Archive for the ‘Rules’ Category


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




Rain or Shine

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

Dressed for the cold!


Sometimes you just have to play – whether it’s raining, windy, cold or some other form of inclement weather. Most often, you choose to play because you’re in competition and the officials in charge have not delayed or cancelled the event. Other times you just want to play so badly that you’ll endure most anything.


Some thoughts about inclement weather:

1) Prepare for possible weather conditions and weather changes. Dress in layers and have some optional clothing available – i.e. gloves, handwarmers, stocking hat, rainsuit, etc.

2) Swing easy when it’s breezy.

3) Know that everyone is playing under the same conditions; keep a positive attitude.

4) Keep a small Handy Wipe in your bag. When your grips get wet, you are allowed to wrap this (or a small towel) around the grip to keep your hands from slipping. It really works! Conversely, you may use resin or powder to keep your hands dry on a very hot, humid day. (Rule 14-3c)

5) Never continue when there is lightning in the area. Even in competition, if you feel unsafe, you may mark your ball and take shelter.

6) In competitive play, if a horn is sounded to discontinue play, you MAY NOT play another shot. Not even if you have a one-inch tap-in. You MUST mark your ball and leave the course or you will be disqualified. That one-inch tap-in will still be there when play is resumed.

One of the last times I played golf with my mother (who was slipping into Alzheimer’s), we joked that someone must have left their dryer vent open. It was snowing. We were bundled up, and we were the only ones on the course. It’s one of my most precious memories.


Water Hazard Questions (and Answers)

Friday, January 4th, 2013

Here are a few interesting situations involving Rule 26: Water Hazards.

(Before trying to answer these questions, be sure you know the difference between a direct and lateral water hazard and the options you have with each.)

Direct hazard –  yellow stakes

Lateral hazard – red stakes








(from Golf Digest - August 2010)

1. Your opponent hits a ball toward a water hazard, but neither of you knows if the ball went in or if it is lost outside the hazard. She then hits a provisional but later finds the first ball inside the margin of the hazard. Is  she required to abandon the original ball?

2. You hit your ball into a water hazard that is marked with yellow stakes (a direct hazard). You see a spot on the opposite side of the hazard that is equidistant to the hole from the point where your ball last crossed the hazard margin and went into the water. Can you take a penalty drop at that spot?

3. Your playing partner duffs a tee shot that rolls just inside the margin of a water hazard. To make things worse, she tries to play her second shot from there, and it flies out-of-bounds. Can she add a penalty stroke for hitting it out-of-bounds and another stroke for taking relief from the hazard and then hit from the tee again, now lying 4?

4. Your shot lands on the green, rolls past the pin and off the other side into a lateral water hazard. It’s easy to determine where the ball last crossed the margin, but it’s impossible to find a spot within two club-lengths to drop that’s no closer to the hole. Can you drop in that area anyway?

5. Taking a one-stroke penalty, you drop within two club-lengths of the point where your ball last crossed the margin of a lateral water hazard, no closer to the hole. Your ball hits a pebble and rolls outside the two club-length zone but is still no closer to the hole. Can you play it as it lies, or do  you have to re-drop?


1. No. She must play the original ball as it lies or drop and take a one-stroke penalty. (Rule 26-1) The rules don’t allow for a provisional if a shot is known for certain to have been hit into a water hazard. In this case the player thought her first ball could be lost outside the hazard, so it was okay to have hit the provisional.

2. No. This option is available only if it’s a lateral water hazard marked with red stakes or a red line. (Rule 26-1c)

3. Yes. Or she can play another shot from the hazard (lying 3) or drop a ball behind the hazard, keeping the point at which the first ball crossed the hazard margin between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind the hazard the ball is dropped – lying 4. (Decision 26-2/1)

4. No. You must proceed under one of the other options for a lateral water hazard. Most likely you’d replay the last shot. (Decision 16-1/18)

5. If the ball rolled more than two club-lengths from the spot where it hit the pebble, you must re-drop. Otherwise, play it as it lies. (Rule 20-2c(vi)).

It always pays to know the rules!

A Rules Snafu

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

Cathy Schmidt, an LPGA teaching professional in Bradenton, Florida tells this story about a rules situation she encountered while playing in the 2012 LPGA Teaching & Club Professionals National Championship. See if you can figure out her score for the hole.

“Blame my poor shot on loss of concentration. Slow play due to tough course – Donald Ross’ French Lick in Indiana. The teaching pro’s games were not up to par and slow play ensued. Too much time in between shots and too much distraction from idol chit chat. My fault, too. I was ready to tell a story when I heard, ‘It’s your shot, Cathy’.

“(I) hit my tee shot on a par 3 into the fescue. With rules officials, the two other players, my caddy and a few spotters (looking), it seemed like I was going to have a lost ball. Then at 4:58 I stepped on what felt like a ball and identified it to be mine. The mark was the blue sharpied whale stencil, provided in the starter tent that (for fun reasons) I chose to use that day for my id-ing mark.

“One stroke for stepping on the ball. Then (I) placed it, but could not improve the lie so (I was) still in a hole in the fescue. Shot number two hits me and falls back into the fescue, so now I’m lying 4, out on 5 and up (on the green) in 6. I go to mark my ball and see that the whale is not on a Titleist.

“Wrong ball! Some other player used the same stencil. So back to the tee box, lying four, hitting five. (From the tee I) bogied for a grand total of eight.  By the time the rules officials decided what strokes would remain and what ones did not count, I was too confused to argue and just went on to play my best to the end.

“Just before entering the scoring tent, the rules official stopped me and the player who had my card to tell us I took a nine for the hole and to add one more stroke. They had miscounted.

“LOL!  I had fun, though. Fortunately, I only got (penalized) strokes; (I) could have added a host of hitchhiking chiggers from the fescue to itch my thoughts of slow play away.”

That’s quite a story, wouldn’t you agree? But the more I read the account, the more I thought that the final count of 9 wasn’t correct. So I contacted two “rules gurus” at the Minnesota Golf Association, Doug Hoffman and Lisa Overum and went over the situation with them.

Doug & Lisa’s conclusion:

“When she picked up the ball and either replaced or dropped it after stepping on it, she had a responsibility to (then) identify the ball as hers.  Had she done so, she would have discovered that the ball was not hers, and she should have kept looking for her original ball.  By not doing so and putting this found ball into play, she is treated as having declared the original ball lost.  Of course, this requires her to go back to the teeing ground under ‘stroke and distance.’  When she simply placed or dropped the ball and subsequently played it, she was in violation of Rule 20-7c for having played from a wrong place with a serious breach.  This is a ‘must correct’ situation requiring her to go back under the applicable rule (27) and proceed correctly with an additional two stroke penalty.  The strokes played with the ball played from the wrong place do not count.

“(We) both agree that the score is 8 either way you count it. She played five strokes and incurred three penalty strokes – 1 under Rule 27 and 2 under Rule 20-7c.  She does not incur the (2-stroke) penalty for the ball hitting her (Rule 19-2) since that stroke was deemed not to count.”

Are you still there?

For your reference, here are the rules mentioned above:

Rule 27 – Ball Lost or Out of Bounds: If a ball is lost … the player must play a ball, under penalty of one stroke, as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played.

Cathy complied with this rule by going back to the tee once she determined that her ball actually was lost.

Rule 20-7c – Playing from Wrong Place: If a competitor makes a stroke from a wrong place, he incurs a penalty of two strokes…

Raise your hand if you got the right answer! It pays to know the rules or, at the very least, know how to find the applicable rules in the Rule Book. In this case, it would have saved Cathy one stroke. And one stroke is one stroke.