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Knowing the rules can save you shots:
As with all games you must first know the rules, and then play by them. In golf it will often save you a stroke or two, just by knowing the rules.
You always start each hole from the tee, which has two blocks marking where you can place your ball (and anywhere behind those markers, as far away as two club lengths). But you may not place your ball forward of the blocks. With a good drive you will play your ball on to the fairway; with a not so good drive could play your ball into the first cut of grass which is up to 2” deep; a bad drive you will see you end up in the deep rough.
From wherever your ball lands you will then continue playing to a second prepared area, which is known as the “putting green”. The object of the game is to complete what is known as a hole by playing a ball from the teeing ground into the hole on the putting green in the fewest possible number of strokes. A “round of golf’ consists of playing 18 such holes. (Most courses are designed to a par-72)
As we explained in previous lessons there are two forms of play, one which is decided by holes won and lost (match play) and the other which is decided by the total number of strokes taken to complete the round (stroke play).
We always stress that golf is a game of honour. Never cheat or you will lose the respect of your fellow players.
In order to ensure that you do not committee a foul stoke (Because you did not know the rules) we suggest you keep these three principles in mind:
Play the ball as it lies (Do not think “I will kick it out, no one will see”)
If you are not sure of the rules, ask your playing partners.
If it is unplayable or lost you take a drop, but that counts as a penalty stroke.
Club and course etiquette
Etiquette we have also covered briefly in previous lessons: Etiquette is not in the PGA rule book, nevertheless it forms an important part of the game. (And always forms part of the golf club rules).
Note that clubs also have certain rules related to the etiquette in the clubhouse – some are for fun, others the club captain may reprimand you for.
Do not move, talk or stand close to a player making a stroke.
Do not play until the group in front is out of the way.
Call on faster players and allow them to play through (Often when on the green of a par three you can signal to the group behind to play their tee shots)
Do not stand about on the green marking your card – as soon as all players in your group have holed out then replace the flag stick and leave the green.
Always replace divots (some courses may request that you fill divot holes with sand instead).
Rake the sand and smooth out footprints in bunkers.
On the greens take care not to step on the line of another player’s putt.
The green-keepers take great pride in their greens and work hard to keep them in pristine condition. Do not scuff your feet, or drop the flag, always repair the mark where your ball landed. (Most clubs will not permit steel spikes on your golf shoes. )
Replace the flag-stick carefully.
The Definitions section of the Rules of Golf contains over forty definitions which form the foundation around which the Rules of play are written. A good knowledge of the defined terms will help in the correct application of the Rules. These include:
The tee = the starting place for the hole, defined by two tee-markers.
Hazards = bunkers or water hazard.
Putting Green = smooth grass, with contours, and of-course the cup, and flag.
Out of Bounds = Not part of the course, with stake markers that determine when your ball is out of bounds. (We will explain in more detail later)
Loose Impediments = natural objects such as stones, leaves and twigs provided they are not fixed or growing, are not solidly embedded and are not sticking to the ball.
Obstructions = any man-made object, except any part of an immovable man-made object which is out of bounds;
Casual Water = any temporary accumulation of water on the course which is visible before or after the player takes his stance
Ground under repair = any part of the course so marked by the grounds-man. ( Work I progress)
We have cover most of these in previous lessons:
Before you start your round, always read the Local Rules on the score card.
On the first tee tell your colleagues the make and number of your ball; most players mark their ball so they can always identify their ball.
Count your clubs. You are allowed a maximum of 14 clubs.
While playing stay focused – do not ask for “advice” from fellow players, do not give advice unless asked, or you risk incurring a penalty. Asking, or telling, someone how far away the green or flagstick is, is considered public information and you will not be penalised.
While playing a hole you can not play a actual practice stroke where you hit a ball, however you can of course take practice swings without touching or moving your ball
Playing from the Tee:
You can select the best line of sight to your target and place your ball any where between the tee-markers. (But never in front of the markers) In stroke play you incur a two-stroke penalty and must then play from within the proper area.
(Make sure you are playing from the right tee – at most clubs the low handicap players play from the back tees.) You need to agree before you start the game which set of tees are to be used. (They are usually colour coded.)
Playing your shot:
Do not improve your lie, or the area of your intended swing or your line of play by moving, bending or breaking anything fixed or growing, if your ball lies in a bunker or a water hazard do not touch the sand in the bunker, or the ground or water in the water hazard, before your downswing.
If you play the wrong ball in match play you lose the hole; in stroke play you incur a two-stroke penalty and you must then play the correct ball.
ON THE PUTTING GREEN you may repair ball marks and old hole plugs on the line of your putt but not any other damage, including spike marks.
You may mark, lift and clean your ball on the putting green. Your marker is placed behind the ball before you pick it up, and MUST always be replaced on the exact spot.
