Archive for the ‘Rules’ Category

Marking Your Ball

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

A few things regarding marking a ball have come to my attention recently. I thought a short review might be in order.

IMG_2388 Let’s talk about marking your ball on the green first.

  • Rule 16b: “A ball on the putting green may be lifted and, if desired, cleaned. The position of the ball must be marked before it is lifted and the ball must be replaced.”
    • Your ball may be marked with any small object, and the object may be placed on any side of the ball. However, the ball must be replaced in the exact same proximity to the marker.
    • IMG_2389If your ball is in the way of another person’s putt and that person asks you to mark your ball to one side or another, you must mark your ball first and then use your putter head to measure a short distance away. Choose a stationary object in the distance, point your putter head toward that object and then move your mark. To replace your ball, point your putter head toward the same object, move the mark back, and then replace your ball.

Now, what if your ball is not on the green but is in the way of someone else’s shot?

  • Rule 22: “If a player considers that another ball might interfere with his play, he may have it lifted.”
    • First of all, you must be asked to mark your ball; you can’t just do so voluntarily. “If a player lifts his ball without being asked to do so, he incurs a penalty of one stroke for a breach of Rule 18-2a.”
    • Secondly, you are not allowed to clean your ball when lifting it. So you must carefully hold your ball with your finger tips (not in the palm of your hand) and replace it exactly as it was.IMG_4750
    • In stroke play, if you are asked to mark your ball, you may elect to play first rather than lift your ball.




Q: Can someone who is off the green ask you (whose ball is on the green) to leave your ball where it is rather than marking it? Let’s say your ball may provide a backstop for that player’s ball.

A: You are in charge of your own ball. You are not required to leave your ball just because someone asked you to do so. AND if it is felt that there is an agreement between two players to assist one another, there could be grounds for disqualification.

Rule 18-2a (as referenced earlier) actually applies to both of the examples above. It states that “when a player’s ball is in play, if the player….lifts or moves the ball…the player incurs a penalty of one stroke.” So, if, on the green, you fail to mark your ball before moving it to one side or the other, you have incured a penalty stroke. And off the green, you cannot mark your ball without being asked to do so. 

No-No’s in a Hazard

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

IMG_2381First of all, what is a hazard and when are you in one?

We’re talking about bunkers as well as lateral and direct water hazards. The perimeter of a bunker is pretty clear, but sometimes a water hazard is not as well-defined. You are in a hazard when your ball lies completely inside the red or yellow line (or stakes). Your ball may not be in water, but it is in the hazard. When stakes define the boundary, you can find the margin of the hazard between the stakes by standing behind one stake and looking at the other, then drawing an imaginary straight line between the two.

When you find yourself in a hazard, there are some things you absolutely cannot do. (Rule 13-4)

Most of us know that you may not ground your club in a hazard. You must hover your club above the ground before making your stroke. If, however, you touch your club to the ground in order to keep yourself from losing your balance, that’s okay.

You may not move or remove a loose impediment (natural object) in a hazard. We’re so accustomed to moving a stick away from our ball or swatting away a stone that sometimes we do so in a hazard without thinking. (Note: We’re never allowed to move, bend or break anything growing – whether in a hazard or not.)

Warning: Be sure that a practice swing in a hazard does not breach either of the conditions above.

I Knew She Knew

Thursday, March 5th, 2015
Fun & friendship

Fun & friendship

I played a round of golf with a woman I’d never met before. Sometimes that can be an uneasy situation. You have no idea what kind of golfer the other person is or how seriously they take the game. I find that I am very careful about playing with good etiquette until we get to know each other better. I don’t want to do anything to distract others from their game.

There were a few things that gave me a clue as to who Marion was and how she felt about the game.

  • She was very complimentary when I hit a good shot (so I knew she was paying attention to others’ games as well as her own).
  • When she hit a ball into the hazard, she immediately identified the spot at which the ball entered the hazard (so I knew she knew the rules).
  • She called a bunker a “bunker” (so I knew she was familiar with golf terminology).
  • She raked the bunkers and filled divots (so I knew she respected the golf course).

I had a great time with Marion and I’m sure we’ll play together again. I left knowing that she loves the game and knows how to play it.

By the way, she had a tough day and scored well over her handicap, but she’ll be back!


Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

My Minnesota Golf Association colleague, Kathryn, corrected the post entitled “Ball Deflected.” Kathryn is highly regarded in Minnesota as a rules expert, and has, in fact, scored 100% on the USGA Rules exam. Therefore, what she says, I believe!

She noted that Rule 19-2 was revised in 2008 to change the penalty to 1-stroke for a ball defected by a player, partner, caddie or equipment. In addition, she pointed out Decision 19-2/7 which states that a ball which strikes a player’s bag and then his caddie results in just one penalty stroke.

