Introduction

The “Player’s Edition of the Rules of Golf” is the publication to be circulated to golfers worldwide. It is not a quick guide, but rather is an abridged version of the Rules of Golf that is written with a focus on you, the golfer.

Here are some of the key elements of the Player’s Edition:

  • It is a functioning Rule book. It looks like the full Rules of Golf, with generally the same organization. Although its text is edited, it gives you the same answer that is in the full Rules of Golf.
  • It focuses on the Rules that are most relevant to you as a player. This includes the Rules that describe the essential characteristics of golf – for example, playing by the Rules and in the spirit of the game, the different parts of the course and the equipment you may use – and the most commonly used Rules.
  • Although it does not cover some of the less frequently occurring situations, it indicates that there is further information on the subject in the full Rules of Golf, with the following reference icon:

This icon means that you should refer to the full Rules of Golf (either in printed format or via the USGA’s Rules of Golf app or website – usga.org), or consult with the Committee for an explanation of that situation.

  • It is written in a style that refers to “you” the golfer. This golfer-focused style is another key step in making the Rules more user-friendly.
  • Diagrams and charts are included to help visually explain the Rules.

The Player’s Edition aims to present the Rules in a way that is more easily understood and focused on what you, the golfer, need to know to play by the Rules.

For the most updated USGA Rules & Regulations, please visit https://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules/rules-2019/rules-of-golf/rules-and-interpretations.html

Rule 1 - The Game, Player Conduct and the Rules

Purpose of Rule: Rule 1 introduces these central principles of the game for the player:

  • Play the course as you find it and play the ball as it lies.
  • Play by the Rules and in the spirit of the game.
  • You are responsible for applying your own penalties if you breach a Rule, so that you cannot gain any potential advantage over your opponent in match play or other players in stroke play.

1.1 The Game of Golf

Golf is played in a round of 18 (or fewer) holes on a course by striking a ball with a club.

Each hole starts with a stroke from the teeing area and ends when the ball is holed on the putting green (or when the Rules otherwise say the hole is completed).

For each stroke, the player:

  • Plays the courseas he or she finds it, and
  • Plays the ball as it lies.

But there are exceptions where the Rules allow the player to alter conditions on the course and require or allow the player to play the ball from a different place than where it lies.

1.2 Standards of Player Conduct

  1. Conduct Expected of All Players

All players are expected to play in the spirit of the game by:

  • Acting with integrity – for example, by following the Rules, applying all penalties, and being honest in all aspects of play.
  • Showing consideration to others – for example, by playing at a prompt pace, looking out for the safety of others, and not distracting the play of another player.
  • Taking good care of the course– for example, by replacing divots, smoothing bunkers, repairing ball-marks, and not causing unnecessary damage to the course.

There is no penalty under the Rules for failing to act in this way, except that the Committee may disqualify a player for acting contrary to the spirit of the game if it finds that the player has committed serious misconduct.

Penalties other than disqualification may be imposed for player misconduct only if those penalties are adopted as part of a Code of Conduct under Rule 1.2b.

  1. Code of Conduct

The Committee may set its own standards of player conduct in a Code of Conduct adopted as a Local Rule.

  • The Code may include penalties for breach of its standards, such as a one-stroke penalty or the general penalty.
  • The Committeemay also disqualify a player for serious misconduct in failing to meet the Code’s standards.

See Committee Procedures, Section 5H (explaining the standards of player conduct that may be adopted).

1.3 Playing by the Rules

  1. Meaning of “Rules”; Terms of the Competition

The “Rules” means:

  • Rules 1-24 and the Definitions in these Rules of Golf, and
  • Any “Local Rules” the Committeeadopts for the competition or the course.

Players are also responsible for complying with all “Terms of the Competition” adopted by the Committee (such as entry requirements, the form and dates of play, the number of rounds and the number and order of holes in a round).

See Committee Procedures, Section 5C and Section 8 (Local Rules and full set of authorized Model Local Rules); Section 5A (Terms of the Competition).

  1. Applying the Rules

(1) Player Responsibility for Applying the Rules. Players are responsible for applying the Rules to themselves:

  • Players are expected to recognize when they have breached a Rule and to be honest in applying their own penalties.
    • If a player knows that he or she has breached a Rule that involves a penalty and deliberately fails to apply the penalty, the player is disqualified.
    • If two or more players deliberately agree to ignore any Rule or penalty they know applies and any of those players have started the round, they are disqualified(even if they have not yet acted on the agreement).
  • When it is necessary to decide questions of fact, a player is responsible for considering not only his or her own knowledge of the facts but also all other information that is reasonably available.
  • A player may ask for help with the Rules from a refereeor the Committeebut if help is not available in a reasonable time the player must play on and raise the issue with a referee or the Committee when they become available (see Rule 20.1).

(2) Accepting Player’s “Reasonable Judgment” in Determining a Location When Applying the Rules.

  • Many Rules require a player to determine a spot, point, line, area or other location under the Rules, such as:
    • Estimating where a ball last crossed the edge of a penalty area,
    • Estimating or measuring when droppingor placing a ball in taking relief, or
    • Replacinga ball on its original spot (whether the spot is known or estimated).
  • Such determinations about location need to be made promptly and with care but often cannot be precise.
  • So long as the player does what can be reasonably expected under the circumstances to make an accurate determination, the player’s reasonable judgment will be accepted even if, after the strokeis made, the determination is shown to be wrong by video evidence or other information.
  • If a player becomes aware of a wrong determination before the strokeis made, it must be corrected (see Rule 14.5).
  1. Penalties

(1) Actions Giving Rise to Penalties. A penalty applies when a breach of a Rule results from a player’s own actions or the actions of his or her caddie (see Rule 10.3c).

A penalty also applies when:

  • Another person takes an action that would breach the Rules if taken by the player or caddieand that person does so at the player’s request or while acting with the player’s authority, or
  • The player sees another person about to take an action concerning the player’s ball or equipmentthat he or she knows would breach the Rules if taken by the player or caddie and does not take reasonable steps to object or stop it from happening.

(2) Levels of Penalties. Penalties are meant to cancel out any potential advantage to the player. There are three main penalty levels:

  • One-Stroke Penalty. This penalty applies in both match playand stroke play under certain Rules where either (a) the potential advantage from a breach is minor or (b) a player takes penalty relief by playing a ball from a different place than where the original ball lies.
  • General Penalty (Loss of Hole in Match Play, Two-Stroke Penalty in Stroke Play). This penalty applies for a breach of most Rules, where the potential advantage is more significant than where only one penalty stroke applies.
  • Disqualification. In both match playand stroke play, a player may be disqualified from the competition for certain actions or Rule breaches involving serious misconduct (see Rule 1.2) or where the potential advantage is too significant for the player’s score to be considered valid.

(3) No Discretion to Vary Penalties. Penalties need to be applied only as provided in the Rules:

  • Neither a player nor the Committeehas authority to apply penalties in a different way, and
  • A wrong application of a penalty or a failure to apply a penalty may stand only if it is too late to correct it (see Rules 20.1b(2)-(4)2dand 20.2e).

In match play, the player and opponent may agree how to decide a Rules issue so long as they do not deliberately agree to apply the Rules in the wrong way (see Rule 20.1b(1)).

(4) Applying Penalties to Multiple Breaches of the Rules. If a player breaches multiple Rules or the same Rule multiple times before an intervening event happens (such as making a stroke or becoming aware of the breach), the penalty that applies depends on what the player did:

  • When Breaches Resulted from Unrelated Acts. The player gets a separate penalty for each breach.
  • When Breaches Resulted from a Single Act or Related Acts. The player gets only one penalty; butif the act or acts breached multiple Rules involving different penalties, the higher-level penalty applies. For example:
    • Multiple Procedural Breaches. If a player’s single act or related acts breach more than one of the procedural requirements for marking, lifting, cleaning, droppingreplacingor placing a ball where the penalty is one stroke, such as both lifting a ball without markingits spot and cleaning the lifted ball when not allowed, the player gets one penalty stroke in total.
    • Playing Incorrectly Substituted Ball from a Wrong Place. In stroke play, if a player plays a substitutedball when not allowed in breach of Rule 6.3band also plays that ball from a wrong place in breach of Rule 14.7a, the player gets two penalty strokes in total.
    • Combined Procedural and Substitution/Wrong Place Breaches: In stroke play, if a player’s single act or related acts breach one or more procedural requirements where the penalty is one stroke and also breach one or both of the Rules against playing an incorrectly substitutedball and playing from a wrong place, the player gets two penalty strokes in total.

But any penalty strokes a player gets for taking penalty relief (such as a one-stroke penalty under Rules 17.118.1 and 19.2) are always applied in addition to any other penalties.

Rule 2 - The Course

Purpose of Rule: Rule 2 introduces the basic things every player should know about the course:

  • There are five defined areas of the course, and
  • There are several types of defined objects and conditions that can interfere with play.

It is important to know the area of the course where the ball lies and the status of any interfering objects and conditions, because they often affect the player’s options for playing the ball or taking relief.

2.1 Course Boundaries and Out of Bounds

Golf is played on a course whose boundaries are set by the Committee. Areas not on the course are out of bounds.

2.2 Defined Areas of the Course

There are five areas of the course.

a. The General Area

The general area covers the entire course except for the four specific areas of the course described in Rule 2.2b.

It is called the “general area” because:

  • It covers most of the courseand is where a player’s ball will most often be played until the ball reaches the putting green.
  • It includes every type of ground and growing or attached objects found in that area, such as fairway, rough and trees.

b. The Four Specific Areas

Certain Rules apply specifically to the four areas of the course that are not in the general area:

c. Determining Area of Course Where Ball Lies

The area of the course where a player’s ball lies affects the Rules that apply in playing the ball or taking relief.

