USGA Rules and Decisions (selected excerpts)

USGA Rules are shown as normal text, copy-pasted directly from http://www.usga.org/Rule-Books/Rules-of-Golf/Rules-and-Decisions/. USGA Decisions are shown as table-text, also copy-pasted directly. (TERehm)

Rule 2. Match Play

2/ 1  Players in Singles Match Accompanied by Third Party

Q. Prior to a singles match between A and B, A stated to B that a third player, C, would be playing with them. B played the match under protest and lost. What ruling should the Committee give?

A. A single is a match in which one plays against another. Since B made a timely claim, the Committee should have awarded the match to B. If B had not protested, i.e., had agreed that C accompany the match, the result of the match would stand as played.

2-4/7  Concession of Stroke Refused by Player and Withdrawn by Opponent; Player Then Putts and Misses

Q. In a match between A and B, A putts and his ball comes to rest near the hole. B concedes A’s next stroke. A says: “No. I haven’t holed out yet.” B says: “OK. Go ahead and putt.” A putts and misses. In such circumstances, is the concession invalidated?

A. No. When B conceded A’s next stroke, A had completed the hole. Concession of a stroke may not be declined or withdrawn — see Rule 2-4.

 

Rule 4. Clubs

4-4. Maximum of 14 Clubs

a. Selection and Addition of Clubs The player must not start a stipulated round with more than 14 clubs. He is limited to the clubs thus selected for that round, except that if he started with fewer than 14 clubs, he may add any number, provided his total number does not exceed 14.

The addition of a club or clubs must not unduly delay play (Rule 6-7) and the player must not add or borrow any club selected for play by any other person playing on the course.

4-4a/10  Breach of 14-Club Rule in Stroke Play Discovered at 8th Hole; Where Penalty Strokes Applied

Q. In stroke play, A discovers during play of the 8th hole that he has 15 clubs in his bag and thus has incurred a penalty of four strokes under Rule 4-4a. How should the four-stroke penalty be applied?

A. A must add penalties of two strokes to his scores for the 1st and 2nd holes.

In four-ball stroke play, both A and his partner would add penalties of two strokes to their scores for the 1st and 2nd holes -- see Rule 31-6. (Revised)

 

 

 

 

 

 Rule 5. The Ball

5-1/4  Status of “X-out,” “Refurbished” and “Practice” Balls

Q. What is the status of “X-out,” “refurbished” and “practice” balls?

A. “X-out” is the common name used for a golf ball that a manufacturer considers to be imperfect (usually for aesthetic reasons only, e.g., paint or printing errors) and, therefore, has crossed out the brand name. A “refurbished” golf ball is a second-hand ball that has been cleaned and stamped as “refurbished.”

In the absence of strong evidence to suggest that an “X-out” or “refurbished” ball does not conform to the Rules, it is permissible for such a ball to be used. However, in a competition where the Committee has adopted the condition that the ball the player plays must be named on the List of Conforming Golf Balls (see Note to Rule 5-1), such a ball may not be used, even if the ball in question (without the X’s or without the “refurbished” stamp) does appear on the List.

In most cases, “practice” balls are simply listed, conforming golf balls that have been stamped “Practice,” in the same way that golf balls often feature a club or company logo. Such balls may be used even where the Committee has adopted the condition that the ball the player plays must be named on the List of Conforming Golf Balls. (Revised)

 

Rule 6. The Player

6-2b/3.5  Wrong Handicap Recorded on Score Card by Committee; Error Discovered Before Competition Closed

Q. In a stroke-play competition, the Committee issues the score cards containing the competitor’s handicap in addition to his name and the date.

The Committee mistakenly records a competitor’s handicap as seven instead of six and this affects the number of strokes received. The error remains unnoticed until after the card is returned, but before the competition has closed. What is the ruling?

A. The competitor should be disqualified under Rule 6-2b. It is the responsibility of the competitor to ensure that his correct handicap is recorded on his score card before it is returned to the Committee.

6-6c/1 When Score Card Considered Returned

Q. Rule 6-6c prohibits alterations to the score card “after the competitor has returned it to the Committee.” When is a score card considered returned?

A. This is a matter for the Committee to decide and it will vary depending on the nature of the competition. The Committee should designate a “scoring area” where competitors are to return their score cards (e.g., in a tent, a trailer, the golf shop, by the scoreboard, etc.). When it has done so, Rule 6-6c should be interpreted in such a way that a competitor within the “scoring area” is considered to be in the process of returning his score card. Alterations may be made on the score card even if the competitor has handed the score card to a member of the Committee. He is considered to have returned his score card when he has left the scoring area.

Alternatively, the Committee may require a competitor to return his score card by placing it in a box and thus consider it returned when it is dropped into the box, even if he has not left the scoring area.

 

Rule 10. Order of Play

10-1. Match Play

a. When Starting Play of Hole

The Side that has the honor at the first teeing ground is determined by the order of the draw. In the absence of a draw, the honor should be decided by lot.

The Side that wins a hole takes the honor at the next teeing ground. If a hole has been halved, the Side that had the honor at the previous teeing ground retains it.

 

Rule 12. Searching for and Identifying Ball

12-1/1  Searching with Clubhead for Ball Covered by Sand in Bunker

Q. If a ball is covered by sand in a bunker, may a clubhead be used in searching?

A. Yes.

12-1/2  Ball Covered by Sand in Bunker Removed from Buried Lie During Search

Q. A ball buried in sand in a bunker is removed from the buried lie during search. The player replaces and re-covers it as required by Rule 12-1, third paragraph. May the player then remove as much sand as will enable him to see a part of the ball?

