandatory that he mark his ball on the cart path before he takes relief. Is it mandatory that he mark the spot where the ball is to be dropped. I maintain that it is not necessary since the drop conforms to the stipulations, nearest point of relief no closer to the hole and dropped within one club length. I read the rule as he should mark his ball but not “must” mark his ball or intended area of drop. Seems like a pace of play issue. Thanks.

    Brian Scott

    • Ryan Farb

      Brian,
      When taking relief from an immovable obstruction under Rule 24-2b, the Rules do not require the player to mark the ball prior to lifting it, nor do the Rules require the player to follow to complete procedure for determining the nearest point of relief and designating the area in which the ball is to be dropped, provided that the ball is dropped in the right place in accordance with Rule 24-2b, see Decision 24-2b/2.

  • BobG

    A fellow competitor stands on the player’s line while he putts leaving cleat marks on the players original line. Rule 16-1 says a player can not repair cleat marks but rule 1-4 says a player is entitled to the line he was originally given. Can the player repair his line without penalty?

    • Ryan Farb

      Bob,
      In this case, when an opponent, fellow-competitor or their caddies have accidentally damaged a player’s line of putt, the player may have the line of putt restored to its original condition when the ball came to rest. The line may be restored by anyone. See Decision 16-1a/13.

  • dmcneish

    Can you mark your ball and leave it on the putting surface when another player is about to “come on the green”?

    • Ryan Farb

      A player is permitted to mark and leave the ball in place, regardless of whether other players still need to come on to the putting green. Remember that even though a marker is down, if the ball is not lifted it is still in play. However, if any player believes the ball at rest might assist another player, they have the right to have it lifted (Rule 22-1) or if the player still to come onto the green believes the ball might interfere with his play he has the right to have it lifted (Rule 22-2).

  • Dan J

    My ball came to rest four feet from the edge of the green. Between my ball and the hole are immovable sprinkler heads that do not interfere with my stance or swing. However, I want to putt my next stroke but the sprinkler heads would interfere with the putted ball. Am I correct that I cannot take relief?

    • Ryan Farb

      Dan J,

      You are correct that without a local Rule in effect, through the green a player is not entitled to line of play relief for intervention by an immovable obstruction. There is a local Rule that permits such relief when the obstructions are within two club-lengths of the putting green and the ball is within two club-lengths of the obstructions, see Appendix I-B-6. This local Rule is not intended for use at every facility, please consult us here if you have questions about whether that local Rule is right for your club.

  • Dan J

    Thanks Ryan!

  • Dave J

    My ball landed just off the green with the ball coming to rest above the ball mark (off the green) which was not in my line to putt. Are you able to repair the ball mark or tap it down without penalty.
    Dave

    • Ryan Farb

      Dave,
      Rule 16-1c permits a player to repair ball-marks that are ON the putting green regardless of where the ball lies, however since the ball-mark was not on the putting green, if repairing it improved the lie of the ball, your stance or area of intended swing, doing so would be a breach of Rule 13-2 and would come with a two-stroke penalty in stroke play or loss of hole in match play.

  • Cat

    I was told that playing in a tournament where cash is paid as the prize can jeprodise your amateur status. Is this true? If not, how much can you receive before it’s a problem? C.G.

    • Ryan Farb

      Cat,
      Cash may not be accepted by an amateur as a prize in any amount. This is separate from skins games or acceptable forms of gambling. For further information see the most recent NCGA Magazine Article on Rules & Amateur Status and feel free to contact me directly with any further questions.

  • Lavelle Gibson

    What are the rules for tie break playoff in a 2-man better event?

    • Ryan Farb

      Lavelle,
      The Committee determines how ties are broken for any given event. If you are asking about how the USGA method of card matching would work in a four-ball (2-person better ball) format, you start with the final nine holes, if still tied, then the last 6, then last 3, then final hole and then if still tied you break the tie by lot. You use the same format as the competition was in, so if it was four-ball gross, the four-ball gross hole-by-hole scores are used. If four-ball net, then the hole-by-hole net scores with the handicap pops as they fell on the scorecard would be used.

      • Lavelle Gibson

        Ryan, thanks for the reply, but question was regarding a playoff, not card match. We have elected to use a 3 hole playoff with pops falling where indicated on the scorecard.

        • Ryan Farb

          Lavelle,
          The USGA recommendation in Appendix I states, “In the event of a tie in a handicap stroke-play competition, a play-off with handicaps is recommended. The play-off may be over 18 holes or a smaller number of holes as specified by the Committee. it is recommended that any such play-off consist of at least three holes.” “In competitions where the handicap stroke table is relevant, such as four-ball stroke play and bogey, par and Stableford competitions, handicap strokes should be taken as they were assigned for the competition using the player’s respective stroke allocation table(s).”

  • Ed

    My ball ends up on a bridge over a lateral water hazard that is marked environmental. With environmental water areas, the ball must be dropped under Rule 26, but since playing from the bridge is not actually in the environment is playing from the bridge permissible?

    • Ryan Farb

      Ed,
      The player may play from the bridge provided nothing else in the ESA interferes with the player’s lie, stance or swing. Even though the ball and bridge are in the water hazard (the margins of water hazards extended vertically upward and downward), an obstruction in a hazard is not “ground in the hazard.”

      • Ed

        Does this mean that if a branch or something similar was in the player’s back swing or through swing, he would have to take relief outside the hazard with one stroke penalty?

        • Ryan Farb

          Ed,
          Yes. If there is interference from something else in the ESA, the player would be required to take relief in accordance with Rule 26-1 under penalty of one stroke.

  • Paul Crawford

    We are playing in the upcoming 2015 Associate Club Championship Sectional with our team of four. The pairing splits us into two teams of two playing alongside another team split the same way. The tee times are back to back which means there is a chance to watch your teammates and potentially communicate with them during the round. I assume shot advice within teammates having the same tee time is permissible and at the same time cannot be shared with teammates in the other foursome, right? What about sharing scores? I have looked through the current policy as it applies to smart phones and as long as sharing scores is not an infraction then it looks like texting them to one another would not be an issue as long as it does not slow down play. Please point me to the rule or policy in place to address these questions, thanks!

    • Ryan Farb

      Paul,
      The two pairs are treated as separate sides under the Rules of Golf and may not exchange advice with each other. Information as to how each side scored, however, is not advice and may be exchanged verbally or via text, provided this does not unduly delay play is disrupt other competitors.

  • OhmBoy

    From what I’ve read, Aimpoint charts may be used in tourneys. Can topographical carts of the green (charts that indicate slope) be used?

    • Ryan Farb

      OhmBoy,
      Aimpoint charts may be used provided the are not put on the ground to be used. Topographical charts of the green that indicate slopes may also be used.

  • Randy Jones

    Can a pencil (with the eraser removed) be used as a Tee in competition, provided it is still under 4″ long?

    • Ryan Farb

      Randy,
      No, you may not use a pencil with the eraser removed as a tee regardless of the height. In Appendix IV, a tee is defined as a device that is designed to raise the ball off the ground. A pencil is not designed to raise the ball off the ground and therefore must not be used under penalty of disqualification (Rule 11-1).

  • J. H.

    Does a person have to remove their ball after holing out and before the next person putts ? If they don’t and the next person’s ball holes out but hits the other ball in the cup and bounces out, what is the ruling ?

    • Ryan Farb

      J.H.,
      A player does not immediately have to remove their ball from the hole after holing out. In the event that the next putt bounces off the ball in the hole and comes to rest outside of the hole, there is no penalty, however the putt (ball outside the hole) is played as it lies as it was not holed.

  • Pat

    I played in a stroke competition but thought it was stable ford. I picked up my ball from green as I thought I had too many shots for points, and was ultimately DQ. Even though I replaced my ball on green when my error was explained I thought it would be a 2 stroke penalty – who is correct???

    • Ryan Farb

      Pat,
      Neither is correct. You incurred a one-stroke penalty under Rule 18-2a for moving your ball in play and were required to replace it. As long as you replaced it and did so prior to playing from the next teeing ground (or in the case of the last hole, prior to leaving the putting green), the one-stroke penalty is the only penalty incurred.

  • Bruce Hoffman

    I was playing in a Stroke Play tournament. After one of the players putted out he patted the edges of the hole fixing an imperfection. Two of us had not putted yet. Was he allowed to do this. If he is, would this also be allowed during Match Play.

    • Ryan Farb

      Bruce,
      If the player did so solely for the purpose of caring for the course, there is no penalty. If the smoothing was in any way intended to influence the movement of the fellow-competitors’ putts he was in breach of Rule 1-2 and incurred a two stroke penalty. See Decision 1-2/3.5 It is recommended that players only smooth the ragged edge of a hole after all players in his group have holed out.

  • Peter Wilson

    My golf buddy hit a monster drive which sailed out of bounds (we are thoroughly familiar with this course). As luck would have it his ball hit a tree and ricocheted back into the rough that is in-bounds. What is the ruling? Is his ball in play or should it be considered out of bounds as soon as it broke the plane of the boundary. An expensive tab for a wine tasting din-dins (mit fraus) is riding on your answer. No pressure – but choose wisely!

    • Ryan Farb

      Peter,
      The ball came to rest on the course and is in play. While the margin of OB does extend vertically upwards and downwards, it only matters where the ball came to rest. The ball is permitted to break the plane and then come back onto the course. One side made a very poor bet.

  • Delius Cheng

    If a public road is on the side of a hole and a ball crosses it. Is the ball OB if that road is not clearly defined as OB with lines or stakes? What if the ball ends up on the other side of the road where and there is another hole there?

    • Ryan Farb

      Delius,
      Without a local Rule in effect stating otherwise (see Decision 27/20), a ball that crosses a public road and comes to rest on another part of the course is in play. Frequently, however, courses that have such situations will use the local Rule in the above Decision so that such a ball would be out of bounds.

      • Delius Cheng

        Thank you! What happens if 1) there are no local rules regarding roads and 2) the road is on the edge or the course? Does the road become out or bounds because the course does not extend out beyond the road? There a course that I play with a road next to two holes and they are not marked but on the other side is an airport.

        • Ryan Farb

          Delius,
          Without a local Rule in effect, a road in and of itself does not define out of bounds. A course does not necessarily have to have a boundary, hence why it is the Committee’s responsibility to properly define the boundaries of the course (Rule 33-2).

          • Delius Cheng

            Thanks Ryan!

  • Ron Rosa Jr.

    In match play, my competitor’s ball was a foot away from mine in the sand trap. I asked him if he wanted me to mark my ball and he said no, it wasn’t in the way. He then proceeded to hit his ball and it moved my ball. I believe his club or the sand is what moved my ball, as his ball went on it’s intended path (Does this part even matter?). I ended up raking the trap to recreate my lie and placing the ball where it was supposed to be and played the hole out, letting him know that I thought there was a rules violation that occurred.

    We ended up not needing a ruling, but what should it have been?

    Also, if he wouldn’t have moved my ball, but changed my lie by spraying more sand around it, would I get to fix the lie to it’s original state?

    • Ryan Farb

      Ron,
      Your opponent incurred a one-stroke penalty for moving your ball in play (see Decision 18-3b/1) as it was reasonably foreseeable that he could move your ball being only a foot away. You needed to recreate your lie and replace the ball in that lie (Rules 18-3 & 20-3b).
      Had he not moved your ball and just altered your lie, you are entitled to the lie you had when your ball came to rest and could restore the bunker to its original condition, see Decision 13-4/19.

  • Ed

    A player takes a practice swing just an inch or two next to his ball. In doing so he creates a small divot or roughed up grass. Before making a stroke at his ball, he steps down on the small divot he had just created. Any penalty?

    • Ryan Farb

      Ed,
      Rule 13-2 prohibits removing an irregularity of surface, or removing or pressing down replaced divots if in doing so the action improves his lie, stance or area of intended swing. If the action improved (see Decision 13-2/0.5 for the meaning of “Improved”) one of those areas he was in violation of Rule 13-2 and in match play he would lose the hole and in stroke play would incur a two-stroke penalty.

      • BobG

        Thanks Ryan,
        Ed, I found this helpful when researching rule 13-2 and the decisions:

        “improve” means to change for the better so that the player gains a potential advantage with respect to the position or lie of his ball, the area of his intended stance or swing, his line of play or a reasonable extension of that line beyond the hole, or the area in which he is to drop or place a ball.

        The determination as to whether a player has gained a potential advantage from his actions is made by reference to the situation immediately prior to his stroke. If there is a reasonable possibility that the player’s action has created a potential advantage, the player is in breach of Rule 13-2.

        • Ryan Farb

          Bob and Ed,
          That verbiage is straight from Decision 13-2/0.5 referenced in my answer above.
          In similar questions regarding removing a mental distraction in an area protected by Rule 13-2 (lie, stance, area of swing, area in which to drop), the USGA has ruled that it is gaining a potential advantage and is a breach of Rule 13-2. Each case would have to be assessed by the Committee on a case-by-case basis to determine whether the area was “improved.”

  • Joe

    A couple of years ago I attended the rules class in Sacramento area. The topic was about replacing a ball. I remember asking if a player had to replace a ball with the same make and type. I told that was once the rule but USGA did not enforce that rule anymore.

    I attend the US Senior Golf Tournament this past weekend and Hale Irwin was penalized two strokes for that rule violation. “Irwin plunked a ball into the water on No. 16 and was handed another type of TaylorMade ball by his caddie, John Venn. It wasn’t until Irwin later went to mark his ball on the green that he noticed the rare error. He notified his playing partners and a rules official, and suffered the penalty.”

    Is there a level of competition that enforces the rules or should it be applied across the board?

    Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/sports/golf/article25734610.html#storylink=cpy

    • Ryan Farb

      Joe,
      The so called “one-ball rule” is an optional Condition of the Competition that the USGA uses in all of its competitions. You can find it at Appendix I-C-Ic. The NCGA does not use this optional condition in its competitions which is what we would have said at the seminar.

      Because this is an optional condition of the competition, different organizations may choose to use it or not. The USGA chooses to use it, the NCGA does not along with many other regional golf associations. I was officiating with a different group on the adjacent 8th hole when the call on the radio came in for confirmation about the penalty for Irwin’s breach and indeed he simply dropped and played a different model of golf ball on the 16th hole and had to correct the error at the next teeing ground by playing the correct model of TaylorMade, incurring a two-stroke penalty because the breach occurred on only one hole. Had he played two or more holes unknowingly with the wrong model, he would have incurred a maximum four total penalty strokes (two on each of the first two holes where the breach occurred).

  • Rick

    Are chippers conforming golf clubs; in particular, two way chippers?

    • Ryan Farb

      Rick,
      The dual-striking face chipper is NON-conforming in all cases. There are cases where chippers are designed as conforming golf clubs, and some cases where they are not. See Decision 4-1/3 for more information.

  • Ron

    My friend’s golf ball was plugged under the lip of a green side bunker. In order to hit, his left foot was planted outside the bunker above the ball toward the green, and his right foot was planted so deeply in the bunker that sand was covering his foot. When he blasted the ball, it looped up and landed on the sand covering the top of his right foot. (I have a picture if you want it.) He couldn’t move his foot without the ball moving and falling into the hole left in the bunker by his foot. The ball never touched him. What were his options in this predicament? Thanks. Ron

    • Ryan Farb

      Ron,
      Given the above facts, since the ball has not been deflected or stopped by the player Rule 19-2 does not apply and the player has two options: he can attempt to very carefully play the ball without moving it prior to the stroke from the position on the sand above his foot, or if he moves his foot and the ball moves he incurs a one-stroke penalty for moving his ball at rest (Rule 18-2a) and must replace the ball. Since the lie of the ball has likely been altered, he must recreate the lie and place the ball in that lie (Rule 20-3b).