A ball is always treated as lying in only one area of the course:

2.3 Objects or Conditions That Can Interfere with Play

Certain Rules may give free relief (relief with no penalty) from interference by certain defined objects or conditions, such as:

But there is no free relief from boundary objects or integral objects that interfere with play.

2.4 No Play Zones

no play zone is a defined part of an abnormal course condition (see Rule 16.1f) or a penalty area (see Rule 17.1e) where play is not allowed.

A player must take relief when:

See Committee Procedures, Section 5H(1) (a Code of Conduct may tell players to stay out of a no play zone entirely).

Rule 3 - The Competition

Purpose of Rule: Rule 3 covers the three central elements of all golf competitions:

  • Playing either match play or stroke play,
  • Playing either as an individual or with a partner as part of a side, and
  • Scoring either by gross scores (no handicap strokes applied) or net scores (handicap strokes applied).

3.1 Central Elements of Every Competition

  1. Form of Play: Match Play or Stroke Play

(1) Match Play or Regular Stroke Play. These are very different forms of play:

  • In match play(see Rule 3.2), a player and an opponent compete against each other based on holes won, lost or tied.
  • In the regular form of stroke play(see Rule 3.3), all players compete with one another based on the total score – that is, adding up each player’s total number of strokes (including strokes made and penalty strokes) on each hole in all rounds.

Most of the Rules apply in both forms of play, but certain Rules apply in only one or the other.

See Committee Procedures, Section 6C (considerations for the Committee if it runs a competition that combines the two forms of play in a single round).

(2) Other Forms of Stroke PlayRule 21 covers other forms of stroke play (StablefordMaximum Score and Par/Bogey) that use a different scoring method. Rules 1-20 apply in these forms of play, as modified by Rule 21.

  1. How Players Compete: Playing as an Individual or as Partners

Golf is played either by individual players competing on their own or by partners competing together as a side.

Although Rules 1-20 focus on individual play, they also apply:

  1. How Players Score: Gross Scores or Net Scores

(1) Scratch Competitions. In a scratch competition:

  • The player’s “gross score” for a hole or the roundis his or her total number of strokes (including strokes made and penalty strokes).
  • The player’s handicap is not applied.

(2) Handicap Competitions. In a handicap competition:

  • The player’s “net score” for a hole or the roundis the gross score adjusted for the player’s handicap strokes.
  • This is done so that players of differing abilities can compete in a fair way.

3.2 Match Play

Purpose of Rule: Match play has specific Rules (particularly about concessions and giving information about the number of strokes taken) because the player and opponent:

  • Compete solely against each other on every hole,
  • Can see each other’s play, and
  • Can protect their own interests.
  1. Result of Hole and Match

(1) Winning a Hole. A player wins a hole when:

If the opponent’s ball in motion needs to be holed to tie the hole and the ball is deliberately deflected or stopped by any person at a time when there is no reasonable chance it can be holed (such as when the ball has rolled past the hole and will not roll back there), the result of the hole has been decided and the player wins the hole (see Rule 11.2a, Exception).

(2) Tying a Hole. A hole is tied (also known as “halved”) when:

  • The player and opponentcomplete the hole in the same number of strokes (including strokes made and penalty strokes), or
  • The player and opponentagree to treat the hole as tied (but this is allowed only after at least one of the players has made a stroke to begin the hole).

(3) Winning a Match. A player wins a match when:

  • The player leads the opponentby more holes than remain to be played,
  • The opponentconcedes the match, or
  • The opponentis disqualified.

(4) Extending a Tied Match. If a match is tied after the final hole:

  • The match is extended one hole at a time until there is a winner. See Rule 5.1(an extended match is a continuation of the same round, not a new round).
  • The holes are played in the same order as in the round, unless the Committeesets a different order.

But the Terms of the Competition may say that the match will end in a tie rather than be extended.

(5) When Result is Final. The result of a match becomes final in the way stated by the Committee (which should be set out in the Terms of the Competition), such as:

  • When the result is recorded on an official scoreboard or other identified place, or
  • When the result is reported to a person identified by the Committee.

See Committee Procedures, Section 5A(7) (recommendations on how the result of a match becomes final).

  1. Concessions

(1) Player May Concede Stroke, Hole or Match. A player may concede the opponent’s next stroke, a hole or the match:

  • Conceding Next Stroke. This is allowed any time before the opponent’snext stroke is made.
    • The opponenthas then completed the hole with a score that includes that conceded stroke, and the ball may be removed by anyone.
    • A concession made while the opponent’sball is still in motion after the previous strokeapplies to the opponent’s next stroke, unless the ball is holed (in which case the concession does not matter).
    • The player may concede the opponent’snext strokeby deflecting or stopping the opponent’s ball in motion only if that is done specifically to concede the next stroke and only when there is no reasonable chance the ball can be holed.
  • Conceding a Hole. This is allowed any time before the hole is completed (see Rule 6.5), including before the players start the hole.
  • Conceding the Match. This is allowed any time before the result of the match is decided (see Rules 3.2a(3)and (4)), including before the players start the match.

(2) How Concessions Are Made. A concession is made only when clearly communicated:

  • This can be done either verbally or by an action that clearly shows the player’s intent to concede the stroke, the hole or the match (such as making a gesture).
  • If the opponentlifts his or her ball in breach of a Rule because of a reasonable misunderstanding that the player’s statement or action was a concession of the next stroke, a hole or the match, there is no penalty and the ball must be replaced on its original spot (which if not known must be estimated) (see Rule 14.2).

A concession is final and cannot be declined or withdrawn.

  1. Applying Handicaps in Handicap Match

(1) Declaring Handicaps. The player and opponent should tell each other their handicaps before the match.

If a player declares a wrong handicap either before or during the match and does not correct the mistake before the opponent makes his or her next stroke:

  • Declared Handicap Too High. The player is disqualifiedif this affects the number of strokes the player gives or gets. If it does not, there is no penalty.
  • Declared Handicap Too Low. There is no penalty and the player must play off the declared lower handicap.

(2) Holes Where Handicap Strokes Applied.

  • Handicap strokes are given by hole, and the lower net score wins the hole.
  • If a tied match is extended, handicap strokes are given by hole in the same way as in the round(unless the Committee sets a different way of doing so).

Each player is responsible for knowing the holes where he or she gives or gets handicap strokes, based on the stroke index allocation set by the Committee (which is usually found on the scorecard).

If the players mistakenly apply handicap strokes on a hole, the agreed result of the hole stands, unless the players correct that mistake in time (see Rule 3.2d(3)).

  1. Responsibilities of Player and Opponent

(1) Telling Opponent About Number of Strokes Taken. At any time during play of a hole or after the hole is completed, the opponent may ask the player for the number of strokes (including strokes made and penalty strokes) the player has taken on the hole.

This is to allow the opponent to decide how to play the next stroke and the rest of the hole, or to confirm the result of the hole just completed.

When asked for the number of strokes taken, or when giving that information without being asked:

  • The player must give the right number of strokes taken.
  • A player who fails to respond to the opponent’srequest is treated as giving the wrong number of strokes taken.

The player gets the general penalty (loss of hole) if he or she gives the opponent the wrong number of strokes taken, unless the player corrects that mistake in time:

  • Wrong Number of Strokes Given While Playing Hole. The player must give the right number of strokes taken before the opponentmakes another stroke or takes a similar action (such as conceding the player’s next stroke or the hole).
  • Wrong Number of Strokes Given After Hole Completed. The player must give the right number of strokes taken:
    • Before either player makes a stroketo begin another hole or takes a similar action (such as conceding the next hole or the match) or,
    • For the final hole of the match, before the result of the match is final (see Rule 3.2a(5)).

Exception – No Penalty If No Effect on Result of Hole: If the player gives the wrong number of strokes taken after a hole is completed but this does not affect the opponent’s understanding of whether the hole was won, lost or tied, there is no penalty.

(2) Telling Opponent About Penalty. When a player gets a penalty:

  • The player must tell the opponentabout that penalty as soon as reasonably possible, taking into account how near the player is to the opponent and other practical factors.
  • This requirement applies even if the player does not know about the penalty (because players are expected to recognize when they have breached a Rule).

If the player fails to do so and does not correct that mistake before the opponent makes another stroke or takes a similar action (such as conceding the player’s next stroke or the hole), the player gets the general penalty (loss of hole).

Exception – No Penalty When Opponent Knew of Player’s Penalty: If the opponent knew that the player had a penalty, such as when seeing the player obviously take penalty relief, the player gets no penalty for failing to tell the opponent about it.

(3) Knowing Match Score. The players are expected to know the match score – that is, whether one of them leads by a certain number of holes (“holes up” in the match) or the match is tied (also known as “all square”).

If the players mistakenly agree on a wrong match score:

  • They may correct the match score before either player makes a stroketo begin another hole or, for the final hole, before the result of the match is final (see Rule 3.2a(5)).
  • If not corrected in that time, that wrong match score becomes the actual match score.

Exception – When Player Requests Ruling in Time: If the player makes a timely request for a ruling (see Rule 20.1b), and it is found that the opponent either (1) gave the wrong number of strokes taken or (2) failed to tell the player about a penalty, the wrong match score must be corrected.

(4) Protecting Own Rights and Interests. The players in a match should protect their own rights and interests under the Rules:

  • If the player knows or believes that the opponenthas breached a Rule that has a penalty, the player may act on the breach or choose to ignore it.
  • Butif the player and opponent deliberately agree to ignore a breach or penalty they know applies, both players are disqualified under Rule 1.3b.
  • If the player and opponentdisagree whether one of them has breached a Rule, either player may protect his or her rights by asking for a ruling under Rule 20.1b.