A. Yes.

 

Rule 13. Ball Played as it Lies

13/2  Status of Tree in Bunker

Q. Is a tree in a bunker part of the bunker?

A. No. Grass-covered ground within a bunker is not part of the bunker. The same principle applies to a tree. The margin of a bunker does not extend upward.

13-2/17  Removal of Boundary Stake Interfering with Swing

Q. A player removes a stake defining out of bounds which interferes with his swing. Is this permissible?

A. No. Objects defining out of bounds are fixed. Improving the position of a ball by moving anything fixed is a breach of Rule 13-2.

13-4/0.5 Meaning of “Test the Condition of the Hazard” in Rule 13-4a

Q. What is meant by “test the condition of the hazard” in Rule 13-4a?

A. The term covers all actions by which the player could gain more information about the hazard than could be gained from taking his stance for the stroke to be made, bearing in mind that a certain amount of digging in with the feet in the sand or soil is permitted when taking the stance for a stroke.

Examples of actions that would not constitute testing the condition of the hazard include the following:

• digging in with the feet for a stance, including for a practice swing, anywhere in the hazard or in a similar hazard;

• placing an object, such as clubs or a rake, in the hazard;

• leaning on an object (other than a club) such as a rake while it is touching the ground in the hazard or water in a water hazard;

• touching the hazard with an object (other than a club) such as a towel (touching with a club would be a breach of Rule 13-4b); or

• marking the position of the ball with a tee or otherwise when proceeding under a Rule.

Examples of actions that would constitute testing the condition of the hazard in breach of Rule 13-4a include the following:

• digging in with the feet in excess of what would be done for a stance for a stroke or a practice swing;

• filling in footprints from a previous stance (e.g., when changing stance to make a different type of stroke);

• intentionally sticking an object, such as a rake, into sand or soil in the hazard or water in a water hazard (but see Rule 12-1);

• smoothing a bunker with a rake, a club or otherwise (but see Exception 2 to Rule 13-4);

• kicking the ground in the hazard or water in a water hazard; or

• touching the sand with a club when making a practice swing
in the hazard or in a similar hazard (but see Exception 3 to
Rule
13-4). (New)

13-4/3  Touching Ground in Hazard with Several Practice Swings

Q. In stroke play, a competitor in ignorance of the Rules took several practice swings in a hazard, touching the ground each time. What is the penalty?

A. Two strokes for a breach of Rule 13-4.

 

13-4/8 When Club Touches Ground in Grass in Water Hazard

Q. If a player’s ball lies in a water hazard, when is his club in tall grass considered to be touching the ground in the water hazard, in breach of Rule 13-4b?

A. When the grass is compressed to the point where it will support the weight of the club (i.e., when the club is grounded). (New)

13-4/12  Ball Touched Accidentally with Club in Hazard But Not Moved

Q. A player, when addressing his ball which was lying in a bunker or was partially submerged in water in a water hazard, accidentally touches the ball with his club, but without moving it. Does this constitute touching the ground in a hazard or water in a water hazard in breach of Rule 13-4?

A. No.

13-4/19 Condition of Bunker Altered by First Player to Play From It

Q. The balls of A and B lie in the same bunker, with B’s ball farther from the hole. B plays and his ball comes to rest nearer the hole than A’s ball. Is A entitled to have the bunker restored to its original condition?

A. Yes, provided there is a reasonable possibility that the area disturbed by B could affect a subsequent stroke by A. Accordingly, in equity (Rule 1-4), A would be entitled to restore this area of the bunker to its original condition by raking or other means. The bunker may be restored by anyone.

If there was no reasonable possibility that the area disturbed by B could affect a subsequent stroke by A and A or his caddie raked the bunker prior to A’s stroke, A would be in breach of Rule 13-4.

In either case, B may rake the bunker (Exception 2 to Rule 13-4). A would incur no penalty if he asked B to rake the bunker. (Revised)

13-4/31  Touching Sand in Bunker During Backswing

Q. A player playing a shot in a bunker accidentally touched the sand when making his backswing. What is the ruling?

A. The player was in breach of Rule 13-4b when he touched the ground in the bunker with his club before making the stroke — see Definition of “Stroke.”

 

Rule 14. Striking the Ball

14-1/4  Striking Ball with Half an Inch Backswing

Q. A player’s ball lies close to an out of bounds fence, but there is room behind the ball to insert an iron club or a putter and leave a space of half an inch between the ball and the face of the club. If the player plays a stroke with such a limited backswing, is he in breach of Rule 14-1?

A. It is possible to strike a ball fairly with a half inch backswing. However, in most such cases the player would be pushing the ball, contrary to Rule 14-1. In the absence of strong evidence to the contrary, it should be ruled that the player has pushed the ball.

In order to strike the ball fairly, it must be swung at with the clubhead. If the ball is moved by any other method, it has been pushed, scraped or spooned.

If a ball is fairly struck at, there is only momentary contact between the clubhead and the ball or whatever intervenes between the clubhead and the ball.

14-3/0.5 Local Rule Permitting Use of Distance-Measuring Device

Q. May a Committee, by Local Rule, permit the use of distance-measuring devices?

A. Yes. A Committee may establish a Local Rule allowing players to use devices that measure or gauge distance only (see the Note to Rule 14-3). However, the use of a distance-measuring device that is designed to gauge or measure other conditions that might affect a player’s play (e.g., gradient, wind speed, temperature, etc.) is not permitted regardless of whether such an additional function is used.

In the absence of such a Local Rule, the use of a distance-measuring device would be contrary to Rule 14-3. (Revised)

Rule 15. Substituted Ball; Wrong Ball

15-1/1  Balls Inadvertently Exchanged by Players Between Holes

Q. After completion of a hole, the balls of A and B were inadvertently exchanged and A played B’s ball from the next teeing ground. Did A play a wrong ball?

