THE DILEMMAChipping out of deep greenside fescue, you grab your 60-degree wedge and take an enormous hack. The ball screams over the green, clanks off your cart and bounces onto the fringe. “Whoops. How bout that break?!” “Not so fast, good sir. I’m pretty sure it’s a penalty to hit your cart. I think that’s classified as “equipment?” Rut roh... Is your playing partner correct?
THE RULINGGood news. Because you hit the cart on accident, you’re ready to roll without a penalty. Saved by Rule 11.1, you step up to your ball, put a perfect strike on it and record a very fortuitous par. “Boom. Just the way I didn’t draw it up.”
Golf Rules & Dilemmas
THE DILEMMASitting 12 feet away from winning the match against your golf buddy/archrival, you bend down to fix a few spike marks in your line. “Whoa, what’re ya doing there?” “Just cleaning up the green a little bit. My grandpa always said leave the green better than you found it.” “Yeah, I don’t think so. Can’t improve your line like that.” Is she right?
THE RULINGShe used to be, but not anymore. “2019 rules, come on! Not cleaning up your line is so two years ago.” With the 2019 rule changes, Rule 13.1c states that you’re now allowed to fix any damage on the putting green, including spike marks. After teaching her a lesson on the new rules, you take her to school by draining your birdie putt for the match. “LET’S GO!” you shout while flawlessly executing a ‘Tiger fist pump’ and inadvertently stepping in her line. “Seriously?” “My bad. The new rules will help us fix that.”
THE DILEMMAWith a nice Hawaiian breeze at your back, you decide to try to cut the corner and blast one over a few small palm trees. After a smooth backswing, you rush your follow through and yank one that heads right for the trees. “Did you see that come down?” “No, but it has to be right there.” You and your partner drive up and see a ball stuck in the tree. “I think that’s it. What now?” “Well, you have to climb up there and make sure it’s yours.” “Wait, seriously?”
THE RULING“Yeah seriously, if you want to take an unplayable lie.” He’s right. You need to identify your ball before taking relief, and then Rule 19 covers your options if a ball is deemed unplayable… and your ball certainly is. After a few failed attempts, you finally climb up and see your three green dots on the ball. “Yep, this is mine,” you say heavy of breath. “I’ll just drop within two club lengths and get up and down for par.” “Alright, let’s just hope that up and down goes a little smoother than you getting up and down from that tree.”
THE DILEMMAStepping up to the tee on a dogleg left par 5, you get aggressive and try to cut the corner. “I smoked that, but I don’t think it’s enough.” “I’d hit a provisional if I were you.” You reload and crush one down the middle because…that’s golf. “Golfer B is always better than Golfer A.” “Whatever, let’s see if my first one is in play.” After a quick walk up the stake-line, you get up to your ball and half of it is lying on the OB line and the other half is in play. “Sooooo, is this in or out?”
THE RULING“Well half of it’s in, so I think you’re good.” He’s right. Rule 18-2 states that the entire ball needs to be across the line for it to be considered OB. “Whew! Well, I started this hole aggressive. No reason to stop now.” You rip the Caddyshack-themed headcover off your 3-wood and knock one on the green. “Putting for eagle. Just the way I drew it up!” Your partner rolls his eyes. “You’re just lucky the guy who drew that OB line doesn’t know how to draw a straight line!”
THE DILEMMAAfter spraying a drive into a group of trees, you swap out the driver for a long iron. “I doubt my first one is in play so I’m going to hit this one. First ball is a Titleist 2. This is a 3.” As is always the case, your provisional is hit perfectly down the middle of the fairway. “Ugh. Should have done that the first time.” A short cart ride later, you find your provisional and strike a perfect shot into the green. After your partners play, you ride a bit further up the fairway and what do you know… A Titleist 2 is sitting on the left side of the fairway. “Oh my. That’s my drive. It must have kicked forward out of the trees. Can I play this first one or do I have to play my provisional and take the penalty?”
THE RULING“I think you can still play that first one. Let me check my rulebook.” Your partner fumbles through his phone and comes across Rule 18-3c. “Yep, you’re good to play that one. Since your provisional ball was further from the hole than your first ball, the provisional ball kept the status of ‘provisional ball’ and not the ball in play. And because you didn’t spend any time looking for your first ball, it was never declared lost.” Lucky break for sure. But unfortunately, you have a few low-hanging branches to deal with. “Hey, what does your rule book say about using a chainsaw to take down a few of these branches?” “Ha. I can’t seem to find a solution for you there.” As it turns out, you don’t need one. You hit a perfect, low-runner 5-feet from the cup.
THE DILEMMANeeding a par to break 80 for the first time, you hit a crisp wedge over a pond into a front pin location. “Oh, be good.” BANG! Your perfectly struck shot hits the pin and bounds directly backwards off the green and into the water. “Oh my god. No way! Did that just hit the pin and go in the water?! Ugh. Where do I drop?”
THE RULING“Lucky for you, it’s red staked. So you can drop one up here next to the green. No closer to the hole.” “Yeah, I’m so lucky.” Shaking it off, you follow Rule 26-1. Drop the ball (knee high) within two-club lengths from where it entered the hazard and get ready to roll. “Alright, all I need to do is chip in. Easy.” You find a spot off to the left and hit a bump and run that grazes the pin and drops right in. “ONE TIME! That’s a par baby… 79!”
THE DILEMMAStanding a comfortable 100 yards from the pin, you take a couple practice hacks with a wedge and prepare to take dead aim. “Watch me suck this one back for a little bird-action.” Supremely focused, you take one last practice swing and then the unthinkable happens. Clunk. Your divot flies directly into your ball and moves if it forward two inches. “Rut roh. Did you just see that?! I just took a divot on a practice swing and I moved my ball. Can I move it back or what?”
THE RULING“Yeah move it back to where it was, but it’ll cost you a stroke.” “What?!” Unfortunately, your playing partner is correct. According to Rule 18-2, since the ball was not on the tee or green, you’re assessed a one-stroke penalty for accidentally moving a golf ball in play. Resigned from birdie wishes to dreams of making par, you pump your chest out confidently. “Whatever man, I’m still stuffing this.” You pull it back perfectly and flush a wedge. The ball cuts through the air like a knife through butter, lands 6-feet beyond the pin and spins back to and a mere foot from the hole. “Told you I had that shot.” Your partner smirks. “Yeah, sweet par.”