3.3 Stroke Play

Purpose of Rule: Stroke play has specific Rules (particularly for scorecards and holing out) because:

  • Each player competes against all the other players in the competition, and
  • All players need to be treated equally under the Rules.

After the round, the player and the marker (who keeps the player’s score) must certify that the player’s score for each hole is right and the player must return the scorecard to the Committee.

  1. Winner in Stroke Play

The player who completes all rounds in the fewest total strokes (including strokes made and penalty strokes) is the winner.

In a handicap competition, this means the fewest total net strokes.

See Committee Procedures, Section 5A(6) (the Terms of the Competition should say how ties will be decided).

  1. Scoring in Stroke Play

The player’s score is kept on his or her scorecard by the marker, who is either identified by the Committee or chosen by the player in a way approved by the Committee.

The player must use the same marker for the entire round, unless the Committee approves a change either before or after it happens.

(1) Marker’s Responsibility: Entering and Certifying Hole Scores on Scorecard. After each hole during the round, the marker should confirm with the player the number of strokes on that hole (including strokes made and penalty strokes) and enter that gross score on the scorecard.

When the round has ended:

  • The markermust certify the hole scores on the scorecard.
  • If the player had more than one marker, each markermust certify the scores for those holes where he or she was the marker.

(2) Player’s Responsibility: Certifying Hole Scores and Returning Scorecard. During the round, the player should keep track of his or her scores for each hole.

When the round has ended, the player:

  • Should carefully check the hole scores entered by the markerand raise any issues with the Committee,
  • Must make sure that the markercertifies the hole scores on the scorecard,
  • Must not change a hole score entered by the markerexcept with the marker’s agreement or the Committee’s approval, and
  • Must certify the hole scores on the scorecardand promptly return it to the Committee, after which the player must not change the scorecard.

If the player breaches any of these requirements in Rule 3.3b, the player is disqualified.

Exception – No Penalty When Breach Due to Marker Failing to Carry Out Responsibilities: There is no penalty if the Committee finds that the player’s breach of Rule 3.3b(2) was caused by the marker’s failure to carry out his or her responsibilities (such as the marker leaving with the player’s scorecard or without certifying the scorecard), so long as this was beyond the player’s control.

See Committee Procedures, Section 5A(5) (recommendations on how to define when a scorecard has been returned).

(3) Wrong Score for a Hole. If the player returns a scorecard with a wrong score for any hole:

  • Returned Score Higher Than Actual Score. The higher returned score for the hole stands.
  • Returned Score Lower Than Actual Score or No Score Returned. The player is disqualified.

Exception – Failure to Include Unknown Penalty: If one or more of the player’s hole scores are lower than the actual scores because he or she excluded one or more penalty strokes that the player did not know about before returning the scorecard:

  • The player is not disqualified.
  • Instead, if the mistake is found before the close of the competition, the Committeewill revise the player’s score for that hole or holes by adding the penalty stroke(s) that should have been included in the score for that hole or holes under the Rules.

This exception does not apply:

  • When the excluded penalty is disqualification, or
  • When the player was told that a penalty might apply or was uncertain whether a penalty applied and did not raise this with the Committeebefore returning the scorecard.

(4) Scoring in Handicap Competition. The player is responsible for making sure that his or her handicap is shown on the scorecard. If the player returns a scorecard without the right handicap:

  • Handicap on Scorecard Too High or No Handicap Shown. If this affects the number of strokes the player gets, the player is disqualifiedfrom the handicap competition. If it does not, there is no penalty.
  • Handicap on Scorecard Too Low. There is no penalty and the player’s net score stands using the lower handicap as shown.

(5) Player Not Responsible for Adding Up Scores or Applying Handicap. The Committee is responsible for adding up the player’s hole scores and, in a handicap competition, applying the player’s handicap strokes.

If the player returns a scorecard on which he or she has made a mistake in adding up the scores or applying handicap strokes, there is no penalty for doing so.

  1. Failure to Hole Out

A player must hole out at each hole in a round. If the player fails to hole out at any hole:

  • The player must correct that mistake before making a stroketo begin another hole or, for the final hole of the round, before returning the scorecard.
  • If the mistake is not corrected in that time, the player is disqualified.

See Rules 21.121.2 and 21.3 (Rules for other forms of stroke play (StablefordMaximum Score and Par/Bogey) where scoring is different and a player is not disqualified if he or she does not hole out).

Rule 4 - The Player's Equipment

Purpose of Rule: Rule 4 covers the equipment that players may use during a round. Based on the principle that golf is a challenging game in which success should depend on the player’s judgment, skills and abilities, the player:

  • Must use conforming clubs and balls,
  • Is limited to no more than 14 clubs and normally must not replace damaged or lost clubs, and
  • Is restricted in the use of other equipment that gives artificial help to his or her play.

For detailed requirements for clubs, balls and other equipment and the process for consultation and submission of equipment for conformity review, see the Equipment Rules.

4.1 Clubs

  1. Clubs Allowed in Making a Stroke

(1) Conforming Clubs. In making a stroke, a player must use a club that conforms to the requirements in the Equipment Rules:

  • A club used to make a strokemust conform not only when the club is new, but also when it has been deliberately or accidentally changed in any way.
  • Butif the performance characteristics of a conforming club change because of wear through normal use, it is still a conforming club.

“Performance characteristics” means any part of the club that affects how it performs in making a stroke, such as its grip, shaft, clubhead or lie or loft (including lie or loft of an adjustable club).

(2) Use or Repair of Club Damaged During Round. If a conforming club is damaged during a round or while play is stopped under Rule 5.7a, the player normally must not replace it with another club. (For a limited exception when the player did not cause the damage, see Rule 4.1b(3)).

But no matter what the nature or cause of the damage, the damaged club is treated as conforming for the rest of the round (but not during a play-off in stroke play, which is a new round).

For the rest of the round, the player may:

  • Continue to make strokeswith the damaged club, or
  • Have the club repaired by restoring it as nearly as possible to its condition before the damage happened during the roundor while play was stopped, while still using the original grip, shaft and clubhead. But in doing so:
    • The player must not unreasonably delay play (see Rule 5.6a), and
    • Any damage that existed before the roundmust not be repaired.

“Damaged during a round ” means when the club’s performance characteristics are changed because of any act during the round (including while play is stopped under Rule 5.7a), whether:

  • By the player (such as making a strokeor practice swing with the club, putting it in or taking it out of a golf bag, dropping or leaning on it, or throwing or abusing it), or
  • By any other person, outside influenceor natural forces.

But a club is not “damaged during a round ” if its performance characteristics are deliberately changed by the player during the round, as covered by Rule 4.1a(3).

(3) Deliberately Changing Club’s Performance Characteristics During Round. A player must not make a stroke with a club whose performance characteristics he or she deliberately changed during the round (including while play is stopped under Rule 5.7a):

  • By using an adjustable feature or physically changing the club (exceptwhen allowed to repair damage under Rule 4.1a(2)), or
  • By applying any substance to the clubhead (other than in cleaning it) to affect how it performs in making a stroke.

Exception – Adjustable Club Restored to Original Position: If a club’s performance characteristics were changed by using an adjustable feature and, before the club is used to make a stroke, the club is restored as nearly as possible to its original position by adjusting the feature back to where it was, there is no penalty and the club may be used to make a stroke.

Penalty for Making Stroke in Breach of Rule 4.1a: Disqualification.

  • There is no penalty under this Rule for merely having (but not making a strokewith) a non-conforming club or a club whose performance characteristics were deliberately changed during the round.
  • Butsuch a club still counts towards the 14-club limit in Rule 4.1b(1).
  1. Limit of 14 Clubs; Sharing, Adding or Replacing Clubs During Round

(1) Limit of 14 Clubs. A player must not:

  • Start a roundwith more than 14 clubs, or
  • Have more than 14 clubs during the round.

If the player starts a round with fewer than 14 clubs, he or she may add clubs during the round up to the 14-club limit (see Rule 4.1b(4) for restrictions in doing this).

When the player becomes aware that he or she is in breach of this Rule by having more than 14 clubs, the player must immediately take the excess club or clubs out of play, using the procedure in Rule 4.1c(1):

  • If the player started with more than 14 clubs, he or she may choose which club or clubs will be taken out of play.
  • If the player added excess clubs during the round, those added clubs are the ones that must be taken out of play.

After a player’s round has started, if the player picks up another player’s club that was left behind, or a club is mistakenly put in the player’s bag without his or her knowledge, the club is not treated as one of the player’s clubs for purposes of the 14-club limit (but it must not be used).

(2) No Sharing of Clubs. A player is limited to those clubs he or she started with or added as allowed in (1):

  • The player must not make a strokewith a club being used by anyone else who is playing on the course (even if the other player is playing in a different group or competition).
  • When the player becomes aware that he or she has breached this Rule by making a strokewith another player’s club, the player must immediately take that club out of play, using the procedure in Rule 4.1c(1).

See Rules 22.5 and 23.7 (limited exception in partner forms of play allowing partners to share clubs if they have no more than 14 clubs between them).

(3) No Replacing Lost or Damaged Clubs. If a player started with 14 clubs or added clubs up to the limit of 14 and then loses or damages a club during the round or while play is stopped under Rule 5.7a, the player must not replace it with another club. 