A. No. A ball played from the teeing ground into the hole is not a wrong ball, even if it does not belong to the player — see Definitions of “Ball in Play” and “Wrong Ball.”

 

Rule 16. The Putting Green

16/5  Ball Strikes Edge of Hole-Liner and Bounces Out of Hole

Q. A player’s ball struck the rim of a hole-liner, which had not been sunk deep enough, and bounced out of the hole. Should the ball be considered holed in such circumstances?

A. No. Under the Definition of “Holed,” the ball must be at rest within the circumference of the hole.

16-1e/2 Player Plays from Stance Astride Extension of Line of Putt Behind Ball

Q. A player holes a short putt from a stance astride an extension of his line of putt behind the ball. The act was inadvertent or to avoid standing on another player’s line of putt or prospective line of putt. Is the player subject to penalty under Rule 16-1e?

A. No. The purpose of Rule 16-1e is to prevent a “croquet” style of putting. In this case, the player did not use the stance for that purpose and the Exception to Rule 16-1e applies. (Revised)

 

Rule 17. The Flagstick

17/8  Ball Strikes Hole-Liner Pulled Out with Flagstick

Q. A player played a stroke from the putting green. The ball struck the hole-liner, which had stuck to the bottom of the flagstick and had come out of the hole when the person attending the flagstick removed the flagstick. Is there any penalty?

A. No. A hole-liner is an outside agency. Accordingly, if the hole-liner was moving when the ball struck it, the stroke is canceled and the ball must be replaced — Rule 19-1b. If the hole-liner was not moving, the ball must be played as it lies — Rule 19-1. In case of doubt, the ball must be played as it lies.

17-1/5  Holding Flagstick with One Hand and Putting with Other Hand

Q. A player holds the flagstick with one hand and holes a short putt, gripping the putter with his other hand. Is this permissible?

A. Yes, provided the flagstick has been removed from the hole and the ball therefore does not strike it. If the ball were to strike the flagstick, a breach of Rule 17-3a would occur.

17-3/2  Opponent or Fellow-Competitor Attending Flagstick for Player Fails to Remove It; Player’s Ball Strikes Flagstick

Q. A requests B, his opponent or a fellow-competitor, to attend the flagstick, and B complies. A putts too firmly and B fails to remove the flagstick. A’s ball strikes the flagstick. What is the ruling?

A. If B failed to remove the flagstick for the purpose of causing A to incur a penalty, B is disqualified in both match play and stroke play for a serious breach of Rule 1-2. In stroke play, in equity (Rule 1-4), A must replay the stroke without penalty.

If B’s failure to remove the flagstick was for the purpose of preventing A’s ball from going beyond the flagstick and not for the purpose of causing A to incur a penalty, in match play B lost the hole under Rule
1-2 when he failed to remove the flagstick before A’s ball reached the hole. The fact that A’s ball subsequently struck the flagstick (a breach of Rule 17-3a) is irrelevant since B had already lost the hole. In stroke play, B incurs a penalty of two strokes under Rule 1-2, and A incurs the same penalty under Rule 17-3a.

If B’s failure to remove the flagstick was not deliberate, e.g., the flagstick stuck in the socket or B was distracted and did not see A putt, A incurs a penalty of loss of hole in match play or two strokes in stroke play under Rule 17-3. B incurs no penalty.

 

 

Rule 18. Ball at Rest Moved

18-2. By Player, Partner, Caddie or Equipment

a. General

When a player's ball is in play, if:

(i) the player, his partner or either of their caddies lifts or moves it, touches it purposely (except with a club in the act of addressing it) or causes it to move except as permitted by a Rule, or

(ii) equipment of the player or his partner causes the ball to move, the player incurs a penalty of one stroke. If the ball is moved, it must be replaced, unless the movement of the ball occurs after the player has begun the stroke or the backward movement of the club for the stroke and the stroke is made.

Under the Rules there is no penalty if a player accidentally causes his ball to move in the following circumstances:

· In searching for a ball in a hazard covered by loose impediments or sand, for a ball in an obstruction or abnormal ground condition or for a ball believed to be in water in a water hazard - Rule 12-1
· In repairing a
hole plug or ball mark - Rule 16-1c
· In measuring - Rule
18-6
· In lifting a ball under a
Rule - Rule 20-1
· In placing or replacing a ball under a
Rule - Rule 20-3a
· In removing a
loose impediment on the putting green - Rule 23-1
· In removing movable
obstructions - Rule 24-1.

b. Ball Moving After Address

If a player's ball in play moves after he has addressed it (other than as a result of a stroke), the player is deemed to have moved the ball and incurs a penalty of one stroke. The ball must be replaced, unless the movement of the ball occurs after the player has begun the stroke or the backward movement of the club for the stroke and the stroke is made.

18-3. By Opponent, Caddie or Equipment in Match Play

a. During Search

If, during search for a player's ball, an opponent, his caddie or his equipment moves the ball, touches it or causes it to move, there is no penalty. If the ball is moved, it must be replaced.

b. Other Than During Search

If, other than during search for a player's ball, an opponent, his caddie or his equipment moves the ball, touches it purposely or causes it to move, except as otherwise provided in the Rules, the opponent incurs a penalty of one stroke. If the ball is moved, it must be replaced.

18-4. By Fellow-Competitor, Caddie or Equipment in Stroke Play

If a fellow-competitor, his caddie or his equipment moves the player's ball, touches it or causes it to move, there is no penalty. If the ball is moved, it must be replaced.

18/2  Ball Oscillates During Address

Q. In addressing the ball, a player accidentally causes the ball to oscillate, but it returns to its original position. Has the ball “moved”?

