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Rules of Golf


Playing Options for: I. Water Hazards

II. Ball Lost or Out of Bounds; Provisional Ball

III. Bunkers

IV. Unplayable Lies

  1. I. Relief for Ball in Water Hazard (Yellow Stakes)

Under penalty of one stroke may:

a)     Play a ball from the spot where the original ball was last played

b)    Drop a ball behind the water hazard, keeping the margin last crossed between the hole and yourself with no limit to how far behind the water hazard you may go.

  1. II. Relief for Ball in Lateral Hazard (Red Stakes)

Under penalty of one stroke may:

a)     In addition to the two options listed for water hazards you may drop a ball outside the water hazard within two club-lengths of and not nearer the hole than

i)       the point where the original ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard or

ii)  a point on the opposite margin of the water hazard equidistant      from the hole.

Note:   The player may play the ball as it lies from within either a water hazard or lateral water hazard as long as he does not ground the club inside the hazard.  There is no penalty if this option is played.

  1. III. Ball Lost or Out of Bounds; Provisional Ball

Under penalty of one stroke

a)     Play a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played.


b)    If lost in water hazard (Rule 26-1) follow the rules for playing from a water hazard

c)     If lost in an obstruction (Rule 24-3) or abnormal ground condition (Rule 25-1c) the player may proceed under the applicable rule.

Provisional Ball

d)    Play a provisional ball if the original ball may be lost outside a water hazard or be out of bounds.

i)       Must declare your intent to play a provisional ball prior to           playing your provisional ball.

ii)               Must play provisional ball before going forward to search for the original ball

iii)            May play your provisional ball until he reaches the place where the original ball is likely to be.  Once you play from a point nearer the hole than that place, the original ball is lost and the provisional ball is the ball in play under penalty of stroke and distance.

  1. IV. Bunkers

a)     May not ground your club while in a bunker.

  1. V. Unplayable Lies

a)     May declare 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.

b)     If ball deemed unplayable, under penalty of one stroke, the player:

i)       may play a ball from which point the original ball was last played.

ii)               Drop a ball behind the point where the ball lay, keeping that point directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped; no limit to how far back you may go.

iii)              Drop a ball within two club-lengths of the spot where the ball lay, but not nearer the hole.

Note:  If unplayable ball is in a bunker and the player chooses option two or three the ball must be dropped in the bunker.  The ball may be lifted and cleaned when playing under this rule.


  1. I. Grip
    1. For clubs other than putters the grip must be circular in cross-section

(i)              may use a rib or indented spiral

  1. A putter grip may be non-circular in cross-section

(i)              no concavity, must be symmetrical

  1. Grip may be tapered but no bulge or waist

(i)              cross-section not to exceed 1.75 inches

  1. Except putters, the axis of grip to coincide with axis of shaft
  2. Putter may have two grips

(i)              both must be circular in cross-section

(ii)             both axis to coincide with axis of shaft

(iii)            must be separated by at least 1.5 inches

  1. II. Shaft
    1. Straightness

(i)              Must be straight from top of grip to < 5 inches above sole

  1. Bending and Twisting

(i)              Deflection is = despite how is rotated about longitudinal axis

(ii)             Must twist the same amount in either direction

  1. Attachment to Clubhead

(i)              Must be attached to the clubhead at the heel directly or through a single plain neck or socket.

(ii)             Length from top of neck to sole must not exceed 5 inches

(iii)            Shaft or neck or socket of a putter may be fixed at any point in the head


“Casual water” is any temporary accumulation of water on the course, that is visible before or after the player takes his stance, and is not in a water hazard.  Snow and natural ice, other than frost, are either casual water or loose impediments, at the option of the player.  Manufactured ice is an obstruction.  Dew and frost are not casual water.  A ball is in casual water when it lies in or any part of it touches the casual water.


“Out of bounds” is beyond the boundaries of the course or any part of the course so marked by the Committee.

When out of bounds is defined by reference to stakes or a fence or as being beyond stakes or a fence, the out of bounds line is determined by the nearest inside points of the stakes or fence posts at ground level excluding angled supports.

Objects defining out of bounds such as walls, fences, stakes and railings, are not obstructions and are deemed to be fixed.

