Rules of Golf

R&A Rules of Golf

Not sure on a particular golf rule?    Would like to take a quiz on the Rules of Golf?   Click here to go the latest publication from the R&A on the Rules of Golf, to answer any questions you may have.

As at May 2017 the Local Rules of the Atherton Golf Club have been revised and are reproduced below.

Please check the display board near the Starters Box for temporary Local Rules.

  1. Immovable Obstructions. All pegs marking hazards, distance markers, advertising signs, sprinkler heads, irrigation and drainage structures, maintenance sheds and facilities, electricity poles and stays, rock constructed drain walls are to be treated as immovable obstructions. Relief may be taken without penalty under Rule 24-2. Note…Immovable obstructions such as hazard markers cannot be moved. (Rule 13-2)
  2. Out of Bounds. A ball lying beyond the fences surrounding the course, or outside the black and white markers signifying an OOB line on holes 1-5-8-10-12-13-14-17, or the roadway beside the 18th hole, or in the car park, or on/in the paved/cemented areas of the clubhouse, is out of bounds. The player should proceed under Rule 20-5. Note…Relief without penalty is not available when the OOB pegs, OOB house fences or wire boundary fences, interferes with a player’s stance or swing.
  3. Trees. If a staked tree, or a tree under one driver length in height, interferes with a player’s stance or swing, relief must be taken under Rule 24-2.
  4. GUR. Ground under repair is marked with GUR signs, or blue stakes or white paint. Tractor tyre or implement marks may be treated as GUR. Relief may be taken without penalty under Rule 25. Note…Areas not marked as above cannot be treated as GUR.  Buggy wheel marks are not GUR.   If doubt arises, play two balls and refer the matter to the Match Committee for a decision.
  5. Roadways/buggy paths. Designated roadways and cart paths can be treated as GUR and relief taken under Rule 25.    Note…Designated roadways or cart paths are those that have been artificially surfaced with cement, stones or gravel, with the exception of the buggy path to the left of the 13th green and to the right of the 17th green.  All other areas that have become bare areas through tyre wear must be treated as an integral part of the course (play the ball as it lies).
  6. Water Hazards. All water hazards on the course are to be treated as Lateral Water Hazards and are marked with red stakes.   Note… The red stakes are immovable obstructions and cannot be removed.  
  7. Note to Item 6… If a player’s ball enters the water hazard when played from the 10th tee, relief under penalty of 1 stroke may be obtained by dropping a ball in the designated Drop Zone further down the teeing area towards the green. Relief in the Drop Zone on the 10th tee is only available if the ball enters and remains in the water, but is not available if the ball is believed to have crossed the water and remained in the hazard in the trees/bush area beyond the water.  A player would then have to play another shot from the 10th teeing ground if the ball could not be dropped within two club lengths of the point of entry to the hazard. However, when a ball played from the 10th tee may not be found or may be unplayable in the hazard between the tee and the 10th green, to assist flow of play, a Provisional ball may be played from the tee, and if the original ball is not found, it then becomes the ball in play under penalty of one stroke.
  8. Power lines. A ball striking a power pole or power line must be replayed without penalty by dropping a ball at the point nearest to where the original ball was played.
  9. Distance markers. White posts/markers = 100m. Yellow posts/markers = 150m. Blue posts with yellow rings = 200m.

 For members information a different golf rule will be discussed each month.

This month (December) it is a preview of the proposed new Rules of Golf.

(Click on the blue underlined rules and terms to see the definition or meaning of that term.)

 The R&A and the USGA have unveiled a preview of the proposed new Rules of Golf, as part of a joint initiative to modernise the Rules and make them easier to understand and apply.