A. No.

18-1/12  Ball Replaced and at Rest Is Thereafter Moved by Wind

Q. A player replaces his ball on the putting green and the ball is at rest. Before the player addresses the ball, a sudden gust of wind blows the ball farther from the hole. The player plays the ball from its new position. Is that correct?

A. Yes. Wind is not an outside agency — see Definition of “Outside Agency.” Accordingly, Rule 18-1 does not apply


 

18-2a/6  Oscillating Ball Pressed into Surface of Putting Green

Q. A ball lying on the putting green was oscillating due to wind. The player firmly pressed the ball into the surface of the green and the ball stopped oscillating. The player then holed out. Was the player in breach of the Rules?

A. Yes. The player incurred a penalty stroke under Rule 18-2a when he moved his ball by pressing on it. Since the original lie of the ball was altered when the ball was firmly pressed down, the player was obliged to proceed under Rule 20-3b. Since he did not do so, he lost the hole in match play and incurred a total penalty of two strokes in stroke play — see penalty statement under Rule 18.

18-2a/19  Ball Moved Accidentally by Practice Swing Prior to Tee Shot

Q. Before playing from the teeing ground, a player took a practice swing, in the course of which he accidentally struck and moved the teed ball with his club. Did the player play a stroke or incur a penalty?

A. The player did not make a stroke — see Definition of “Stroke.” Since the ball was not in play — see Definition of “Ball in Play” — he incurred no penalty under Rule 18-2a. The player must put a ball into play from the teeing ground.

18-2a/20  Ball in Play Moved Accidentally by Practice Swing

Q. A player makes a practice swing and accidentally moves his ball in play with his club. Has he made a stroke?

A. No. He had no intention of moving the ball — see Definition of “Stroke.”

However, he incurs a penalty stroke under Rule 18-2a for moving his ball in play, and the ball must be replaced.

18-2a/23  Ball Knocked from Lip of Hole in Disgust

Q. In stroke play, a competitor’s ball stops on the lip of the hole. In disgust the competitor knocks his ball off the green with the back of his putter. What is the ruling?

A. The competitor must replace the ball under penalty of one stroke — Rule 18-2a. The competitor is not considered to have made a stroke.

18-2a/26  Ball Dislodged from Tree When Player Climbs Tree to Play Stroke

Q. As a player is climbing a tree to play a ball lodged in the tree, the ball falls to the ground. Does the player incur a penalty?

A. Yes, one stroke under Rule 18-2a, and the ball must be replaced.

18-2a/27  Ball Dislodged from Tree; Circumstances in Which Player Not Penalized

Q. A player whose ball is lodged high in a tree wishes to dislodge it by shaking the tree or throwing a club so that he can identify it and proceed under the unplayable ball Rule. Is this permissible?

A. Yes. The player should state his intention before taking such action to avoid any question being raised as to whether a penalty would be incurred under Rule 18-2a.

18-2b/1  Ball Moves After Stance Taken But Before Address

Q. Outside a hazard, the player took his stance but did not ground his club. The ball moved. What is the ruling?

A. As the player had not addressed the ball, he did not incur a penalty under Rule 18-2b (see Definition of “Addressing the Ball”).

If, however, the player caused the ball to move, he was subject to penalty and the ball should have been replaced — Rule 18-2a.


 

18-2b/4  Ball Moves After Player Grounds Club But Before Stance Completed

Q. A player’s routine prior to making a stroke is as follows: He first grounds the club directly behind the ball with his feet together. Then he gradually widens his feet to shoulder width. At that point, he makes the stroke.

If the ball moves after he grounds the club but before he widens his stance to shoulder width, does he incur a penalty stroke under
Rule
18-2b (Ball Moving After Address)?

A. No. A player has not addressed the ball until he completes taking his stance, i.e., his feet are essentially in the position in which he normally places them when making a stroke.

However, if the ball moved after the club was grounded but before the player had completed taking his stance, he incurs a penalty stroke under Rule 18-2a for having caused the ball to move and must replace the ball, unless there is strong evidence that wind or some other agency caused the ball to move. (Revised)

18-2b/7  Ball Moves After Player Addresses It and Then Steps Away

Q. A player takes his stance and grounds his club. Realizing that the ball is precariously balanced and may move, he steps away from the ball and starts again. This time he does not ground his club, but before he strikes the ball, it moves. What is the ruling?

A. The player incurs a penalty stroke under Rule 18-2b, and the ball must be replaced.

 

Rule 20. Lifting, Dropping and Placing; Playing from Wrong Place

20-2. Dropping and Re-Dropping

c. When to Re-Drop

A dropped ball must be re-dropped, without penalty, if it:

(i) rolls into and comes to rest in a hazard;
(ii) rolls out of and comes to rest outside a
hazard;
(iii) rolls onto and comes to rest on a
putting green;
(iv) rolls and comes to rest
out of bounds;
(v) rolls to and comes to rest in a position where there is interference by the condition from which relief was taken under Rule
24-2b (immovable obstruction), Rule 25-1 (abnormal ground conditions), Rule 25-3 (wrong putting green) or a Local Rule (Rule 33-8a), or rolls back into the pitch-mark from which it was lifted under Rule 25-2 (embedded ball);
(vi) rolls and comes to rest more than two club-lengths from where it first struck a part of the
course; or
(vii) rolls and comes to rest nearer the
hole than:

(a) its original position or estimated position (see Rule 20-2b) unless otherwise permitted by the Rules; or
(b) the
nearest point of relief or maximum available relief (Rule 24-2, 25-1 or 25-3); or
(c) the point where the original ball last crossed the margin of the
water hazard or lateral water hazard (Rule 26-1).