  • Renee A Wildenberg

    A player putted to within a couple of inches of the hole and proceeded to take a one-handed swing to pop it into the hole. The ball wasn’t hit hard enough to go in the hole – it just wobbled a bit and did not change position. The intent was to hit it into the hole. Is that attempt considered a stroke?

    • Ryan Farb

      Renee,
      Yes. The Definition of Stroke states that a stroke is the “forward [meaning toward the ball] movement of the club made with the intention of striking at and moving the ball…” Even though the ball did not change position and the stroke was not successful, it was still a stroke.

  • Jeff

    A tournament club is holding a match play tournament over a couple months with 2-3 weeks allowed for each round of play. In one match, Player A wins his match on the 19th (1st extra hole) over Player B. Before the next round has started, but several days after the initial match, Player A discovers that he had played with 15 clubs in his bag the entire match before against Player B. What is the status of the match? Does Player B win his match over Player A 1 up (subtracting the 2 holes penalty for Player A discovering the 15 clubs (well) after teeing off on the 2nd hole?

    • Ryan Farb

      Jeff,
      The match stands as played. A later claim may not be considered by the Committee unless Player A was aware that he had been carrying 15 clubs at the time the result of the match was officially announced. Since he was unaware of this breach, he did not know he had given wrong information by failing to inform his opponent about the penalty and the Committee could not consider a claim on the matter. See Rule 2-5.

    • John Benedict

      What is the definition of the phrase “Through The Green” ?
      Specifically what is the area of play and are there boundaries
      on a hole. How far past the green is within “Through the Green” ?

  • Ed

    I know my partner can’t stand behind me as I make a stroke, but, if I’m putting, is it okay for him to stand just beyond the hole to watch my putt which is on the same line as his? Could our opponents or fellow competitors ask him to move away? Would he have to?

    • Ryan Farb

      Ed,
      The Rules do no prohibit a player standing on an extension of the line of play or putt beyond the hole, provided he does not indicate a line of play or line for putting while the stroke is made.

  • Kaleb Peacock

    When teeing off is it allowed to put an indentation in the ground behind the ball?

    • Ryan Farb

      Kaleb,
      Yes, Rule 13-2 does not prohibit creating an irregularity of surface on the teeing ground, provided the indentation is not made to indicate a line of play.

  • OhmBoy

    Regarding OB lines that arc (not straight) and are poorly
    maintained:

    With a line that is “spotty” (gaps where you cannot see the
    line), should I interpolate the arc or do line of sight from nearest two
    visible sections of the white line?

    With a very spotty line (mostly not visible) known to be 24”
    from an arcing wall, should I measure 24” out from the wall or do line of sight, post to post?

    With no white line, just white stakes 24” from the arcing
    wall, should I do 24” from the wall or line of sight between white posts?

    • Ryan Farb

      OhmBoy,
      It is the Committee’s responsibility to properly define the boundaries of the course. When a line is present, it defines OB per the definition of Out of Bounds. With a spotty line it is the Committee’s job to freshen the line, or determine how to handle gaps. When no line is present, OB is defined by the inside points of the stakes at ground level.

  • Joey Wolgast

    If there is a water hazard you must hit over from the tee, what shot are you lying in a drop zone on the other side of the hazard if you just carry your ball over and do not attempt to hit over? Can a local rule say you are lying 3?

    • Ryan Farb

      Joey,
      A local Rule for a dropping zone on the green side of the hazard is not a permissible drop zone under the Rules of Golf (see Decision 33-8/2). The drop zone must be placed so that the hazard is negotiated and a player must first hit a ball into the hazard in order to use the drop zone.

  • Regan Huyck

    On our course the greens sup had his crew move on stakes past a man made ditch so now everyone is taking a free drop out of ditch and making hole somewhat easier and causing quite a bit of discussion does he have the right to do this we were to the understanding that only the ncga rating committee coul do this

    • Ryan Farb

      It is the Committee’s (the Committee in charge of the course in this case) responsibility to accurately define the golf course and determine its boundaries. The NCGA Course Rating Committee rates a course based on the markings provided the markings are in accordance with the Rules of Golf. There is nothing prohibiting a Committee from permanently moving a boundary (just not during a competition). I need more information about the ditch to determine what its status should be, you may contact me via the Staff email address listing (About Us> NCGA Staff).

      • Regan Huyck

        This is a short par five with trees lining right hand side of fairway a ditch and then the street they moved ob stakes to street taking all difficulty out of hole no matter where u hit it u are not out unless u hit the road which would have to be a dead right shank it has lowered average score to birdie because no matter what u can go for it because u are not going to be penalized

        • Ryan Farb

          Regan,
          Please contact me via email for this follow up.

  • Regan Huyck

    Sorry ob stakes

  • john lee

    Is there any rule or policy regarding posting a score for a course where I might be playing 36 holes in the same day? For the 2nd 18 holes I will already know all of the hole locations, slopes of each green, etc. Is the 2nd 18 a valid score to post? Thanks.

    • Ryan Farb

      John,
      For posting purposes the second 18 is equally as valid as the first 18 and must be posted (unless otherwise played not in accordance with the Rules).

  • Ed Bloom

    I’m playing match play at Tilden. Hole number 12 has a creek straight ahead and OB left. My opponent hit his tee shot and the 3 of us knew that it did not go OB and assumed it went into the hazard. We did a good search and could not find his ball. He went back to the other side of the creek, dropped and hit his next shot back into the fairway. Did not declare a provisional. When we got up on the fairway, we found his original ball. Does he lose the hole for playing the wrong ball? Or is his second ball now in play? If it is in play, didn’t he take a illegal drop?

    • Ryan Farb

      Ed,
      There is a lot more information needed to completely answer the question.
      1) In order to proceed under the water hazard Rule (26-1) it must be known or virtually certain that the ball was in the water hazard. I can’t tell from your description if that is the case.
      2) If it was known or virtually certain, then the original ball was lost as soon as he dropped the substitute ball. It is not clear whether he dropped the ball in the correct place.

      • Ed Bloom

        Thanks Ryan for the quick response. After playing this hole so many times, the way the ball was hit, we were all pretty certain after the search that the ball was lost in the hazard. Obviously, we were wrong. It was in the fairway but we didn’t see it until we got close to it. He dropped the ball in the correct place, if the ball was in the hazard, but it was not. If he had gone back to the tee, I could understand the second ball was now the ball in play. But it turned out, it was not lost and he dropped behind the hazard.

        • Ryan Farb

          Ed,
          Sounds like he dropped with virtual certainty making the original ball lost. Even though it turned out the original was not in the hazard, he was required to continue with the dropped ball. See Decision 26-1/3.

          • Ed Bloom

            Thanks Ryan. I guess since this was an honest mistake, he got away with it. No problem. Lost the match anyway.

  • parboy

    In team match play, player A is on the green near the cup. Player B is off green about to pitch up. Can their opponent require player A to mark his ball?

    • Ryan Farb

      Yes. In the following reply I’m presuming “team match” means AB vs. CD and A vs. C and B vs. D running concurrently. Rule 22-1 provides that any player may have a ball that might assist any other player lifted. If C or D ask to have A’s ball lifted and side AB fails to comply, A is disqualified for the hole and since it must be assumed that the breach assisted B, B would also be disqualified for the hole. See Decision 30-3f/11.
      In the concurrent single matches, it depends on who asks to have the ball lifted. If D asked to have the ball lifted, since B and D are playing a match, if the ball is not lifted B would lose the hole. If C asks, there is no penalty in the B vs. D single match. A incurs no penalty in his single match regardless of who asks.

      • parboy

        Thank you Ryan!

  • Norm Mayell

    My foursome is sometimes only a threesome and we play 9s. The game shares characteristics of both stroke play and match play. We give puts in 9s and we can lose a hole with 7-8- or more but it only results in receiving 1 point. In stroke play an 8-9 or more most surely causes a high score and usually a game loss.And puts are not given. We had a teeing issue about the ball being played forward a few inches of the tee box. The person who thinks stroke play rules apply wanted to assess a 2 stroke penalty. The match play person said that asking to re-tee the ball was all one could do if you wanted but no penalty. What is the solution? What rules apply?

  • Bruce Hoffman

    I don’t think this is a rules question or maybe it is: I watch the LPGA and their attire is comprised of, mostly, shorts, skorts, long pants, capris, shirts with sleeves, and sleeveless shirts, (tucked in and un-tucked). The PGA men’s attire is comprised of long pants and collared/sleeved shirts tucked in. Is there separate dress codes for the two leaque’s or are there no dress codes.

    • Ryan Farb

      Bruce,
      Men’s and Women’s dress codes on tour and elsewhere are always slightly different. Men are required to wear pants on tour, the LPGA obviously doesn’t require the same. Golf shirt styles have also evolved a bit differently so that you’ll see sleeveless or different collar types on the LPGA whereas the PGA Tour will have traditional looking shirts.

  • Blue Mountain

    I have a fourball match play question. AB vs CD. A holes out for a par four; C has a putt to halve; D has already played 4 shots – so is “out-of-the-hole”, but putts anyway as this could be of assistance to C. Neither A nor B had conceded D’s putt – if they had then decision 2-4/6 would apply and he cannot putt; C makes the putt to halve; Is the whole halved?

    • Ryan Farb

      Blue Mountain,
      A and B have the ability to protect their rights and concede the putt so that D may not play it. However, since they did not, D was permitted to putt even if it assisted C as continuing the play of a hole is not practice (Rule 7-2).

  • Blue Mountain

    Sorry hole halved !!!

  • While were young

    Playing in a twilight golf event 2 man scramble in a shotgun start ,after taking 28 minutes to play a hole of golf the group was 2 holes behind when approached one of the players had decided to walk rather than use the cart that was provided the group following chose to go ahead of the foursome play to catch up with the group and come back to complete the round . Should the foursome that went ahead and completed the round be penalized and should the group that completed their a hour after everyone finished be penalized .

    • Ryan Farb

      The scramble is not a format covered by the 34 Rules of Golf and therefore I cannot issue a ruling on the event. In an event played under the Rules, generally a group taking that long to play a single hole could be subject to a penalty for Undue Delay under Rule 6-7.

  • DeAnn Henrie

    If a player is putting and its headed towards the flag lying on the ground can another player pick it up before it hits it

  • DeAnn Henrie

    If a player is putting a ball and it heads for the flag lying on the ground, can another player pick up the flag before it hits it?

    • Ryan Farb

      DeAnn,
      Yes. Rule 24-1 prohibits moving a movable obstruction while a ball is in motion if the movement might influence the ball in motion, EXCEPT the equipment of any player or the flagstick when it has been attended, removed or held up.

  • David F

    Is a player entitled to relief from an imbedded ball in the fairway? The imbedded ball was a range ball that someone had previously hit and abandoned. It was quite deeply imbedded with just the top half of the ball showing and located just behind the ball in play, significantly impeding his second shot.

    • Ryan Farb

      David,
      An abandoned range ball in and of itself is a movable obstruction and a player may move it without penalty. If the range ball was so deeply embedded that it could not be removed without undue delay, unreasonable effort or causing damage to the course, then it was an immovable obstruction. As an immovable obstruction the player was entitled to relief if the embedded ball interfered with the player’s lie or area of intended stance or swing.

  • Ed

    A player hits his tee shot towards an island green. He doesn’t know if the ball is in the water or on land. He goes to the drop zone and plays a ball onto the green, then goes around to the green and finds his original ball. He abandons the ball played from the drop zone and finishes the hole with original ball and asks for help with his score at the end of the round. We had suggestions from dq to it’s ok….what to do?

    • Ryan Farb

      Ed,
      The answer depends on whether, at the time the ball was dropped in the drop zone, the player was virtually certain his ball was in the water hazard. Both scenarios below:
      1) If he WAS virtually certain – when he dropped the ball in the drop zone, his original ball was lost and he was required to play the dropped ball (with the one-stroke penalty for relief from the water hazard) into the hole. Since he did not, when he played the original ball he played a wrong ball and was required to correct the mistake prior to playing from the next teeing ground. Since he did not, he is disqualified.

      2) If he was NOT virtually certain the ball was in the water hazard – as he was not sure of the location of the original at the time the ball was dropped, the only applicable Rule was Rule 27-1 which required him to play again from the teeing ground. He incurs the stroke-and-distance penalty for Rule 27-1 and an additional two-stroke penalty for playing from a wrong place. Depending on the location of the drop zone, the breach might be considered by the Committee to be a serious breach and he was required to correct the mistake prior to playing from the next teeing ground. Since he did not do so, if the Committee deems it to be a serious breach, he is disqualified. If not a serious breach, he incurs the 3 total penalty strokes (stroke and distance + 2) and any strokes made during the hole. See Decision 26-1/3.7.

      • Ed

        Thanks for answer. We all know now that it is not okay to hit a ball from the drop zone and then go see if the original ball is on land, but why not? (Besides the rules say so) Provisional balls for a ball ob or maybe lost are okay for the purpose of saving time. Why not allow a ball from the drop zone to save the walk around to the green to check on the original ball and then have to walk back to the drop zone if and when the original ball isn’t found. Has such a time savings “drop zone provisional” ever been discussed as a legal option?

        • Ryan Farb

          Ed,
          There is an optional Local Rule in the Appendix providing for a ball played provisionally under the water hazard Rule, but I rarely recommend it because most water hazards do not meet the requirements stated in the Local Rule to be used. Please see Appendix I-B-I. If the water hazard you are discussing meets the two criteria, then perhaps the local Rule is warranted. But it MUST (1) unduly delay play to determine if the ball is in the hazard AND (2) if the original is not found, then it is virtually certain the ball is in the water hazard. Remember there are lots of places a ball can be lost, so if a ball that hasn’t been found could be somewhere other than the water hazard, this local Rule doesn’t apply.

  • Tyler Vergho

    A ball enters the water hazard, and it is virtually certain that it is in the hazard, but no one sees where it enters. Is the player’s only option to play another ball under penalty of stroke and distance, as described in Rule 26-1a?

    • Ryan Farb

      See Decisions 26-1/16 and 26-1/17. If it is known or virtually certain the player’s ball is in a water hazard, he is entitled to proceed under all of his options under the Rule. The player must use his best judgment, given all available evidence to determine the point where the ball last crossed the margin. This should involve his marker, fellow-competitors or opponents to determine the point if there is some uncertainty.

  • KD Angeleno

    In a Match Play format featuring a Woman vs a Man, on the 12th Hole @ Presidio (which is a par 5 for Ladies, and a par 4 for Men) BOTH players score 4 on the hole. Is the hole considered “halved” since both scored 4, or would she win the hole on “par” merits???

    • KD Angeleno

      Uhh, found my answer Ryan..

      “Par is irrelevent. The player who completes the hole in fewer strokes wins the hole.” (as I thought, sorry Ladies..)

      • Ryan Farb

        Bingo.

  • Ed

    A player hits a tee shot that recochets off a tree and ends up back between the tee markers within two club lengths. Can the payer put the ball on a tee to play the next shot?

    • Ryan Farb

      Ed,
      If the player lifts, tees and plays that ball from within the teeing ground he would be playing under penalty of stroke and distance. The player is only permitted to tee the ball when putting a ball into play from the teeing ground (Rule 11-1). Since the ball is already in play, he is not permitted to lift the ball and must play it as it lies.

  • gary conner

    I use a training aid on the range…..the orange whip. Am I allowed to store/ carry the aid in my bag during competition or must I return it to my car for storage?

    • Ryan Farb

      Gary,
      You may carry a training aid (that is not a club) in your bag without penalty during the round provide you do not use it. So if you carry it, leave it in the bag the entire round. For training clubs, see Decision 4-4a/7.

  • Andrew Woodworth

    My understanding is that a referee’s decision is final unless the referee corrects his error. Once the next stroke has been played, the referee can no longer correct his error and his decision becomes final. This can result in a player being advantaged or disadvantaged by an incorrect ruling. Are there any remedies within the rules for an incorrect ruling by a referee after play has continued with the next shots?