When out of bounds is defined by a line on the ground, the line itself is out of bounds.

The out of bounds line extends vertically upward and downward.

A ball is out of bounds when all of it lies out of bounds.

A player may stand out of bounds to play a ball lying within bounds.


“Ground under repair” is any part of the course so marked by order of the Committee or so declared by its authorized representative.  It includes material piled for removal and a hole made by the greenskeeper, even if not so marked.

All ground and any grass, bush, tree or other growing thing within the ground under repair is part of the ground under repair.  The margin of ground under repair extends vertically downward, but not upward.  Stakes and lines defining ground under repair are in such ground.  Such stakes are obstructions.  A ball is in ground under repair when it lies in or any part of it touches the ground under repair.

Note 1:  Grass cuttings and other material left on the course that have been abandoned and are not intended to be removed are not ground under repair unless so marked.

Note 2:  The Committee may make a Local Rule prohibiting play from ground under repair or an environmentally-sensitive area defined as ground under repair.



“Loose impediments” are natural objects including:

  • stones, leaves, twigs, branches and the like,
  • dung, and
  • worms and insects and casts or heaps made by them, provided they are not:
  • fixed or growing,
  • solidly embedded, or
  • adhering to the ball.

Sand and loose soil are loose impediments on the putting green, but not elsewhere.

Snow and natural ice, other than frost, are either casual water or loose impediments, at the option of the player.

Dew and frost are not loose impediments.


– review by RJ Wiegand, PGA

Richard S. Tufts’ assessment of the rules of golf is quite perceptive.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading his comments and will highlight the aspects of his discussion I found to be most interesting.   Mr. Tufts begins with a word of caution, “Golf, like life, is full of breaks.  It is a game of chance.”  Richard goes on to point out one of the most basic principles in golf is that you play the course as you find it.  Being able to accept the breaks and still go on playing your game has always been one of the tests of a true champion.

The second principle he outlines is that you “put your ball in play at the start of the hole, play only your ball and do not touch it until you lift it from the hole.”  He goes on to explain the situations where you are permitted to touch your ball, with a warning, it must always be put in play again no nearer to the hole than the spot at which it came to rest.  To define golf is very difficult, however, Mr. Tufts seems to have succeeded when he claims this is golf – “you put your ball in play at the start of the hole, you play the course as you find it, you play only your own ball, and you do not touch it until you lift it from the hole.”

With regard to penalties in golf, it is rare when one deliberately violates the rules “demonstrating the high moral plane on which the game is universally played that those who intentionally violate the Rules soon find it difficult to arrange matches.”  The purpose of the Rules is to insure that everyone is playing the same game otherwise golf might become a game of negotiation.  There are three levels of severity when it comes to penalties: one stroke, two strokes in stroke play and its equivalent of loss of hole in match play, and disqualification.  The principle that applies to the penalties is that “the penalty must not be less than the advantage which the player could derive from the particular Rule violation.”

The one-stroke penalty is usually applied when accidentally moving the ball either by the player or in moving a loose impediment.  Likewise it is a one-stroke penalty for dropping a ball improperly or striking a ball twice while making a stroke.  The two-stroke penalty in stroke play and loss of hole in match play is the general penalty under the Rules.  Some examples include giving or receiving advice, improving the lie, and taking undue relief from obstructions.  Disqualification penalties are applied, for instance, when a penalty of two or even any number of additional strokes becomes inadequate.  Disqualification does not imply dishonorable conduct as most widely perceived, rather, it is most commonly connected with the return of incorrect scores.

The final principle of discussion is that like situations be treated alike.  The equity rule states that those matters not covered by the Rules be decided in equity; thus, implying that issues covered by the Rules have been disposed of on an equitable basis.  There is no special consideration when, for example, your ball comes to rest in a divot in the middle of the fairway.  The question is not whether “this particular situation is unfair to me,” but rather whether “others in a similar situation and I in mine are treated alike under the Rules.”

Although written many years ago, Mr. Tufts’ comments still apply today.  He does an excellent job of explaining the reasoning behind the Rules and every golfer would be wise to consider the wisdom presented in The Principles Behind the Rules of Golf.