If the ball when re-dropped rolls into any position listed above, it must be placed as near as possible to the spot where it first struck a part of the course when re-dropped.

Note 1: If a ball when dropped or re-dropped comes to rest and subsequently moves, the ball must be played as it lies, unless the provisions of any other Rule apply.

Note 2: If a ball to be re-dropped or placed under this Rule is not immediately recoverable, another ball may be substituted.

(Use of Dropping Zone - see Appendix I; Part B; Section 8.)


 

20-2c/1  Dropped Ball Rolling Out of Prescribed Dropping Area

Q. A player taking relief under the Rules sometimes appears to obtain more relief than he is entitled to because the relevant Rule allows him some latitude within which to drop and the dropped ball then rolls some distance from the place where it was dropped. When a Rule prescribes an area within which a ball must be dropped, e.g., within one or two club-lengths of a particular point, should it be re-dropped if it rolls outside the area so prescribed?

A. No, not necessarily. Provided the ball has been correctly dropped (Rule 20-2a) and does not roll into any of the positions listed in Rule 20-2c, it is in play and must not be re-dropped. In particular, under Rule 20-2c(vi), the ball may roll up to two club-lengths from the point where it first struck a part of the course when dropped, and this may result in its coming to rest an appreciable distance farther from the condition from which relief is being taken. For example:

(a) a ball dropped within two club-lengths of the margin of a lateral water hazard may come to rest almost four club-lengths from the hazard margin without the player being required to re-drop it under Rule 20-2c; and

(b) a ball dropped away from an immovable obstruction within one club-length of the nearest point of relief may come to rest almost three club-lengths from the nearest point of relief without the player being required to re-drop it under Rule 20-2c.

Rule 22. Ball Assisting or Interfering with Play

22-2. Ball Interfering with Play

Except when a ball is in motion, if a player considers that another ball might interfere with his play, he may have it lifted.

A ball lifted under this Rule must be replaced (see Rule 20-3). The ball must not be cleaned, unless it lies on the putting green (see Rule 21).

In stroke play, a player required to lift his ball may play first rather than lift the ball.

Note: Except on the putting green, a player may not lift his ball solely because he considers that it might interfere with the play of another player. If a player lifts his ball without being asked to do so, he incurs a penalty of one stroke for a breach of Rule 18-2a, but there is no additional penalty under Rule 22.

22/1  Mental Interference by Another Ball

Q. In order for A to be entitled to have B’s ball lifted because of interference, does B’s ball have to be on or near A’s line of play and thus in a position to interfere physically with A’s ball? Or may A also have B’s ball lifted if it is off his line of play but catches his eye and thus constitutes mental interference?

A. A player may, under Rule 22-2, have another ball lifted if the ball interferes either physically or mentally with his play.

Rule 24. Obstructions

24-1/4  Holding Ball in Place While Removing Obstruction

Q. During removal of a movable obstruction, may a player hold his ball to prevent it from moving?

A. No. Such procedure would be a breach of Rule 18-2a. There is no penalty if a ball moves during removal of a movable obstruction provided the movement of the ball is directly attributable to the removal of the obstruction.


 

24-2b/1 Determining “Nearest Point of Relief”

Q. The Note to the Definition of “Nearest Point of Relief” provides that the player should determine this point “by using the club with which he would have made his next stroke if the condition were not there to simulate the address position, direction of play and swing for such stroke.” May the player use any club, address position, direction of play or swing in determining the nearest point of relief?

A. No. In determining the nearest point of relief accurately it is recommended that the player use the club, address position, direction of play and swing (right or left-handed) that he would have used had the obstruction or condition not been there. For example, the player has interference from an immovable obstruction and, were it not for the obstruction, he would have used a right-handed stroke with a 4-iron to play the ball from its original position towards the green. To determine the nearest point of relief accurately, he should use a right-handed stroke with a 4-iron and the direction of play should be towards the green. See also Decisions 20-2c/0.7 and 20-2c/0.8.

24-2b/4  Club Used to Determine Nearest Point of Relief Not Used for Next Stroke

Q. The Note to the Definition of “Nearest Point of Relief” states: “In order to determine the nearest point of relief accurately, the player should use the club with which he would have made his next stroke if the condition were not there to simulate the address, direction of play and swing for such stroke.” If the subsequent lie of the ball were such that it was expedient for the player to play his next stroke with some other club, may the player use the other club?

A. Yes.

 

24-2a/1  Mental Interference by Obstruction

Q. A player's ball lies several inches to the side of a sprinkler head. The sprinkler head does not physically interfere with the player's stance or the area of his intended swing. However, the sprinkler head bothers the player mentally. Is the player entitled to relief under Rule 24-2b?

A. No. See Rule 24-2a.

24-2b/1 Determining "Nearest Point of Relief"

Q. The Note to the Definition of "Nearest Point of Relief" provides that the player should determine this point "by using the club with which he would have made his next stroke if the condition were not there to simulate the address position, direction of play and swing for such stroke." May the player use any club, address position, direction of play or swing in determining the nearest point of relief?

A. No. In determining the nearest point of relief accurately it is recommended that the player use the club, address position, direction of play and swing (right or left-handed) that he would have used had the obstruction or condition not been there. For example, the player has interference from an immovable obstruction and, were it not for the obstruction, he would have used a right-handed stroke with a 4-iron to play the ball from its original position towards the green. To determine the nearest point of relief accurately, he should use a right-handed stroke with a 4-iron and the direction of play should be towards the green. See also Decisions 20-2c/0.7 and 20-2c/0.8.


24-2b/4  Club Used to Determine Nearest Point of Relief Not Used for Next Stroke

Q. The Note to the Definition of "Nearest Point of Relief" states: "In order to determine the nearest point of relief accurately, the player should use the club with which he would have made his next stroke if the condition were not there to simulate the address, direction of play and swing for such stroke." If the subsequent lie of the ball were such that it was expedient for the player to play his next stroke with some other club, may the player use the other club?