    • Ryan Farb

      Andrew,
      The answer depends on the nature of the mistake. A referee’s decision is final unless he refers it to the Committee, and then the Committee’s decision is final, regardless of whether they make the correct decision.
      a) Incorrect penalty assessed is correctable up to when the competition closes(stroke play). b) Playing from a wrong place due to wrong ruling, absolves the player from penalty when the referee told the player to proceed incorrectly. c) Denial of relief, the player has no right to appeal unless the referee consents. d) In match play, errors must be corrected prior to the opponent playing the next stroke or the match playing from the next teeing ground when no further strokes on a hole were made.
      There are also some key Decisions regarding Referee and Committee error:
      Decision 34-3/1 Incorrect Ruling in Stroke Play: Summed up, the Committee’s decision is final, but the Committee may correct an incorrect ruling (i.e. assessing a one-stroke instead of a two-stroke penalty) prior to the close of competition.
      34-3/1.5 Committee error and scoring in stroke play.
      Decision 34-2/4 & 34-2/6: A referee’s decision is final, and a player has no right to appeal unless the referee consents (and the referee should always be willing to consent to a second opinion).
      34-3/3 Incorrect ruling makes player in match play from wrong place: If a player in the match has been significantly disadvantaged or gained a significant advantage and the opponent has not played his next stroke, then the error must be corrected.

      • Andrew Woodworth

        Thanks.

  • Michael Quinn

    I had my ball on the fringe of the green and while making a practice putt (with no intent to hit the ball) accidentally grazed the ball while bringing the putter back, moving it a couple inches. Whats the rule here?

    • Ryan Farb

      Michael,
      You incur one penalty stroke for a breach of Rule 18-2a and must replace the ball. If you fail to replace the ball it becomes a two-stroke penalty in stroke play or loss of hole in match play for playing from a wrong place in breach of Rule 18.

  • David F

    My drive from the tee ended up in bounds but in close proximity to an OB stake that impeded my swing. I played it as it lied and punched back onto the fairway. Was I entitled to relief from the stake? It was well anchored into the ground, but could I have removed it if it was just a simple stake in the ground and easily lifted?

    • Ryan Farb

      David,
      A stake defining out of bounds is not an obstruction and is deemed to be fixed. Therefore there is no relief from the stake and it may not be moved even if readily movable if doing so improves your lie, stance, area of intended swing or line of play.

  • Tom Waske

    My friend & I both push our tee shots right towards the tree line, his farther up. When we pull up we see what we think is his and begin to look for mine. I think I see the logo on a ball and upon a closer look, it’s a Pinnacle, which is what I’m playing. I chop it out of the woods, then hit it into the fairway. When we get up to what we thought was his ball, it’s actually mine and he’s farther up. Since I hit the wrong ball twice, I take 4 penalty strokes and play my original ball, hitting my 6th shot. Correct?

    • Ryan Farb

      Tom,
      You only incur one two-stroke penalty for the playing of the wrong ball as there was no intervening act (you did not become aware it was a wrong ball and then play it again). You must abandon the wrong ball and continue by playing your original ball.

  • BobG

    Hi Ryan, I first want to say that I have been following this column for many years now and you get some really good questions and provide even better answers. I find it some of the best golf stuff on the internet today. Thanks!

    Now my question has to do with a better ball or foursome match. Let’s say AB are playing CD. All four balls are on the green with A being furthest from the hole, then C, and then B. Since A has a birdie putt and B has a par putt, the strategy is to let B go first to see if par can be secured for team AB thus freeing up A to be aggressive with the birdie putt.
    However, B asks C to putt first since now C is further away from the hole than B but C says no. Does C have to putt since he is further away than B or does B have to putt since his teammate A, who is the further than both B and C, is going to wait to see what B does?

    In summary, in a foursome event, once a player opts to have his partner putt before him what is the order of putting?

    • Ryan Farb

      BobG,
      Thank you. First, I need to make sure I have the format correct. Four-Ball is the two person team better ball format, so I will answer according to Rule 31. (Foursome is alternate shot and governed by Rule 29).
      Rule 31-4 states “Balls belonging to the same side may be played in the order the side considers best.” Therefore, since it was side AB’s turn to play, either A or B may play first. If B plays first, then A must play since he is still away. It is not C’s turn to play and may not play before B or A. So the farthest ball away determines which side must play first, but then within each side, partner’s may decide who they want to play first.

  • pat

    Hi Ryan, I was playing with my group and hit my ball in a lateral hazard. It was clearly marked red and the hazard is only about 15 yards wide, but when I went to the other side of the hazard equal distance from the hole to drop. The other side had no markings and gave me a clear shot to the green. Should I be able to take advantage of the rules in the future? Everyone that play the hole drop on the line of flight back in the fairway which is a clear rules violation!!

    • Ryan Farb

      Pat,
      It is the Committee’s responsibility to mark the course accurately. In your case, the hazard was marked as a lateral, and therefore your option under Rule 26-1c(ii) was available and you could drop within two club-lengths of a point on the opposite margin equidistant to where your ball last crossed the margin of the hazard. If there were stakes, the margin of the hazard was defined by the outside points of the stakes at ground level. Using line of flight is most definitely not a correct option under any situation of the Rules of Golf. See also Decision 26/3 regarding an Unmarked Water Hazard.

  • Bruce Hoffman

    I was playing golf the other day when another golfer in our group pulled out a double headed chipper. Since he was right handed and his ball was very close to the right side of a tree it made sense to have a club that can be hit right handed or left handed. But I wonder, is this club even legal and if not, how is it that golf shops are allowed sell them?

    • Ryan Farb

      Bruce,
      A dual-striking face chipper is non-conforming and may not be used during a round of golf. See Rule 4-1 and Decision 4-1/3. The Rules of Golf do not limit what shops may or may not sell (i.e., laser range finders were available long before it was permissible to allow them via local Rule, and range finders with illegal functions are still for sale), it is the player’s responsibility to do their due diligence and confirm whether or not certain equipment may be used during a round.

  • Robert Elias

    I am playing in a four ball match – 2 man teams, best ball from each team. I am sharing a cart with one of our opponents and my partner is sharing with the other opponent. My partner hits his shot from the fairway and hits the cart that I was driving, that is next to where I am going to play my next shot. Is there a penalty? Would it matter if the opponent was the driver?

    • Ryan Farb

      Robert,
      If you were driving the cart at the time it was hit, or if it was stationary, your partner incurs a one-stroke penalty under Rule 19-2 for striking his or his partner’s equipment and must play the ball as it lies. If the opponent was actually driving (in motion) the cart at the time it was struck, Rule 19-3 would apply and there would be no penalty, but your partner would have the option to immediately cancel and replay the stroke. See the Definition of Equipment and Rules 19-2/19-3.

  • David F

    We often play individual matches during our regular stroke play competitions as a side bet. There are times when a ruling comes into play that is different for match play and stroke play. For example, if I my ball is deflected by my opponents equipment. Under stroke play, I play it as it lies. But under match play, I have the option to replay the shot. We generally proceed under stroke play rules as these are only side bets, but I wondered if there are any provisions in the rules for multiple formats?

    • Ryan Farb

      David,
      Rule 33-1 explicitly prohibits mixing the two forms of play. “Certain Rules governing stroke play are so substantially different from those governing match play that combining the two forms of play is not practicable and is not permitted. The result of match played in these circumstances is null and void and in the stroke-play competition, the competitors are disqualified.”

  • Bruce Hoffman

    We have our Club Championship starting this Friday. Myself and another have been assigned the task of setting the tee boxes. Is it permissable to set the tee markers directly across from the plate that notes the distance, regardless whether it is a forward, center or back flag position?

    • Ryan Farb

      Bruce,
      You can set the tee markers anywhere you want on the tee pad. The yardage marker is just there for reference. How to Conduct a Competition recommends that you set the markers 5-7 paces apart and make sure to have at least 2 club-lengths of flat closely-mown ground behind the tee markers.

  • Laurence Hooper

    Chipping to the green the ball hits the flag and stays wrapped in it what is the ruling

    • Ryan Farb

      Laurence,
      See Decision 17/6, ” Q. A player’s ball lodges in the flag attached to the flagstick. What is the ruling? A. The flagstick is a movable obstruction and Rule 24-1 applies. However, in taking relief the player may not place the ball in the hole. Therefore, in equity (Rule 1-4), the player must place the ball on the lip of the hole when taking relief.”

  • Jess Linville

    according to preferred lies page128 of rules of golf, the statement that is not in a hazard and not on a putting green, the placement of the ball or the original position of the ball?

    • Ryan Farb

      Jess,
      What is your question?

  • Jess Linville

    Sorry I was so vague.

    My question is, can you move the ball onto the putting green
    when you are taking relief according to the rules of preferred lies, as stated
    by the Rules of Golf on page 128?

    • Ryan Farb

      Jess,

      When preferred lies is in effect, the player may not use the allowance (whatever distance determined by the Committee) to move the ball onto the green. The ball must be placed 1) within the distance specified by the Committee, 2) no nearer the hole 3) not in a hazard and 4) not on a putting green..

  • Tony-Pro from Dover

    question. the club championship of a local course was held a week ago. the pro painted out of bounds by using white paint although there were out of bounds post available. in doing so, he came to a big bush and painted the circle around the bush coming in to what would normally be ground for play by 15 feet. knowing that this should never have happened and play today was not a tournament, what should the ruling have been for daily play?

    • Ryan Farb

      Tony,
      When both stakes and lines are used to indicate out of bounds, the stakes identify out of bounds and the line defines out of bounds (Definition of Out of Bounds). As the Committee had marked the golf course that way, the line defined out of bounds and any ball beyond that line was out of bounds. When the line disappears, since there will only be stakes, the stakes will define out of bounds. I would recommend discussing the marking with the professional if there are major issues regarding the area to make sure it is not painted that way in the future or to find out why it was painted that way.

  • Peter Huhtala

    “Advice” individual stroke play
    1. Player A is chipping from fringe of green from an overseeded area with blotches of grass. Nothing to indicate GUR but unusual compared to rest of course.
    Before A plays Is it advice for player B to ask player A about relief under the GUR rule?

    2. Hole with elevated tee box playing to elevated green. Is it advice if Player A goes upstairs to tee box comes back to cart and says?
    “it is 14 steps to the top of the stairway.”
    or
    “It is a 9 and a half foot elevation gain from here to where we tee off up there.”

    • Ryan Farb

      Peter,
      Distance information (point-to-point) and Rules information is not advice.
      1. Player B may ask player A if the area is GUR and what the procedure for relief is. Neither player may determine that it is GUR if it does not meet the definition or is not marked.
      2. Decision 8-1/2 states that information regarding the distance between two points is not advice and may be exchanged. So, from bottom to top the teeing ground is 9 feet high, or from here to here is 14 paces, would be fine. An exchange that is “the slope plays about 5 yards longer” would not be ok. If, however, a player offered this information unasked with the intent to influence another player, there would likely be a breach of Rule 8-1. Advice is a very tricky subject with a large gray area, at some point a certain statement stated in a certain manner crosses the line from ok to problem and each situation must be looked at on a case-by-case basis.

  • John Pinola Jr

    Our club awards book money (pro shop credit) for awarding our winners. What cannot be purchased with this book money? (i.e. round of golf, range balls?)

    • Ryan Farb

      John,
      The only thing that can not be done with the pro shop credit is a player may not have it converted to cash. So he could not use it for entry into a cash skins game or take it out in any way as cash. It may be used for any other club purchases including dues, range balls, golf rounds or merchandise. See Decision 3-2a/21 in the Decisions on the Rules of Amateur Status (http://www.usga.org/rules/rules-of-amateur-status.html#!rule-01)

      • John Pinola Jr

        Thanks Ryan!

  • Neil Schmidt

    Our men’s golf group has folks competing against each other while playing from two different tees – A forward men’s tee and the normal white tees. The handicap rating between these tees is usually 1 stroke less when playing the forward tees but the course length is typically 500-800 yard longer for the white tees. This 1 stroke “penalty” for playing the forward tees doesn’t seem fair for those playing off the back tees. My question is: Does the NCGA handicap rating equitably work for folks playing off different tees and competing together? Also, does NCGA ever have tournament competition with folks playing off different tees?

    • Ryan Farb

      Neil,

      Section 3-5 in the Handicap Manual is designed to equitably handle players playing from different tees within the USGA Handicap model. It should not be viewed as a stroke penalty, but rather that players who are losing a stroke because they are playing a course that is rated as one stroke easier than the course from the back tees. We do have competitions with players using different tees and we follow Section 3-5 of the USGA Handicap Manual to adjust course handicaps accordingly.

      • Neil Schmidt

        Ryan,

        Thanks for the prompt response. It seems that each golfer who is playing from the back tees needs to keep track of two handicaps when competing with folks playing from forward tees. The player’s Course Handicap is needed for determining ESC for posting and the Event Handicap for the competition with the forward tee fellows.

        • Ryan Farb

          Neil,
          That is correct. See Example 3 under Equitable Stroke Control (Section 4-3) page 26 of the USGA or NCGA Handicap Manual.

  • Carl Soffronoff

    During our Associate Club championship, player B stopped to use the rest room before going to the green. When player B got to the green, he asked player A, who had already putted, how much his putt broke as this was perceived as “common” knowledge to the other three players in the foursome. Is such a question permissible under the Rules of Golf? If it is not permissible and an answer is given to player B by anyone in the foursome, is there a penalty assessed and to whom is it assessed?

    • Ryan Farb

      Carl,
      No, such information would be advice. Player B would be penalized two strokes for asking and player A would be penalized two strokes for answering (stroke play). The answer changes if A and B are partners (four-ball competition) as partners are permitted to give each other advice during the stipulated round. See Rule 8-1.

  • David F

    A player attempting to play a bunker shot out of a greenside bunker hits the ball cleanly and it soars over the green, over the cart path, and into an area used by the course to stack brush, limbs, and debris from other parts of the course. The area is not a marked hazard or OB and generally does not come into play. The debris clearly has been in this location for months, if not years, but eventually would likely be removed from this area. Would the player be entitled to any relief from the debris piles?

    • Ryan Farb

      David,
      The Definition of Ground Under Repair includes material that is “piled for removal.” If the intent is to remove the material then it is by definition ground under repair and the player is entitled to relief under Rule 25-1. If, however, there is no intent to remove the material the player is not entitled to relief unless the Committee has marked the area as GUR.

  • Rod Lee

    Two ball land in a bunker, side by side. The bunker is fairly hard packed sand. 1. Do you mark the ball to be replaced? Mark will be destroyed by player A stroke. 2. After Player A’s stroke do you place Player B’s ball in a newly created, but filled sand diviot or to you place the ball in close proximity that duplicated the original, hard packed sand.

    • Ryan Farb

      Rod,
      1. Yes, Rule 22-2 requires the player mark a ball being lifted for interference. Also make sure not to clean the ball. 2. Rule 20-3b governs as the lie of a ball to be replaced has been altered. Even if the mark is displaced and you no longer know the exact spot, if you know the original lie, Rule 20-3b will govern and it requires you to re-create the original lie as nearly as possible and place the ball in that lie.

      • Rod Lee

        Recreating the original lie. Hard packed sand. The divot created by player A’s stoke, would make it nearly impossible to recreate the original lie in the original spot. Would it be equitable to place the ball a few inches away from the original spot in a hard packed sand location?

        • Ryan Farb

          Rod,
          No. The Rule requires you to re-create the lie as nearly as possible in its original (or estimated original) spot and place the ball in that lie. See Decision 20-3b/6.

          • Rod Lee

            Thanks for the reply. From your last comment, I can assume that I should fill and smooth, the sand divot, created by player A, place the ball in the newly created lie, then play the ball from that spot. Points of equability: Would this be considered testing or touching the sand in a bunker. Do I have an advantage/disadavantage by playing the ball in loose sand, rather than hard packed sand?

