The Rules of Golf – Abbreviated

General

Before starting your round:

  • Read the Local Rules (usually found on the score card or the notice board).
  • Put a mark on your ball for identification. If you can’t identify your ball, it is considered lost. (Rules 12-2 and 27-1)
  • Ensure you are carrying a maximum of 14 clubs. (Rule 4-4)

During the round:

  • Do not ask for, or offer advice. Exceptions being:
    • To or from your partner and either of your caddies.
    • Information on the Rules, distances and the position of hazards, the flagstick, etc. (Rule 8-1)
  • Don’t play any practice shots during play of a hole. (Rule 7-2)

At the end of your round:

  • In match play, ensure the result of your match is posted.
  • In stroke play, ensure that your score card is:
    • Yours
    • Contains the correct scores for each hole
    • Is signed by both you and the marker
    • Is returned as soon as possible (Rule 6-6)

Tee Shot

Play your tee shot from between, and not in front of, the tee-markers. A player may stand out with the teeing ground to play his shot providing the ball lies within it.
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Teeing-Ground

Teeing Ground

You may play your tee shot from up to two club-lengths behind the front line of the tee-markers.

If you play your tee shot from outside this area in:

  • Match Play
    There is no penalty, but your opponent may require you to replay your stroke.
  • Stroke Play
    You incur a two-stroke penalty and must correct the error by playing from within the correct area.

Playing the Ball

In order to identify your ball, you may mark it and lift it, providing you have the permission of your marker or opponent to do so. The ball must then be replaced exactly as it lay before being lifted. (Rule 12-2)

Play the ball as it lies. Don’t improve your lie, the area of your intended stance or swing, or your line of play by moving, bending or breaking anything fixed or growing, except in fairly taking your stance or making your swing. Don’t improve your lie by pressing anything down. (Rule 13-2)

If your ball is in a bunker or a water hazard, don’t touch the ground in either type of hazard, or touch water in the water hazard, with your hand or club before your downswing and don’t move loose impediments. (Rule 13-4)

You must swing the club and make a stroke at the ball. It is not permissible to push, scrape or spoon the ball. (Rule 14-1)

If you play a wrong ball, in match play you lose the hole; in stroke play you incur a two-stroke penalty and you must then correct the mistake by playing the correct ball. (Rule 15-3)


On the Putting Green

Cleaning the ball and repairing damage

  • You may mark, lift and clean your ball on the putting green; always replace it on the exact spot. (Rule 16-1b)
  • You may repair ball marks and old hole plugs, but not any other damage, such as spike marks. (Rule 16-1c)

Ball off the green

The flagstick can be

  • centred in the hole
  • removed
  • attended

Ball on green

When making a stroke on the putting green, you should ensure that the flagstick is removed or attended. (Rule 17)


Ball Moved, Deflected or Stopped

Ball at Rest Moved
Generally, when the ball is in play, if you accidentally cause your ball to move, lift it when not permitted or it moves after you have addressed it, add a penalty stroke and replace your ball. However, see the exceptions under Rule 18-2a. (Rule 18-2)

If someone else moves your ball at rest or it is moved by another ball, replace it without penalty to you.

Ball at rest moved:

  • By outside agency – No penalty and replace ball (Rule 18-1)
  • By Player, Partner either of their Caddies or equipment – One stroke penalty and replace ball (Rule 18-2a)
  • After address – One stroke penalty and replace ball (Rule 18-2b)
  • By Opponent, their Caddie or Equipment during search – No penalty and ball shall be replaced (Rule 18-3a)
  • By Opponent, their Caddie or equipment, not during search – Opponent incurs one shot penalty and ball shall be replaced (Rule18-3b)
  • By Fellow-Competitor, their Caddie or Equipment – No penalty and ball shall be replaced (Rule 18-4)
  • By another ball – No penalty and moved ball shall be replaced (Rule 18-5)
  • In measuring – No penalty and ball shall be replaced

Ball in motion deflected or stopped (Rule 19)

General

  • If a ball struck by you is deflected or stopped by you, your partner, your caddie or your equipment – One penalty stroke and the ball is played as it lies. (Rule 19-2)
  • If a ball struck by you is deflected or stopped by another ball at rest, there is no penalty and the ball is played as it lies, except in stroke play where you incur a two-stroke penalty if your ball and the other ball were on the putting green before you played. (Rule 19-5a)

Ball in motion deflected or stopped:

  • By an outside agency – no penalty and ball played as it lies (Rule 19-1)
  • By Player, Partner, either of their Caddies or Equipment – Player incurs one penalty stroke and ball played as it lies (Rule 19-2)
  • By Opponent, their Caddie or Equipment – No penalty and ball played as it lies OR stroke cancelled and replayed (Rule 19-3)
  • By Fellow-Competitor, their Caddie or Equipment in Stroke Play – See Rule 19-1 concerning ball deflected by Outside Agency (Rule 19-4)
  • By Another Ball at Rest – No penalty unless in Stroke Play when both balls are on the green in which case the Player incurs a two shot penalty (Rule 19-5a)
  • By Another Ball in Motion – No penalty and ball played as it lies, unless player in breach of Rule 16-1f (Rule 19-5b)

Lifting, Dropping & Placing the Ball

Before lifting a ball that has to be replaced, (e.g. when the ball is lifted on the putting green to clean it), the position of the ball must be marked. (Rule 20-1)

When the ball is being lifted in order to drop or place it in another position (e.g. dropping within two club-lengths under the unplayable ball Rule), it is not mandatory to mark its position although it is recommended that you do so.