A. Yes.

Rule 25 Abnormal Ground Conditions, Embedded Ball and Wrong Putting Green

25-1. Abnormal Ground Conditions

b. Relief

Except when the ball is in a water hazard or a lateral water hazard, a player may take relief from interference by an abnormal ground condition as follows:

(i)Through the Green: If the ball lies through the green, the player must lift the ball and drop it, without penalty, within one club-length of and not nearer the hole than the nearest point of relief. The nearest point of relief must not be in a hazard or on a putting green. When the ball is dropped within one club-length of the nearest point of relief, the ball must first strike a part of the course at a spot that avoids interference by the condition and is not in a hazard and not on a putting green.

(ii) In a Bunker: If the ball is in a bunker, the player must lift the ball and drop it either:

(a) Without penalty, in accordance with Clause(i) above, except that the nearest point of relief must be in the bunker and the ball must be dropped in the bunker or, if complete relief is impossible, as near as possible to the spot where the ball lay, but not nearer the hole, on a part of the course in the bunker that affords maximum available relief from the condition; or

(b)Under penalty of one stroke, outside the bunker, keeping the point where the ball lay directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind the bunker the ball may be dropped.

c. Ball in Abnormal Ground Condition Not Found

Abnormal Ground Conditions (from Section 2 – Definitions)
An "abnormal ground condition" is any
casual water, ground under repair or hole, cast or runway on the course made by a burrowing animal, a reptile or a bird.

It is a question of fact whether a ball that has not been found after having been struck toward an abnormal ground condition is in such a condition. In order to apply this Rule, it must be known or virtually certain that the ball is in the abnormal ground condition. In the absence of such knowledge or certainty, the player must proceed under Rule 27-1.

If it is known or virtually certain that a ball that has not been found is in an abnormal ground condition, the player may take relief under this Rule. If he elects to do so, the spot where the ball last crossed the outermost limits of the abnormal ground condition must be determined and, for the purpose of applying this Rule, the ball is deemed to lie at this spot and the player must proceed as follows:


(i)Through the Green: If the ball last crossed the outermost limits of the abnormal ground condition at a spot through the green, the player may substitute another ball, without penalty, and take relief as prescribed in Rule 25-1b(i) à 25-1b(i)Through the Green: If the ball lies through the green, the player must lift the ball and drop it, without penalty, within one club-length of and not nearer the hole than the nearest point of relief. The nearest point of relief must not be in a hazard or on a putting green. When the ball is dropped within one club-length of the nearest point of relief, the ball must first strike a part of the course at a spot that avoids interference by the condition and is not in a hazard and not on a putting green.

25-1/1  Ball in Casual Water Difficult to Retrieve

Q. It is known or virtually certain that a player's ball came to rest in a large puddle of casual water. A ball is visible in the casual water, but the player cannot retrieve it or identify it as his ball without unreasonable effort. The player abandons the ball and proceeds under Rule 25-1c, which provides relief for a ball lost in casual water. Was the player justified in doing so?

A. Yes. A player is not obliged to use unreasonable effort to retrieve a ball in casual water, for identification purposes.

However, if it would not take unreasonable effort to retrieve a ball in casual water, the player must retrieve it. If it turns out to be the player's ball and he elects to take relief, he must proceed under Rule 25-1b(i); otherwise, he must proceed under Rule 25-1c(i). (Revised)

25-1b/5  Explanation of "Maximum Available Relief" from Casual Water in Bunker

Q. In a bunker completely covered by casual water, is the place providing "maximum available relief" the spot which will provide the most relief for both lie and stance or just lie?

A. The term applies to both lie and stance. The spot providing "maximum available relief" might be such that the ball will be in shallower water than the player's feet after he takes his stance, or vice versa.

25-1b/8  Player's Options When Bunker Completely Covered by Casual Water

Q. If a player's ball lies in a bunker completely covered by casual water, what are his options?

A. The player may play the ball as it lies or:

(1)  drop the ball in the bunker without penalty at the nearest point, not nearer the hole, where the depth of the casual water is least — Rule 25-1b(ii)(a); or

(2)  drop the ball behind the bunker under penalty of one stroke — Rule 25-1b(ii)(b); or

(3)  deem the ball unplayable and proceed in accordance with Rule 28.

25-1c/1.5 Clarification of Point Where Ball "Last Crossed Outermost Limits" of Abnormal Ground Condition

Q. In the diagram (to the right), a ball is lost in an area of casual water, having splashed at Point A. Point B represents the point where the ball crossed over the outermost limits of the casual water. For the purposes of proceeding under Rule 25-1c, where is the ball deemed to lie?

A. The ball is deemed to lie at Point B.

            

Rule 26 Water Hazards (Including Lateral Water Hazards)

26-1. Relief for Ball in 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 order to apply this Rule, it must be known or virtually certain that the ball is in the hazard. In the absence of such knowledge or certainty, the player must proceed under Rule 27-1.

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

a. Play 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.

Lateral Water Hazard (from Section 2 – Definitions)

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.

26 /2  Ball Within Natural Margin of Water Hazard But Outside Stakes Defining Margin

Q. Stakes defining the margin of a water hazard were improperly installed. As a result, an area which clearly was part of the water hazard was outside the stakes and, thus, technically was outside the hazard. A player's ball came to rest in water in this area. The player claimed that, in view of the alignment of the stakes, his ball was in casual water through the green. Was the claim valid?