          • Ryan Farb

            No. The permission in Rule 20-3b to recreate the lie overrides 13-4 in this case. You are trying to recreate the lie as best as possible, the Rules don’t consider there to be any advantage or disadvantage because it is supposed to be as close as possible.

  • Mike Mikkola

    If you only carry 13 clubs and the driver is adjustable can you adjust the driver during the playing of a round.

    • Ryan Farb

      Mike,
      No. Even though you would be entitled to add an additional club (to bring your total to 14), changing the characteristics of a club already selected for play is a violation of Rule 4-2a and is not considered adding a club.

  • David F

    A player hooks his drive towards a lateral hazard that is hidden from view off the tee. He then announces he is hitting a provisional ball and hits a second drive without clarifying the reason for the provisional. His second drive was very short off the tee and after hitting his second shot with the provisional ball he finds his first drive further down the fairway in the rough but outside of the hazard. It is very common on this hole to hit a second drive if your ball goes into this hazard because if you dropped next to the hazard your approach shot would be blocked by trees. So, either he incorrectly called for a provisional ball because he thought his ball was in the hazard (which is not allowed) or he thought his ball was lost (the only legitimate reason for a provisional in this case). Can he abandon his provisional ball and resume playing his first drive? Is he required to continue play with his second ball? Is there any penalty for not clarifying your intent with the provisional ball?

    • Ryan Farb

      David,
      Rule 27-2 does not ask you to specifically clarify why you are hitting the provisional when making the announcement. In the case you describe, it would be prudent to ask the player why he hit the provisional. If he said he thought he might not find it, the fact that it might also be in the water hazard does not preclude playing a provisional ball (Decision 27-2a/2.2) and then he must abandon his provisional and continue with the original ball. If he said he thought his original went into the water hazard and only the water hazard, then the second ball was not a provisional and it became his ball in play off the tee under penalty of stroke and distance and the original ball is lost. (Decision 27-2a/2).

  • Ed

    This happened a week ago in a friendly game where the score didn’t really matter, but what would happen in a tournament? Player A putts from the green and his partner B, as the ball misses the hole by a few inches taps the ball into the hole with his foot. The action led to a lively rules discussion. Our majority answer is in stroke play a 2 stroke penalty on B under 1-2 and a cancel and replay by his partner under 19-1. The minority opinion says A and B both get 2 strokes under 1-2 and the definition of partner and the ball must be replayed. Please help us out.

    • Ryan Farb

      Ed,
      Part of the answer depends on whether the ball had come to rest before the deflection/movement.
      If it had come to rest, Rule 18-2 applies and the player (A) incurs a one-stroke penalty and the ball must be replaced.
      If the ball had not come to rest, Decision 1-2/7 applies and A incurs a two-stroke penalty for a breach of Rule 1-2 (it was A’s ball in motion and in four-ball where the context so admits the term player includes partner). Arguably, since the ball was deflected into the hole, A should be disqualified from the hole for a serious breach of Rule 1-2 (see Decision 1-2/0.5 and Rule 31-7c). B may continue to represent the side. The stroke is not canceled and replayed because B is not an outside agency, therefore Rule 19-1 can not apply (see Note 2 to Rule 1-2).

  • Leo Nordin

    Once a player is on the green putting with the flag pulled and his putt goes passed the hole and off the green. Can he request that the flag be replace for his next shot?

    • Ryan Farb

      Leo,
      The player may have the flagstick replaced. Nothing in the Rules prohibits a player from replacing the flagstick in the hole for a different stroke after it has been removed for a previous stroke.

  • Ahmer

    This happened during a 2-person scramble tournament between 2 NCGA clubs. Assume Players A1, A2 from Team A and Players B3, B4 from Team B.

    The dispute is that on one of the holes, Player A1 cleaned sand off from the putting green using his hand which was in the line of putt. And that in doing so tested the surface of the green.

    According to Rule 16-1 (a) (i), Player A1 has the right to clean the sand (loose impediment) from the line of putt on the green.

    However, Players B3 and B4 claim that in doing so Player A1 tested the surface of the green as given in rule 16-1 (d). Players A1 and A2 disagree with this claim and say that Player A1 did not test the surface of the green and was merely removing the sand from the line of the putt. Also, Player A1’s putt on this hole was not counted and it was Player A2’s putt that was counted.

    Which team is correct and what’s the best way to resolve this conflict and make a ruling on this issue? Obviously there are no recordings available for the rules committee to review. Or does this become a case of “he said, she said” and in absence of any clear proof, Team B’s claim of Team A violating Rule 16-1 (d) should be dismissed?

    • Ryan Farb

      Ahmer,
      First, the Scramble is not a format of golf to which the Rules as we know them apply, so there is not an official answer. In your situation, were those facts to arise during a golf competition, A would not be penalized as he was entitled to remove loose impediments by using his hand provided in doing so nothing was pressed down and he did not roughen or scrape the surface with the INTENT of testing the surface. See Decision 16-1a/9.

  • David Morphett

    A ball enters a bricked and formed red pegged drain hazard ( a burne) then into an underground drain which is at the end, but not in the drain. The ball,is then subsequently recovered from a metal drain cover which is located in the fairway and therefore possibly in play. The decision may be that the ball is dropped at the point of entry of the burne without penalty. Any opinions?

    • Ryan Farb

      David,
      The answer depends on what you mean by “subsequently recovered…”
      If the ball is found in the metal drain cover (or in the drain underneath in the fairway) within five minutes of beginning to search for the ball, then the player is entitled to relief through the green and may drop within one club length of the nearest point of relief from the drain, no nearer the hole.
      If the ball is not found within five minutes of beginning to search and it is known or virtually certain that the ball is lost in the underground drainpipe, then the ball is deemed to lie where it last crossed the outermost limits of the obstruction (drainpipe). Since the entrance to the drainpipe is in a water hazard, the player is not entitled to relief without penalty and must proceed under Rule 26-1 and the reference point would be where the ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard (where it entered the burne). See Decision 24-3b/1.

  • LiverpoolFC

    Can a player lie on the ground to read a green?

    • Ryan Farb

      LiverpoolFC,
      Yes a player may lie on the ground to read a green provided in the process they do not roughen or scrape the surface with the intent of testing the surface of the green.

  • Judy Swanson

    A ball is on the cart path Do you have to drop to the closest side even if it is out of bounds? Or do you get to go to other side of the path? Therefore getting cart path and two club length relief?

    • Ryan Farb

      Judy,
      Cart path relief is granted under Rule 24-2 which permits the player to drop within one club-length of the nearest point of relief. The nearest point of relief may not be the nicest point of relief, however, the nearest point of relief is never out of bounds. So for example, if the only way to get complete relief from the cart path on the right hand side would be out of bounds, then that is not the nearest point of relief and relief must be taken on the left hand side. If however, out of bounds is not an issue, and the nearest point of relief from the cart path happens to be in a bush or a rocky area, that is still the nearest point of relief.

      • Judy Swanson

        Thanks….I was sure of the answer but didn’t know which rule to site. I am sure the same answer would apply if the drop was into a water hazard.

        • Ryan Farb

          Correct. The nearest point of relief must not be out of bounds, in a water hazard or on a putting green (if the ball was not originally on the putting green).

  • Andrea

    I had an incident in a tournament where myself and another player landed right next to each other in the bunker. The other player announced that she would hit first and picked up my ball and tossed it to me without marking it in the sand. She hit her ball, raked the sand then placed my ball back in the sand. Is that legal? Wasn’t my ball suppose to be marked? Is the penalty on me? Was she suppose to ask permission to pick up my ball? Would love to know the answer for future reference. Thanks!

    • Ryan Farb

      Andrea,
      Rule 22-2 permits a player to have a ball lifted for interference, however it does require the ball to be marked prior to being lifted and she should have gotten your consent to lift the ball or have you lift it. However, in stroke play there is no penalty for moving a fellow-competitor’s ball in play (Rule 18-4) and the ball must be replaced. Since the other player initially lifted the ball, she was permitted to be the one to replace the ball. There is no penalty to you in your situation.

      • Rod Lee

        Rod,

        1. Yes, Rule 22-2 requires the player mark a ball being lifted for interference. Also make sure not to clean the ball. 2. Rule 20-3b governs as the lie of a ball to be replaced has been altered. Even if the mark is displaced and you no longer know the exact spot, if you know the original lie, Rule 20-3b will govern and it requires you to re-create the original lie as nearly as possible and place the ball in that lie.

        • Rod Lee

          Confused about rule 22-2 and marking a ball lifted for interference.

          • Ryan Farb

            Rod,
            What part is confusing you?

          • Rod Lee

            Re read the rule, thanks, no confused any more.

    • Andrea

      Thanks Ryan for the info. I was wondering if I could have called a penalty on the player since she did not ask for my consent and did not mark the ball. Please let me know. Thanks again.

      • Ryan Farb

        Andrea,
        In stroke play there was no penalty for the proceedings. While only the player, her partner or someone authorized by the player may lift the ball under Rule 20-1, Rule 18-4 does not penalize a fellow-competitor for moving a player’s ball in play at rest in the situation.
        In match play, the opponent would be subject to a one stroke for moving your ball without authority under Rule 18-3 and you could have made a claim.

  • Greg Galardy

    At scoring, Player C wished to confirm his procedure during the round. “On #5 green, I addressed my ball and the ball rolled toward the hole. There was no wind and I was sure I didn’t cause the ball to move so I played the ball from its new location. Did I do the right thing?” This was on a quiz a month or so ago, and the answer was “yes.”
    The exception to 18-2b requires knowledge or virtual certainty that the player didn’t cause the ball to move, and the answer seems to indicate that the fact that the player grounded his club some 2″ behind the ball got him off the hook.

    • Ryan Farb

      Greg,
      Unofficial answer: Wait a month. Officially: The quiz was incorrect if it’s question and answer were exactly as you state. There must be knowledge or virtual certainty that some other observable factor caused the ball to move (see Decision 18-2b/1 while it still exists) for the Exception to Rule 18-2b to apply.
      In 2016, 18-2b has been removed and new Decision 18-2/0.5 would suggest that the player would be proceeding correctly if they did not address the ball closely behind it and evidence suggested the player did not cause it to move.

      Until then, however, the player incurred the general penalty for playing from a wrong place after failing to replace the ball as required by Rule 18-2b.

  • David F

    A golfer’s approach to a green ended up just outside a greenside bunker in a patch of rough that rimmed the hazard. It was balanced on top of an old abandoned golf ball in high tuft of grass. Was the golfer entitled to any relief from the abandoned golf ball? How would he take relief?

    • Ryan Farb

      David,
      The player is entitled to relief without penalty in accordance with Rule 24-1. The abandoned ball is a movable obstruction (see Decision 24-1/2), and relief depends on whether the player’s ball was completely on top of the abandoned ball or resting against it. If resting against it, simply move the abandoned ball, if the player’s ball moves, replace it. If the player’s ball was directly on top of the abandoned ball, to take relief the player must lift lift his ball, remove the abandoned ball and drop the ball as near as possible to the spot directly underneath where it was on top of the abandoned ball, not nearer the hole.

  • Perry Hovanic

    What artificial in movable obstructions are considered intergal parts of the course? Or is this always determined by the committee?

    • Ryan Farb

      Perry,
      Whether something is deemed to be an integral part of the course is always determined by the Committee, there is nothing that is automatically so. However, many organizations (including the NCGA, USGA and PGA Tour) use a “Hard Card” which are Local Rules that are in effect for every competition they run and may list several things that will be integral parts of the course in all competitions.

  • Rod Lee

    4ball competition. Player A chips his ball, hits his partner’s ball and his ball goes into the hole. Player B ball is replaced. Is Player A penalized for hitting his partner’s ball?

    • Ryan Farb

      Rod,
      Rule 19-5 governs a ball in motion stopped or deflected by another ball. In this case, it matters 1) if the stroke was on or off the putting green and 2) if it is stroke play or match play. If ball A was struck from on the putting green and ball B was at rest on the putting green then A incurs a two stroke penalty in stroke play, but no penalty in match play. If the stroke with ball A was from off the putting green, there is no penalty in either form of play. In both cases ball A is holed.

  • Bruce Hoffman

    Our club would like to create a FedEx type situation, however, we have a question. Suppose First Place gets 500 points, Second Place gets 400 points, Third Place gets 300 points and so on……..Should Second Place and Third Place tie, as far as total score, do we do a card off or do we add Second Place Points and Third Place Points together and divide by two, awarding each player with 350 points? How does the FedEx do it?

    • Ryan Farb

      Bruce,
      The Rules of Golf do not cover this, it is your Committee’s decision to handle points however you see fit. For FedEx points, if two players tie for 3rd, they add together 3rd and 4th place points, and divide evenly among the two tied players.

  • David F

    Is it ever permissible to declare a ball unplayable in a sand trap and take the drop outside of the hazard? Can you return to the spot of the prior shot? Can you do this simply because you do not like the lie or perhaps the bunker has a high lip or no green to work with?

    • Ryan Farb

      If you declare your ball unplayable in a bunker, the only option to get outside the bunker is Rule 28a, which is proceeding under stroke and distance. In order to get outside the bunker, the spot of your previous stroke must be outside the bunker. The player is the sole judge as to whether the ball is unplayable, and you may declare it unplayable anywhere on the course except in a water hazard.

      • David F

        Following up on unplayable… Can a player declare a very difficult shot unplayable? If your ball is located in the greenside bunker with a fried-egg lie and no green to work with and you might be much better off returning to the fairway with a full wedge under penalty of one stroke, is that permissible? Or, are you required to attempt the difficult bunker shot because the ball is still playable? Confused by the “player is the sole judge” wording.

        • Ryan Farb

          Yes. A player may declare the ball unplayable at any place on the course, except in a water hazard. You could declare the ball unplayable in the middle of the fairway if desired. The player being the “sole judge” means that regardless of what another player or Referee thinks about the shot, if the player wants to declare the ball unplayable (outside a water hazard) he may do so and proceed under Rule 28 with the prescribed one-stroke penalty.

  • Ahmer

    During a 2-person scramble match play tournament played within our NCGA club, a dispute occurred between the 2 teams. We’ve looked at the relevant USGA rules and decisions regarding this dispute, however they are not very clear on certain aspects. Also, we understand USGA rules don’t cover scramble format, but for the sake of this discussion, we can assume that if the Player A whose playing the shot gains an undue advantage because of the rule-breaching action of his partner Player B, Player A shall be penalized.

    Player A and B are both on the green. Player A plays a downhill putt from 15 feet away. The ball rolls towards the hole and then hangs at the lip of the hole. Player B, who is 15 feet away, jumps on the green. He later claimed that he “jumped one time only, with frustrated intention that the ball will drop in the hole but was expecting that the jump this far away will not impact or move the ball.”.

    Player A, without any unreasonable delay starts walking towards the ball. Before he reaches the ball, the ball falls into the hole. The time between Player B’s jump and ball falling in is about 5 seconds.

    According to Rule 16-2, the ball was not deemed at rest yet, since Player A wasn’t able to reach the ball and didn’t wait 10 seconds there.

    According to Decision 1-2/4, a player that jumps “close” to the hole in the hope of jarring the ground and causing the ball to fall into the hole should be penalized loss of hole in match play. However what’s not clear is how close is close? Is 15 feet close enough or is it considered far away enough that a jump cannot influence a ball hanging on the lip?

    What’s the ruling here? Should Player A,B team be penalized with loss of hole? Or does this situation not constitute a breach of Rule 1-2?

    • Ryan Farb

      Ahmer,
      Officially, since the competition was not played in accordance with the Rules of Golf, I do not have an answer.
      Had that situation occurred in a traditional format competition, it matters if the ball was still moving or not, and Decision 1-2/4 would cover the situation. In order for a player to breach Rule 1-2, the ball would still have to be moving and the player must have the intent to influence the movement of the ball. Jumping in frustration does not meet that criteria. If the ball were not moving, Rule 18-2 applies and jumping 15 feet away from the ball with a 5 second delay before movement would suggest that the player (partner) more likely than not, did not cause the ball to move.