Exception – Replacing Damaged Club When Player Did Not Cause Damage: If a player’s club is damaged during the round (including while play is stopped under Rule 5.7a) (see Rule 4.1a(2)) by an outside influence or natural forces or by any person other than the player or his or her caddie:

  • The player may replace the damaged club with any club under Rule 4.1b(4).
  • Butwhen the player does so, the player must immediately take the damaged club out of play, using the procedure in Rule 4.1c(1).

(4) Restrictions When Adding or Replacing Clubs. When adding or replacing a club under (1) or (3), a player must not:

  • Unreasonably delay play (see Rule 5.6a),
  • Add or borrow any club from anyone else who is playing on the course(even if the other player is playing in a different group or competition), or
  • Build a club from parts carried by anyone for the player during the round.

Penalty for Breach of Rule 4.1b: The penalty applies based on when the player becomes aware of the breach:

  • Player Becomes Aware of Breach While Playing the Hole. The penalty is applied at the end of the hole being played. In match play, the player must complete the hole, apply the result of that hole to the match score and then apply the penalty to adjust the match score.
  • Player Becomes Aware of Breach Between Two Holes. The penalty is applied as of the end of the hole just completed, not the next hole.

Penalty in Match Play – Match Score Revised by Deducting Hole, Maximum of Two Holes:

  • This is a match adjustment penalty – it is not the same as a loss of hole penalty.
  • At the end of the hole being played or just completed, the match score is revised by deducting one holefor each hole where a breach happened, with a maximum deduction of two holes in the round.
  • For example, if a player who started with 15 clubs becomes aware of the breach while playing the 3rd hole and then wins that hole to go three up in the match, the maximum adjustment of two holes applies and the player would now be one up in the match.

Penalty in Stroke Play – Two Penalty Strokes, Maximum of Four Strokes: The player gets the general penalty (two penalty strokes) for each hole where a breach happened, with a maximum of four penalty strokes in the round (adding two penalty strokes at each of the first two holes where a breach happened).

  1. Procedure for Taking Clubs Out of Play

(1) During Round. When a player becomes aware during a round that he or she is in breach of Rule 4.1b(1)(2) or (3) for having more than 14 clubs or for making a stroke with another player’s club, the player must immediately take an action that clearly indicates each club that is being taken out of play.

This may be done either by:

  • Declaring this to the opponentin match play or the marker or another player in the group in stroke play, or
  • Taking some other clear action (such as turning the club upside down in the bag, placing it on the floor of the golf cart or giving the club to another person).

The player must not make a stroke for the rest of the round with any club taken out of play.

If a club taken out of play is another player’s club, that other player may continue to use the club.

Penalty for Breach of Rule 4.1c(1): Disqualification.

(2) Before Round. If a player becomes aware shortly before starting a round that he or she accidentally has more than 14 clubs, the player should try to leave the excess club or clubs behind.

But as an option without penalty:

  • The player may take any such excess clubs out of play before the start of the round, using the procedure in (1), and 
  • The excess clubs may be kept by the player (butmust not be used) during the round, and they do not count towards the 14-club limit.

If a player deliberately brings more than 14 clubs to his or her first teeing area and starts the round without leaving the excess clubs behind, this option is not allowed and Rule 4.1b(1) applies.

4.2 Balls

  1. Balls Allowed in Play of Round

(1) Conforming Ball Must Be Played. In making each stroke, a player must use a ball that conforms to the requirements in the Equipment Rules.

A player may get a conforming ball to play from anyone else, including another player on the course.

(2) Deliberately Altered Ball Must Not Be Played. A player must not make a stroke at a ball whose performance characteristics have been deliberately altered, such as by scuffing or heating the ball or by applying any substance (other than in cleaning it).

Penalty for Making Stroke in Breach of Rule 4.2a: Disqualification.

  1. Ball Breaks into Pieces While Playing Hole

If a player’s ball breaks into pieces after a stroke, there is no penalty and the stroke does not count.

The player must play another ball from where that stroke was made (see Rule 14.6).

Penalty for Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 4.2b: General Penalty under Rule 14.7a.

  1. Ball Becomes Cut or Cracked While Playing Hole

(1) Lifting Ball to See If Cut or Cracked. If a player reasonably believes that his or her ball has been cut or cracked while playing a hole:

  • The player may lift the ball to look at it, but:
  • The spot of the ball must first be marked, and the ball must not be cleaned (excepton the putting green) (see Rule 14.1).

If the player lifts the ball without having this reasonable belief (except on the putting green where the player may lift under Rule 13.1b), fails to mark the spot of the ball before lifting it or cleans it when not allowed, the player gets one penalty stroke.

If multiple Rule breaches with a one-stroke penalty result from a single act or related acts, see Rule 1.3c(4).

(2) When Another Ball May Be Substituted. The player may only substitute another ball if it can be clearly seen that the original ball is cut or cracked and this damage happened during the hole being played – but not if it is only scratched or scraped or its paint is only damaged or discoloured.

  • If the original ball is cut or cracked, the player must replaceeither another ball or the original ball on the original spot (see Rule 14.2).
  • If the original ball is not cut or cracked, the player must replaceit on its original spot (see Rule 14.2).

Nothing in this Rule prohibits a player from substituting another ball under any other Rule or changing balls between two holes.

Penalty for Playing Incorrectly Substituted Ball or Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 4.2c: General Penalty Under Rule 6.3b or 14.7a.

If multiple Rule breaches result from a single act or related acts, see Rule 1.3c(4).

4.3 Use of Equipment

Rule 4.3 applies to all types of equipment that a player might use during a roundexcept that the requirement to play with conforming clubs and balls is covered by Rules 4.1 and 4.2, not by this Rule.

This Rule only concerns how equipment is used. It does not limit the equipment that a player may have with him or her during a round.

  1. Allowed and Prohibited Uses of Equipment

A player may use equipment to help his or her play during a roundexcept that a player must not create a potential advantage by:

  • Using equipment(other than a club or a ball) that artificially eliminates or reduces the need for a skill or judgment that is essential to the challenge of the game, or
  • Using equipment(including a club or a ball) in an abnormal way in making a stroke. “Abnormal way” means a way that is fundamentally different than its intended use and is not normally recognized as part of playing the game.

This Rule does not affect the application of any other Rule that limits actions a player is allowed to take with a club, ball or other equipment (such as setting down a club or other object to help the player in lining up, see Rule 10.2b(3)).

Common examples of uses of equipment that are allowed and not allowed during a player’s round under this Rule are:

(1) Distance and Directional Information.

  • Allowed. Getting information on distance or direction (such as from a distance-measuring device or compass).
  • Not Allowed.
    • Measuring elevation changes, or
    • Interpreting distance or directional information (such as using a device to get a recommended line of playor club selection based on the location of the player’s ball).

See Committee Procedures, Section 8; Model Local Rule G-5 (the Committee may adopt a Local Rule prohibiting the use of distance-measuring devices).

(2) Information on Wind and Other Weather Conditions.

  • Allowed.
    • Getting any type of weather information (including wind speed) that is available from weather forecasts, or
    • Measuring temperature and humidity at the course.
  • Not Allowed.
    • Measuring wind speed at the course, or
    • Using an artificial object to get other wind-related information (such as using powder to assess wind direction).

(3) Information Gathered Before or During Round.

  • Allowed.
    • Using information that was gathered before the round(such as playing information from previous rounds, swing tips or club recommendations), or
    • Recording (for use after the round) playing or physiological information from the round(such as club distance, playing statistics or heart rate).
  • Not Allowed.
    • Processing or interpreting playing information from the round(such as club recommendations based on current rounddistances), or
    • Using any physiological information recorded during the round.

(4) Audio and Video.

  • Allowed.
    • Listening to audio or watching video on matters unrelated to the competition being played (such as a news report or background music).
    • Butin doing so, consideration should be shown to others (see Rule 1.2).
  • Not Allowed.
    • Listening to music or other audio to eliminate distractions or to help with swing tempo, or
    • Viewing video showing play of the player or other players during the competition that helps the player in choosing a club, making a stroke, or deciding how to play during the round.

See Committee Procedures, Section 8; Model Local Rule G-8 (the Committee may adopt a Local Rule prohibiting or restricting the use of audio and video devices during a round).

(5) Gloves and Gripping Agents.

  • Allowed.
    • Using a plain glove that meets the requirements in the Equipment Rules,
    • Using resin, powders and other moisturizing or drying agents, or
    • Wrapping a towel or handkerchief around the grip.
  • Not Allowed.
    • Using a glove that does not meet the requirements in the Equipment Rules, or
    • Using other equipmentthat gives an unfair advantage with hand position or grip pressure.

(6) Stretching Devices and Training or Swing Aids.

  • Allowed.
    • Using any equipmentfor general stretching (other than in making a practice swing), whether the equipmentis designed for stretching, for use in golf (such as an alignment rod placed across the shoulders) or for any purpose unrelated to golf (such as rubber tubing or a section of pipe).
  • Not Allowed.
    • Using any type of golf training or swing aid (such as an alignment rod or a weighted headcover or “donut”) or a non-conforming club to make a practice swing or in any other way that creates a potential advantage by helping the player in preparing for or making a stroke(such as help with swing plane, grip, alignment, ball position or posture).

Further guidance on the use of equipment described above and other types of equipment (such as clothing and shoes) is found in the Equipment Rules.

A player who is uncertain whether he or she may use a piece of equipment in a particular way should ask the Committee for a ruling (see Rule 20.2b).

See Committee Procedures, Section 8; Model Local Rule G-6 (the Committee may adopt a Local Rule prohibiting the use of motorized transportation during a round).