A. No. The Committee erred in not properly defining the margin of the hazard as required by Rule 33-2a, but a player is not entitled to take advantage of such an error. Since it was clear that the place where the player's ball lay was within the natural boundaries of the water hazard, the claim should not be upheld.

26-1/3 Ball Played Under Water Hazard Rule; Original Ball Then Found Outside Hazard

Q. A player believed his original ball had come to rest in a water hazard. He searched for about a minute but did not find his ball. He therefore dropped another ball behind the hazard under Rule 26-1 and played it. He then found his original ball outside the hazard within five minutes of having begun to search for it. What is the ruling?

A. When the player dropped and played another ball behind the hazard, it became the ball in play and the original ball was lost.

If it was known or virtually certain that the original ball was in the water hazard, the player was entitled to invoke Rule 26-1. In the absence of knowledge or virtual certainty that the original ball was in the water hazard, the player was required to put another ball into play under Rule 27-1. In playing the ball dropped under Rule 26-1, the player played from a wrong place.

In match play, he incurred a penalty of loss of hole (Rule 20-7b).

In stroke play, he incurred the stroke-and-distance penalty prescribed by Rule 27-1 and an additional penalty of two strokes for a breach of that Rule (Rule 20-7c). If the breach was a serious one, he was subject to disqualification unless he corrected the error as provided in Rule 20-7c. (Revised)


26-1/15  Procedures for Relief from Lateral Water Hazard

In the illustration (to the right), a player has played a ball from the teeing ground (Point A) into the lateral water hazard at Point B. It last crossed the margin of the hazard at Point C. He may play the ball as it lies or, under penalty of one stroke:

(a) play another ball from the teeing ground — Rule 26-1a;

(b) drop a ball anywhere on the far side of the hazard on the dotted line from the hole through Point C, e.g., Point D — Rule 26-1b;

(c) drop a ball in the shaded area on the near side of the hazard which is all ground within two club-lengths of Point C, but not nearer the hole than Point C — Rule 26-1c(i); or

(d) drop a ball in the shaded area on the far side of the hazard which is all ground within two club-lengths of Point E, but not nearer the hole than Point E — Rule 26-1c(ii).

The player may not drop a ball on the so-called "line-of-flight" at Point F or anywhere else on the line the ball followed from A to B, except in the shaded area on the near side. Nor may he drop a ball within two club-lengths of Point G, the point on the far side of the hazard.

Rule 27 Ball Lost or Out of Bounds; Provisional Ball

27-1. Stroke and Distance; Ball Out of Bounds; Ball Not Found Within Five Minutes

a. Proceeding Under Stroke and Distance

At any time, a player may, under penalty of one stroke, play a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played (see Rule 20-5), i.e., proceed under penalty of stroke and distance.

Except as otherwise provided in the Rules, if a player makes a stroke at a ball from the spot at which the original ball was last played, he is deemed to have proceeded under penalty of stroke and distance.

b. Ball Out of Bounds

If a ball is out of bounds, 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 (see Rule 20-5).

c. Ball Not Found Within Five Minutes

If a ball is lost as a result of not being found or identified as his by the player within five minutes after the player's Side or his or their caddies have begun to search for it, 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 (see Rule 20-5).

Exceptions:

1. If it is known or virtually certain that the original ball that has not been found is in an obstruction (Rule 24-3) or is in an abnormal ground condition (Rule 25-1c), the player may proceed under the applicable Rule.

2. If it is known or virtually certain that the original ball that has not been found has been moved by an outside agency (Rule 18-1) or is in a water hazard (Rule 26-1), the player must proceed under the applicable Rule.

27-2. Provisional Ball

a. Procedure

If a ball may be lost outside a water hazard or may be out of bounds, to save time the player may play another ball provisionally in accordance with Rule 27-1. The player must inform his opponent in match play or his marker or a fellow-competitor in stroke play that he intends to play a provisional ball, and he must play it before he or his partner goes forward to search for the original ball.

If he fails to do so and plays another ball, that ball is not a provisional ball and becomes the play under penalty of stroke and distance (Rule 27-1); the original ball is lost.

(Order of play from teeing ground - see Rule 10-3.)

Note: If a provisional ball played under Rule 27-2a might be lost outside a water hazard or out of bounds, the player may play another provisional ball. If another provisional ball is played, it bears the same relationship to the previous provisional ball as the first provisional ball bears to the original ball.

b. When Provisional Ball Becomes Ball in Play

The player may play a provisional ball until he reaches the place where the original ball is likely to be. If he makes a stroke with the provisional ball from the place where the original ball is likely to be or from a point nearer the hole than that place, the original ball is lost and the provisional ball becomes the ball in playunder penalty of stroke and distance (Rule 27-1).

If the original ball is lost outside a water hazard or is out of bounds, the provisional ball becomes the ball in play, under penalty of stroke and distance (Rule 27-1).

If it is known or virtually certain that the original ball is in a water hazard, the player must proceed in accordance with Rule 26-1.

Exception: If it is known or virtually certain that the original ball is in an obstruction (Rule 24-3) or an abnormal ground condition (Rule 25-1c), the player may proceed under the applicable Rule.

c. When Provisional Ball to Be Abandoned

If the original ball is neither lost nor out of bounds, the player must abandon the provisional ball and continue playing the original ball. If he makes any further strokes at the provisional ball, he is playing a wrong ball and the provisions of Rule 15-3 apply.

Note: If a player plays a provisional ball under Rule 27-2a, the strokes made after this Rule has been invoked with a provisional ball subsequently abandoned under Rule 27-2c and penalty strokes incurred solely by playing that ball are disregarded.

27/10  Player Unable to Distinguish His Ball from Another Ball

Q. A and B hit their tee shots into the same area. Both balls were found but, because A and B were playing identical balls and neither had put an identification mark on his ball, they could not determine which ball was A's and which was B's. What is the ruling?