  • Robert Crooks

    How long do I have to hit a provisional shot? For example, if I hit a ball OB. Can I wait to see what my opponent does on his NEXT shot, then return to the tee and hit a provisional ball? To try to clarify, we all hit tee shots and mine went OB. I did not hit a provisional ball. When we arrived at the second shots, my opponent hit his ball OB. Can I elect at that time to return to the tee and play a provisional?

    • Ryan Farb

      Robert,
      You must play a provisional ball before going forward to search. So no, you may not wait to see what your opponent does for his next shot, once you go forward to search (see Decision 27-2a/1.5) you are not able to return to play a provisional ball.

      • BobG

        I thought you could go forward up to 50 yards and still return to hit a provisional?

        • Ryan Farb

          Bob,
          In match play order of play matters. If you know your ball is OB and your opponent’s tee shot is in play, it is your turn to play. Waiving your turn to play to allow your opponent to play first is not permissible in match play.

          If you are unsure whether your ball is OB, you must play the provisional ball after your opponent plays from the tee. See Rule 10-3.

          Also to clarify, the Decision permits up to 50 yards before you are considered to have gone forward to search. If you start searching for your ball prior to the 50 yards, that 50 yard guideline does not apply, as you have gone forward and started searching.

  • Butch Larroche

    Can a club wish to allow players to use the anchored putting stroke as a local rule? We have one player in our long who uses the long putter/anchored stroke. I know a rule of golf is not to ignore the rules. What is the stance on this?

    • Ryan Farb

      Butch,
      No a club may not make a local Rule permitting a player to anchor. 14-1b is a Rule of Golf and it may not be waived by any Committee. Using a long putter is still permitted, but it may not be anchored.

  • Shirley Yee

    After completing a round, it was discovered the red tee box on the first hole was confused by having an “orange” tee box in line with the blue and white boxes. The “red” box was actually forward and to the left – not in our line of sight. What is the penalty? Does rule 6-6d apply?

    • Ryan Farb

      Shirley,
      When you play from a wrong teeing ground in stroke play, Rule 11-4 & 5 stipulate that the player incurs a penalty of two strokes and must correct the error by playing from within the correct teeing ground prior to playing from the next teeing ground. If the player did not correct the mistake, she is subject to disqualification. While the Committee should do everything it can to avoid this type of confusion it is still the player’s responsibility to play from the correct teeing ground.

  • Rod Lee

    Ball in are a cart path, player is entitled to relief. Before the player drops the ball to take relief, the player knock a few leaves off over hanging branches. Is the player penalized for improving his swing path? Even though the ball is not in play yet.

    • Ryan Farb

      Rod,
      There are two questions you need to ask: 1) Why did the player knock leaves off? 2) Did the action actually improve his area of intended swing? The leaves are in his area of intended swing, despite the ball not being put into play under the applicable Rule yet, so Rule 13-2 applies. If there is an argument that the leaves were not in his area of intended swing after dropping the ball it is important why he knocks the leaves down. If done purposefully, he is subject to penalty under Rule 1-2.

      Otherwise, it depends on whether the area of intended swing was actually improved by his actions. Were there still lots of leaves, or did he knock down some of the only leaves that created a potential distraction? See Decision 13-2/0.5.

      In general, yes, the player could be subject to penalty, however you have to ask a couple more questions before you get to the final answer.

  • Greg Tachiera

    A player hits her shot on a 100 yard par three on to the green. 2 players in the group observe the ball from the tee and comment it is very close to the flagstick, though the slightly elevated green makes discerning the exact location difficult. The final player in the group hits her tee shot directly at the flagstick. The group reaches the green and the first ball is in the hole and the second is 8 inches from the hole. One player states that the second shot must have deflected the first in to the hole. No player saw the second ball hit the first even though the green and flagstick are within view. Is the first shot holed out or does the possibility of the deflection nullify the hole in one? The first player argues that her shot may have been hovering on the lip before falling in, or the 2 players may have been mistaken in seeing the ball on the green, and without direct evidence of a deflection the ball has been holed out. Please advise.

    • Ryan Farb

      Greg,
      In a situation like this, all available evidence must be weighed. If the players clearly saw the ball at rest and outside the hole prior to the second ball being played, and then the first ball was found in the hole, the evidence suggests that the first ball was deflected into the hole and it must be placed at the estimated original spot (Rules 18-5 and 20-3c). If the first ball was not clearly seen to be at rest outside the hole (including the possibility that the ball was originally at rest against the flagstick or overhanging the hole and then later fell into the hole), then there is no other evidence to support a deflection and it should be considered holed with the tee shot. Generally, if it was not possible to witness the deflection from the tee, it would be difficult to determine that the original ball was clearly at rest outside the hole from the tee.

  • David Moore

    A playing partner hit his ball into a hazard defined by red stakes. His ball ended up in about a 8′ diameter hole that was clearly excavated by a tractor with the excavated dirt next to the hole. Was he entitled to relief with a free drop out of the hole or does he have to take an unplayable?

    • Ryan Farb

      David,
      The excavated hole is ground under repair by definition (hole made by a greenskeeper), however, a player is not entitled to relief if the ball is in a water hazard (Rule 25-1). Therefore if the player could not play the ball as it lay, he was required to proceed under the water hazard rule (26-1) with the applicable one-stroke penalty using where his ball last crossed the margin of the hazard as his reference point.

  • David Moore

    Thank you

  • Rudy

    Given the revised rule that a ball is in play when placed on the green, even if the ball marker is still in place and given that the ball marker is not defined as a piece of equipment – can I putt a ball on the green with the ballmarker still in place resting against my ball

    • Ryan Farb

      Rudy,
      Provided you are not doing so for the purpose of using the the ball marker to aid in making your stroke, there would be no penalty for making a stroke at the ball with the ball marker still in place.

  • Ron

    when playing in a tournament your opponent is tending the flag stick you putt and the ball goes in but your opponent fails to pull the flag out is there a penalty on you or your opponent ?

    • Ryan Farb

      Ron,
      See Decision 17-3/2. The answer depends on why the opponent failed to remove the flagstick.

      If he did so in order to cause you to get a penalty, he is disqualified under Rule 33-7 for taking an action contrary to the spirit of the game.

      If he failed to remove it in order to influence the movement of the ball (i.e. prevent it from going too far), the opponent loses the hole for a breach of Rule 1-2.

      If he simply forgot and wasn’t paying enough attention, or the flagstick was stuck and he couldn’t pull it out (the failure to pull out the flagstick was not deliberate), you incur a loss of hole penalty for the breach of Rule 17-3 for striking an attended flagstick.

      • Ron

        Thank you Ryan but what about in a stroke play tournament if the opponent failed to pull the flag out because he wasn’t paying attention there is no way of the person putting to do anything.

        • Ryan Farb

          Ron,
          The answer in stroke play is the same (you do not have opponents in stroke play, you have fellow-competitors, which is why I gave the match play answer first). The same Decision (17-3/2) also covers stroke play and it still depends on why the fellow-competitor failed to pull the flagstick. If the failure to remove the flagstick was unintentional, the penalty for striking an attended flagstick (two strokes) goes to the player putting the ball per Rule 17-3.

          If the failure to remove the flagstick was intentional, the player putting will be absolved from penalty and the fellow-competitor will incur either a DQ or two strokes depending on why he didn’t pull the flagstick (see reasoning in the earlier response).

  • Lori Holmes Rice

    I hit a ball and it landed in the rough next to a drainage pipe extending out of a water hazard. Am I entitled to free relief? (My ball was not in the hazard.)

    • Ryan Farb

      Lori,
      If your ball did not lie in the hazard and you had interference with the lie of the ball, your stance or area of intended swing from an immovable obstruction, even an obstruction that lies in the hazard, you are entitled to relief without penalty in accordance with Rule 24-2b, unless the Committee had designated the structure to be an integral part of the course.

  • David F

    What if your ball is in a lateral water hazard and resting against a movable obstruction such as a garden hose that was left there temporarily. Can you move the hose?

    • Ryan Farb

      David,
      Yes. movable and IMmovable obstructions are treated differently when your ball lies in a water hazard. A movable obstruction may be moved when your ball lies anywhere on the course (even if the object lies out of bounds or in a water hazard). If the ball is accidentally moved in the process, there is no penalty and the ball must be replaced.

      If you have interference from an IMmovable obstruction and your ball lies in a water hazard, you are not entitled to relief of any kind, except taking penalized relief from the water hazard in accordance with Rule 26-1.

  • Robert Crooks

    Our Men’s club is holding a tournament. Players who play from the gold tees are trying to qualify for an NCGA tournament. The players who are playing the shorter, silver tees are just trying to win their flight. Can the gold players post as “T”, since this is a once a year tournament, and the silver players post as non-T?

    • Jim Cowan

      Robert, thank you for your post. It sounds like the Gold tee competition is considered “significant” within the club structure and, perhaps, the Silver tee competition is more standard. If so, it would be encouraged to designate the Gold tee competition as a T-score. The Silver tee competition need not carry the “T.” Thanks again, Jim Cowan – Director of Course Rating and Handicapping

  • Bruce Hoffman

    I played in a tournament today and was perplexed by something a player did. Due to the conditions of the course, extremely wet, it was lift, clean and place within a scorecard length, no closer to the hole. The player, prior to lift, clean and place, took a practice swing within the scorecard limit, purposely digging his club into the turf….no follow through. Then he marked the position of his ball and placed it on top on the (tee type) mound he created with his practice swing. Were we duped or is he using the lift, clean and place rule to the greatest advantage of the rules.

    • Ryan Farb

      Bruce,
      The player was in breach of Rule 13-2 for improving an area in which he was to place a ball. He should have been penalized two strokes (or loss of hole in match play) for any time he proceeded that way.

  • Bill Borden

    During a recent round my ball landed under a tree. During my stroke my club came in contact with a branch, but I was able to complete my swing.

    My question is if I stopped my swing because of hitting the branch would I received a penalty?

    This question created a lively discussion after the round with my weekly playing partners. Without conclusion.

    I have search the rule book but can’t find the answer. I remember this from long ago. Has this rule changed or been removed.

    • Ryan Farb

      Bill,
      Simply hitting a branch in your backswing would not subject you to penalty, even if you stopped your swing.

      If you broke the branch in the process and discontinued the swing, and the breaking of the branch improved your area of intended swing then you would be subject to penalty for a breach of Rule 13-2 (two strokes in stroke play, loss of hole in match play).

      • Bill Borden

        Thank you Ryan.

  • Bruce Hughes

    During a best ball tournament I was getting ready to chip a shot on the green. I was about 5 or 10 yards off the green and like I have always done on a chip shot is I go and check the break of the green before I chip. I noticed a chunk of grass on the green that was left from the mower so I removed it from the green. I was told from one of the other team members that if you’re off the green you’re not allowed to remove anything from the green until you’re on the green. He was being polite about it and said it as a kind of a warning, but I have played in a number of tournaments and have never heard of that rule before. And I would swear that I have seen Pro’s do that. Did I miss that rule?

    • Ryan Farb

      Bruce,
      Your fellow competitor was incorrect. You may remove loose impediments from the putting green even if your ball lies off the putting green. See Rule 23-1.

  • Butch Larroche

    What is the rule of a player who hits a shot and all of the playing partners see it go down the middle. Upon getting to where the ball should be, the fairway is very soggy and the ball possibly embedded deep and is not found. Can a player take a free drop nearest to where everyone agrees the ball should’ve been? at our club we have some areas that are still very wet and muddy. Thank you!!

    • Ryan Farb

      Butch,
      Soft, mushy earth is not an abnormal ground condition (See Decision 25/1) and relief under Rule 25-1c for a ball not found in that area is not available. If the ball is not found within 5 minutes of beginning to search for it, it is lost and the player must proceed under penalty of stroke and distance by playing a ball as nearly as possible from the previous spot.

  • Ghazzali Majeed

    I belong to an NCGA affiliated club here in bay area, San Jose. Our club has a one on one match play tournament underway. There is a potential rules violation that we need help with. Player A putts the ball, ball stops about 2 feet from the hole, he walks up to the ball, as he inserts his ball marker behind the ball, marker is half in and he picks up the ball, now as he tries to insert the marker fully in to the green, the marker comes out and take few flips and rest on the green away from original position, player picks up the marker and places it approximately to the original position of the ball/marker … is it a penalty and if it is, what is it in one on one match play?

    Found following GolfDigest article http://www.golfdigest.com/story/rules-marking-balls on this topic. Also, have a video of the whole incident because it occurred on final hole and the outcome of the putt had impact on match outcome. Is there a place to upload the video here?

    • Hassan

      The video of the incident can be seen at https://goo.gl/photos/dvGQdQNcYtE8JADg8

    • Ryan Farb

      Ghazzali,
      If a ball or ball-marker is moved in the process of marking the ball, there is no penalty provided the movement is directly attributable to the act of lifting or marking. Decision 20-1/6 provides that the act of pressing the ball marker down is directly attributable to the act of marking and therefore no penalty (in any form of play) should be assessed in your case, provided the ball marker was replaced in the correct spot.

    • Ryan Farb

      Ghazzali,
      If a ball or ball-marker is moved in the process of marking the ball, there is no penalty provided the movement is directly attributable to the act of lifting or marking. Decision 20-1/6 provides that the act of pressing the ball marker down is directly attributable to the act of marking and therefore no penalty (in any form of play) should be assessed in your case, provided the ball marker was replaced in the correct spot.

      • Ghazzali Majeed

        Ryan, thank you so much – this is very helpful and clarifies the question I asked in the post. There is a follow on question. Your quick reply will be really appreciated.

        Player A has his ball marked on the green. Right in front of marker, there is a divot. Player A, instead of fixing the divot, and placing the ball right at the marker, places the ball in front of the divot and removes the marker. Opponent takes notice and asks Player A to put the ball in the correct spot behind the divot. Now there is no marker and Player A lifts and moves the ball couple of revolutions behind the divot. This is match play scenario and both the players agreed to correct ball placement. Does the act of lifting the ball to place in the correct spot with out marking it, constitute penalty or loss of hole in match play?

        Will appreciate your quick feedback!

        • Ryan Farb

          Ghazzali,
          When the player replaced the ball in front of the damage (‘divot’) he replaced the ball in an incorrect spot. Rule 20-6 permits him to correct his mistake by replacing the ball in the correct spot without penalty. Furthermore, because it is single match play and the opponent did not make a claim, no penalty was incurred. When opponents agree to an incorrect procedure, no later claim may be made and no additional penalty applied (see Decision 2-5/8.5).

  • rich

    In stroke play on #10 tee box on our course just to the left there is a pond the cart path runs along it going out to the fairway halfway down the pond there are tall bushes going down around 20 yards. Player A hits his ball along the right edge of the pond and through the bushes at the end now not knowing whether it came out the otherside or not but sure it did not go into the pond can player A hit a provisional ball until it is established whether the ball is lost or not in which case player would have to go back to tee box or take relief from where the ball first crossed the margin or finds the ball on the otherside of bushes which can not be seen from the tee box?

    • Ryan Farb

      Rich,
      A player is entitled to hit a provisional ball any time the ball might be lost outside a water hazard or out of bounds. The fact that the ball might potentially be in a water hazard does not preclude a player from playing a provisional ball (Decision 27-2a/2.2). As stated it must then be established whether there is knowledge or virtual certainty that the ball is in the water hazard, in which case the provisional must be abandoned, or whether the un-found ball is lost outside the water hazard in which case the provisional becomes the ball in play under penalty of stroke and distance. If the original ball is found, the player must abandon the provisional and proceed with the original ball.

