Golf Rules: The Basics Series Part 2

This is the second in a series of posts about the Rules of Golf. “Golf Rules: The Basics,” is an attempt to simplify the game. I have put the rules into a conversation about golf. The rules are not in any specific order or numbered.

Golf Rules: The Basics Part 2

Once the ball has been put into play, you can’t touch the ball or cause it to move in any way; such as accidentally with the club, your foot or when addressing the ball. Addressing the ball refers to placing your club immediately in front of or behind the ball. No longer do the rules require you to have taken a stance as part of addressing the ball.

If you accidentally cause your ball to move, it is a one stroke penalty and you must replace it. One of the only times you do not have to replace the ball is if it moves during your stroke. It still is a one stroke penalty, you just don’t have to replace it (you’ve already hit it, no need to chase after it and bring it back). Many players believe there is a penalty if your club touches the ball (but it doesn’t move) when you address it. You are not penalized if when addressing the ball the club touches the ball.

There is no penalty if you accidently cause your ball to move when you are searching for it in the bunker. You may need to move some sand to see the ball and identify it. If you are probing around in a hazard and accidently touch the ball there is no penalty. Also, if you are moving loose impediments to identify your ball in a water hazard and the ball moves, there is no penalty, just replace the ball and the loose impediments.

Later, we’ll discuss touching the ball when on the putting green. But for now, just remember to be very careful and don’t cause your ball to move. It will save you a lot of stress and headache. If someone other than you or your caddie causes the ball to move, just replace it and there is no penalty.

Many players believe if the wind causes the ball to move or it moves on its own (maybe gravity on a hill) you need to put it back on its original spot. You actually will play the ball from its new position. You don’t put it back even if your ball marker is still in place. (See my rules discussion section for a this situation)

There are times during the round when you can legally touch your ball without penalty; when you need to identify it or lift it because it is interfering with another player. Unless you are on the putting green do not clean your ball. This would cause you to incur a one stroke penalty (except when taking relief from ground under repair or a plugged lie).

When you make a stroke and your ball strikes an outside agency, such as a mower or a tractor used by the superintendent, this is known as ‘rub of the green’ and you play it from where it ends up. Even if the ball ends up out of bounds or in a hazard, it’s ‘rub of the green.’ It could end up in a great position or even in the hole. The same ‘rub of the green’ applies.

If the ball strikes you, your caddie or your golf equipment, then you incur a one stroke penalty. You still will play the ball where it ends up. If your ball strikes another ball at rest, there is no penalty and you play your ball where it ends up (again, we will discuss this situation on the putting green at another time). The other player should replace his ball on the original spot prior to being hit by your ball.

Now you’ve hit your shot and unfortunately it ends up in a bunker (it’s not a sand trap although most people call it a trap). The bunker has some special rules you should know. One of the most important rules: don’t ground your club prior to making your stroke or you incur a two stroke penalty. It’s okay to touch the sand with your club if you are using it for support or balance getting in and out of the bunker.

It’s no problem if you take more than one club into the bunker and after deciding which club to use, you place the other down on the sand. You can’t test the condition of the sand when you drop the extra clubs in the bunker but there is no penalty for placing them near you in the bunker.

Sometimes you’ll find things in the bunker that may be in the way of your stroke. If it’s a cigarette butt or candy bar wrapper you can move it. If it’s a pine cone or some leaves you can’t move them. The easiest way to remember if you can move something in the bunker: if it was made by humans, such as cans, butts, paper or other trash, it can be moved. If it is natural, such as stones, leaves, twigs, pine cones, pine needles, it is a two stroke penalty for removing these items.

NOTE: Many courses have a local rule which allows the player to remove stones in the bunker because most clubs played by amateurs have stones in the sand. But check the local rules to be certain you can move stones in the bunker without penalty. On the tour, most of their bunkers have no rocks or pebbles and they are penalized for moving them.

It is important to remember; if you hit your shot from the bunker and the ball does not leave the bunker, all the same rules apply. Many times when a player fails to get the ball out of the bunker on the first, second or even third try, they swing at the sand in frustration. Touching the sand while the ball is still in the bunker is a two stroke penalty.

Finally you have the ball out of the bunker and sitting nicely in the fairway. After putting what you thought was a good swing on the ball, you hit it fat and the ball barely clears the lake landing on the slope in front of the green. As you stand in frustration looking at the divot which looks like it was made with a backhoe, your ball rolls back into the lake. Dang! Where do you drop a ball for your next shot?

Many people believe since the ball cleared the lake and landed on the other side before it rolled back into the hazard (lake), you drop on the other side near the green. That is incorrect. Remember; you are never allowed to drop a ball closer to the hole. In the case of the ball rolling back into the hazard, dropping on the green side would be closer to the hole. If not there, then where?

Well, you have three options when your ball ends up in a hazard, in this case, the lake. One option is to play it where it lies in the hazard. Of course if the ball is in three feet of water this might not be feasible. But possibly the ball hung up in the grass around the hazard but not actually in the water. It’s still in the hazard but you may be able to hit it.

A second option is to hit again from where you just made the divot which looks like it was done with a backhoe. You can always hit again from where you made the shot that put you in this predicament. But that might be 175 yards out and why take a chance on it happening again. Let’s look at the third option for hitting into a hazard.

A competitor may tell you to go back as far as you want from where the ball crossed the hazard. This is partially correct. Then where is the correct place to drop for this option? Keep the point where your ball crossed into the hazard and the flag in a straight line and then you can go back as far as you would like. Now you can drop a ball in the correct position.

Finally you hit a shot and your ball has landed on the green, about five feet above the hole on a fairly steep slope. The other competitors in your group are now on the green as well. Everyone marks their ball and then decides who is farthest away and will putt first. As you are marking your ball, your thumb hits the ball and causes it to move about two inches. Is this bad news?

No. There is no penalty if during the act of marking or replacing your ball you accidentally cause it to move. Just replace it and try to be a little more careful. No need to give the other competitors something to scream about!

One of your competitors is preparing to putt, standing over his ball with the putter directly behind the ball. Suddenly his glasses fall from his hat and hit the ball, causing it to move. Now what? Well, he has incurred a one stroke penalty for causing his ball to move. Since it was not during the act of marking his ball, his equipment caused the ball to move, therefore a one stroke penalty and he must replace it back to its original position.

The competitor asks you to tend the flag (hold on to it and be prepared to pull it out of the hole if the ball gets close). He hits his twenty foot putt well and it is rolling right at the hole, getting closer and closer. Looks like it might go in so you pull on the flag to remove it, but it’s stuck! You keep pulling but no luck. Then it happens. The putt from twenty feet hits the flag and falls in the hole. Nice putt!

One problem: the ball hit the flag while he was putting on the green. This is a two stroke penalty but who should be penalized? You tried to pull the flag out but it was stuck. He couldn’t pull it out; he was twenty feet away with his eyes as wide as jumbo marbles watching his putt approaching the hole. He claims you are penalized since you were tending the flag and didn’t pull it out before his ball hit the hole. You say he is the one penalized. Who gets the two stroke penalty?

Unfortunately, the competitor who hit the putt receives the two stroke penalty. He argues you should have pulled it out before the ball got there and this isn’t fair. Truth is; it is his responsibility (or his caddie if he has one) to insure the flag is removed in time. Granted, you should have made certain the flag would come out if you needed to pull it. But after all is said and done, the competitor who made the putt has an additional two stroke penalty on his card. It was still a good putt but that is not what will be discussed the rest of the day.


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