So, You Think You Know the Rules?

A series of weekly “So, You Think You Know the Rules?” from our Rules Committee. They intend to tease you, challenge your awareness and help everyone stay more familiar with the rules of golf. Information is from the USGA Rules. You can find all the USGA rules here:

2021 Episode 1: Nearest Point of Relief? 
To help clarify relief from the cart path please watch this video from the USGA
This may also help: The nearest point of relief is where the club you choose lies once you take your stance. Put a tee down to mark that spot.
Got a question?  Ask Andy Singleton (
Rules Committee: Andy Singleton& Pat Riddell, Co-Chairman
Julie Richards, Mary Regehr, Mary Byerrum,, Susie Noel
2020 Episodes: 

Episode #8 “Lori’s Nightmare…the Embedded Ball”
A ball is considered “EMBEDDED” when it is in it’s own PITCH-MARK and part of the ball is BELOW  the level of the GROUND. Did you know that a ball does not necessarily have to touch the soil to be EMBEDDED? For example, grass, loose impediments and the like may intervene between the ball and the soil.

COURSE CONDITIONS, INCLUDING MUD AND EXTREME WETNESS, may interfere with proper playing of the game and warrant relief for an embedded ball anywhere “through the green”.  But note: “THROUGH THE GREEN” is the whole area of the course EXCEPT:
1. The TEEING GROUND and PUTTING GREEN of the hole being played, and 2. ALL HAZARDS on the course.

So, what’s RELIEF?  If it’s “Through the green”, the  ball that is embedded may be lifted, cleaned, and dropped, (WITHOUT PENALTY), as near as possible to the spot where it lay, but not NEARER the HOLE.  The ball when dropped must first strike a part of the course “through the green”.  And, ON THE PUTTING GREEN, a ball may be lifted and the damaged area may be repaired.

Episode #7 “Course Etiquette”
THIS IS JUST A FRIENDLY REMINDER ABOUT COURSE ETIQUETTE: When it is YOUR TURN to play, all decisions concerning play should have already been made (distance, lie, club, etc.).
You can do that when other players are getting ready to hit as long as you don’t interfere with their line of sight, or causing a hinderance by being a distraction.  DISTRACTIONS can be things like TALKING, MOVING, DIGGING in your BAG, PHONE CALLS,  etc.
Please be courteous of your fellow players and keep moving at a good pace. It is a groups responsibility to keep up with the group in front.  If it loses a clear hole and it is delaying the group behind,  it should invite the group behind to play through, irrespective of the number of players in that group.  The faster playing group should always be invited to play through.
When the play of the hole is completed, players should IMMEDIATELY leave the putting green.
BAD PLAY: We all know that this sometimes happens and causes a backup on the course.   DON’T PANIC- Continue your round and try your best to catch the group in front of you, and HAVE FUN.
Episode #6 “The Rake Did It”

A player hits her ball toward the bunker but a “rake” (left outside the bunker) stopped the ball.  When the rake was removed,  the ball rolled into the bunker.  What is the RULING?

Proper play would have the player mark the ball BEFORE removing the rake.  The player may then pick up the ball that rolled into the bunker and, without penalty, replace it in the spot that had been marked.  However, there are also rules governing this situation…
Rule 24-1: a) If the ball does NOT lie in or on the obstruction, the obstruction may be removed.  If the ball moves, it must be replaced, and there is no penalty, provided that the movement of the ball is directly attributed to the removal of the obstruction.                      b) if the ball lies IN or ON the obstruction, the ball may be lifted and the obstruction removed.  The ball must be dropped if traveling “through the green” or in a “hazard”, or on the putting green, be placed, as near as possible to the spot directly under the place where the ball lay IN or ON the obstruction, but not nearer the hole.  The ball may be “cleaned” when lifted under this rule.
If a RAKE deflects the ball away from the bunker,  you must play the ball where the ball comes to rest, or where the ball lies.
Episode #5 “Can I Move It?
“Loose impediments” are natural objects including 1) stones, leaves, twigs, branches and the like, 2) dung (aka scat), and 3) worms, insects and the like and the casts and heaps made by them. Provided they are NOT fixed or growing, solidly imbedded, or adhering to the ball.  SAND and LOOSE SOIL are impediments on the “Putting Green”, but not elsewhere. Snow and natural ice, other than frost, are casual water or loose impediments, at the option of the player.  Dew and frost are not loose impediments.

What about STONES IN BUNKERS? STONES, by definition, are loose impediments and when a players ball is in a HAZARD, a stone lying in or touching the hazard may not be TOUCHED or MOVED…however, STONES in bunkers may represent a danger to players (injury in an attempt to play the ball) and they may interfere with the proper playing of the game.  LIFTING A STONE IN A BUNKER IS PRECEEDED BY “A LOCAL RULE’  that deems STONES in BUNKERS as “MOVABLE OBSTRUCTIONS”. Then the stone may be removed without penalty. NOTE: we do NOT have this local rule at our golf course. 