      A player may not play a provisional, solely because he believes it is in the water hazard (Decision 27-2a/2).

      • rich

        thank you very much Ryan although I had already looked it up some people just don’t believe you and interpret the rule their own way. I will forward this information on to the club to end this dispute and again thank you

  • Bob

    Can a caddie provide advice to both team members in an NCGA Four Ball Match?

    • Ryan Farb

      Bob,
      Yes, while the four-ball match is still going a player may ask for or receive advice from his own caddie, his partner or his partner’s caddie. Once the four-ball match is concluded, the two are no longer partners and he may no longer receive advice from the teammate or his teammates caddie. See Decision 30-3/1 situation 9.

      Alternatively, a caddie may simultaneously be the caddie for two players (a double-caddie), in which case that caddie may provide advice to either player throughout the entire four-ball or single match.

  • Surinder Thind

    Team Match Play Question … In a single elimination
    team match play tournament (e.g., similar to Dell 2016 Match Play Championships
    but held over multiple weeks or months), can you bring on a new partner in
    round 2 or later? For example, you win round 1 but before you start round 2,
    your partner gets hurt and can’t play. I would think the answer is almost
    certainly no, but our golf league’s committee says NCGA rules permit partner
    substitution. I thought partner substitution was only allowed prior to the start
    of the tournament. How/where can I verify what the correct answer is?

    • Ryan Farb

      Surinder,
      The Rules of Golf don’t cover substitutions. In NCGA qualifying and championships we have a specific substitution policy. Qualifying teams may not susbtitute players prior to the championship proper (except in the Zone or Associate Club Championships). For example, in the four-ball net championship qualifying on May 12th: if a team advances to the championship, those same two partners must compete in the championship.

      In single elimination match play, the recommendation would be that substitution not be permitted after the first match has been played. For our Team Match Championship, where clubs are represented by 12 players in each match, the team may e comprised of different players in each round of the playoff provided they are all otherwise eligible. This would be very different from a single elimination match play involving only one single four-ball side competing against other four-ball sides.

      Ultimately, it is your committee’s final decision to make.

  • Bruce Hoffman

    While playing in a tournament, one of the players, addressed their second shot, then took the club they were going to use, placed the club on the ground so both toes were touching the shaft, stepped back, and checked to make sure his feet were aligned for the desired shot. Then he put his toes back to the club shaft, picked it up, then hit his shot. He did this several times during the round. Is this a legal move?

    • Ryan Farb

      Bruce,
      This is permissible under the Rules of Golf provided the player removes the club prior to making the stroke. See Decision 8-2a/1. Using an alignment rod to do so, rather than a club, would be a breach of Rule 14-3.

  • Butch Larroche

    Can a Laser rangefinder be used during a casual round or a competition round that has the slope setting? How would know if the player has the slope optin turned off?

    Thanks!!

    • Ryan Farb

      Butch,
      Under the Rules of Golf the slope feature may never be used during a round of golf and is a breach of Rule 14-3. The Rules only contemplate competitive golf and as such whatever you would like to do on your own time is your prerogative. The round would not be acceptable for posting purposes. Each device is different as to how it notifies you the slope feature is being used.

  • stephen

    Howdy STR Guy!

    I had read, awhile back, that Nicklaus never grounded his club so that while he was standing at address, he would never deemed to have moved that ball thus never being penalized. I had that exact situation happen to me recently. I was hovering my club over/behind the ball and as I started my swing the ball moved. I continued my swing and hit the ball. Should I be penalized and if so how many strokes?
    thanks,
    stephen

    • Ryan Farb

      Stephen,
      Rule 18-2 has been revised numerous times since Nicklaus used to hover his club to avoid penalty. You are now penalized under 18-2 only if you cause the ball to move, even if you have addressed it. If you cause the ball to move, it is a one-stroke penalty and the ball must be replaced, unless the movement of the ball begins after the backswing for the stroke has begun. See Decision 18-2/0.5 for further clarification on determining whether the player has caused the ball to move.

  • Lou hyatt

    I have a member guest tournament in which I will play against members with different tee off positions.
    Our pga states that because I gave an established handi cap at shorter tee,s,that I must give up two strokes to players at the next longest tee from mine. Is this really the rules,since I have a handicap at my tee box from playing and recording my scores three days a week for over 5 years.

    • Ryan Farb

      Lou,
      Section 3-5 of the USGA Handicap Manual covers players playing from different tees in a handicap competition. The difference between the course rating of the tees being used must be calculated and a player may be required to have strokes taken away, or added to their course handicap depending on the result. Typically, a player playing a shorter tee will have their course handicap reduced by the difference in course rating.

  • Lou hyatt

    Thanks, I;ll review 3-5 on handicaps.
    Just seemed like an unusal adjustment by our club Pro.

  • ken49er

    Player A picks up a fellow players wedge when leaving completed hole. 5 holes later, asks whose club it is, so he doesn’t have 15 clubs in his bag. Did not use said club. All proper, or penalty? Thanks.

  • james henderson

    My club has instituted a “native grass” rule. In essence you hit your ball into the tall native grass and you can just drop and go with one stroke penalty (you can play it). The maintenance crew has mowed about a five foot wide strip at the edge to a height of 3 inches. The area is very rough because it’s just tall grass mowed down. Nothing like green grass. So first question is do we drop in that strip or is that part of the native grass area and take full relief onto the rough?
    Second question is what happens if a ball ends up on the cart path nearest this native grass strip? Do you need to drop in the native and live with the results or take relief on the opposite side of the cart path?

    • Ryan Farb

      James,
      There is no official answer to the first question because a “native grass Rule” is not in accordance with the Rules of Golf (see Decision 33-8/35). In order to have an area played like a lateral water hazard it must meet the definition of lateral water hazard. If the area is not an open water course of some sort (whether or not water is present) it does not meet that definition.
      For the second question, when taking relief for interference by an immovable obstruction (in this case a cart path) under Rule 24-2b, you must drop within one club-length of the NEAREST point of relief. This point may not be the nicest point.

      • james henderson

        Thanks

    • james henderson

      Thanks.

  • David F

    A players tee shot slices and clearly enters a lateral water hazard along the edge of a fairway. When he arrives at the location where his ball entered the hazard he spots what could be his ball on the opposite side of the hazard in an adjacent fairway. The adjacent fairway is inaccessible from his current location on the course so it is not practicable to verify that the observed ball is his tee shot. What are the player’s options? Can he drop a new ball with a one stroke penalty at the location his ball first entered to hazard? Must he attempt to get to the adjacent fairway to verify that the observed ball is his? Must he return to the tee with a stroke and distance penalty since it is not known for certain that his ball is in the hazard?

    • Ryan Farb

      David,
      In order to proceed under the water hazard rule (26-1) you must be virtually certain or know your ball is in the water hazard. In absence of that certainty you must proceed under penalty of stroke and distance. If a ball is found that may be yours, the Rules require you to identify the ball or proceed under stroke and distance.

  • Golfer

    Some of our bunkers are in poor condition. The men’s committe would like to make a local rule that you may lift, rake and place in all bunkers. Is that permissible?

    • Ryan Farb

      No such a local Rule is not permissible.

  • Kathkeen

    A white line was marked going up an incline running into a sand trap. I did not see the trap and ended up upside down on the trap. Who is at fault?

    • Ryan Farb

      That is not a Rules of Golf question and as there may be legal implications I offer no comment.

  • Stewart Jones

    I wish to confirm the relationship between ‘stipulated round’ (generally 18 holes) and a suspension of play. I’ve seen reference to a statement that the proscription on giving advice during a stipulated round is no longer in effect during a suspension of play – and this seems intuitively reasonable – but I can not find any USGA/R&A Rules or Decisions wording that demonstrates that. Can you assist?
    There could be some interesting implications in an individual stroke play round when the suspension of play sounds, for example:
    a group on a green can mark their balls and discuss/advise each other on the way their putts may break; or
    a group in the fairway could discuss club and shot selection. Additionally, would the conditions of competition no longer apply, for example, could a player use a DMD device to measure distance to green even though the conditions of competition preclude their use?

    • Ryan Farb

      Stewart,

      When play is suspended, the stipulated round is suspended. However, you are sort of “in the middle” of the stipulated round. For example, during a suspension you could receive or give advice (Dec. 8-1/19) or practice (other than on the competition course unless permitted by the Committee). However, a player would be penalized for changing the playing characteristics of a club while play is suspended and thereafter carrying or using it (Dec. 4-2/2) because when play resumes you’re still responsible for continuing play with the clubs you started the round with. And yes, when play is suspended Rule 14-3 is not in effect (because it states specifically that it applies “during a stipulated round…”

      • Stewart Jones

        Thank you Ryan. You are affirming that a suspension does not over-ride some of the rules restrictions that apply during a round (eg changing playing characteristics of a club) but that certain normal restrictions on the course (eg against giving advice) do not apply during a suspension. Against the possibility of there being a sinister Rules Quizmaster that might wish to be particularly tricky, I continue to wonder if there is any black and white statement published on this issue by the official bodies (USGA/R&A) along the lines of your opening sentence?
        I also note that there is a potential ‘grey’ zone out there when a suspension has sounded but players are exercising their option under Rule 6-8b to continue play of the hole that had already commenced. Any statement to the effect that when play is suspended the stipulated round is suspended would presumably need to avoid players having a free pass to start giving and receiving advice until they ceased play.

        • Ryan Farb

          Stewart,
          The cited decisions and the way the Rules are written are the black and white statement (i.e., Rule 14-3 or Rule 8-1 state “during a stipulated round…” Regarding Rule 6-8, when play is suspended by the Committee for a non-dangerous situation, players are permitted to complete the play of a hole that has begun. In that case, play is not discontinued (and therefore these players’ stipulated rounds have not been suspended) until they complete play of that hole.

          • Stewart Jones

            Thank you.

  • David F

    Player A and B both slice their drives into the left rough near some trees. Player A reaches his ball first and finds it lying close to the trunk of a tree in deep grass. He punches out to the fairway and then hits his approach shot to green. When Player B reaches the area, he finds Player A has hit his ball by mistake. He asks where his ball was and was told over there next to the tree quite close to the trunk. Player B drops his ball next to the tree and it bounces a few feet away into a position with a fairly good lie. Player A says the ball was much closer to the tree and in deeper grass. Is Player B required to place the ball to recreate the original lie and proximity to the tree (which would be difficult since he never saw the ball before Player A hit it)? Is the dropped ball now back in play?

    • Ryan Farb

      David,
      If the form of play was single match play, player A lost the hole when he played player B’s ball.
      In stroke play, how player B gets a ball back into play depends on a couple things: 1)is the exact original spot known? and 2)was the lie altered? If the exact spot is known, B is required to place a ball on that spot. However, if the lie was altered, Rule 20-3b provides that B must place a ball in the nearest most similar lie within one club-length of the original lie, no nearer the hole. If the exact spot is not known, player B is required to drop the ball as near as possible to the estimated original spot (see Rule 20-3c).

      • Stewart Jones

        David/Ryan
        I would like to return to David’s final question – “Is the dropped ball now back in play?” Assuming we are dealing with stroke play (if it is match play the hole is over) Ryan’s answer is fully informative on what is supposed to happen but the explanation doesn’t deal explicitly with that final question. My thinking is, now that A has advised that B’s dropped ball is clearly in a superior position to where it was originally (which is new information to B), if B plays the ball he will have played from a wrong place (breach of R20-7). Ideally, A should return and point out precisely where he played the ball from so B can continue correctly as per Ryan’s clarification. Further thoughts anyone?

  • Stewart Jones

    Our course has a rectangular fenced area defined as GUR alongside a fairway and today a ball came to rest inside the GUR close to one of the (right angled) corners. Player A thought that the NPR was back on the edge of the fairway some 3 yards from the ball, however this point was vertically below a quite large but low shrub that was rooted inside the GUR and hanging extensively over the fence towards the fairway. The shrub would not have allowed the player to make a normal swing at the place Player A identified. Player B argued that the correct NPR was actually a different place 4 yards from the ball in a different direction because that was the nearest place not nearer the hole where a shot could be played with no interference by the GUR with swing or stance. As the definition of GUR confirms that anything growing within GUR is part of the GUR, is B’s advice correct?

    • Ryan Farb

      Stewart,
      I cannot state whether or not the NPR determined was correct officially. I can say that GUR does include anything rooted within the GUR, so in determining the NPR the player would have to find the nearest point that avoids interference from the GUR, including the bush since it was rooted within the GUR.

  • wmrdgd

    when did addressing the change from behind the ball to in the vicinity, and how far is that, one inch a foot or any where on the golf course

    • Ryan Farb

      The definition of address did not change, but the Rule relating to the movement of a ball did. Whether or not the ball is actually addressed was not the issue, but the action of grounding the club near the ball.

  • Paul Vieth

    it isnt addressing the ball, its an action to cause the ball to move. Could have been standing close to the ball that caused it to move, it just happen to be that touching the green close to the ball was what caused the ball to move.

  • Bert Sobon

    If the Sunday US Open ruling made by the official at Hole 5 was that Johnson had not caused the ball to move he was obligated to play the ball from its new position. If later it was ruled that he did cause the ball to move Johnson was obligated to
    replace the ball. This change of decision potentially subjected Johnson to a penalty for playing from the wrong place that was not corrected. I’ve heard no discussion regarding this aspect of Decision 18-2/0.5. Could you clarify this for me.

    • Ryan Farb

      Bert,
      Because Dustin did not replace the ball upon the direction of the Referee he was exempt from further penalty for failing to replace the ball when the Committee ruled that he had caused the ball to move. See also Decision 34-3/3.3.

  • Ryan Farb

    For information regarding the Dustin Johnson ruling during the US Open on Sunday, please refer to the USGA’s Statement http://www.usga.org/articles/2016/06/statement-regarding-dustin-johnson-ruling.html

  • howie pavlikovic

    In stroke play, I am tending the flag for a competitor who is a long way from the hole. While he lined up his putt from behind his ball, he did not walk up near the hole. I notice that there are ball marks that could affect his putt. Am I in breach of giving advice if I either fix the marks before he putts or I mention that the marks are there which could, in effect, be telling him the line I think his putt should take?

    • Ryan Farb

      Howie,
      If you suggest that he should fix the marks or have them fixed, that would constitute advice (any counsel or suggestion that could influence a player in determining his play, the choice of club or the method of making a stroke). If you let him know there are some ball marks near the hole and ask if he’d like them fixed, that is general information. While Rule 16-1c permits you to repair the ball marks, if he requests that you not do so you must oblige as he is entitled to play the course as he finds it.

  • Stewart Jones

    If I have marked and lifted my ball on the putting green and am brushing away loose impediments with my hand close to the ball marker, is there any penalty if I accidentally move the ball marker as a direct result of brushing the loose impediments? That is, does the approach covered in D20-1/6 apply in this situation also? If so, it would presumably also apply if the ball marker is accidentally moved as a direct result of repairing a hole plug or ball plug mark next to the ball marker?

    • Ryan Farb

      On the putting green, if you accidentally move your ball marker and the movement is directly attributable to the act of moving the loose impediments there is no penalty This is covered by Rule 23-1. The same applies to an old hole plug or ball-mark per Rule 16-1c.

  • Stewart Jones

    The definitions normally provide clear guidance on how the margins are defined, including how to decide whether a ball that just touches the defined area is on one side or the other in terms of the rules. For example, if any part of a ball touches the putting green, the ball is considered to be on the green for the purpose of the rules. If any part of a ball touches a hazard, the ball is considered to be in the hazard. On the other hand, a ball is not out of bounds until all of it lies out of bounds.
    However, ‘closely-mown area’, defined in Note 2 to Rule 25-2, does not provide guidance on this issue. The term also arises in a number of places in the specimen local rules with the preferred lies local rule probably being the one that golfers are most familiar with. My question: must a ball be fully or only partly touching a closely-mown area to be considered to be on the closely-mown area?