THE DILEMMALying in a perfect lie in the rough, you pull the club back square and boom the ball flies off the face. “Whoopsie. I caught a flyer! I didn’t see it land, but it’s probably in the hazard behind the green on the right.” After a quick search, you drop behind the green and chip on. When you go to pull the pin, you see your first ball in the hole. “Wait, this is my first ball. I eagled!” Your partner responds, “But you already dropped and played another ball. I don’t think that counts anymore.” Who’s right?
THE RULINGGoing back to the first rule of golf, “Each hole starts with a stroke from the teeing area and ends when the ball is holed on the putting green.” Lucky for you, your 2nd shot completed the hole and the strokes after didn’t count towards the hole. If your ball had been found anywhere outside of the cup after dropping, you would be stuck playing the 2nd ball. But since you drained it, you can put that pearly white Titleist back in your bag and keep rocking with your lucky eagle ball!
THE DILEMMASitting 150 yards from the pin on your favorite par 3, you need a birdie to tie and an improbable ace to win. With a whisper of wind at your back, you flush a 9-iron and the ball lands behind the pin and spins back towards the stick before it disappears from your view. “Oh, man. I think that went in?!” “No chance.” After a quick cart ride you arrive at the green to find your ball lodged against the flagstick- halfway in the hole. “It’s in. Winner winner chicken dinner.” “Sick shot, but I’m not sure that counts as an ace because the ball’s not completely in the hole. Let’s ask the pro inside.”
THE RULINGPulling out a rule book, the pro confirms your hunch. “It does! Rule 13-1, if any part of the ball is in the hole below the surface of the putting green, the ball is considered holed even if it is not fully in the cup.” “Ha! I won with an ace on the last hole!” Your playing partner smiles. “Amazing. But we all won, because the drinks are on you!”
THE DILEMMATeeing up your ball up on a lengthy par 5, you know you need to really crush a drive to have a shot at making the green in two. You step back to take a practice swing, but as you follow through, the toe of your driver barely taps the ball and it falls off the tee. Stunned, you look around and find your playing partner laughing hysterically. “You got all of that one. Now you’re hitting two.” Is he right?
THE RULINGNope. According to Rule 6.2b, if you had no intent on hitting the ball, it’s not a penalty and you’re allowed to retee. Taking advantage of the rule, you shake off your mild case of embarrassment, smoke one down the middle of the fairway and look at your playing partner with a smirk. “Now, I’m hitting two.”
THE DILEMMATrailing by one shot against a buddy who will never let you hear the end of a loss, you embrace your inner Roy McAvoy, pull out driver and hope to hit a shot that will give your opponent nightmares for weeks. But much like Roy in Tin Cup, the shot you see and the one you hit are two drastically different things. Your overcooked driver finds the fescue left of the fairway. It’s going to take a miracle to win. After a short ride to the area your ball entered the thick stuff, you hop out, and after a quick look, you accidentally hit a ball with the pitching wedge you’ve been carrying dejectedly at your side. “Man, I just accidentally nudged a ball with my wedge on accident and I think it’s mine. Is that a penalty?”
THE RULING“Nah, just put it back into its original position and hit,” he replies. “In the past, hitting your ball would’ve been considered a penalty, but after the USGA changed Rule 7.4, accidentally moving your ball while searching is no longer a penalty.” Relieved, you place your ball back in the nasty lie and take a hefty hack at it. Miraculously, it flies further then you could ever imagine and comes to rest 2-feet from the pin! Just how you drew it up. “Winner. Winner. Chicken Dinner.”
THE DILEMMADriving up the fairway of a long 580-yard par 5, you come to where you think your ball should be, but it’s nowhere to be found. After a quick look around, your partner shouts: “Dude, there’s a ball about 100 yards up on the cart path. Giddy up!” Sure enough, it’s yours. “380-yard drive, that’s about my average since I’ve been hitting the gym lately.” “Relax ‘DJ’, it rolled along the path for 100 yards,” your partner replies. “They don’t ask how, they just ask how long. I’m taking my free drop on the other side of the path. Mind if I swap out for a new ball? This one is all scuffed up.”
THE RULINGYour partner scratches his head and says: “If you asked me that a few months ago, I would’ve said no. But thanks to the new USGA rule changes, you’re in luck.” Under Rule 14.3, players are allowed the choice to substitute a ball when taking a penalty or free relief. After a knee-high drop (new rule, too), you pull out your 5-iron, give it a whack and leave it 30 yards short of your intended target. Your partner shakes his head & starts laughing hysterically. “Hitting the gym, you say?”
THE DILEMMAWalking up to the 1st green, you find your ball in the bunker with a fried-egg lie. "Just how I wanted to start my round… Hopefully I can get this one out." You take an enormous whack. The ball clears the lip. And then you inadvertently hit it again on your follow-through! The ball redirects off the clubface, bounds left and comes to rest 15-feet from the hole. "Did that seriously just happen? How many strokes is that going to cost me?"
THE RULING“None,” your buddy replies. “After the USGA’s 2019 rule changes, you’re no longer penalized for a double hit, unless the double hit was intentional. Was it?” With a smile on your face you reply, “Dude, I couldn’t do that again if I tried.” Relieved, you take a quick look at your uphill par putt and knock it home. “Hooray for the USGA!” Your buddy shakes his head. “You need to work on your sand game… And your rhyming skills.”
THE DILEMMAStanding on the 18th green, you crouch down to read a 25-foot, downhill birdie putt to break 80 for the first time. The line is crystal clear and assuredly lightning quick. As you step over the ball, your buddy walks over to pull the flagstick. “Not so fast. Keep the stick in. I want the backstop on this blazing putt.” Dumbfounded, your friend replies, “Sure, leave the stick in and hit it if you want. Go ahead and take a stroke penalty and ruin the round of your life.” Is your pal right? Are you about to blow it?