  1. Equipment Used for Medical Reasons

(1) Medical Exception. A player is not in breach of Rule 4.3 if he or she uses equipment to help with a medical condition, so long as:

  • The player has a medical reason to use the equipment, and
  • The Committeedecides that its use does not give the player any unfair advantage over other players.

(2) Tape or Similar Coverings. A player may use adhesive tape or a similar covering for any medical reason (such as to prevent an injury or help with an existing injury), but the tape or covering must not:

  • Be applied excessively, or
  • Help the player more than is necessary for the medical reason (for example, it must not immobilize a joint to help the player swing the club).

A player who is uncertain about where or how tape or similar coverings may be applied should ask the Committee for a ruling.

Penalty for Breach of Rule 4.3:

  • Penalty for first breach from single act or related acts: General Penalty.
  • Penalty for second breach unrelated to first breach: Disqualification.This penalty applies even if the nature of the breach was entirely different than the breach resulting in the first penalty.
Rule 5 - Playing the Round

Purpose of Rule: Rule 5 covers how to play a round – such as where and when a player may practise on the course before or during a round, when a round starts and ends and what happens when play has to stop or resume. Players are expected to:

  • Start each round on time, and
  • Play continuously and at a prompt pace during each hole until the round is completed.

When it is a player’s turn to play, it is recommended that he or she make the stroke in no more than 40 seconds, and usually more quickly than that.

5.1 Meaning of Round

A “round ” is 18 or fewer holes played in the order set by the Committee.

When a round ends in a tie and play will go on until there is a winner:

  • Tied Match Extended One Hole at a Time. This is the continuation of the same round, not a new round.
  • Play-off in Stroke Play. This is a new round.

A player is playing his or her round from when it starts until it ends (see Rule 5.3), except while play is stopped under Rule 5.7a.

When a Rule refers to actions taken “during a round,” that does not include while play is stopped under Rule 5.7a unless the Rule says otherwise.

5.2 Practising on Course Before or Between Rounds

For purposes of this Rule:

  • “Practising on the course” means playing a ball, or testing the surface of the putting green of any hole by rolling a ball or rubbing the surface, and
  • The limitations on practise on the coursebefore or between rounds apply only to the player, not to the player’s caddie.
  1. Match Play

A player may practise on the course before a round or between rounds of a match-play competition.

  1. Stroke Play

On the day of a stroke-play competition:

  • A player must not practise on the coursebefore a roundexcept that the player may practise putting or chipping on or near his or her first teeing area and practise on any practice area.
  • A player may practise on the courseafter completing play of his or her final round for that day.

See Committee Procedures, Section 8; Model Local Rule I-1 (in either form of play, the Committee may adopt a Local Rule prohibiting, restricting or allowing practice on the course before or between rounds).

Penalty for Breach of Rule 5.2:

  • Penalty for first breach:General Penalty (applied to the player’s first hole).
  • Penalty for second breach: Disqualification.

5.3 Starting and Ending Round

  1. When to Start Round

A player’s round starts when the player makes a stroke to start his or her first hole (see Rule 6.1a).

The player must start at (and not before) his or her starting time:

  • This means that the player must be ready to play at the starting time and starting point set by the Committee.
  • A starting time set by the Committeeis treated as an exact time (for example, 9 am means 9:00:00 am, not any time until 9:01 am).

If the starting time is delayed for any reason (such as weather, slow play of other groups or the need for a ruling by a referee), there is no breach of this Rule if the player is present and ready to play when the player’s group is able to start.

Penalty for Breach of Rule 5.3a: Disqualification, except in these three cases:

  • Exception 1 – Player Arrives at Starting Point, Ready to Play, No More Than Five Minutes Late:The player gets the general penalty applied to his or her first hole.
  • Exception 2 – Player Starts No More Than Five Minutes Early:The player gets the general penalty applied to his or her first hole.
  • Exception 3 – Committee Decides that Exceptional Circumstances Prevented Player from Starting on Time:There is no breach of this Rule and no penalty.
  1. When Round Ends

A player’s round ends:

See Rules 21.1e21.2e21.3e and 23.3b (when a round starts and ends in other forms of stroke play and in Four-Ball).

5.4 Playing in Groups

  1. Match Play

During a round, the player and opponent must play each hole in the same group.

  1. Stroke Play

During a round, the player must remain in the group set by the Committee, unless the Committee approves a change either before or after it happens.

Penalty for Breach of Rule 5.4: Disqualification.

5.5 Practising During Round or While Play Is Stopped

  1. No Practice Strokes While Playing Hole

While playing a hole, a player must not make a practice stroke at any ball on or off the course.

These are not practice strokes:

  • A practice swing made with no intent to strike a ball.
  • Hitting a ball back to a practice area or to another player, when done solely as a courtesy.
  • Strokesmade by a player in playing out a hole whose result has been decided.
  1. Restriction on Practice Strokes Between Two Holes

Between two holes, a player must not make a practice stroke.

Exception – Where Player Allowed to Practise Putting or Chipping: The player may practise putting or chipping on or near:

  • The putting green of the hole just completed and any practice green (see Rule 13.1e), and
  • The teeing areaof the next hole.

But such practice strokes must not be made from a bunker and must not unreasonably delay play (see Rule 5.6a).

See Committee Procedures, Section 8; Model Local Rule I-2 (the Committee may adopt a Local Rule prohibiting practise putting or chipping on or near the putting green of the hole just completed).

  1. Practice While Play Is Suspended or Otherwise Stopped

While play is suspended or otherwise stopped under Rule 5.7a, a player must not make a practice stroke except:

If a match is stopped by agreement of the players and will not be resumed on the same day, the players may practise on the course without restriction before the match is resumed.

Penalty for Breach of Rule 5.5: General Penalty.

If the breach happens between two holes, the penalty applies to the next hole.

5.6 Unreasonable Delay; Prompt Pace of Play

  1. Unreasonable Delay of Play

A player must not unreasonably delay play, either when playing a hole or between two holes.

A player may be allowed a short delay for certain reasons, such as:

  • When the player seeks help from a refereeor the Committee,
  • When the player becomes injured or ill, or
  • When there is another good reason.

Penalty for Breach of Rule 5.6a:

  • Penalty for first breach: One penalty stroke.
  • Penalty for second breach: General Penalty.
  • Penalty for third breach: Disqualification.

If the player unreasonably delays play between two holes, the penalty applies to the next hole.

  1. Prompt Pace of Play

round of golf is meant to be played at a prompt pace.

Each player should recognize that his or her pace of play is likely to affect how long it will take other players to play their rounds, including both those in the player’s own group and those in following groups.

Players are encouraged to allow faster groups to play through.

(1) Pace of Play Recommendations. The player should play at a prompt pace throughout the round, including the time taken to:

  • Prepare for and make each stroke,
  • Move from one place to another between strokes, and
  • Move to the next teeing areaafter completing a hole.

A player should prepare in advance for the next stroke and be ready to play when it is his or her turn.

When it is the player’s turn to play:

  • It is recommended that the player make the strokein no more than 40 seconds after he or she is (or should be) able to play without interference or distraction, and
  • The player should usually be able to play more quickly than that and is encouraged to do so.

(2) Playing Out of Turn to Help Pace of Play. Depending on the form of play, there are times when players may play out of turn to help the pace of play:

  • In match play, the players may agree that one of them will play out of turn to save time (see Rule 6.4a).
  • In stroke play, players may play “ready golf” in a safe and responsible way (see Rule 6.4bException).

(3) Committee Pace of Play Policy. To encourage and enforce prompt play, the Committee should adopt a Local Rule setting a Pace of Play Policy.

This Policy may set a maximum time to complete a round, a hole or series of holes and a stroke, and it may set penalties for not following the Policy.

See Committee Procedures, Section 5G (recommendations on contents of Pace of Play Policy).

5.7 Stopping Play; Resuming Play

  1. When Players May or Must Stop Play

During a round, a player must not stop play except in these cases:

  • Suspension by Committee. All players must stop play if the Committeesuspends play (see Rule 5.7b).
  • Stopping Play by Agreement in Match Play. Players in a match may agree to stop play for any reason, exceptif doing so delays the competition. If they agree to stop play and then one player wants to resume play, the agreement has ended and the other player must resume play.
  • Individual Player Stopping Play Because of Lightning. A player may stop play if he or she reasonably believes there is danger from lightning, but must report to the Committeeas soon as possible.

Leaving the course is not, by itself, stopping play. A player’s delay of play is covered by Rule 5.6a, not by this Rule.

If a player stops play for any reason not allowed under this Rule or fails to report to the Committee when required to do so, the player is disqualified.

  1. What Players Must Do When Committee Suspends Play

There are two types of Committee suspensions of play, each with different requirements for when players must stop play.

(1) Immediate Suspension (Such as When There Is Imminent Danger). If the Committee declares an immediate suspension of play, all players must stop play at once and must not make another stroke until the Committee resumes play.

The Committee should use a distinct method of telling players about an immediate suspension.

(2) Normal Suspension (Such as for Darkness or Unplayable Course). If the Committee suspends play for normal reasons, what happens next depends on where each playing group is:

  • Between Two Holes. If all players in the group are between two holes, they must stop play and must not make a stroketo begin another hole until the Committee resumes play.
  • While Playing Hole. If any player in the group has started a hole, the players may choose either to stop play or to play out the hole.
    • The players are allowed a brief amount of time (which normally should be no more than two minutes) to decide whether to stop play or play out the hole.
    • If the players continue play of the hole, they may go on to complete the hole or may stop before completing the hole.
    • Once the players complete the hole or stop before completing the hole, they must not make another strokeuntil the Committeeresumes play under Rule 5.7c.