    • Ryan Farb

      Stewart,
      For situations involving a “closely-mown area” the consensus is that if any part of the ball is touching the closely-mown area then the player would be entitled to the status of his ball being in the area, much like a ball on the putting green.

  • tresmang

    S.Y Kim takes a drop from her drive(hitting 3) on the 18th hole at Cordevalle, she then proceeds to ground her club twice inside the margin of the hazard even though her ball (has been dropped) is outside of the hazard…..what is the ruling?

    • Ryan Farb

      Tresmang,
      The prohibition in Rule 13-4 against grounding your club in a hazard only applies when the ball lies in the hazard or, when having been lifted from the hazard will be dropped back in the hazard. Since her ball lay outside the hazard, she was permitted to ground her club in the hazard if necessary.

      • tresmang

        Thank you!

  • Marcus

    is it against the rules of golf to place a marker in front of your ball, whether fairway or tee?

    • Ryan Farb

      Marcus,

      Depends on what you mean by placing a marker…

      If you are placing a marker to mark the position of your ball prior to lifting it under a Rule, there is no Rule that specifies where the marker MUST be placed so far is it accurately marks the position of the ball. The Note to Rule 20-1 simply recommends that the ball-marker be placed immediately behind the ball, see also Decision 20-1/16.

      If by marker you mean something that indicates your line of play or putt for the stroke, then any marker that is placed must be removed prior to the stroke being made and if it is for a line of putt (ball is on putting green) a marker must not be placed anywhere for the purpose of indicating a line of putt. See Rule 8-2a and 8-2b.

  • Lucky Monroe

    A player’s ball lies behind an immovable obstruction in the form of a bush, if his line of play is towards the flagstick. He appears to have two options. Take an unplayable lie or hit the ball sideways changing his line of play. If he chooses to hit the ball sideways his stance is on a concrete cart path. He decides to take a free drop because his stance is on the concrete path. His nearest point of relief takes him away from the bush and now gives him an unobstructed line of play towards the flag stick. Can the player now take advantage of this new line of play? What is the proper way to handle this situation? Thanks for your reply.

    • Ryan Farb

      Lucky,
      A bush is not an immovable obstruction. The question here is whether the sideways direction of play is reasonable under the circumstances and the question is, how would the player play the shot if the obstruction (cart path) were not present? If the player would play the sideways stroke, then he is entitled to relief. If that relief incidentally allows the player to play in the direction of the hole, so be it. See Decisions 24-2b/7 and 24-2b/17 for further guidance in similar situations.

      • Lucky Monroe

        Ryan: Thanks for the clarification on the immovable obstruction and the explanation on the proper decision. We ended up doing exactly what you stated and we said it was simply the “rub of the green” and sometimes the rules can be to your advantage.

        • Ryan Farb

          Lucky,
          A “rub of the green” is a defined term under the Rules of Golf and is when a ball in motion is stopped or deflected by an outside agency.

          But indeed, the Rules are there to help players navigate this wonderful game.

  • Stewart Jones

    A player plays from a damp fairway, taking a very large divot, and hitting the ball out of bounds. He drops another ball under R27-1 as near as possible to the spot from which the previous shot was made and has the misfortune of the ball bouncing into the freshly minted divot hole but not closer to the hole. No relief is available, correct?
    The rules also prevent the player from repairing the divot before dropping the ball, correct?
    If a divot-conscious player sought to limit the risk of the dropped ball finding its way into the divot hole by standing in the divot hole when he dropped the ball, he would likely be in breach of R1-2(ii). Do you agree Ryan?

    • Ryan Farb

      Stewart,
      If a player properly drops the ball as near as possible to the previous spot no nearer the hole and it ends up in the divot, there is no relief. However, it is key to keep in mind that in general, the divot is supposed to be taken after striking the ball so that in most cases the divot is supposed to be nearer the hole than the original spot and therefore the ball could not come to rest or be dropped in the divot without a re-drop being required.
      You may not replace the divot prior to dropping the ball per the prohibitions of Rule 13-2. If you took an action to influence the movement of the ball (prevent the ball from going in the divot), Rule 1-2 would apply.

  • Stewart Jones

    Player A lifts his ball on the putting green without marking its position. His opponent B, who did not witness this, marked his ball on the green and lifted it. A spectator who witnessed A’s action informs B of what he saw. B immediately claims the hole as A failed to inform him that he had incurred a penalty and lifts his ball marker. What is the ruling?

    • Ryan Farb

      Stewart,
      This is a great question and we have an initial response but are confirming that it is correct prior to responding because of the extra twists involved that differentiate it from existing decisions. Thank you for your patience.

      • Stewart Jones

        Thanks Ryan, I appreciate the issues and the need for care so am happy to be patient. I framed the question because of what I perceived to be degrees of contradiction between some existing decisions. Behind the specific wording of the question above is a more general issue – one that I cannot find a specific answer to/example of in the decisions – namely, in match play, can a player whose opponent has just breached a rule involving a one shot penalty legitimately claim the hole when it is clear that the opponent is not going to inform the player of the breach because he is unaware that he has committed a breach and he has not verbalized an incorrect score?
        Of course, there are sporting ways for the player to handle the situation, such as ignore the breach and advise the opponent later (there is a decision to this effect) or simply advise the one shot penalty to avoid it escalating to a loss of hole penalty. In my experience, though, match play opponents (like player B above) are not always generous.

        • Ryan Farb

          That question is at the heart of the problem and what is being discussed by those who can issue an official ruling. It is a great question.

  • Jim McDermott

    33-7: Would kicking your ball out from under a tree on purpose so you have a shot to the green be considered a “serious breach of etiquette”? If the answer is no, what would constitute a serious breach of etiquette forcing a player to be DQ’d?

    • Ryan Farb

      Jim,
      For a single instance the player should be penalized two strokes in stroke play (loss of hole in match play) for playing from a wrong place in breach of Rule 18-2 (ball moved and not replaced) with a warning that additional attempts could result in disqualification. If a player repeatedly takes this action it would be grounds for disqualification under Rule 33-7 for acts contrary to the spirit of the game.

      • Jim McDermott

        Interesting. Given that people that cheat generally do it when nobody is looking, I would think the penalty when caught would be more severe. This happened in a junior golf tournament and the kid was penalized one stroke. The lesson the other kids learned was that it’s okay to cheat until you get caught. Especially since it was only a 1 stroke penalty.
        So can you name me an instance worse than getting caught blatantly cheating that would warrant 33-7 in a game of honor?

        • Ryan Farb

          Jim,
          No Rule would permit only a single stroke penalty in this situation unless the player replaced the ball in its original position. Rule 33-7 is a Committee decision-based Rule, if the Committee wants to disqualify a player for a single breach of that kind they may. Generally, it is advisable to warn a player prior to assessing a disqualification under Rule 33-7 depending on the severity of the breach.

          • Jim McDermott

            The player got caught red handed and did replace the ball. What I’m trying to establish is why isn’t cheating treated with a more severe penalty? I’m not joking, the other juniors now understand this rule and don’t feel it’s cheating because they can always replace the ball if they get caught. 33-7 in my judgement, with 100% consensus, should have been invoked because it was CHEATING.
            Thanks for your response

          • Ryan Farb

            Jim,
            As stated above, Rule 33-7 is a Committee decision-based Rule. If the Committee feels the disqualification is warranted they may do so. There is no MUST in this situation.

          • Jim McDermott

            Ryan,
            Is blatant cheating a serious breach of etiquette or not? Yes or No please

          • Ryan Farb

            Jim,
            It is for the Committee to decide their view of blatant cheating. You will not find a direct answer in the Rules of Golf.

  • David F

    Do you get relief on the green if there is an imbedded acorn on my line of putt? I had a three foot putt on a green with a nearby oak tree and a deeply imbedded acorn between my ball and the hole. Can I remove the acorn and repair the green? Move the ball to miss the acorn?

    • Ryan Farb

      David,
      If the acorn is solidly embedded it is not a loose impediment and may not be moved. If the acorn is not solidly embedded (can be removed with a gentle flick) then you can remove the acorn but are not permitted to repair the depression. See Decisions 23/9 and 16-1a/7.

  • Mary Towns

    My question is around amateur/professional status as related to fund-raising events. Typically, there are prizes for several activities at fund raiser events – CTP, long drive, putting contest, hole-in-one, etc. At a recent fund-raiser committee meeting, we were told that, if a contestant achieved a hole-in-one and was paid by the insurance company ($10,000) that the player would have to declare himself/herself as a Professional player if they accept the prize money. Really? What if the player donated their winnings to the charity? If this is true, is there a prize-money limit that the player can accept without being required to declare himself/herself as a Professional? Is there a difference between prize-money and prizes (clubs, trips, memberships, etc.) or are these viewed at market-value? Does the format of play (4-person scramble) have any bearing on the answer?

    • Ryan Farb

      Mary,

      Hole-in-one prizes that are incidental to the round of golf (i.e., not a multiple chance situation) are an exception to the prize limit an amateur may accept. An amateur may accept a prize with no limit to size and even in cash for a hole-in-one contest. See Rule 3-2b of the Rules of Amateur Status (page 191 in the Rules of Golf). The same does not apply for closest to the hole, long drive or other contests of a similar nature.

  • Rondo

    I witnessed a golfer, upon playing his tee shot, the ball fell off of the tee. It happened on his downswing and he still hit the ball before it touched the ground. After a round of great laughter after seeing this, we wondered if there was a rules violation for hitting a moving ball?

    • Ryan Farb

      Rondo,
      No, Rule 11-3 stipulates there is no penalty for playing a moving ball in this case, but the stroke counts and the ball must be played where it came to rest after the stroke.

  • Bruce Hoffman

    I’ve noticed that the caddies of pros advertise the players sponsors on their hats as does the pros. Do the caddies receive compensation for these ads?

    • Ryan Farb

      Bruce,
      That is not a question that can be answered by the Rules of Golf. The PGA Tour would be a better source for that information.

  • Frankv

    Rule No. 7 about practice rounds does not cover rounds played during a friendly week-day or week-end round of golf. Can I play a practice round and not post a score? It is not in the rule book as such.

    • Ryan Farb

      Franky,
      The Rules of Golf do not cover whether or not a round is post-able. The USGA Handicap Manual does. If the round was played in accordance with the Rules, with someone and more than 13 holes were completed it is eligible for posting. Unplayed holes should be scored as par plus. A nine-hole round must be posted if more than 7 holes were played.

      • Frankv

        I want too play a practice round without posting. I am being told by all the armchair rules experts that I have too post any round played. Is the key word here “eligible for posting” and if I decide it is not eligible I do not have to post?

        • Ryan Farb

          Franky,
          You are not the decider of whether a round is eligible for posting. Any round played in accordance with the Rules, with someone else and more than 13 holes (for 18 hole score, or 7 holes for 9 hole score) must be posted. If you do not play the round in accordance with the Rules (i.e., playing multiple shots into greens or two balls through the whole round) the round is not acceptable for posting purposes. See Section 5 of the USGA Handicap Manual for further information on acceptable scores.

          • Frankv

            Rules (i.e., playing multiple shots into greens or two balls through
            the whole round) the round is not acceptable for posting purposes. Thank you Ryan , that answered my question precisely.

  • Stewart Jones

    I have an observation/question relating to moving a tee marker during a shot when making a stroke from the teeing ground. D11-2/2 provides detail of how to handle a range of circumstances of a tee marker being moved before or after a stroke but, perhaps surprisingly, says nothing about the circumstance of tee marker being moved accidentally during a shot (backswing or downswing). Consistent with other elements of this decision, I would assume no penalty (beyond any damage to body or equipment that may result from a swung club or struck ball hitting a potentially solid object). Do you agree?

    • Ryan Farb

      Stewart,
      That is correct. The movement of a tee marker during the actual stroke would not cause a penalty. The like situation would be a branch broken during the stroke. It is not a violation of the Rules of the improvement of the intended area of swing occurs during the actual stroke (and the stroke is completed). Movement of the tee marker during the backswing for the stroke would be subject to the results listed in Decision 11-2/2, all dependent on why the tee-marker was moved. Note that since the backswing is not part of the stroke, it falls under the category of “before the stroke” for the purposes of applying this Decision.

  • Stewart Jones

    A player marks and lifts his ball on the putting green. Subsequently, a fellow competitor’s line of putt appears to be close to his ball marker so the player moves the ball marker two putter heads and taps the marker down, not realizing that the marker has stuck to his putter head as he walked away. What is the ruling?
    There are a few decisions that deal with similar, but not precisely the same situation. D20-1/6 deals with the simpler case of the ball marker being similarly moved when the ball is originally marked and it is no penalty as the movement is directly attributable to the marking of the ball. D20-1/6.5 (last part of the answer)deals with the situation of a subsequent re-marking (as per my question above) and again indicates no penalty, as the movement is considered directly attributable as in D20-1/6. However, D20-1/15, which specifically explains the meaning of ‘directly attributable’ does not contemplate, and on one reading explicitly excludes free relief applying other than for the original marking/lifting action. On the face of it, D20-1/15 does not seem consistent with D20-1/6.5, so what would be the ruling in my situation above?

    • Ryan Farb

      Stewart,
      Decision 20-1/6 applies to this case as well. Again the movement of the ball-marker is directly attributable to the specific act of marking the position of the ball (in this case by accurately spanning it to the side). No penalty is incurred and the marker must be replaced.

      • Stewart Jones

        Thank you Ryan. I think it is unfortunate that D20-1/15, by itself, does not clarify that a subsequent moving or tapping down of the marker could be a directly attributable situation.

  • Stewart Jones

    If a club becomes unfit for play during a round, Rule 4-3 allows the club to be replaced, repaired or used for the remainder of the round. If the same club is left unrepaired in the bag and the player commences a subsequent round, is that club necessarily then a non-conforming club – that is, there would be a breach of Rule 4-1? Similarly, if a driver head becomes loose on the practice fairway prior to the round and the player is not aware of it until he attempts to use the club on the second hole, that also is a breach of Rule 4-1?

    • Ryan Farb

      Stewart,
      Rule 4-3c would apply in this case. If the club was rendered unfit in the previous round, more than likely it is also non-conforming, but not 100% of the time. So it all boils down to whether the club, in its damaged state, conforms. If it does, the player may use it, if it does not, Rule 4-3c applies (which is the same penalty statement as Rule 4-1).

      • Stewart Jones

        Thank you Ryan. Could you think of a practical example of a club unfit for play but still conforming?

  • recessmonkee

    par 3, hit one stroke to fringe, get a free drop from sprinkler, rules official says that ball is in play, then through no fault of the player or players caddie or equipment… an “act of God” whatever, the ball rolls onto the green, you’d be allowed to putt for a 2 from where it stopped, but if it rolled in do you get to write down 1 ?

    • Ryan Farb

      If a player’s ball at rest after being dropped, through no action of the player or anything else covered by Rule 18, subsequently moves, the ball is played from its new position without penalty, see Note 1 to Rule 20-2. If the new position is in the hole, it is deemed to have been holed with the previous stroke (see Decision 20-3d/1). (The exceptional case would be if the ball had originally come to rest overhanging the lip of the hole, is marked lifted and replaced, then falls into the hole, see Decision 16-2/0.5).

  • recessmonkee

    So if the answer to my question is yes, that begets the greatest golf trivia ? can you get an ace with a drop involved? I think 130% of people would guess “no”

  • Stewart Jones

    Two players are sharing a motorized cart. The cart driver has parked near his ball and plays a shot while the other player sits in the cart. The ball rebounds from a tree and flies through the driver side of the cart, hitting the other player and deflecting out on to the fairway without touching the cart itself. What is the ruling?