THE RULINGYour friend would have been correct in 2018, but after 2019 USGA Rule Amendments, it is perfectly legal to putt with the pin in. Having this rule in your back pocket, you proceed to smoke your putt down the hill, rattle it off the flagstick and drop the ball right in the center for a 79! “Pulling the pin is so last year, dude… And so is shooting in the 80s!”
THE DILEMMAPlaying the 3rd hole of your favorite local track, you’re shocked (and a wee bit disappointed) to discover two golf balls next to one another in the fairway trap. You turn to your buddy, “Wow. Talk about cart golf, eh.” He laughs, hops into the bunker and says: “What number ball are you playing?” “2.” He replies with a wry smile, “Me too.” “Well mine has my custom logo on it.” Unfortunately, both balls are lying face up with only the 2 showing, so now what? Do you just hit one and guess later?
THE RULINGNo worries. Following rule 12-2, you announce your intention to identify your ball to your playing partners, you mark the position of the ball, pick it up and your custom logo looks right back at you. Your first guess is correct. Now, just 87 yards from the pin, you pull out your trusty sand wedge and proceed to stick it to six inches from the cup for a kick-in-birdie. Winner, winner, chicken dinner!
THE DILEMMACruising through a perfect Fall round, you reach the dogleg right 17th hole at your favorite track, wind up and try to cut the corner. You strike it a groove low, and the ball sails towards the beautifully colored trees. “Fly, baby. Fly.” After a long cart ride, you spot a golf ball a few feet clear of the trees. “It’s a miracle. 90% air, I tell ya. I’m home free.” Club selected, you walk towards your ball and the miracles continue. A gigantic wild turkey is guarding its nest just a yard behind your ball. Your golf buddies are in hysterics. “Play it as it lies, dude.” Panicked, you plead to the rules aficionado in your group: “That bird is dangerously huge and I think I’ll strike it on my backswing. Can I move my ball?”
THE RULING“Indeed. Following USGA Rule 16.2 aptly named “Dangerous Animal Condition,” you’re entitled to a free drop no closer to the hole.” Amazed, you respond: “Not sure how you know all these rules, but that’s awesome.” You carefully scoop up your ball, drop it out of harm’s way and strike a perfect wedge to 2-feet. “Now that’s what I call a birdie!”
THE DILEMMAStanding 125 yards from the pin on the 18th hole, you decide to muscle up a sand wedge. You swing out of your shoes, skull it over the green and it comes to rest a mere 6 feet from the pin on the 9th green. Sitting pretty with a perfect lie, you ask your buddy: “Can I just chip it from here?”
THE RULING“Nope. You could hit a wedge off our green if you wanted to, but because you’re on the 9th green and we’re playing the 18th, you’re required to take relief no closer to the hole.” Following Rule 25-3b, you drop your ball, pull out that same sand wedge, take a nice and easy half swing and knock it to a foot for a kick-in par. Just how you drew it up.
THE DILEMMAAfter lining up your ball on the perfect line, you step up and take a few practice strokes. ‘Just follow through… soft hands… and don’t forget to release the putter.’ WHOOPS! You’re so engrossed in swing thoughts that the toe of your putter nudges the ball 5 inches to the right. Your golf buddies are in hysterics. “That’s a stroke!” “But it was an accident. Is that really a stroke?”
THE RULINGIndeed. According to Rule 18-2, moving a ball in play, even if it was unintentionally, results in a one stroke penalty. But there’s good news. You drain the putt, your buddies three-putt and you still win the hole. Plus, this little gaffe won’t even be illegal when the USGA updates the rules in 2019 so your future mishaps are covered!
THE DILEMMAStanding on the 1st tee, your buddy is ready to crush it with his new driver that he’s been talking about all week. As he takes an enormous cut, a loud ping rings out as he catches the ball on the heel, instantly snapping the shaft at the hosel. Shocked, you stammer, “looks like your clubhead flew farther than the ball!” As he prepares to retee, you remind him that he’s lying one just 30 yards in front of the tee box. He responds: “You’re kidding right?”
THE RULINGNot at all. The USGA defines a stroke as a “forward movement of the club to the ball,” and since his club still hit the ball, he is not entitled to a retee. And just to add insult to injury, he’ll have to play the rest of the round hitting his erratic 3-wood off the tee.
THE DILEMMAStanding on the 18th hole of your favorite track, that pesky slice rears its ugly head again and your tee shot caroms off a tree into the water. After a long, dejected cart ride to where the ball went into the lateral hazard, you look for the best spot to drop. You spot a perfect lie and measure two club lengths with your driver, but you’re just a couple inches short. Lightning strikes your brain and you realize your partner, who is 6’7”, has a much longer driver that would easily give you a better lie. “Dude, toss me your driver.” To which, he retorts: “Is that legal?”
THE RULINGAccording to Decision 20/2, using another person’s club for measurement purposes is completely legal. As long as you use that same club for both measurements, you can drop your ball in that nice, flat lie and knock it close for a chance to salvage the hole. Now comes the hard part…convincing your friend to help you.
THE DILEMMAAfter a remarkable shot into the island green at TPC Sawgrass, a six-foot birdie putt stands between you and eternal greatness. Overly excited, you slap a ball mark behind your ball, wipe it off with a little fresh spit and completely fail on your attempt to put it gently into your pocket as you wait for your buddies to attempt long bogey efforts. Before you can stop it, the ball slides down your leg, bangs off your shoe and runs quickly over the wood shiplap into the water. Your friends are in hysterics, but in between breaths one manages to say: “Dude, that’s a penalty!”
THE RULINGYour boisterous friend is correct. You dropping the ball in the water isn’t proper grounds for “substituting” a new ball into play according to USGA Rule 15, so you effectively have two choices— Take a 2-shot penalty and join your friends in their worse-than-par efforts or go into the water and find the ball you just dropped in. The moment is so big that the decision is obvious. Your friends hold your feet, you slide your hands into the water, miraculously find your ball (among thousands), and sink that putt for birdie!