Highlights of the proposed Rule changes

  • Elimination or reduction of “ball moved” penalties: There will be no penalty for accidentally moving a ball on the putting green or in searching for a ball; and a player is not responsible for causing a ball to move unless it is “virtually certain” that he or she did so.
  • Relaxed putting green rules: There will be no penalty if a ball played from the putting green hits an unattended flagstick in the hole; players may putt without having the flagstick attended or removed. Players may repair spike marks and other damage made by shoes, animal damage and other damage on the putting green and there is no penalty for merely touching the line of putt.
  • Relaxed rules for “penalty areas” (currently called “water hazards”): Red and yellow-marked penalty areas may cover areas of desert, jungle, lava rock, etc., in addition to areas of water; expanded use of red penalty areas where lateral relief is allowed; and there will be no penalty for moving loose impediments or touching the ground or water in a penalty area.
  • Relaxed bunker rules: There will be no penalty for moving loose impediments in a bunker or for generally touching the sand with a hand or club. A limited set of restrictions (such as not grounding the club right next to the ball) is kept to preserve the challenge of playing from the sand; however, an extra relief option is added for an unplayable ball in a bunker, allowing the ball to be played from outside the bunker with a two-stroke penalty.
  • Relying on player integrity: A player’s “reasonable judgment” when estimating or measuring a spot, point, line, area or distance will be upheld, even if video evidence later shows it to be wrong; and elimination of announcement procedures when lifting a ball to identify it or to see if it is damaged.
  • Pace-of-play support: Reduced time for searching for a lost ball (from five minutes to three); affirmative encouragement of “ready golf” in stroke play; recommending that players take no more than 40 seconds to play a stroke and other changes intended to help with pace of play.
  • Simplified way of taking relief: A new procedure for taking relief by dropping a ball in and playing it from a specific relief area; relaxed procedures for dropping a ball, allowing the ball to be dropped from just above the ground or any growing thing or other object on the ground.

This month (November) it is procedures to adopt when ball accidentally moves on putting green.

(Click on the blue underlined rules and terms to see the definition or meaning of that term.)

           New Local Rule eliminates penalty for a golfer who accidentally causes a ball to move on the putting green.

• Rule available for committees to use in golf competitions from 1 January 2017.

• R&A and USGA will adopt new Local Rule in all golf championships, qualifying competitions and international matches.

Rules 18-218-3 and 20-1 are modified as follows:When a player’s ball lies on the putting green, there is no penalty if the ball or ball-marker is accidentally moved by the player, his partner, his opponent, or any of their caddies or equipment.The moved ball or ball-marker must be replaced as provided in Rules 18-2, 18-3 and 20-1.

This Local Rule applies only when the player’s ball or ball-marker lies on the putting green and any movement is accidental.

Note: If it is determined that a player’s ball on the putting green was moved as a result of wind, water or some other natural cause such as the effects of gravity, the ball must be played as it lies from its new location. A ball-marker moved in such circumstances is replaced.”

The Local Rule and a detailed Q&A is also available to download.

This month (October) it is procedures to adopt when identifying a ball.

(Click on the blue underlined rules and terms to see the definition or meaning of that term.)

The responsibility for playing the proper ball rests with the player. Each player should put an identification mark on his ball.

If a player believes that a ball at rest might be his, but he cannot identify it, the player may lift the ball for identification, without penalty. The right to lift a ball for identification is in addition to the actions permitted under Rule 12-1.

Before lifting the ball, the player must announce his intention to his opponent  in match play or his marker  or a fellow-competitor
 in stroke play and mark the position of the ball. He may then lift the ball and identify it, provided that he gives his opponentmarker
 or fellow-competitor  an opportunity to observe the lifting and replacement. The ball must not be cleaned beyond the extent necessary for identification when lifted under Rule 12-2.

If the ball is the player’s ball and he fails to comply with all or any part of this procedure, or he lifts his ball in order to identify it without good reason to do so, he incurs a penalty of one stroke. If the lifted ball is the player’s ball, he must replace it. If he fails to do so, he incurs the general penalty for a breach of Rule 12-2, but there is no additional penalty under this Rule.

Note: If the original lie of a ball to be replaced has been altered, see Rule 20-3b.

*PENALTY FOR BREACH OF RULE 12-2:
Match play – Loss of hole; Stroke play – Two strokes.

*If a player incurs the general penalty for a breach of Rule 12-2, there is no additional penalty under this Rule.

This month (September) it is procedures regarding practicing on the competition course.

(Click on the blue underlined rules and terms to see the definition or meaning of that term.)

a. Match Play

On any day of a match play competition, a player may practise on the competition course.

b. Stroke Play

Before a round or play-off on any day of a stroke play competition, a competitor must not practise on the competition course or test the surface of any putting green by rolling a ball or roughening or scraping the surface.

When two or more rounds of a stroke play competition are to be played over consecutive days, a competitor must not practise between those rounds on any competition course.

Exception: Practice putting or chipping on or near the first teeing ground or any practice area before starting a round or play-off is permitted.

PENALTY FOR BREACH OF RULE 7-1b:
Disqualification.

This month (August) it is procedures to adopt when a ball is deemed unfit for play.

(Click on the blue underlined rules and terms to see the definition or meaning of that term.)