When dropping, stand upright, hold the ball at shoulder height and arm’s length and drop it.

A dropped ball must be re-dropped if it rolls to a position where there is interference from the condition from which free relief is being taken (e.g. an immovable obstruction), if it comes to rest more than two club-lengths from where it was dropped, or if it comes to rest nearer the hole than its original position, the nearest point of relief or where the ball last crossed the margin of a water hazard.

There are nine situations in total when a dropped ball must be re-dropped and they are covered in Rule 20-2c and itemised as follows:

  • Ball rolls and comes to rest in a hazard
  • Ball rolls out of and comes to rest outside a hazard
  • Ball rolls onto and comes to rest on a putting green
  • Ball rolls and comes to rest out of bounds
  • Ball rolls and comes to rest in the condition for which relief is being sought
  • Ball rolls and comes to rest closer to the hole than its original position
  • Ball rolls and comes to rest closer to the hole than the nearest point of relief
  • Ball rolls and comes to rest more than two club-lengths from where dropped
  • Ball rolls and comes to rest nearer the hole than the appropriate reference point – e.g. point of entry to a hazard

If a ball dropped for a second time rolls into any of these positions, place it where it first struck the course when re-dropped. (Rule 20-2c)


Relief Situations & Procedures

When playing golf, you must play the ball as it lies, whether your ball is in a good lie or a bad lie, unless the Rules allow you to do otherwise.

For example, the Rules allow you to move natural objects like leaves and twigs – the Rules call these “loose impediments.”

The Rules also permit you to lift and move your ball if you have interference from certain conditions. Sometimes you can move your ball without penalty, e.g. when you have interference due to a man-made object – called “obstructions” – such as a road or path, or an abnormal ground condition, such as casual water and ground under repair. At other times, you may incur a penalty if you wish to move your ball, e.g. when your ball is in a water hazard.

Loose Impediments (Rule 23)

You may move a loose impediment (i.e. natural loose objects such as stones, detached leaves and twigs) unless the loose impediment and your ball are in the same hazard. If you remove a loose impediment and this causes your ball to move, the ball must be replaced and (unless your ball was on the putting green) you incur a one-stroke penalty. (Rule 23-1)

Ball Assisting or Interfering with Play (Rule 22)

  • You may lift your ball or have any other ball lifted if you think the ball might assist another player.
  • You must not agree to leave a ball in position in order to assist another player.
  • You may have any ball lifted if it might interfere with your play.
  • A ball that is lifted due to it assisting or interfering with play must not be cleaned, unless it is lifted from the putting green.

Movable Obstructions

Movable obstructions (i.e. artificial movable objects such as rakes, tin cans, etc.) located anywhere may be moved without penalty. If the ball moves as a result, it must be replaced without penalty.

If a ball is on a movable obstruction, the ball may be lifted, the obstruction removed and the ball dropped, without penalty, on the spot directly under where the ball lay on the obstruction, except that on the putting green, the ball is placed on that spot.

Immovable Obstructions and Abnormal Ground Conditions

Immovable obstructions

An immovable obstruction is an artificial immovable object such as a building or an artificially-surfaced road (but check the Local Rules for the status of roads and paths).

Abnormal ground conditions

An abnormal ground condition is either casual water, ground under repair or a hole, cast or runway made by a burrowing animal, a reptile or a bird.

Except when the ball is in a water hazard, free relief is available from immovable obstructions and abnormal ground conditions when the condition physically interferes with the lie of the ball, your stance or your swing. You may lift the ball and drop it within one club-length of the nearest point of relief , but not nearer the hole than the nearest point of relief.

If the ball is on the putting green, it is placed at the nearest point of relief.

There is no relief for intervention on your line of play unless both your ball and the condition are on the putting green.

As an additional option when the ball is in a bunker, you may take relief from the condition behind the bunker under penalty of one stroke.

Water Hazards (Rule 26)

If your ball is in a water hazard (yellow stakes and/or lines) you may play the ball as it lies or, under penalty of one stroke:

  • Play a ball from where you hit the ball into the hazard
    • Drop the ball any distance behind the water hazard keeping a straight line between the hole, the point where the ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard and the spot on which the ball is dropped.

If your ball is in a lateral water hazard (red stakes and/or lines), in addition to the options for a ball in a water hazard (see above), under penalty of one stroke, you may drop within two club-lengths of, and not nearer the hole than:

  • The point where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard
  • A point on the opposite side of the hazard equidistant to the hole from the point where the ball last crossed the margin.

Ball Lost or Out of Bounds; Provisional Ball

Check the Local Rules on the score card to identify the boundaries of the course.

If your ball is lost outside a water hazard or out of bounds you must play another ball from the spot where the last shot was played, under penalty of one stroke, i.e. stroke and distance.

You are allowed 5 minutes to search for a ball, after which, if it is not found or identified, it is lost.

If, after playing a shot, you think your ball may be lost outside a water hazard or out of bounds you should play a ‘provisional ball’. You must state that it is a provisional ball and play it before you go forward to search for the original ball.

If it transpires that the original ball is lost (other than in a water hazard) or out of bounds, you must continue with the provisional ball, under penalty of one stroke. If the original ball is found in bounds, you must continue play of the hole with it, and must stop play with the provisional ball.