When putting, always have the flag tended or removed.
When your ball is played from putting green and it hits the flag-stick: In match play you lose the hole; in stroke play you incur a two-stroke penalty.
Ball at rest moves: if your ball is at rest and it is moved by you, your partner or your caddie, except as, or if it moves after you have addressed it, then you take a penalty stroke and replace your ball.
If your ball is at rest and is moved by someone else or another ball, replace it without penalty to you.
If a ball played by you is deflected or stopped by you, your partner or your caddie (or your equipment, for example your cart or golf bag), you incur a one-stroke penalty and the ball is played as it lies.
If a ball played by you is deflected or stopped by someone else – play your ball as it lies without penalty, except in match play, if an opponent or his caddie deflects the ball you have an option to replay the stroke
In stroke play, if the ball is deflected after a stroke from on the putting green, you must replay it.
If a ball played by you is deflected or stopped by another ball at rest. In match-play, no penalty and the ball is played as it lies except.
In stroke play you incur a two-stroke penalty if your ball and the other ball were on the putting green before you played.
Lifting dropping and placing the ball: If a lifted ball is to be replaced, its position must be marked. If your ball is to be dropped or placed in any other position for instance when taking relief from ground under repair it is then you should always mark with a tee peg the ball’s original position
When dropping, stand erect, hold the ball at shoulder height and arm’s length and drop it.
There are numerous instances where a dropped ball rolls to back down the hill, or back into the water then you are allowed to take a re-drop. (Normally this is tried three times. If it still rolls away then it can be agreed to place the ball rather than taking a drop.)
Ground under repair, including casual water
If your ball has landed in casual water, in a hole that may have be made by wild life, or it is clearly ground under repair: then you can take a free drop within one club length of the nearest point of relief, but not closer to the hole.
When your ball is lost or out of bounds.
(You are only allowed a maxim of 5 minutes to find your ball)
(With some club players you would think it was a gold Rolex watch they had lost – be considerate, if it is clearly lost then take your drop and play on)
The PGA rules say you must play another ball from the spot where your last shot was played, and take a penalty stroke. (However this causes delays – most club players agree to take the drop close to where the ball went out of bounds.)
If you played your shot from the tee and you think your ball may be lost outside a water hazard or out of bounds you may play a “provisional ball’.
You must state that you are playing a provisional ball and play it before you go forward to search for the original ball. If the original ball is lost or out of bounds you must continue with the provisional ball under penalty of one stroke. If the original ball is not lost or out of bounds, you must continue to play the hole with it and the provisional ball is picked up.
In professional competitions they would request a ruling from a course marshal. In normal club games you can refer to the local rules on the score card, which will provide guidance on immovable obstructions, for example cart paths, surfaced roads and paths.
Moveable obstructions, (e.g. bottles, cans, rakes maybe moved, if your ball moves then it must be replaced without penalty.
If an immovable obstruction (man- made) prevents you from taking your normal stance and swing then you can take a free drop within one club-length of the nearest point of relief not nearer to the hole.
Water Hazards: Again you will need to check the local rules to determine which of the lake, river or sea, are considered to be a normal water hazard, or a lateral water hazard.
When your ball is in a water hazard you can elect to play the ball from where it lies, or take the penalty stroke. If you decide to take the penalty drop you can drop any distance behind the water hazard keeping a straight line between the hole and the on the original flight path before going in to the water, or you can elect to play from where you hit your ball into the water. (This is spot usually agreed with your fellow playing partners.)
When your ball lands in a lateral water hazard, in addition to the above options you can drop within two club lengths of (a) the point where your ball where your ball went into the water, or (b) a point on the opposite side of the hazard equidistant from the hole.
Now this is when you are playing for big money, when you strip to your pants to save a shot.
You are allowed move a loose impediment unless it and your ball are in a hazard. However, if you have touched a loose impediment within one club-length of your ball and your ball moves, the ball must be replaced and you incur a penalty stroke.
When your ball is in line with, or in any way interfering with the intended stoke of a fellow player, you are permitted to mark your ball and take it out of the way, and replace it once your partner/opponent has played his stroke
When a ball is unplayable:
If you believe your ball is unplayable outside a water hazard you can decide under penalty of one stroke, to drop within two club-lengths of where the ball lies not nearer the hole, or drop any distance behind the point where the ball landed keeping a straight line between that point and the hole, or replay the shot.
These are the most common rules you are going to encounter, there are hundreds more. That’s why in profession competitions when the players are playing for big money, there are always course officials with rule book in hand.
Most club players do their best to play by the rules, but also apply common sense, rather than hold up the play – take the drop. If you are not certain about the rules you can always agree to get a ruling from the club professional when you get back to the club house and adjust your score accordingly.
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