A ball is unfit for play if it is visibly cut, cracked or out of shape. A ball is not unfit for play solely because mud or other materials adhere to it, its surface is scratched or scraped or its paint is damaged or discoloured.

If a player has reason to believe his ball has become unfit for play during play of the hole being played, he may lift the ball, without penalty, to determine whether it is unfit.

Before lifting the ball, the player must announce his intention to his opponent in match play or his marker  in stroke play and mark the position of the ball. He may then lift and examine it, provided that he gives his opponent an opportunity to examine the ball and observe the lifting and replacement. The ball must not be cleaned when lifted under Rule 5-3.

If the player fails to comply with all or any part of this procedure, or if he lifts the ball without having reason to believe that it has become unfit for play during play of the hole being played, he incurs a penalty of one stroke.

If it is determined that the ball has become unfit for play during play of the hole being played, the player may substitute  another ball, placing it on the spot where the original ball lay. Otherwise, the original ball must be replaced. If a player substitutes  a ball when not permitted and makes a stroke  at the incorrectly ball, he incurs the general penalty for a breach of Rule 5-3, but there is no additional penalty under this Rule or Rule 15-2.

If a ball breaks into pieces as a result of a the stroke is cancelled and the player must play a ball, without penalty, as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was played (see Rule 20-5).

*PENALTY FOR BREACH OF RULE 5-3:
Match play – Loss of hole; Stroke play – Two strokes.
*If a player incurs the general penalty for a breach of Rule 5-3, there is no additional penalty under this Rule.

This month (July) it is procedures to adopt before, during and after a round of golf.

RULE OF THE MONTH:   There are some important general Rules that arise every time you play, and some apply even before you have started your round.

(Click on the blue underlined rules and terms to see the definition or meaning of that term.)

Before starting the round:

  • Read the Local Rules on the score card and the notice board
  • Put an identification mark on your ball; many golfers play the same brand of ball and if you can’t identify your ball, it is considered lost
  • Count your clubs; you are allowed a maximum of 14 clubs

    During the round:

    • Don’t ask for advice from anyone except your partner or your caddies (general penalty); don’t give advice to anyone except your partner (general penalty); you may ask for information on the Rules, distances and the position of hazards, the flagstick, etc.
    • Don’t play any practice shots during play of a hole (general penalty)
    • Don’t use any artificial devices or unusual equipment, unless specifically authorised by Local Rule

      At the end of your round:

      • In match play, ensure the result of the match is posted
      • In stroke play, ensure that your score card is completed properly

      In stroke play, the player’s responsibilities in relation to the score card are as follows:

      • Ensure that the marker of the card has recorded all the gross scores for each hole correctly – if a score card is returned to the Committee with a lower gross score for a hole, the player is disqualified
      • In a handicap competition, ensure that his/her handicap is recorded somewhere on the score card
      • Ensure that the marker has signed the score card
      • Sign the score card himself/herself, and return the score card to the Committeeas soon as possible

      Although it is common for markers to add the hole scores and write the total on the score card, there is no penalty to the player for signing for an incorrect total, provided the scores for each hole are correct. It is the responsibility of the Committee to add the scores.

      Similarly, although markers often apply the handicap on the score card (i.e. subtract the handicap from the total score), this is also the Committee’s responsibility, so there is no penalty to the player if the handicap is wrongly applied.

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With the emphasis always on Slow Play, this month (June) here are some ways to improve your speed of play.

TEN WAYS TO AVOID SLOW PLAY.

 Watch the groups around you –are you behind.

If the group in front of you is more than one shot ahead (i.e. if they are on the green of a par-4 before you even tee off) you need to speed it up. Conversely, if there is no one ahead of you, but the group behind is constantly waiting for you to hit, either let them play through, or pick up the pace.

Don’t wait – Putt out and move to the tee.

If your foursome have fallen behind for whatever reason, the first 2 players to putt out should immediately head over to the next Tee and hit off. This saves time, and can really help you catch up. Filling in score cards for the previous hole can be done as the last 2 players are preparing to Tee off.

Watch your ball until it stops – pick a reference point.

After every shot – especially from the tee – keep an eye on your ball until it comes to rest. If it has wandered into the rough or the cabbage, get a clear sight onto a marker or reference point near it – a tree, bush, mound…anything. If there is even the slightest chance that it could go walkabout, play a provisional ball — resist the rarely accurate urge to say “Nah, we’ll probably find it.”