A. Since neither player could identify a ball as his ball, both balls were lost — see Definition of "Lost Ball."

       
27/11  Provisional Ball Not Distinguishable from Original Ball

A player entitled to play a provisional ball from the tee plays it into the same area as his original ball. The balls have identical markings and the player cannot distinguish between them. Following are various situations and the solutions, which are based on equity (Rule 1-4), when the above circumstances exist and one or both of the balls are found within a search of five minutes:

Situation 1: One ball is found in a water hazard and the other ball is not found. Solution 1: The ball that was found must be presumed to be the provisional ball.

Situation 2: Both balls are found in a water hazard. Solution 2: As the player's original ball is lost in the water hazard due to his inability to identify it (see analogous Decision 27/10), the player must proceed under Rule 26-1 with respect to the original ball (estimating the spot where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard, if necessary — see Decision 26-1/17); his next stroke would be his third.

Situation 3: One ball is found in bounds and the other ball is lost or is found out of bounds. Solution 3: The ball in bounds must be presumed to be the provisional ball.

Situation 4: Both balls are found in bounds, whether in a playable or an unplayable lie, and (1) one ball is in a water hazard and the other is not or (2) both balls lie through the green or in a bunker. Solution 4: One could argue that both balls are lost. However, it would be inequitable to require the player to return to the tee, playing 5, when the player has found both balls but does not know which is the original and which the provisional. Accordingly, the player must select one of the balls, treat it as his provisional ball and abandon the other.

27/15  Ball in Tree Visible But Not Identifiable

Q. A player is certain that his ball is lodged high in a tree. He can see a ball in the tree, but he cannot identify it as his ball. Is the player's ball lost, in which case he must proceed under Rule 27-1?

A. Yes.

27/16  Ball Declared Lost Is Found Before Another Ball Put into Play

Q. A player searched for his ball for two minutes, declared it lost and started back to play another ball at the spot from which the original ball was played. Before he put another ball into play, his original ball was found within the five-minute period allowed for search. What is the ruling?

A. A player cannot render a ball lost by a declaration — see Definition of "Lost Ball." The original ball remained in play — see Definition of "Ball in Play."

27-1/1  Original Ball Found Within Five-Minute Search Period After Another Ball Teed

Q. A player plays from the teeing ground, searches briefly for his ball and then goes back and tees another ball. Before he plays the teed ball, and within the five-minute search period, the original ball is found. May the player abandon the teed ball and play the original ball?

A. Yes. The teed ball was not in play since the player had not yet made a stroke at it (see Definition of "Ball in Play") and the original ball was not lost (see Definition of "Lost Ball").


27-1/2 Original Ball Found Within Five-Minute Search Period After Another Ball Dropped

Q. A player plays his second shot, searches for his ball briefly and then goes back and drops another ball under Rule 27-1. Before he plays the dropped ball, and within the five-minute search period, the original ball is found. Is the player required to continue with the dropped ball?

A. Yes. When the player put the substituted ball into play at the spot of the previous stroke with the intent to play a ball under penalty of stroke and distance (Rule 27-1a), the original ball was lost (see Definition of "Lost Ball"). Therefore, Rule 20-6 does not apply, and he must continue with the substituted ball. (Revised)

27-2a/1  Announcement of Provisional Ball

Q. A player hits his ball into an area where it may be lost outside a water hazard or out of bounds. The player then drops another ball and plays it. The player intends the dropped ball to be a provisional ball, but he does not inform his opponent, marker or fellow-competitor that he is "playing a provisional ball." In such a situation, can a player's actions constitute announcement that he is playing a provisional ball?

A. No. Rule 27-2a specifically provides that the player must inform his opponent, marker or fellow-competitor that he intends to play a provisional ball.

The player's statement must specifically mention the words "provisional ball" or must make it clear that he is proceeding under Rule 27-2a. Therefore, a player who says nothing has put another ball into play.

The following are examples of statements that do not satisfy the requirement of announcing a provisional ball:

(a) "That might be lost. I am going to re-load."

(b) "That might be out of here."

(c) "I'd better hit another one."

(d) "I will never find that one. I'll play another."

Rule 28 - Unplayable Ball

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.

If the player deems his ball to be unplayable, he must, under penalty of one stroke:

a. Play 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 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; or

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

If the unplayable ball is in a bunker, the player may proceed under Clause a, b or c. If he elects to proceed under Clause b or c, a ball must be dropped in the bunker.

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

28/3  Ball Dropped Under Unplayable Ball Rule Comes to Rest in Original Position or Another Position at Which Ball Is Unplayable

Q. A player deemed his ball unplayable and, under Rule 28c, dropped his ball within two club-lengths of the spot where it lay. The ball came to rest in the original position or another position at which the ball was unplayable. What is the ruling?

A. The ball was in play when it was dropped — Rule 20-4. Thus, if the ball came to rest in the original position, the player must again invoke the unplayable ball Rule, incurring an additional penalty stroke, unless he decides to play the ball as it lies. The same applies if the ball came to rest in another position at which it was unplayable, assuming that the ball did not roll into a position covered by Rule 20-2c, in which case re-dropping without penalty would be required.

28/11  Ball Unplayable in Tree and Player Opts to Drop Within Two Club-Lengths

Q. A player's ball is eight feet off the ground, lodged in a tree. The player deems the ball unplayable. May the player proceed under option c of Rule 28 which permits him to drop a ball within two club-lengths of where his ball lay unplayable?

A. Yes. The player would be entitled to drop a ball within two club-lengths of the point on the ground immediately below the place where the ball lay in the tree. In some instances this may allow the player to drop a ball on a putting green.