Thanks, Kathryn!

Unplayable Lie

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

IMG_5807The hole was very tricky. It angled to the right aiming you right at a huge tree, then took a turn to the left straight at a swamp. Of course, the green was just beyond the swamp and elevated slightly. UGH!

One of my playing partners hit her second shot into the swamp (a lateral hazard). She had a pretty good lie, so she elected to hit the ball. The ball moved about six feet ahead but remained in the hazard. She felt that her stance for this shot would be precarious, so she declared her ball unplayable.


The options for an unplayable lie are these: (Rule 28)

1) Drop a ball as near as possible to the place from which the ball was hit. (This would have been the previous spot in the hazard.)

2) Take two club-lengths from the ball not nearer the hole. (This would have taken her out of the hazard.)

3) Draw a straight line from the flag through the ball and go back on that line as far as you want. (This would also take her out of the hazard if she went back far enough.)

Our question was whether or not she could change the condition of her lie, i.e. go from hazard to fairway, by using option 2 or 3.

We knew that in stroke play she had the option to play a second ball and then have the determination made after the round, but we couldn’t decide which two options she would use.

Luckily, a rules official helped us out, and we found out that all our indecision was unnecessary. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS AN UNPLAYABLE LIE IN A WATER HAZARD!  Who knew?

She was able to use any of the options for a lateral hazard (Rule 26) with a one-stroke penalty. She elected to go back to the point at which her ball originally crossed into the hazard and take two club-lengths from there. An easy solution.

This would have been obvious if we had read Rule 28 more carefully: “The player may deem his ball unplayable at any place on the course, except when the ball is in a water hazard. The player is the sole judge as to whether his ball is unplayable.”

So this is how she counted her score: her second shot went into the hazard, her third stayed in the hazard, her fourth was the penalty and her fifth went onto the green.

It’s good to know the rules!

Ball Deflected

Monday, August 11th, 2014

IMG_2397My friend, Patti, told me this story about her bruises: Her ball was in the woods, and she couldn’t fully determine what was under or around it. When she took a swing to extricate it, the ball bounced off a hidden rock, hit her in the mouth and then hit her in the arm. Besides the obvious physical pain, she had to take a painful two-stroke penalty. Or should it have been a four-stroke penalty because the ball hit her twice?

Rule 19: Ball in Motion Deflected or Stopped

19-2b (Stroke Play) If a competitor’s ball is accidentally deflected or stopped by himself, his partner or either of their caddies or equipment, the competitor incurs a penalty of two strokes.

I can’t find Patti’s situation in the Decisions Book, but I’m guessing that since both hits occurred as a result of the same shot, it would be just a two-stroke penalty. Maybe someone can enlighten all of us?

IMG_5814Notice that the rule includes a player’s equipment. “Equipment” includes your motorized cart even if you’re sharing it with another player. To quote the definition, “If such a cart is shared by two or more players, the cart and everything in it are deemed to be the equipment of the player whose ball is involved.”


A word to the wise: Be sure all of your equipment is completely out of the way when you make a shot. And take cover when hitting from a precarious situation!


Nearest Point of Relief

Friday, July 11th, 2014

The nearest point of relief is one of the most misunderstood concepts in golf. When your ball has come to rest on a cart path for example, you are entitled to take free relief. In order to do so, you have to find the nearest point of relief not closer to the hole. That doesn’t necessarily mean the nicest point of relief!


I found myself  in this very situation a few days ago. After checking out the nearest point of relief, I made the decision to hit the ball off the cart path. Why?  Because the nearest point of relief put a large rock between me and the green, whereas from the cart path I had an unobstructed shot.



To determine the nearest point of relief, first of all choose the club you most likely will use for your next shot. Then position yourself in your golf stance at the nearest point that frees you completely from the obstruction. Put a tee in the ground where the head of your club is touching the ground.


IMG_0215From there  measure a club length in any direction except closer to the hole and mark that point with a tee. Finally,  pick up your ball and drop it so that it strikes the ground between the two tees. Your ball is now in play.



This procedure is much easier to understand when you see it demonstrated. In my book, “Hit It Alice! A Woman’s Golf Guide to Everything But the Swing,” there is a video showing you how to find the nearest point of relief. The book is available as an IBook through the iTunes Store.

“Winter Rules”

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

“Winter rules” or “preferred lies” are sometimes allowed in the early or transitional part of a golf season when the course is not in optimal playing condition. Players are given permission to “bump” their ball – in other words, move the ball so that it is in a better lie. (The Rules of Golf: Appendix I-4b)


I’m not fond of preferred lies for a couple of reasons. I’ve seen too many people who can’t seem to play without taking preferred lies. It’s become a habit that’s hard to break. Secondly, how will we learn to play off a bad lie if we never do so? Finally, winter rules are far too arbitrary in terms of what is meant by a bad lie.