    • Ryan Farb

      Stewart,

      By definition everything in the cart, including the player sitting in it, is the equipment of the player whose ball is involved. The player incurs a one-stroke penalty under Rule 19-2 and must play the ball as it lies (Definition of Equipment).

  • Jeff Hatfield

    As long I keep only 14 clubs in my bag, can I have and use more than one putter?

    • Ryan Farb

      Jeff,
      The player is entitled to select up to 14 conforming clubs. The Rules do not stipulate what kind of clubs they must be. So you could carry up to 14 putters if you so desired, but that would probably make things a bit more difficult…

  • Stewart Jones

    A player’s ball is embedded about four yards off the closely mown area of the fairway but in an area of around a square yard that is cut to fairway height or less. All other ground around that area is light rough but the growth is uneven, generally around 3 inches or higher. It appears that the light rough had been cut some month or so before to fairway height and since then had re-grown except for the limited area in which the ball is embedded as the ground there appeared to have been shaved by the interaction of the mower blades and the slope.

    The player seeks relief under Rule 25-2. There is no hard card/local rule provisions enabling relief for an embedded ball through the green. Is relief available?

    • Ryan Farb

      Stewart,

      This would be a Committee judgment call. The internal definition of “closely-mown” area is “any area of the course, including paths through the rough, cut to fairway height or less.” So if the area was physically cut and it is fairway height or less, the letter of the law would permit the player to take relief. However, if the area had simply not grown in properly and was still at a shorter height, that would not qualify in my opinion. Each Committee would have to decide on a case-by-case basis.

  • Scott Peterson

    I recently played in the 2016 Associate Club Net Amateur Championship Deer Ridge GC. I seem to have missed out in qualifying for the championship by 1 spot finishing 23rd with 22 advancing. Though when I looked at my score on the #1 handicap hole I scored better than another player with the same final score, (+3). So it appears that the number 1 handicap hole is not the tiebreaker. Can you tell me what the tiebreaker process is so I can better understand?

  • Scott Peterson

    Just found the answer to my question. The NCGA decides ties by using the USGA method of matching scorecards, described in Appendix I, USGA Rules of Golf.

  • Patricia Williams

    This is a crazy one. A good lesson not to talk while teeing off. One member in our group was talking while she put the tee in the ground. She took her stance and then swung, but never put a ball on the tee. Our rules person said that since she took her stance it was a 2 stroke penalty. I think since the ball was never on the tee, there would be no penalty. Thoughts?

    • Ryan Farb

      Patricia,
      There is most definitely no penalty in this circumstance. However, what needs to be determined is whether she made a stroke. The definition of stroke is “the forward movement of the club with the intention of striking at and moving the ball.” She did that, however, in this case if we counted that as a stroke, the ball would be in play in her pocket, which makes no sense. So the ruling is that there is no penalty and no stroke has been made since there was no ball present to have the intent to strike.

  • Richard Greenwood

    Hi. Recently my son was playing a qualifying match (stroke play) for his college team when, on entering a hazard to get to where his ball lay, a bird’s egg shell hanging in a bush caught his eye, Without thinking he picked it out of the bush to look at it and his opponent called a 2 stroke penalty on him for moving loose impediment. Was he correct? Was the egg shell in contact with the hazard if it was in a bush? Is a birds egg deemed to be loose impediment or a movable obstruction? There was much debate with other team members and his coach after the match but since he’d already signed the score card there was nothing to be done, but it would be interesting to hear an official take on his actions…

    • Ryan Farb

      Richard,
      The first thing I’d need to know is what kind of hazard was your son in? The answer can vary depending on whether it was a bunker or a water hazard. In a bunker, the margin of the hazard only extends downwards and not upwards, therefore something overhanging a bunker is not in the hazard and a ball resting in a bush in a bunker is not actually in the bunker (see Decision 13/2). In a water hazard, the margin extends vertically upward and downward, so something suspended in a bush is in the hazard. Rule 13-4 prohibits moving a loose impediment when the ball lies in the same hazard. However, see also Decision 13-4/13 & 13.5 as there are specific instances that let the player off the hook when a loose impediment is accidentally moved or moved in the process of approaching the ball.

      • Richard Greenwood

        Thanks for the reply Ryan. It was a water hazard so you have answered my question – the call was correct in this instance!

  • Stewart Jones

    A ball has come to rest near an open gate in a boundary fence. The gate provides course access to grounds staff. The gate interferes with the player’s swing, so relief is available under equity (R1-4), as authorized by D27/18. However, in closing the gate as permitted, due to insufficient clearance, the ball was moved. What is the ruling?
    As a separate question, if the gate is permanently open during daylight hours and only closed at night, is there a case for the Committee to define the gate as an Obstruction?

    • Ryan Farb

      Stewart,
      The situation is not covered by the Rules, however, the Decision does not define the open gate as an obstruction it simply permits the player to move the gate, therefore, the Committee must Rule that the player incurs a one-stroke penalty for moving his/her ball in play and must replace the ball.

      Something that defines out of bounds is not an obstruction, and cannot be defined as an obstruction. However, if the gate is always to be in a specific position that does not define out of bounds during play, it would be appropriate to specifically define that portion of the gate as an obstruction and use stakes or a line to define the margin of the out of bounds between the two posts of the fence as appropriate. If however, the gate is sometimes open and sometimes closed, Decision 27/18 must apply.

  • Stewart Jones

    A player has taken the option made available under a local rule to drop in a drop zone. The ball has moved more than 2 club lengths after striking the ground. The player re-drops and this time the ball bounces into a bunker. The rule book advice relating to drop zones does not explicitly advise what to do in this circumstance. Is it correct to assume that the broader provision of Rule 20-2c now applies – ie that the player must place the ball where it struck the part of the drop zone when re-dropped?

    • Ryan Farb

      Stewart,

      Yes, the player must place the ball where it first stuck the ground in the drop zone prior to it coming to rest in a position requiring a re-drop.Appendix I-A-6 is there to explain that the various instances requiring re-drop still exist with the exception of rolling closer to the hole than the reference point for relief. If when re-dropped the ball rolls into one of those positions the broader provision in 20-2c takes over. The Local Rule for adding a drop zone has some special provisions that do not apply other than in a drop zone, but ultimately when dropping a ball the player is still operating under Rule 20-2c which covers any situation not specifically addressed by the Note to the Local Rule.

  • Bob Cashbaugh

    We have several dry water hazards and lateral water hazards. Players can play there ball that lies in the hazards. A player attempts to hit the ball in the hazard but failed to get the ball out of the hazard. Then the player decides to drop the ball outside of the hazard, where does the player drop and what is the penalty

    • Ryan Farb

      Bob,
      When a player has played from within a water hazard (red or yellow) and the ball comes to rest in the same hazard, Rule 26-2 provides the player the same options he had on the previous stroke. So he could 1) play the ball under stroke and distance from the previous spot in the hazard, 2) play from where the last stroke from outside the hazard was made, under penalty of one stroke, or 3) proceed under any of the applicable options under Rule 26-1 (under penalty of one stroke) with relation to where the ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard on the stroke where it entered the hazard. There are variations on where the reference point will be depending on whether the ball comes to rest in a different hazard or left the original hazard and then came back in during the same stroke. See Decisions 26-2/1 and 26-2/2 for further guidance and diagrams.

  • Stewart Jones

    A player’s ball has come to rest against the rake that had been carelessly placed on a slope in a bunker. When the player lifts the rake (movable obstruction) the ball rolls closer to the hole. In replacing the ball, the player presses the ball into the sand a little to ensure it doesn’t roll closer to the hole. Is this another case of breach of Rule 1-2, as per D1-2/9?

    • Ryan Farb

      Stewart,
      Yes it would be a breach of Rule 1-2 per the cited Decision. See also 20-3d/2

  • Stewart Jones

    In match play, opponents take a quick toilet break between holes. The first player on to the tee has the honour and hits before his opponent arrived at the tee. The opponent makes a claim to have the shot recalled as he was denied the right to see if the shot was played from within the teeing ground. What is the ruling?

    • Ryan Farb

      Stewart,
      There is no Rule that gives the opponent the right to recall a shot because he missed seeing it.

  • Chris

    A player’s ball, after a stroke from a putting green, is deflected into the hole by a wind-blown leaf (moving outside agency). If the player does not replay the stroke and tees off from the next tee, is he disqualified for not completing the hole? Or, is it a violation of 19-1b which would mean a two stroke penalty and the ball is holed?

    • Ryan Farb

      Chris,
      There is not an official answer to this question. Decision 19-1/3 has been interpreted in several different ways: either a) the stroke that was deflected does not count in the score, but the ball is holed and the player incurs a two-stroke penalty, b) since the stroke that holed the ball did not actually count, the player has failed to hole out and is disqualified for a breach of Rule 3-2 or c) in equity, the stroke that was deflected counts in the score and the player incurs an additional two-stroke penalty. Unless the situation actually occurs for the Rules of Golf Committee to Rule on, any answer to the question is unofficial. The MGA Quiz had a question involving that situation a couple years ago and the USGA did not agree with the published answer at the time, but that is the extent of my knowledge on that exchange.

  • Del

    A player tee’s off and his ball lands 6″into the rough, a further 1ft into the rough is a young tree (staked tree) he asks for relief as it impedes his swing, to which I say it doesn’t as his swing is 12″ away from the tree and he’s aiming down the fairway. He then turns 90 degrees and swings aiming across the fairway, hitting the tree saying it does!!
    The other players say yes, he then take’s the ball out of the rough, places it on the fairway (inside 2 club length away from obstruction) about 6″ outside the rough onto the fairway and then plays straight down the fairway, so the tree was never impeding his swing in the first place, is this right or wrong??

    • Ryan Farb

      Del,
      1) Relief from staked trees is only granted if the local Rule for protection of young trees is in effect. Otherwise relief would only be granted for interference by the stake itself.
      2) A player is not entitled to relief if interference by an obstruction only occurs through use of an abnormal direction of play (see Exception to Rule 24-2). Playing sideways, when playing toward the green is feasible, is an abnormal direction of play and he was not entitled to relief.
      3) He did not take relief properly anyway and as a result played from a wrong place, incurring a penalty of two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play. If he were entitled to relief (first see 2 above), he needed to find the nearest point of relief and drop the ball within one club-length of the nearest point of relief. While the spot he placed the ball could possibly have been within one club-length of the nearest point of relief (were he entitled to it in the first place), the Rule requires a drop, and since he did not drop he was in breach of the Rule.

      Altogether, from your facts above, he was not entitled to relief and was subject to the general penalty (two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play) for the breach of Rule 18-2 (Ball at Rest Moved).

      • Del

        Thanks Ryan…
        Cheating so n so…!! :)

  • Stewart Jones

    A player’s ball is in the short rough under a spindly small tree and he has a very restricted swing. However, one foot is on a 3inch plastic pipe (used to get water into the tree roots) protruding from the ground, so he gets free relief under Rule 24-2. His nearest point of relief is very close to the ball and he measures the one club length drop zone and places a tee at the limit of the zone. As he is preparing to drop on the uneven ground, a fellow competitor says “You should be careful where you drop or it could bounce into a very difficult position under the tree without any further relief available”. Has the fellow competitor breached Rule 8-1 Advice?

    • Ryan Farb

      Stewart,
      Frankly, this ruling could go either way depending on the nature of the suggestion. The Decision 8-1/16 where a competitor suggests a fellow-competitor declare his ball unplayable would lead us to believe your scenario should result in an advice penalty if the intent of the suggestion was to tell the player exactly where he should drop the ball. However, if the intent of the suggestion was to remind the player about how the Rules operate (i.e., if the ball rolls into a bad place it is not a re-drop fyi…) I would be inclined not to penalize under 8-1. Advice questions are very grey and vary depending on all the exact circumstances and hypothetical scenarios are very difficult to give a firm answer.

      • Stewart Jones

        Thank you Ryan. This one was not a hypothetical, I was a referee in a significant amateur stroke play tournament when this occurred and the words above were my best recollection of the fellow competitor’s language after I had been called over to assist the player with the relief ruling. I took the view that the fellow competitor’s action was more about guiding a younger player on the operation of the Rules than advising on where to drop but, as you point out, such issues are a grey area and I was interested to get your thoughts.

  • Brian Holt

    When observing a rules violation, what obligation does a competitor have to “protect the field” and where can I find the relevant rule?

    • Ryan Farb

      Brian,
      In stroke play, it is the competitor’s obligation to protect the field by reporting any violation. In many cases the first step is to address the situation with the competitor involved. It may have been unintentional or they may have been unaware it was a breach. Either way this should be brought to the player’s or Committee’s attention prior to returning score cards. If a fellow-competitor withholds information regarding a violation they could be subject to penalty as well (see Decision 6-6a/5 if FC is the marker, see 33-7/9 for any FC).

  • Art Scott

    This came up in the Australian Open last weekend. A player’s ball came to rest in a bunker touching a lone pine cone in the bunker. Baker-Finch explained that if it were a coke can the player could remove it, but as a natural object in a hazard he was obligated to play it as it lay. The player whacked the ball-cone pair with a wedge and the ball wound up over the green. The fate of the pine cone was not shown, but it (or fragments) likely remained in the bunker. Here’s the question – when the caddy went into the bunker to rake, was he obligated to leave the pine cone where it lay in the bunker, or could he pick it up & stick it in his bib, or toss it on the fairway (where it would be treated as a loose impediment) as a courtesy to following players, as raking the bunker is allowed as a courtesy? This was a championship tournament, and there were still groups behind that had not yet played that hole.

    • Ryan Farb

      Art,
      The prohibition against moving loose impediments (natural objects) in a hazard (in this case a bunker) only applies when your ball lies in the same hazard. Once the ball is out of the hazard a player can remove the loose impediments from the bunker, (provided they are not doing so to assist or influence the movement of another player’s ball in the same hazard).

  • Rod Irons

    To what extent can I clean my ball during a round? Specifically, can I scrap off the burs from the ball left from a wedge or iron shot. And if so, what can I use?

    Thanks

    • Ryan Farb

      Rod,

      Rule 21 permits you to clean the ball any time it is lifted, except when it has been lifted 1) to determine if it is unfit, 2) to identify it (you are permitted only to clean what is necessary in order to ID the ball), or 3) because it is assisting or interfering with another player’s play. You can clean off the ball using a towel and typically that would pull those little burs off.

  • Bryan McEwan

    A player in another 4 ball accidentally plays my ball and leaves me his ball. Where do I stand under the rules

    • Ryan Farb

      Bryan,
      Rule 18-1 covers when your ball has been moved by an outside agency (a player from another group). If it is known or virtually certain your ball was moved by an outside agency you you must replace the ball (if it is immediately recoverable) or you may substitute if it is not. To replace the ball, if the exact spot is known you would place the ball on that spot, if the exact spot is not determinable you would drop the ball, see Rule 20-3.

  • Laura Carlson

    A right hand golfer hits his drive down the right side of the fairway where it comes to rest near the concrete cart path. For his second shot a tree blocks his line of flight so using his driver he addresses his ball as a lefty which now leaves him standing on the cart path. He then finds the nearest point of relief, adds one club length, drops his ball and switches back to his right hand stance with a clear line to the hole. He swears he’s seen this procedure used on the PGA Tour. Is it allowed?

    • Ryan Farb

      Laura,
      A player is not entitled to relief for interference by an immovable obstruction if interference is only obtained through use of an abnormal stance, swing or direction of play (see Exception to Rule 24-2). The question to be asked is, what would the player do if the cart path were not there? In your scenario above, the player was not entitled to relief.
      Never on the Tour has a player turned a driver over lefty to obtain relief from a path and been granted. However, Tour players are talented enough to play an opposite-handed shot and if it is actually reasonable (meaning the tree prevents them from standing or swinging normal-handed) then they might be entitled to relief. The key is that the opposite-handed shot must actually be reasonable in the situation. You can not simply turn around and take a left-handed stance if there is no reason to do so other than to obtain relief.