If the players do not agree on what to do:

  • Match Play. If the opponentstops play, the player must also stop play and both players must not play again until the Committeeresumes play. If the player does not stop play, the player gets the general penalty (loss of hole).
  • Stroke Play. Any player in the group may choose to stop play or go on to continue the hole, no matter what the others in the group decide to do, exceptthat the player may continue play only if the player’s markerstays to keep the player’s score.

Penalty for Breach of Rule 5.7b: Disqualification.

Exception – No Penalty If Committee Decides That Failure to Stop Was Justified: There is no breach of this Rule and no penalty if the Committee decides that circumstances justified the player’s failure to stop play when required to do so.

See Committee Procedures, Section 8; Model Local Rule J-1 (recommended ways for Committee to indicate immediate and normal suspensions to players).

  1. What Players Must Do When Play Resumes

(1) Where to Resume Play. A player must resume play from where he or she stopped play on a hole or, if between two holes, at the next teeing area, even if play is resumed on a later day.

(2) When to Resume Play. The player must be present at the location identified in (1) and ready to play:

  • At the time set by the Committeefor play to resume, and
  • The player must resume play at (and not before) that time.

If the ability to resume play is delayed for any reason (such as when players in the group ahead need to play first and move out of the way), there is no breach of this Rule if the player is present and ready to play when the player’s group is able to resume play.

Penalty for Breach of Rule 5.7c: Disqualification.

Exceptions to Disqualification for Failure to Resume on Time: Exceptions 1, 2 and 3 in Rule 5.3a and the Exception to Rule 5.7b apply here as well.

  1. Lifting Ball When Play Stops; Replacing and Substituting Ball When Play Resumes

(1) Lifting Ball When Play Stops or Before Play Resumes. When stopping play of a hole under this Rule, the player may mark the spot of his or her ball and lift the ball (see Rule 14.1).

Either before or when play is resumed:

  • When Player’s Ball Was Lifted When Play Stopped. The player must replacethe original ball or another ball on the original spot (which if not known must be estimated) (see Rule 14.2).
  • When Player’s Ball Was Not Lifted When Play Stopped. The player may play the ball as it lies, or may markthe spot of the ball, lift the ball (see Rule 14.1) and replace that ball or another ball on the original spot (see Rule 14.2).

In either case:

(2) What to Do If Ball or Ball-Marker Is Moved While Play Stopped. If the player’s ball or ball-marker is moved in any way before play resumes (including by natural forces), the player must either:

  • Replacethe original ball or another ball on the original spot (which if not known must be estimated) (see Rule 14.2), or
  • Place a ball-markerto mark that original spot, and then replace the original ball or another ball on that spot (see Rules 14.1 and 2).

If the player’s conditions affecting the stroke were worsened while play was stopped, see Rule 8.1d.

Penalty for Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 5.7d: General Penalty Under Rule 14.7a.

If multiple Rule breaches result from a single act or related acts, see Rule 1.3c(4).

Rule 6 - Playing a Hole

Purpose of Rule: Rule 6 covers how to play a hole – such as the specific Rules for teeing off to start a hole, the requirement to use the same ball for an entire hole except when substitution is allowed, the order of play (which matters more in match play than stroke play) and completing a hole.

6.1 Starting Play of a Hole

  1. When Hole Starts

A player has started a hole when he or she makes a stroke to begin the hole.

The hole has started even if the stroke was made from outside the teeing area (see Rule 6.1b) or the stroke was cancelled under a Rule.

  1. Ball Must Be Played from Inside Teeing Area

A player must start each hole by playing a ball from anywhere inside the teeing area under Rule 6.2b.

If a player who is starting a hole plays a ball from outside the teeing area (including from a wrong set of tee markers for a different teeing location on the same hole or a different hole):

(1) Match Play. There is no penalty, but the opponent may cancel the stroke:

  • This must be done promptly and before either player makes another stroke. When the opponentcancels the stroke, he or she cannot withdraw the cancellation.
  • If the opponentcancels the stroke, the player must play a ball from inside the teeing area and it is still his or her turn to play.
  • If the opponentdoes not cancel the stroke, the stroke counts and the ball is in play and must be played as it lies.

(2) Stroke Play. The player gets the general penalty (two penalty strokes) and must correct the mistake by playing a ball from inside the teeing area:

  • The ball played from outside the teeing areais not in play.
  • That strokeand any more strokes before the mistake is corrected (including strokes made and any penalty strokes solely from playing that ball) do not count.
  • If the player does not correct the mistake before making a stroketo begin another hole or, for the final hole of the round, before returning his or her scorecard, the player is disqualified.

6.2 Playing Ball from Teeing Area

  1. When Teeing Area Rules Apply

The teeing area Rules in Rule 6.2b apply whenever a player is required or allowed to play a ball from the teeing area. This includes when:

This Rule applies only to the teeing area the player must play from in starting the hole he or she is playing, not to any other teeing locations on the course (whether on the same hole or a different hole).

  1. Teeing Area Rules

(1) When Ball Is in Teeing Area.

(2) Ball May Be Teed or Played from Ground. The ball must be played from either:

  • teeplaced in or on the ground, or
  • The ground itself.

For purposes of this Rule, the “ground” includes sand or other natural materials put in place to set the tee or ball on.

The player must not make a stroke at a ball on a non-conforming tee or a ball teed in a way not allowed by this Rule.

Penalty for Breach of Rule 6.2b(2):

  • Penalty for first breach from single act or related acts: General Penalty.
  • Penalty for second breach unrelated to first breach: Disqualification.

(3) Certain Conditions in Teeing Area May Be Improved. Before making a stroke, the player may take these actions in the teeing area to improve the conditions affecting the stroke (see Rule 8.1b(8)):

  • Alter the surface of the ground in the teeing area(such as by making an indentation with a club or foot),
  • Move, bend or break grass, weeds and other natural objects that are attached or growing in the ground in the teeing area,
  • Remove or press down sand and soil in the teeing area, and
  • Remove dew, frost and water in the teeing area.

But the player gets the general penalty if he or she takes any other action to improve the conditions affecting the stroke in breach of Rule 8.1a.

(4) Restriction on Moving Tee-Markers When Playing from Teeing Area.

In all other situations, the tee-markers are treated as regular movable obstructions that may be removed as allowed in Rule 15.2.

(5) Ball Is Not in Play Until Stroke Is Made. Whether the ball is teed or on the ground, when starting a hole or playing again from the teeing area under a Rule:

  • The ball is not in playuntil the player makes a stroke at it, and
  • The ball may be lifted or movedwithout penalty before the stroke is made.

If a teed ball falls off the tee or is knocked off the tee by the player before the player has made a stroke at it, it may be re-teed anywhere in the teeing area without penalty.

But if the player makes a stroke at that ball while it is falling or after it has fallen off, there is no penalty, the stroke counts and the ball is in play.

(6) When Ball in Play Lies in Teeing Area. If the player’s ball in play is in the teeing area after a stroke (such as a teed ball after a stroke that missed the ball) or after taking relief, the player may:

  • Lift or movethe ball without penalty (see Rule 9.4b, Exception 1), and
  • Play that ball or another ball from anywhere in the teeing areafrom a tee or the ground under (2), including playing the ball as it lies.

Penalty for Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 6.2b(6): General Penalty Under Rule 14.7a.

If multiple Rule breaches result from a single act or related acts, see Rule 1.3c(4).

6.3 Ball Used in Play of Hole

Purpose of Rule: A hole is played as a progression of strokes made from the teeing area to the putting green and into the hole. After teeing off, the player is normally required to play the same ball until the hole is completed. The player gets a penalty for making a stroke at a wrong ball or a substituted ball when substitution is not allowed by the Rules.

  1. Holing Out with Same Ball Played from Teeing Area

A player may play any conforming ball when starting a hole from the teeing area and may change balls between two holes.

The player must hole out with the same ball played from the teeing areaexcept when:

The player should put an identifying mark on the ball to be played (see Rule 7.2).

  1. Substitution of Another Ball While Playing Hole

(1) When Player Is Allowed and Not Allowed to Substitute Another Ball. Certain Rules allow a player to change the ball he or she is using to play a hole by substituting another ball as the ball in play, and others do not:

  • When taking relief under a Rule, including when either droppinga ball or placing a ball (such as when a ball will not stay in the relief area or when taking relief on the putting green), the player may use either the original ball or another ball (Rule 14.3a),
  • When playing again from where a previous strokewas made, the player may use either the original ball or another ball (Rule 14.6), and
  • When replacinga ball on a spot, the player is not allowed to substitute a ball and must use the original ball, with certain exceptions (Rule 14.2a).

(2) Substituted Ball Becomes Ball in Play. When a player substitutes another ball as the ball in play (see Rule 14.4):

  • The original ball is no longer in play, even if it is at rest on the course.
  • This is true even if the player:
    • Substitutedanother ball for the original ball when not allowed by the Rules (whether or not the player realized that he or she was substitutinganother ball), or
    • Replaceddroppedor placed the substitutedball (1) in a wrong place, (2) in a wrong way or (3) by using a procedure that does not apply.
  • For how to correct any error before playing the substitutedball, see Rule 14.5.

If the player’s original ball has not been found and the player put another ball in play to take stroke-and-distance relief (see Rules 17.1d18.118.2b and 19.2a) or as allowed under a Rule that applies when it is known or virtually certain what happened to the ball (see Rules 6.3c9.611.2c15.2b16.1e and 17.1c):

  • The player must continue playing with the substitutedball, and
  • The player must not play the original ball even if it is found on the coursebefore the end of the three-minute search time (see Rule 18.2a(1)).