Here’s a great story:

Four of my University of Texas players were discussing whether to play ‘winter’ rules or ‘summer’ rules. ‘What do you think, Coach?’ I said, ‘Well, you boys can go play golf. Or else you can make up some other game and go play that instead.’ They understood my meaning. In the game of golf, the ball is played as you find it. – Harvey Penick

 Q: What if my ball is lying close to another ball on the fairway?

Alice: You may mark your ball and pick it up. However, you may not clean the ball and you must be certain to replace it in its exact position. (The Rules of Golf: Rule 22)

Q: What if my ball is embedded in its own pitch mark?

Alice: You get free relief. You must drop the ball as close as possible to its embedded position. (The Rules of Golf: Rule 25-2)

From “Hit It, Alice! A Woman’s Golf Guide to Everything But the Swing” 

Playing on the Beach

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

Sound good? Not if the beach is a bunker on a golf course. Some days I feel like I’m in bunkers more than I’m on the fairway. It can be very frustrating.

Bunkers are simply hollowed-out areas filled with sand. Bunkers come in all shapes and sizes, and can be found almost anywhere on a golf hole. In most cases, you can play a shot out of the bunker. However, there are certain conditions of bunker play that you have to keep in mind.

A bunker is a hazard and is treated the same as any hazard under the Rules of Golf. You may not “ground your club” before making a shot. You may not “test the condition of the sand,” i.e. touch the sand with your hand to see how hard or soft it is.



You may not touch or move a loose impediment (natural objects) lying in or touching the bunker.



There are a couple of etiquette tips to remember as well.

Enter the bunker at the flattest entry point. Entering on a steep bank erodes the sand. After you have played out of the bunker, be sure to use the rake to repair any damage you’ve done. Then leave the rake either inside or outside of the bunker, depending on the requirements of the course you’re playing.


Q: Should I always use my sand wedge to hit out of a bunker?

A: A sand wedge may be the best club to use because it is a lofted club that will naturally lift the ball. However, you are allowed to use any club.

Q: When my ball comes to rest against a rake in the bunker, what should I do?

A: The rake is a movable obstruction and should be removed. If your ball moves in the process, it must be replaced and there is no penalty.

PS:  Learn to call the “beach” what it is – a bunker, not a sand trap.





Could You Pass?

Saturday, May 11th, 2013

In some European countries, golfers must pass a playing test as well as a written rules and etiquette test in order to obtain a “license to play.” The reasons? Pace of play, safety, reduced course damage, fewer dropouts from the game, etc.

Sweden is at the forefront of this movement and has developed an impressive examining system. Here are a few of the skill tests and a few questions from the written test. Could you pass?

Putting: Hole at least four of eight putts from two feet; hole at least four of eight putts in two strokes from 15 feet; hole at least two of four putts in three strokes or less from 3o feet.

Chipping: Begin 10 feet off the green with the flag place 30 feet back from the edge of the green and get at least five of ten chips within six feet of the hole.

Pitching: From 25 yards off the green and over a hazard, hit at least five of ten pitches on to the green.

Bunker: Make at least two of four balls from a greenside bunker stay on the green; from a fairway bunker, get at least two out of four balls out of the bunker.

Full Swing: In general, be able to hit a 7-, 8-, or 9- iron farther than 25 yards; hit a 4-, 5-, or 6- iron farther than 50 yards; hit a tee shot more than 80 yards. All shots must stop within a 30-40-yard-wide area. (Distances are for women.)

Some of these skills tests sound easy enough, but when faced with the pressure of HAVING to perform, could you do it? (I’m going to take these tests to a practice facility and test myself.)

How about these questions?

1) Give at least three examples of bunker etiquette.

2) A mis-hit causes  your ball to fly sideways and hit your bag. How many penalty strokes do you incur?

3) Are you allowed to remove dirt from your ball when it’s a) in the fairway? b) on the green?

4) You hit the wrong ball out of the rough. How many penalty strokes do you incur?

5) Name two ways to let the group playing behind you play through.

6) Name three areas of the golf course where you shouldn’t pull a cart or drive a motorized cart.

7) What color are the stakes marking a direct water hazard?

Again, could you pass? Good luck!!  (Answers below)



1) Rake the bunker; enter and exit the bunker on the low side; leave the rake wherever the course directs you to do so.

2) Two strokes (Rule 19-2)

3) a. No (Rule 21)  b. Yes (Rule 16-1b)

4) Two strokes (Rule 15-3)

5) Stop playing while the group behind plays through; let the group behind tee off with you, then allow them to move ahead at a pace that’s faster than yours.

6) The green, the tee, the apron of the green and the edge of a bunker.

7) Yellow