THE DILEMMATrying to mimic the pros at TPC Sawgrass, you and your golf buddies find the nearest course with an island green to see if sticking it close is as easy as it looks on tv. The moment arrives. You grab a nine-iron. Pull it back. And hope. The ball sails long left. You turn around in disgust. But then your partner yells, “It’s a bird! It’s a plane. It’s… on the green?!” Shocked, you turn around to see your ball a mere two feet from the hole. “What happened?” “Dude, it was headed right for the drink and then it hit a bird and ended up stiff.” “Wow. Is that legal? Can I play it from there?”
THE RULINGNine-iron in hand, just in case you have to retee, your buddy informs you that it’s perfectly legal to play your ball where it lies since it was moved by an outside agent. Praising your good fortune and the USGA for Rule 18-1, you grab your putter, tap in for a two and tell the worst dad joke of the day— “So does that count for two birdies?”
THE DILEMMAAfter finishing the last bite of a delicious pimento sandwich, you step onto the tee of your favorite par 3 and smash it well over the green into a flower bed of Augusta-like azaleas. Feeling less than masterful, you locate your ball and ask your playing partners: “Hey, do I get a free drop here?”
THE RULINGYou’re in luck. Because your local rules protect this bed of beautiful flowers (and the committee didn’t expect players knocking their ball in there), you are granted a free drop under the same provisions as ground under repair. Taking advantage of this break, you drop your ball no closer to the hole, hit a perfect flop shot and tap in for a tremendous three.
THE DILEMMA16 holes into a grudge match for the ages, your buddy / opponent / mortal enemy in the moment hits his shot on a par 3 and immediately walks ahead of you a hundred or so yards to meet up with the drink cart that’s parked just left of the green, beyond the white stakes, firmly out of bounds. Miffed, distracted and now a bit thirsty, you set up and whack a wedge dead left. “FORE!” The ball cracks your opponent right in the leg and lands in the drink cart. “Sorry! Is everyone ok? Mmm… Is my ball out of bounds? Do I have to retee?”
THE RULINGThis one’s a doozy, and your opponent knows it right away. “Yeah, I’m ok. Dude, the ball is sitting in the drink cart. It’s totally out of bounds. But because it hit me first while I was out of bounds, I think you get to retee without a penalty?” And sure enough, your buddy / opponent / mortal enemy in this moment is correct. Following rule 19-3/1, you retee for free, slap a wedge right off the roof of a house only to have the ball bounce miraculously back in bounds and come to rest 6 feet from the cup. Naturally, you sink the birdie putt, win the hole and mumble an age old adage to your bruised opponent, “No pictures on the scorecard, eh?”
THE DILEMMAAfter a sweet approach shot at your favorite tropical course, you discover that a very large iguana is camped out next to your golf ball on the green. A wee bit tepid, you contemplate tapping the iguana on its tail to encourage it to scoot along, but after seeing it extend its seemingly mile long tongue, you think better of that idea. You make a bit of noise. Stomp your feet. And nada. He’s not going anywhere. What’s the solution? Are you entitled to a free drop?
THE RULINGBecause you deemed this to be a dangerous situation (like most of us would), you have the option to utilize Decision 1-4/10 and drop your ball one club length from its original, iguana-camped out location, no closer to the hole. And just like a seasoned pro, you take a perfect drop, slither your long put up to a mere six inches from the hole and tap in for an easy par.
THE DILEMMAAfter an underwhelming 8-iron from the middle of the fairway, you find your ball buried in the front bunker. Miffed, you grab your sand wedge, hop in the trap and slap a perfect blast over the lip, up the green to 6-inches from the cup. “Bravo, Bravo,” your buddies chirp. You bow sarcastically and walk back to the cart still cursing yourself for the terrible approach shot. Two steps away from the cart, a huge gust of wind blows your hat off and it bounds down the fairway. Head in hands, you hear a shout from the green. “Dude, the wind just blew your ball in the hole!” Does it count? What’s the ruling?
THE RULINGYes, it counts! Pencil in a birdie. Rule 18-1/12 clearly states that wind is not an “outside agency” so you must play the ball wherever the wind blows it. In this case, the wind blew it in the hole so it’s onward to the next hole. Unfortunately, the Rules of Golf can’t save you the trouble of driving back down the fairway to try find your hat.
THE DILEMMAStanding on the finishing hole of your favorite track, a par stands in the way of you and your personal best. The wind howls off the right. All is perfect for a tight draw. You steady, pull the driver back, pause at the top and fire down the line…. Right before impact, the howling wind wiggles the ball off the tee and you swing through with a dramatic whiff. Your golf buddies are inconsolable with laughter. “That’s one.” Unsure of what the ruling is, you stare at your ball sitting next to the tee and ask the self-appointed rules guru of the group: “Can I re-tee? Am I hitting my second shot? What’s going on here?”
THE RULING“According to Rule 11-3— aptly named ‘Ball Falling Off Tee’ — your swing counts as a stroke because you were unable to stop when the ball fell off the tee. And unfortunately, you can’t re-tee the ball either.” But no worries. After a monster 3-iron off the deck, you hit a perfect wedge to two-feet, sink the putt, grab the ball from the hole, wink at your buddies and say: “That’s par”
THE DILEMMAYou pipe a drive right down main street, and after a few fist pumps with your buddies and a long cart ride, you spot your ball right in the middle of the fairway. As you get out to grab your club and get ready to hit the perfect shot, two large wild turkeys exit the woods and b-line for you and your golf ball. “Yikes!” You quickly move out of the way, and these giant pieces of poultry stop to have a chat at your ball prior to picking it up and walking it right back to the woods. Your buddies’ laughter is inconsolable. “Now that’s a tough way to lose a ball, broski. Head back to the tee and hit your third.” Is your buddy joking? Is this really considered a lost ball?
THE RULINGSince the ball was moved by an outside agency (the wild turkey), you’re entitled to place a ball where it was without a penalty. Taking advantage of Rule 18-1, you place a brand-new ball in the fairway, craft a wedge to 12 feet, sink the putt for a three and chirp to your buddies: “Now that’s what I call a tasty birdie.”
THE DILEMMAThere’s nothing quite like a risk/reward dogleg right to get your blood pumping, and despite your buddy’s advice to layup, you crush a driver through the fairway, over the trees and onto the next tee box! After a long cart ride of “I told you sos”, you find your ball in the center of the tee box. Unfortunately, a big trash can full of empty bottles and broken dreams sits in front of you and your perfect angle to the pin. Your buddy finds considerable humor in this. The garbage can is too heavy to move— and instantly you start to recall all the times the pros on TV take a drop from something too heavy to move. You ask your playing partner: “Aren’t I entitled to a drop here?”