(3) Making Stroke at Incorrectly Substituted Ball. If a player makes a stroke at an incorrectly substituted ball:

If multiple Rule breaches result from a single act or related acts, see Rule 1.3c(4).

  1. Wrong Ball

(1) Making Stroke at Wrong Ball. A player must not make a stroke at a wrong ball.

Exception – Ball Moving in Water: There is no penalty if a player makes a stroke at a wrong ball that is moving in water in a penalty area or in temporary water:

  • The strokedoes not count, and
  • The player must correct the mistake under the Rules by playing the right ball from its original spot or by taking relief under the Rules.

Penalty for Playing Wrong Ball in Breach of Rule 6.3c(1): General Penalty.

In match play:

  • If the player and opponentplay each other’s ball during the play of a hole, the first to make a stroke at a wrong ball gets the general penalty (loss of hole).
  • If it is not known which wrong ballwas played first, there is no penalty and the hole must be played out with the balls exchanged.

In stroke play, the player must correct the mistake by continuing play with the original ball by playing it as it lies or taking relief under the Rules:

  • The strokemade with the wrong ball and any more strokes before the mistake is corrected (including strokes made and any penalty strokes solely from playing that ball) do not count.
  • If the player does not correct the mistake before making a stroketo begin another hole or, for the final hole of the round, before returning his or her scorecard, the player is disqualified.

(2) What to Do When Player’s Ball Was Played by Another Player as Wrong Ball. If it is known or virtually certain that the player’s ball was played by another player as a wrong ball, the player must replace the original ball or another ball on the original spot (which if not known must be estimated) (see Rule 14.2).

This applies whether or not the original ball has been found.

  1. When Player May Play More Than One Ball at a Time

A player may play more than one ball at a time on a hole only when:

6.4 Order of Play When Playing Hole

Purpose of Rule: Rule 6.4 covers the order of play throughout a hole. The order of play from the teeing area depends on who has the honour, and after that is based on which ball is farthest from the hole.

  • In match play, the order of play is fundamental; if a player plays out of turn, the opponent may cancel that stroke and make the player play again.
  • In stroke play, there is no penalty for playing out of turn, and players are both allowed and encouraged to play “ready golf” – that is, to play out of turn in a safe and responsible way.
  1. Match Play

(1) Order of Play. The player and opponent must play in this order:

  • Starting First Hole. At the first hole, the honouris decided by the order of the draw set by the Committee or, if there is no draw, by agreement or by using a random method (such as tossing a coin).
  • Starting All Other Holes.
    • The player who wins a hole has the honourat the next teeing area.
    • If the hole was tied, the player with the honourat the previous teeing areakeeps it.
    • If a player makes a timely ruling request (see Rule 20.1b) that has not yet been decided by the Committeeand could affect who has the honouron the next hole, the honour is decided by agreement or by using a random method.
  • After Both Players Start a Hole.
    • The ball that is farther from the holeis to be played first.
    • If the balls are the same distance from the holeor their relative distances are not known, the ball to be played first is decided by agreement or by using a random method.

(2) Opponent May Cancel Player’s Stroke Made Out of Turn. If the player plays when it was the opponent’s turn to play, there is no penalty but the opponent may cancel the stroke:

  • This must be done promptly and before either player makes another stroke. When the opponentcancels the stroke, he or she cannot withdraw the cancellation.
  • If the opponentcancels the stroke, the player must, when it is his or her turn to play, play a ball from where that stroke was made (see Rule 14.6).
  • If the opponentdoes not cancel the stroke, the stroke counts and the ball is in play and must be played as it lies.

Exception – Playing Out of Turn by Agreement to Save Time: To save time:

  • The player may invite the opponentto play out of turn or may agree to the opponent’s request to play out of turn.
  • If the opponentthen makes the stroke out of turn, the player has given up the right to cancel the stroke.

See Rule 23.6 (order of play in Four-Ball).

  1. Stroke Play

(1) Normal Order of Play.

  • Starting First Hole. The honourat the first teeing area is decided by the order of the draw set by the Committee or, if there is no draw, by agreement or by using a random method (such as tossing a coin).
  • Starting All Other Holes.
    • The player in the group with the lowest gross score at a hole has the honourat the next teeing area; the player with the second lowest gross score should play next; and so on.
    • If two or more players have the same score at a hole, they should play in the same order as at the previous teeing area.
    • The honouris based on gross scores, even in a handicap competition.
  • After All Players Have Started a Hole.
    • The ball that is farthest from the holeshould be played first.
    • If two or more balls are the same distance from the holeor their relative distances are not known, the ball to be played first should be decided by agreement or by using a random method.

There is no penalty if a player plays out of turn, except that if two or more players agree to play out of turn to give one of them an advantage, each of them gets the general penalty (two penalty strokes).

(2) Playing Out of Turn in a Safe and Responsible Way (“Ready Golf”). Players are both allowed and encouraged to play out of turn in a safe and responsible way, such as when:

  • Two or more players agree to do so for convenience or to save time,
  • A player’s ball comes to rest a very short distance from the holeand the player wishes to hole out, or
  • An individual player is ready and able to play before another player whose turn it is to play under the normal order of play in (1), so long as in playing out of turn the player does not endanger, distract or interfere with any other player.

But if the player whose turn it is to play under (1) is ready and able to play and indicates that he or she wants to play first, other players should generally wait until that player has played.

A player should not play out of turn to gain an advantage over other players.

  1. When Player Will Play Provisional Ball or Another Ball from Teeing Area

The order of play in this case is for all other players in the group to make their first stroke on the hole before the player plays the provisional ball or another ball from the teeing area.

If more than one player will play a provisional ball or another ball from the teeing area, the order of play is the same order as before.

For a provisional ball or another ball played out of turn, see Rules 6.4a(2) and 6.4b.

  1. When Player Takes Relief or Will Play Provisional Ball from Anywhere Except Teeing Area

The order of play under Rules 6.4a(1) and 6.4b(1) in these two cases is:

(1) Taking Relief to Play Ball from a Different Place Than Where It Lies.

  • When Player Becomes Aware That He or She Is Required to Take Stroke-and-Distance Relief. The player’s order of play is based on the spot where his or her previous strokewas made.
  • When Player Has Choice to Play Ball as It Lies or Take Relief.
    • The player’s order of play is based on the spot where the original ball lies (which if not known must be estimated) (see Rule 14.2).
    • This applies even when the player has already decided to take stroke-and-distancerelief or to take relief to play from a different place than where the original ball lies (such as when the original ball is in a penalty areaor will be treated as unplayable).

(2) Playing Provisional Ball. The order of play is for the player to play the provisional ball right after making the previous stroke and before anyone else plays a ball, except:

  • When starting a hole from the teeing area(see Rule 6.4c), or
  • When the player waits before deciding to play a provisional ball(in which case the player’s order of play, once he or she has decided to play a provisional ball, is based on the spot where the previous stroke was made).

6.5 Completing Play of a Hole

A player has completed a hole:

See Rules 21.1b(1)21.2b(1)21.3b(1) and 23.3c (when a player has completed a hole in other forms of stroke play or in Four-Ball).

Rule 7 - Ball Search: Finding and Identifying Ball

Purpose of Rule: Rule 7 allows the player to take reasonable actions to fairly search for his or her ball in play after each stroke.

  • But the player still must be careful, as a penalty will apply if the player acts excessively and causes improvement to the conditions affecting his or her next stroke.
  • The player gets no penalty if the ball is accidentally moved in trying to find or identify it, but must then replace the ball on its original spot.

7.1 How to Fairly Search for Ball

a. Player May Take Reasonable Actions to Find and Identify Ball

A player is responsible for finding his or her ball in play after each stroke.

The player may fairly search for the ball by taking reasonable actions to find and identify it, such as:

  • Moving sand and water, and
  • Moving or bending grass, bushes, tree branches and other growing or attached natural objects, and also breaking such objects, butonly if such breaking is a result of other reasonable actions taken to find or identify the ball.

If taking such reasonable actions as part of a fair search improves the conditions affecting the stroke:

In trying to find and identify the ball, the player may remove loose impediments as allowed in Rule 15.1 and may remove movable obstructions as allowed in Rule 15.2.

b. What to Do If Sand Affecting Lie of Player’s Ball Is Moved While Trying to Find or Identify It

  • The player must re-create the original liein the sand, but may leave a small part of the ball visible if the ball had been covered by sand.
  • If the player plays the ball without having re-created the original lie, the player gets the general penalty.

7.2 How to Identify Ball

A player’s ball at rest may be identified in any one of these ways:

  • By the player or anyone else seeing a ball come to rest in circumstances where it is known to be the player’s ball.
  • By seeing the player’s identifying mark on the ball (see Rule 6.3a).
  • By finding a ball with the same brand, model, number and condition as the player’s ball in an area where the player’s ball is expected to be (butthis does not apply if an identical ball is in the same area and there is no way to know which one is the player’s ball).

If a player’s provisional ball cannot be distinguished from his or her original ball, see Rule 18.3c(2).

7.3 Lifting Ball to Identify It

If a ball might be a player’s ball but cannot be identified as it lies:

  • The player may lift the ball to identify it (including by rotating it), but:
  • The spot of the ball must first be marked, and the ball must not be cleaned more than needed to identify it (excepton the putting green) (see Rule 14.1).

If the lifted ball is the player’s ball or another player’s ball, it must be replaced on its original spot (see Rule 14.2).

If the player lifts his or her ball under this Rule when not reasonably necessary to identify it (except on the putting green where the player may lift under Rule 13.1b), fails to mark the spot of the ball before lifting it or cleans it when not allowed, the player gets one penalty stroke.