If it’s lost, it’s lost – play your Provisional.

I realise that your brand new Titleist ProV1 wasn’t cheap (believe me, I empathise with you), but when your five minutes is up, it’s up. Declare it lost and move on. (You DID play a provisional ball back on the tee, right?)

Always think ahead – map your next shot.

As you approach the green, determine where the next tee is, and then park your cart/buggy/bag between the hole and the next tee. That way, when you are done with the hole, you can clear the green quickly. And for heaven’s sake, don’t loiter around the green discussing the scores — record your scores at the next tee!

Be prepared – be ready to play.

When on the green, in the fairway, or anywhere else, get prepared for your shot while riding or walking to your ball.  Read the break, check the wind, estimate the yardage or do a pre-shot routine ahead of time, so that when it is your turn, you’re ready to go. (In this case, a GPS device or yardage book is a must). And whenever you have the opportunity, play “ready golf”.

Go directly to your ball – don’t all go to one ball.

Each member of your group should go directly to their ball. Avoid travelling from one ball to the other (unless helping to search for a lost ball.) When sharing a cart, drop off one player and then proceed to your own ball while he/she does their pre-shot routine.

Take multiple clubs.

If you need to leave your bag/buggy/ cart away from where your ball is positioned, take a couple of clubs with you. This will save you from having to go back and forth in case of indecision.

Hold that club.

When playing in a cart, do not put your club back in the bag until you arrive at your ball for your next shot. Especially with two players in a cart this practice saves a significant amount of time over the course of a round.

Call up on Par 3 holes – where practicable.

Calling up on Par 3 holes does speed up play, particularly on long par 3’s.  Be aware of where the preceding and following groups are.  If the tee/fairway in front is occupied and there are players waiting to tee off on your hole, move to a safe position and call up on the green.  This will allow the players behind to travel to the green while your group putts out.

This month (May) it is procedures to adopt when a player is unsure of the correct procedure during play of a hole.

RULE OF THE MONTH:  Procedure to adopt during play of a hole.  Rule 2.5.

(Click on the blue underlined rules and terms to see the definition or meaning of that term.)

a. Procedure for Competitor

In stroke play only, if a competitor is doubtful of his rights or the correct procedure during the play of a hole, he may, without penalty, complete the hole with two balls. To proceed under this Rule, he must decide to play two balls after the doubtful situation has arisen and before taking further action (e.g. making a stroke at the original ball).

The competitor should announce to his marker or a fellow-competitor:

that he intends to play two balls; and

which ball he wishes to count if the Rules permit the procedure used for that ball.

Before returning his score card, the competitor must report the facts of the situation to the Committee. If he fails to do so, he is disqualified.

If the competitor has taken further action before deciding to play two balls, he has not proceeded under Rule 3-3 and the score with the original ball counts. The competitor incurs no penalty for playing the second ball.

b. Committee Determination of Score for Hole

When the competitor has proceeded under this Rule, the Committee will determine his score as follows:

(i) If, before taking further action, the competitor has announced which ball he wishes to count and provided the Rules permit the procedure used for the selected ball, the score with that ball counts. If the Rules do not permit the procedure used for the selected ball, the score with the other ball counts provided the Rules permit the procedure used for that ball.

(ii) If, before taking further action, the competitor has failed to announce which ball he wishes to count, the score with the original ball counts provided the Rules permit the procedure used for that ball. Otherwise, the score with the other ball counts provided the Rules permit the procedure used for that ball.

(iii) If the Rules do not permit the procedures used for both balls, the score with the original ball counts unless the competitor has committed a serious breach with that ball by playing from a wrong place. If the competitor commits a serious breach in the play of one ball, the score with the other ball counts despite the fact that the Rules do not permit the procedure used for that ball. If the competitor commits a serious breach with both balls, he is disqualified.

Note 1: “Rules permit the procedure used for a ball” means that, after Rule 3-3 is invoked, either: (a) the original ball is played from where it had come to rest and play is permitted from that location, or (b) the Rules permit the procedure adopted for the ball and the ball is put into play in the proper manner and in the correct place as provided in the Rules.

Note 2: If the score with the original ball is to count, but the original ball is not one of the balls being played, the first ball put into play is deemed to be the original ball.

Note 3: After this Rule has been invoked, strokes made with the ball ruled not to count, and penalty strokes incurred solely by playing that ball, are disregarded. A second ball played under Rule 3-3 is not a provisional ball under Rule 27-2.