THE RULINGAfter he finally stops laughing, your buddy responds: “Yes, because you’ll contact the garbage can on your follow thru, you are entitled to a drop- no closer to the hole.” You heed his advice, take relief, hit a wedge 3-feet from the hole and sink the putt. Now that’s a filthy birdie!
THE DILEMMAAfter hitting a wayward 7-iron into a greenside trap, you find your ball nestled up against a few fallen leaves. Taking your stance, you start to wonder… ‘Are those leaves going to alter the shot? Maybe I should just pick ‘em up.’ Unsure of the rule, you ask the rules aficionado of your group. “Hey, can I move these leaves from around my ball? I’m not going to touch or alter the sand. I just want them out of here.”
THE RULINGYour playing partner quickly responds: “If you were in the fairway or the rough, sure. But since you’re in a hazard, you can’t move the loose leaves. So give it your best, broski.” Never one to let a bad lie ruin a perfect day of Fall golf, you splash through the leaves & a ton of sand and the ball flies out to land a mere six inches from the cup.
THE DILEMMAStanding in the rough on the 6th hole of your favorite TeeOff.com track, you spot a tiny window in the trees that whispers audibly to your ego: “Go for it.” You grab a 7 iron from your cart, step up, pull it back and whack it. The ball whistles briefly in the air before it cracks a tree, caroms off your cart and lands perfectly in the middle of the fairway. Before you can digest what happened, your golf buddy hollers: “Great shot. Just the way you planned it. Get out there and knock it on the green.” Can you play your ball as it lies?
THE RULINGYes. You certainly can. Unfortunately, under Rule 19-2 you incur a one-shot penalty for having your golf ball hit your equipment- which in this case was your cart. In future TeeOff.com battles, make sure to move your cart (and yourself) as far as you can out of harm’s way… Especially in those instances when you can’t ignore the be-a-hero voice ringing in your head.
THE DILEMMAStanding in the middle of the 18th fairway, your dreams of breaking 80 for the first time are just 141 yards away. Hit a nine iron into the middle of the green, two putt, and you’re Mr. 79 moving forward. You pull ‘er back & flush it. But unfortunately, it’s too perfect, and the ball sails over the green and lands in extremely deep heather grass. Somewhat remarkably, you find your ball buried, and you know right away that you can’t get a club on it. As you ponder picking it up and dropping it within two club lengths of your unplayable lie, your supportive golf buddy says: “Don’t drop it in the deep grass. Bring it on the other side of the cart path and try to get it up and down from the putting green.” Puzzled, you say: “Can I really do that?!”
THE RULINGYes. Utilizing Rule 28, you have two good options when you hit the ball into an area in which a drop would essentially result in another unplayable lie. By declaring the ball unplayable, you have the option to return to the middle of the fairway and hit that 141-yard shot again, or you have the option to drop anywhere behind the point where the ball lay as long as you keep in line with the hole. In this case, the deep heather grass stops at a cart path behind the green and there’s a plush putting green waiting on the other side that would afford you the perfect lie to hit a flop shot onto the green to save your epic round!
THE DILEMMAAfter a wayward drive, you find your ball nestled up against a tree with only one option to advance it forward- swing hard, try not to destroy your club and hope for the best. 7-iron in hand, you take a big hack, slam the shaft of the club into the trunk of the tree and hit a miraculous punch-out that lands just short of the green. After high-fiving your buddies, you look down and notice that your 7-iron is bent because of the impact of hitting the tree. The self-appointed golf rules aficionado in your group sees the same thing and says: “Great shot, but now you can’t use that club the rest of the round now.” Is he correct?
THE RULINGNo. He’s not correct. Because you damaged the 7-iron during the normal course of play, you can continue using it in the condition it’s left in. If you had thrown the club, slammed it on the ground in frustration or altered it any way outside of the normal course of play, the club would be considered unfit for play and you would ultimately be disqualified for using it. It’s a tricky rule, but it’s one to remember if you’re trying to be hero in the woods!
THE DILEMMAOn the heels of ten great drives in a row, you ask a little too much from the driver and yank one left into the woods. After hearing the ball crack a few tree limbs, you presume it lost, declare a provisional and hit a perfect drive down the middle of the fairway. Walking up the fairway dejected, you take your obligatory five minutes to search for your first drive and come up with nada. You then locate your 2nd drive in the fairway, hit a nice approach and begin walking towards the green. Ten steps into your walk towards the green, you notice a ball is sitting in the second cut a few steps from the woods. You know right away that it’s your first drive. Your golf buddy sees the same thing. "Hey," he says excitedly, "that’s your first drive buddy… Go ahead and play it!" Is your friend’s suggestion correct? Can you play your first drive without incurring a penalty?
THE RULINGUnfortunately, you declared your first drive lost when five minutes of looking for it expired and you advanced an approach shot from your provisional. But don’t fret, the story has a happy ending. After the two-stroke penalty for a lost ball, you rolled in a 30-footer for bogey, and of course, you swung a little easier on the next hole and hit that driver right up the gut.
THE DILEMMANeeding par to shoot your personal best, you flush a drive up the right side of the fairway and it takes a bad hop into a lateral water hazard. Bummed, you fumble through your bag for a ball and begin thinking how you’re going to drop within two club lengths, chip out from the trees and sink a pitch shot to save par. As you start measuring your drop, your playing partner shouts from the middle of the fairway, "Hey, what are you doing? You should walk to the other side of the hazard and play from there." Considering his suggestion, you look at the other side of the hazard and see fairway from a neighboring hole and a long, but clear shot at your intended green. Confused, you ask: "Can I really drop over there?"
THE RULINGYour partner's suggestion is a good one. As long as you keep your point of entry between your drop and your intended target, you are entitled to drop the ball wherever you’d like on that imaginary line. So after an extended walk around the hazard, you gather a GPS-generated yardage to the green from the TeeOff app and flush a nine iron 3 feet from the hole. Unfortunately, the rules of golf can't help you make the par putt and you end up tying your best score. But it's not all sad. You've learned a new rule that will help you immensely in your future battles versus par!