Relief? If your ball comes to rest on a loose impediment on the golf course and you choose to move the impediment AND your ball moves, you incur a one stroke penalty. ON THE PUTTING GREEN, if the ball or ball marker is accidently moved while removing the “loose impediment,” the ball or ball marker must be replaced with NO PENALTY.

Episode #4 “That’s not my Ball” 
It can become a reality and a BIG fear to many players…So, what happens when a player inadvertently hits the WRONG BALL?  Rule 15-3 covers this one.
If a competitor makes a STROKE or STROKES at a WRONG ball , she incurs a penalty of (2) two STROKES.  The competitor must correct her mistake by playing the CORRECT BALL before making a stroke on the next tee box (and the strokes made hitting the wrong ball do not count in her score). Or, in the case of the last hole of the round, if she fails to declare her intention to correct her mistake before leaving the putting green, she is “ DISQUALIFIED.”  If the WRONG BALL belongs to another competitor, its owner must place her ball on the spot from which the WRONG BALL was first played.
In MATCH PLAY: If a player makes a STROKE at a wrong ball,  she LOSES THE HOLE. If the wrong ball belongs to another player, it’s owner must place a ball on the spot from which the WRONG BALL was first played. If the player AND opponent exchange balls during the play of a hole, the first to make a stroke at a wrong ball LOSES the hole; when this cannot be determined, the hole must be played out with the balls exchanged.
EXCEPTION for both STROKE AND MATCH PLAY: There is no penalty if a competitor makes a stroke at a wrong ball THAT IS MOVING in water, in a water hazard.

Episode #3 “The Infamous Provisional Ball” 
When a player hits a ball and it is obviously either LOST or OUT OF BOUNDS (OB), you may NOT tell the other people in the group they cannot look for your ball.  Each player has the “right” to go look regardless of what you say to them.
If the player considers his or her ball LOST or OB,  they must first STATE to the other players in the group that they are hitting a “PROVISIONAL BALL”.  Then players are allowed (3 minutes) to look for the FIRST ball.  If the first ball is FOUND ‘in bounds’, that ball is in play, and the provisional ball is picked up.  If the first ball is OB, the PROVISIONAL ball shall be used (with a ONE stroke penalty).
If you do not want the first ball to be the ball in play, you can hit another ball WITHOUT SAYING ANYTHING before you hit it, then THAT BALL automatically becomes the “ BALL IN PLAY” (regardless if another person finds the first ball or not)…
BUT BE AWARE! USGA Rule 15-2 states:  Failure to state a PROVISIONAL BALL constitutes an illegally substituted ball.  Putting that ball in play results in a TWO stroke penalty in STROKE PLAY or, LOSS OF HOLE in MATCH PLAY.  The penalty for playing a PROVISIONAL BALL is ONE stroke in both STROKE and MATCH play.
Episode #2 “Unplayable”
This Rule is for Jeanne Anne as she found her ball in a TREE BRANCH!
You may deem your ball unplayable at any place on the course except when the ball is in a WATER HAZARD.  You are the sole judge as to whether your ball is unplayable.
YOU HAVE THREE OPTIONS:  (A ONE STROKE penalty for each option):
1. Play a ball at the spot from which the original was LAST PLAYED.
2. 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, with no limit to how far behind that point the ball may be dropped.
3. Drop a ball within TWO CLUB LENGTHS of the spot where the ball lay, but not nearer the hole.
Note:  If your ball is in a BUNKER, and you elect to use option 2 or 3, a ball MUST be dropped in the BUNKER.

Episode #1 “Teeing Ground”
Do you know what the TEEING GROUND is?
Teeing Ground is an imaginary line forming a box from the front of the stationary tee markers (in our case, the red ones set up by the grounds crew) to the depth of 2 club lengths behind the markers.
Rule 11-2: Before a player makes her first stroke with any ball on the teeing ground, the tee markers are deemed to be FIXED. Therefore, moving the tee markers to improve a stance, area of intended swing or line of play is NOT permitted.  In STROKE PLAY, the penalty for playing the ball from outside the teeing ground when starting the hole is 2 STROKES. In MATCH PLAY, there is no penalty but your opponent may require you to replay the stroke.
NOTE: If a ball, when not in play, falls off the tee or is knocked off by the player in addressing it, it may be re-teed WITHOUT PENALTY.  But, if the player intended to strike the ball, then a stroke was made and the stroke counts (but no penalty is incurred).