REMEMBER: WHEN PLAYING TWO BALLS BECAUSE OF DOUBT AS TO PROCEDURE, YOU MUST FIRST INFORM YOUR MARKER WHICH BALL YOU WISH TO COUNT IF THE RULES PERMIT THAT BALL TO BE PLAYED.

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This month (April) it is procedures to adopt when a hazard stake interferes with your stance or swing.

(Click on the blue underlined rules and terms to see the definition or meaning of that term.)

RULE OF THE MONTH:  Immovable Obstructions.  Rule 24-2.  Seems that some members are still unsure of the procedure to be followed in relation to the red stakes marking the boundaries of the lateral water hazards on the courses.

The stakes are deemed to be ‘immovable obstructions’, therefore you cannot move them to play a shot

The stakes marking the hazard are inside the hazard, with the margin of the hazard measured from the nearest outside points of the stakes at ground level. 

If your ball is outside the hazard and the stake interferes with your ball, stance, or line of your intended swing, you may take relief without penalty, by dropping the ball within one club length no nearer the hole.

If your ball is in the hazard and the stake interferes with your ball, stance, or line of intended swing, it is bad luck as the ball must be played as it lies.  There is no relief and the stake cannot be removed to allow the playing of the shot.

A ball is considered to be in the hazard when part of it touches the line defining the hazard, unlike an ‘Out of Bounds’ margin, when all of the ball must be out bounds, measuring from the nearest inside points of stakes at ground level.

Exception: A player may not take relief under this Rule if (a) interference by anything other than an immovable obstruction 
makes the stroke clearly impracticable or (b) interference by an immovable obstruction would occur only through use of a clearly unreasonable stroke or an unnecessarily abnormal stance, swing or direction of play.

Note 1: If a ball is in a water hazard (including a lateral water hazard), the player may not take relief from interference by an immovable obstruction . The player must play the ball as it lies or proceed under Rule 26-1.

PENALTY FOR BREACH OF RULE:
Match play – Loss of hole; Stroke play – Two strokes.

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This month (March) it is procedures to adopt when a ball is struck towards a water hazard.

(Click on the blue underlined rules and terms to see the definition or meaning of that term.)

A “lateral water hazard” is a water hazard or that part of a water hazard so situated that it is not possible, or is deemed by the Committee to be impracticable, to drop a ball behind the water hazard in accordance with Rule 26–1b. All ground and water within the margin of a lateral water hazard are part of the lateral water hazard.

When the margin of a lateral water hazard is defined by stakes, the stakes are inside the lateral water hazard, and the margin of the hazard is defined by the nearest outside points of the stakes at ground level. When both stakes and lines are used to indicate a lateral water hazard, the stakes identify the hazard and the lines define the hazard margin. When the margin of a lateral water hazard is defined by a line on the ground, the line itself is in the lateral water hazard. The margin of a lateral water hazard extends vertically upwards and downwards.

A ball is in a lateral water hazard when it lies in or any part of it touches the lateral water hazard.

Stakes used to define the margin of or identify a lateral water hazard are obstructions.

Note 1: That part of a water hazard to be played as a lateral water hazard must be distinctively marked. Stakes or lines used to define the margin of or identify a lateral water hazard must be red.

Note 2: The Committee may make a Local Rule prohibiting play from an environmentally-sensitive area defined as a lateral water hazard.

Note 3: The Committee may define a lateral water hazard as a water hazard.

It is a question of fact whether a ball that has not been found after having been struck toward a water hazard is in the hazard.
In the absence of knowledge or virtual certainty that a ball struck toward a water hazard, but not found, is in the hazard,
 the player must proceed under Rule 27-1.

If a ball is found in the water hazard or if it is known or virtually certain that a ball that has not been found is in the water hazard (whether the ball lies in water or not), the player may under penalty of one stroke:

a. Proceed under the stroke and distance provision of Rule 27-1 by playing a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played (see Rule 20-5); or

b. Drop a ball behind the water hazard, keeping the point at which the original ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind the water hazard the ball may be dropped; or

c. As additional options available only if the ball last crossed the margin of a lateral water hazard, 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.

When proceeding under this Rule, the player may lift and clean his ball or substitute a ball.

(Prohibited actions when ball is in a hazard – see Rule 13-4)

(Ball moving in water in a water hazard – see Rule 14-6)

PENALTY FOR BREACH OF RULE:
Match play – Loss of hole; Stroke play – Two strokes.

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