THE DILEMMAIt's late February, and you find yourself standing on the 16th hole at the famed Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale. The grandstands have long been emptied out, but you can still hear invisible fans chanting your name. The moment is considerable. Your adrenaline is unmatched. 8 iron in hand, you hammer it directly over the pin and off of the empty seats. And after a few ricochets, the ball comes to rest to the left of the green, right up against the base of the grandstand. Still excited, but undoubtedly confused, you ask your playing partner for a ruling.
THE RULINGYour playing partner correctly informs you that just like the professionals on television, you are entitled to free relief no closer to the hole from the Temporary Immovable Obstruction (TIO). And just like a pro, you take your legal drop, hit a perfect chip six inches from the cup and quietly rejoice that the chanting fans weren't harmed by your violent 8 iron.
THE DILEMMAWhile enjoying yet another perfect round at an amazing course in sunny Scottsdale, Arizona, you yank your drive left and the ball comes to rest a foot away from a gigantic cactus. After a quick glance, it looks like you can take a stance and hit the ball on the green, but you're worried that you'll do so at the expense of cactus spines doing a number on your legs. As you deliberate the shot, your golf buddy says: "Why don't you just throw your golf towel over that portion of the cactus, and get up there and knock it on the green?" Is that move legal?
THE RULINGNo, unfortunately the rules of golf preclude a player from putting a towel on a cactus or anywhere else that would deem the stance taken to be unfair. However, if you were to wrap the towel around your leg prior to addressing the ball, you would be protected from the cactus and a two-shot penalty by Decision 1-2/10. It's a bit of an unknown rule, but it's definitely one to remember if you're looking to save some strokes... and your legs!
THE DILEMMAFifty-feet of green stands between you, a birdie and your personal best score. It's two putts for a tie and a bomb for the record. Looking to gain a better sense of the putt, you politely ask your playing partner to tend the flag. He complies. You put a perfect stroke on the ball, and as it rolls closer to the hole, you mumble to yourself, "Oh my... it's going in." Your playing partner is so overwhelmed by your marvelous putt that he forgets to remove the flagstick. Your ball strikes the stick squarely before dropping into the hole. Is this a penalty?
THE RULINGYes, unfortunately this is a penalty. Despite being your partner's fault, Rule 17-3 clearly states that the individual putting incurs a two stroke penalty for striking the flagstick in the hole while putting from on the green. But don't worry. To ease the pain, your buddy agrees to buy your next round on Teeoff.com so not all is lost!
THE DILEMMAYour ball comes to rest in a steep pot bunker, and while getting ready to play the shot from an awkward stance, you slip, fall backwards and end up grounding your left hand and your sand wedge in the sand. It's a funny moment to your playing partners for sure, and Jimmy, the self-appointed rules aficionado in the group, immediately says, "Welp, that's a two shot penalty, pal." Is Jimmy correct?
THE RULINGBecause you fell in the bunker with no intention of testing the condition of the hazard or improving your lie, you are protected by Exception 1 of Rule 13-4 and not in violation of the rules. Therefore, the joke is on Jimmy for not knowing the letter of the law quite as well as he thought he did, and we give you full permission to knock it close and say to him, "That's up and down for a par, pal."
THE DILEMMAJim is greenside in two on his favorite finishing hole, and he needs to get up and down for a 4 to break 90 for the first time. After a few practice swings, Jim hits a chip and his wedge contacts the ball not once but twice during his stroke before it miraculously travels down the green and falls into the hole. As he's slapping high fives with his playing partners, Jim asks himself: Did I really break 90? What's the penalty for hitting the ball multiple times in the same stroke?
THE RULINGRule 14-4 clearly states that regardless of how many times a ball is hit during a single stroke, the player should count the stroke plus a one shot penalty prior to playing the ball as it lies. Since Jim's ball went into the hole on his third stroke, he is assessed a one shot penalty for hitting the ball multiple times in a single stroke and he should record a 4 for his score on the 18th hole. So congrats to Jim on breaking 90 for the first time! Next stop, 79.
THE DILEMMAYou're standing on the first tee at your favorite course, and your buddy, Jimmy, tees up his ball and lets it fly. Right after Jimmy hits, you realize that he had teed up the ball about a foot ahead of the tee markers. Has Jimmy broken the rules of golf? And if so, what is the appropriate penalty?
THE RULINGErrors like this happen very frequently, and regardless of Jimmy's intent, he has violated USGA Rule #11-4 by hitting a ball outside of the teeing ground. Consequently, Jimmy incurs a two stroke penalty, and he is forced to hit his tee shot over again. Much like crossing a street, a golfer should always look both ways on every tee box to make sure that he or she is within the confines of the teeing ground.
THE DILEMMAYou just hit a great drive, but you didn't quite turn it over and your ball has come to rest in the middle of a paved cart path. But don't worry, the ball isn't sitting in casual water like Jordan Spieth's was at the PGA Championship, so this won't take too long to make a decision. The rough is extremely thick around the path, and it seems like the best play is to risk scuffing up your 8 iron by striking the ball directly off of the pavement. Noting the rules of golf, are you allowed to hit your ball off of the path or are you required to take relief from the immovable obstruction?
THE RULINGIt's your 8 iron, and it's your prerogative to play the ball how it lies on the paved cart path. If you change your mind and elect to drop, Rule 24-2b gives you the option for free relief one club length from the immovable obstruction, no closer to the hole. Whichever route you choose, knock it on the green and continue your battle versus par!
THE DILEMMAYou and your playing partner are playing a round at your favorite course that you booked on TeeOff.com by PGA TOUR. You are both off to a good start and will be putting for par on the first green. You are away. Your partner marks her ball, but the marker is directly in your line.
THE RULINGYes, you can require that your playing partner reset her ball marker to the left or right of where the ball was originally if the initial placement obstructs your shot. This clear shot at par is safeguarded by Rules 8-2b and 22-1.
THE DILEMMAYou have a 10-foot putt for birdie and bragging rights. You never make birdie on this hole and you are determined to make it. Unfortunately, the undulating green can make or break your putt and chance at victory four times. You can’t get a good read. So you lay down on the green behind your ball for a better vantage point. That’s when your playing partner says that you can’t lay down – it’s a penalty.
THE RULINGYour playing partner is wrong. Laying down on the green and may cost you some pride, but not a stroke. And though you won’t find a rule against this in the USGA Rule Book, Section I in the Rules of Golf discusses Etiquette and Behavior on the Course. This is a great section for a beginner and even a seasoned player to review from time to time. Remember, there are many ways to read a putt. Now stand up and putt.
THE DILEMMAYou are playing for bragging rights and it it down to a final putt. The greens are running a little quick, perhaps the heat of the day or maybe it is the heat of competition. You are 3 feet away from the hole and are one smoth putt away from victory. You lick your lips, take a practice swing, realizing the green feels a little quick. So you lick your finger to wet the bottom of your putter to prevent it from slipping when you place it on the green. Your playing partner, looking for victory of her own, says "I wouldn't do that"
THE RULINGSaliva is a “foreign material” placing you in violation of Rule 4-2 (unless of course you wipe it clean before putting). Rule 4-2 Playing Characteristics Changed and Foreign Material. A. Playing Characteristics Changed - During a stipulated round, the playing characteristics of a club must not be purposely changed by adjustment or by any other means. B. Foreign Material - Foreign material must not be applied to the club face for the purpose of influencing the movement of the ball. So wipe that putter clean and sink it.
THE DILEMMAYou and your good friend are teeing it up your favorite local golf course for a friendly stroke play round. On the seventh hole, a par 4 dog leg right, you hit your tee shot left of the fairway and the ball ends up on the cart path. When you get to the ball, you are unsure of your options because the ball is the path, but your feet are on the grass. Your friend advises you that you can put the ball wherever you like as long as it's not closer to the hole. The nearest point of relief, not closer to the hole, puts a tree between you and the hole. What are your options according to the USGA rules?
THE RULINGYour options are: 1. Play the ball as it lies. 2. If your swing, lie of the ball or stance are obstructed by the cart lather you can find the nearest point of relief and drop the ball within 1 club length from that point, no nearer the hole. If you elect to take relief, you must take full relief from the cart path. 3. Declare ball unplayable and proceed under the subsections under Rule 28. Remember, the rules give you direction on how you can play the course and sometimes the best option is to play the ball as it lies and the course as you find it!
THE DILEMMAYou and your arch rival are both playing for the club championship this coming weekend. The format changes from year to year, but this year the club champion will be determined by match play. Since you lost to him last year, you decide that Sunday morning would be a good time to practice your biggest challenge, hole #17, to have a fighting chance in the match. As your arch rival drives up to the club entrance he sees you playing, and complains to the pro shop that you are illegally practicing on the day of the championship.
THE RULINGRule 7-1a states: On any day of a match-play competition, a player may practice on the competition course before a round. You are not subject to any penalty. You were right that the match would come down to this hole, and practicing that morning helped you win the semi-final match and move forward in the championship. Always remember: golf is a game of intense precision, where practice makes par.
THE DILEMMAYou and your partner are playing in a stroke play event at your club. Your partner is on the last hole of the ound, and his putt for a course record setting birdie rolls up to and hangs over the hole. He nervously paces back and forth for a minute, then finally walk up to the ball and waits 30 more seconds to see if it falls in. After waiting a full 90 seconds the wind shifts and the ball falls in the cup.
THE RULINGRule 16-2 gives you reasonable time to reach the hole, and then an additional 10 seconds to determine if the ball is at rest. Since your partner took his time getting to the hole, waited 30 seconds once he was there and then the ball fell in after, he incurs a one-stroke penalty. You mark his scorecard with a birdie (3) and add one additional stroke (penalty stroke for breaking rule 16-2) for a score of a 4.
THE DILEMMAYou are visiting family in Florida and decide to challenge your brother to a rematch at his favorite local municipal golf course. The course has been hit with heavy rain for the past few weeks so "lift, clean and place" is in effect. During the round you approach your ball that is in a greenside bunker on the par-5 13th hole. You discover the bunker is filled with water and would like to use the lift, clean and place option you've been doing all round. The round with your brother is Stroke Play and your brother is leading by 1 shot. What are your options?
THE RULINGIf a player’s ball lies in a bunker completely covered by casual water the player may: • Play the ball as it lies or • 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 • Drop the ball behind the bunker under penalty of one stroke (Rule 25-1b(ii)(b)) or • Deem the ball unplayable and proceed in accordance with Rule 28 (Ball Unplayable) There is a local rule providing relief without penalty from bunker filled with casual water but if this local rule is not in use at the club then it is not applicable. Breach of Rule 25 Abnormal Ground Conditions, Embedded Ball and Wrong Putting Green is 2 strokes in Stroke Play. Playing a new course is a challenge in itself, but researching local conditions and understanding possible situations will help you avoid unnecessary penalties!
THE DILEMMAYou and your playing partner are playing stroke play at your favorite course. After hitting your approach shots, you are both around the 16th green and she is away. You are standing on the green measuring your putt while she has a chip shot from just off the green. She decides to use an 8-iron and play a bump and run shot. She plays her shot and as the ball is rolling towards the hole, you decide to remove the flagstick from the hole. Her ball rolls over the hole, and then 4 feet past the hole. Your playing partner asks why you removed the flagstick, and you tell her you thought she didn’t want the ball to hit the flagstick because you thought it had a better chance to go in. What is the ruling?
THE RULINGRule 17-2 Unauthorized Attendance States: If an opponent or his caddie in match play or a fellow-competitor or his caddie in stroke play, without the player’s authority or prior knowledge, attends, removes or holds up the flagstick during the stroke or while the ball is in motion, and the act might influence the movement of the ball, the opponent or fellow-competitor incurs the applicable 2-stroke penalty in stroke play. Remember, none us are mind readers, so make sure to ask next time to avoid a 2-stroke penalty.
THE DILEMMAYou and your playing partner are neck and neck in a little friendly match play competition. She’s two up with five holes left to play when you nearly sink a 10 foot putt for birdie. The ball rolls a foot from the hole and she tells you to pick it up for par. She then rolls her birdie putt two feet from the hole. Assuming it's a gimmie to halve the hole, she’s picks her ball up. Not so fast, you want her to putt this one out. What’s the ruling?
THE RULINGDecision 2-4/3 States: If she could have reasonably assumed the next stroke had been conceded in equity (Rule 1-4), she should replace her ball as near as possible to where it lay, without penalty. Otherwise, she would incur a penalty stroke for lifting her ball without marking its position and must replace her ball as near as possible to where it lay. Avoid controversy with your friends, like we saw during the Solheim Cup, and either finish all your putts out or wait for them to tell you to pick up. Book your next tee time at TeeOff.com and we’ll let you choose whether to play stoke or match play with your friends.
THE DILEMMAYou and your playing partners have the next round riding on this par 3. Your playing partner is looking for the perfect plot of land to tee up his drive. He finds it and expertly drives the ball placing it 2 feet from the hole. The only problem is that he placed his tee 2 inches in front of the tee markers. What¹s the call?
THE RULINGIf you saw this particular mishap during The Open Championship by Jaco Van Zyl, then you¹ll know he was assessed a 2 stroke penalty for mistakenly teeing his ball up in front of the tee marker. According to Rule 11-4: If you play your tee shot from outside of the tee markers (to the front, left or right); in stroke play you incur a two-stroke penalty and must tee up again from inside or behind the tee markers. In match play there is no penalty, but your opponent can require you to replay your stroke if he/she requests that you do so immediately. So the official ruling depends on whether you¹re playing stroke play or match play. If you¹re playing match play, it¹s your call. If you let the shot stand, make sure your playing partner putts out for the birdie, no gimmes!
THE DILEMMAAn old friend wants to take up the game and has asked you to play a round with him and share a few pointers.On the first hole, beginner's luck , and he lands on the green a few inches inside your ball. Once you both are on the green, you mark your ball with your lucky coin. Your friend, not knowing the rules of game with no coin handy, marks his ball with a leaf he picked up nearby and picks up the lucky shot. What is the Ruling?
THE RULINGUnder 20-1/16 there is no penalty for using something other than a ball marker or small coin to mark the position of the ball. Leaves, tees, coins, ball markers are all approved markers, his luck continues. And so does yours, as you might need to mark your friend down for another round next week – giving you yet another reason to play golf.
THE DILEMMADuring stroke play, you hit your ball and it rolls into the clubhouse as another group is walking out. The clubhouse is not considered out of bounds nor had been declared an integral part of the course. In order to play it out, you open a window with a clear shot to the green, claiming that it was a movable (or partially movable) obstruction. What is the ruling?
THE RULINGThe clubhouse is an immovable obstruction; however, any part of it designed to be movable, such as a window or door, it may be moved to any position if this can be done without undue delay. The same principle would apply if the clubhouse had been declared an integral part of the course. This is confirmed by Decision 24-2b/14. If you’ve got the guts and precision to master a shot like this, we say go for it! Just make sure the course won’t hold you liable for broken windows or carpet divots.
THE DILEMMAThe Dilemma: You’re playing a match with a couple of friends and your partner is known to have a bit of a temper. On the 18th green, he is just off the fringe and hits a great chip that stops right on the lip of the hole. Excited that it’s going to fall in, he runs up following the ball. When he realized it didn’t drop, he slams his wedge on the green in frustration, which injures his wrist and causes the ball to fall in the cup. What is the Ruling?
THE RULINGThe Ruling: Rule 16-2 gives you 10 seconds to determine if the ball is at rest once you reach the hole; however, that doesn’t necessarily apply in this case. Because your partner’s bad attitude caused the ball to move, he incurs a one stroke penalty per Rule 18-2a (player causes the ball to move). He then has to place the ball back where it rested and finish the hole. Always remember golf is a game of etiquette, and nobody likes a sore loser – or sore body parts.
THE DILEMMAYou and three friends decide to spend your Sunday afternoon on the course- the game is stroke play. On the 7th tee, each of you hit a great drive- 250 yards down the middle of the fairway. Each ball lands within a foot of one another, and as you all approach the ball, none of you are able to see your identification marks on your Titleist 1s since they are all facing down.
THE RULINGBefore lifting the ball for identification, you must announce your intention and mark the position of the ball. Only then, may you lift the ball and identify it, provided that you give your marker 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 and replaced once identified. If you fail to do so, you occur a general penalty. If the ball is your ball and you fail to comply with all or any part of this procedure, or you lift your ball in order to identify if without having good reason to do so, you incur a penalty of one stroke. If the lifted ball is your ball, you must replace it. If you fail to do so, you incur a general penalty for a breach of Rule 12-2, but there is no additional penalty under this Rule. Once each of the balls are identified, replace the balls to the spot you found it and play on. So if you’re going to be playing with equally good (or bad) golfers, make your mark visible to avoid any confusion while on the course.
THE DILEMMAYou are playing in a stroke play tournament at your local club. On the 15th hole, a par 5, you hit your second shot less than a foot from the hole (well done!). Your playing partner who is extremely impressed with your shot tells you the putt is good, so you pick up your ball and celebrate a huge eagle. The group on the next tee sees this and discusses the great hole with the nearby rules official.
THE RULINGUnfortunately, you are disqualified for Failure to Hole Out, which is in breach of Rule 3-2. Not only is it the rule to tap in the “gimmes,” it’s always good practice even to make the shortest of putts.
THE DILEMMAYou're on vacation with a few friends, and on a hot, sunny day at a course you've all been dying to play, you decide to take caddies. As you tee off on the first hole, the sun gets caddies' eyes, and they all lose sight of your ball flying directly at the trees they are standing under. Unable to move quick enough after relocating the ball in the air, your drive hits another plaer's golf bag and bounces into the fairway. What is the ruling?
THE RULINGAccording to Rule 19-2, if a player’s ball is accidently deflected or stopped by you, your playing partners or any of the caddies or equipment, the player incurs a penalty of one stroke. So depending on the way you look at it, your caddie cost you a stroke or set you up with a much better shot. Feel free to tip accordingly.