Penalty for Playing Incorrectly Substituted Ball or Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 7.3: General Penalty under Rule 6.3b or 14.7a.

If multiple Rule breaches result from a single act or related acts, see Rule 1.3c(4).

7.4 Ball Accidentally Moved in Trying to Find or Identify It

There is no penalty if the player’s ball is accidentally moved by the player, opponent or anyone else while trying to find or identify it.

If this happens, the ball must be replaced on its original spot (which if not known must be estimated) (see Rule 14.2). In doing so:

See also Rule 15.1a (restriction on deliberately removing certain loose impediments before replacing ball).

Penalty for Breach of Rule 7.4: General Penalty.

Rule 8 - Course Played as It Is Found

Purpose of Rule: Rule 8 covers a central principle of the game: “play the course as you find it.” When the player’s ball comes to rest, he or she normally has to accept the conditions affecting the stroke and not improve them before playing the ball. However, a player may take certain reasonable actions even if they improve those conditions, and there are limited circumstances where conditions may be restored without penalty after they have been improved or worsened.

8.1 Player’s Actions That Improve Conditions Affecting the Stroke

To support the principle of “play the course as you find it,” this Rule restricts what a player may do to improve any of these protected “conditions affecting the stroke ” (anywhere on or off the course) for the next stroke the player will make:

  • The lieof the player’s ball at rest,
  • The area of the player’s intended stance,
  • The area of the player’s intended swing,
  • The player’s line of play, and
  • The relief areawhere the player will drop or place a ball.

This Rule applies to actions taken both during a round and while play is stopped under Rule 5.7a.

It does not apply to:

  1. Actions That Are Not Allowed

Except in the limited ways allowed in Rules 8.1bc and d, a player must not take any of these actions if they improve the conditions affecting the stroke:

(1) Move, bend or break any:

(2) Move a loose impediment or movable obstruction into position (such as to build a stance or to improve the line of play).

(3) Alter the surface of the ground, including by:

  • Replacing divots in a divot hole,
  • Removing or pressing down divots that have already been replaced or other cut turf that is already in place, or
  • Creating or eliminating holes, indentations or uneven surfaces.

(4) Remove or press down sand or loose soil.

(5) Remove dew, frost or water.

Penalty for Breach of Rule 8.1a: General Penalty.

  1. Actions That Are Allowed

In preparing for or making a stroke, a player may take any of these actions and there is no penalty even if doing so improves the conditions affecting the stroke:

(1) Fairly search for his or her ball by taking reasonable actions to find and identify it (see Rule 7.1a).

(2) Take reasonable actions to remove loose impediments (see Rule 15.1) and movable obstructions (see Rule 15.2).

(3) Take reasonable actions to mark the spot of a ball and to lift and replace the ball under Rules 14.1 and 14.2.

(4) Ground the club lightly right in front of or right behind the ball.

But this does not allow:

  • Pressing the club on the ground, or
  • When a ball is in a bunker, touching the sand right in front of or right behind the ball (see Rule 12.2b(1)).

(5) Firmly place the feet in taking a stance, including a reasonable amount of digging in with the feet in sand or loose soil.

(6) Fairly take a stance by taking reasonable actions to get to the ball and take a stance.

But when doing so the player:

  • Is not entitled to a normal stanceor swing, and
  • Must use the least intrusive course of action to deal with the particular situation.

(7) Make a stroke or the backswing for a stroke which is then made.

But when the ball is in a bunker, touching the sand in the bunker in taking the backswing is not allowed under Rule 12.2b(1).

(8) In the teeing area:

  • Place a teein or on the ground (see Rule 6.2b(2)),
  • Move, bend or break any growing or attached natural object (see Rule 6.2b(3)), and
  • Alter the surface of the ground, remove or press down sand and soil, or remove dew, frost or water (see Rule 6.2b(3)).

(9) In a bunker, smooth sand to care for the course after a ball played from the bunker is outside the bunker (see Rule 12.2b(3)).

(10) On the putting green, remove sand and loose soil and repair damage (see Rule 13.1c).

(11) Move a natural object to see if it is loose.

But if the object is found to be growing or attached, it must stay attached and be returned as nearly as possible to its original position.

  1. Avoiding Penalty by Restoring Conditions Improved in Breach of Rule 8.1a(1) or 8.1a(2)

If a player has improved the conditions affecting the stroke by moving, bending or breaking an object in breach of Rule 8.1a(1) or moving an object into position in breach of Rule 8.1a(2):

(1) How to Restore Conditions Improved by Moving, Bending or Breaking Object. Before making the stroke, the player may avoid penalty for breach of Rule 8.1a(1) by restoring the original object as nearly as possible to its original position so that the improvement created by the breach is eliminated, such as by:

  • Replacing a boundary object(such as a boundary stake) that had been removed or moving the boundary object back into its original position after it had been pushed to a different angle, or
  • Returning a tree branch or grass, or an immovable obstructionto its original position after it had been moved.

But the player cannot avoid penalty:

  • If the improvementis not eliminated (such as when a boundary object or branch has been bent or broken in a significant way so that it cannot be returned to the original position), or
  • By using anything other than the original object itself in trying to restore conditions, such as:
    • Using a different or additional object (for example, placing a different stake in a hole from which a boundary stake had been removed or tying a moved branch into place), or
    • Using other materials to repair the original object (for example, using tape to repair a broken boundary objector branch).

(2) How to Restore Conditions Improved by Moving an Object into Position. Before making the stroke, the player may avoid penalty for breach of Rule 8.1a(2) by removing the object that was moved into position.

  1. Restoring Conditions Worsened After Ball Came to Rest

If the conditions affecting the stroke are worsened after a player’s ball came to rest:

(1) When Restoration of Worsened Conditions Is Allowed. If the conditions affecting the stroke are worsened by any person other than the player or by an animal or artificial object, without penalty under Rule 8.1a the player may:

  • Restore the original conditions as nearly as possible.
  • Markthe spot of the ball and lift, clean and replace the ball on its original spot (see Rules 14.1 and 2), if it is reasonable to do so to restore the original conditions or if material ended up on the ball when the conditions were worsened.
  • If the worsened conditionscannot be easily restored, lift and replace the ball by placing it on the nearest spot (not nearer the hole) that (1) has the most similar conditions affecting the stroke, (2) is within one club-length of its original spot, and (3) is in the same area of the course as that spot.

Exception – Lie of Ball Worsened When or After a Ball Is Lifted or Moved and Before It Is Replaced: This is covered by Rule 14.2d, unless the lie was worsened when play was stopped and the ball was lifted in which case this Rule applies.

(2) When Restoration of Worsened Conditions Is Not Allowed. If the conditions affecting the stroke are worsened by the player, by a natural object or by natural forces such as wind or water, the player must not improve those worsened conditions in breach of Rule 8.1a (except as allowed in Rules 8.1c(1)8.1c(2) and Rule 13.1c).

Penalty for Playing Incorrectly Substituted Ball or Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 8.1d: General Penalty under Rule 6.3b or 14.7a.

If multiple Rule breaches result from a single act or related acts, see Rule 1.3c(4).

See Rules 22.2 (in Foursomes, either partner may act for the side and action of the partner is treated as action by the player); 23.5 (in Four-Ball, either partner may act for the side and action by the partner concerning the player’s ball or equipment is treated as action of the player).

8.2 Player’s Deliberate Actions to Alter Other Physical Conditions to Affect the Player’s Own Ball at Rest or Stroke to Be Made

  1. When Rule 8.2 Applies

This Rule only covers a player’s deliberate actions to alter other physical conditions to affect his or her ball at rest or stroke to be made.

This Rule does not apply to a player’s actions to:

  • Deliberately deflect or stop his or her own ball or to deliberately alter any physical conditions to affect where the ball might come to rest (which is covered by Rules 11.2and 3), or
  • Alter the player’s conditions affecting the stroke(which is covered by Rule 8.1a).
  1. Prohibited Actions to Alter Other Physical Conditions

A player must not deliberately take any actions listed in Rule 8.1a (except as allowed in Rule 8.1bc or d) to alter any such other physical conditions to affect:

  • Where the player’s ball might go or come to rest after his or her next strokeor a later stroke, or
  • Where the player’s ball at rest might go or come to rest if it movesbefore the stroke is made (for example, when the ball is on a steep slope and the player is concerned that it might roll into a bush).

Exception – Actions to Care for the Course: There is no penalty under this Rule if the player alters any such other physical conditions to care for the course (such as smoothing footprints in a bunker or replacing a divot in a divot hole).

Penalty for Breach of Rule 8.2: General Penalty.

See Rules 22.2 (in Foursomes, either partner may act for the side and action by the partner is treated as action of the player); 23.5 (in Four-Ball, either partner may act for the side and action by the partner concerning the player’s ball or equipment is treated as action of the player).

8.3 Player’s Deliberate Actions to Alter Physical Conditions to Affect Another Player’s Ball at Rest or Stroke to Be Made

  1. When Rule 8.3 Applies

This Rule only covers a player’s deliberate actions to alter physical conditions to affect another player’s ball at rest or stroke to be made by that other player.

It does not apply to a player’s actions to deliberately deflect or stop another player’s ball in motion or to deliberately alter any physical conditions to affect where the ball might come to rest (which is covered by Rules 11.2 and 11.3).

  1. Prohibited Actions to Alter Other Physical Conditions

A player must not deliberately take any of the actions listed in Rule 8.1a (except as allowed in Rule 8.1bc or d) to:

  • Improveor worsen the conditions affecting the stroke of another player, or
  • Alter any other physical conditions to affect:
    • Where another player’s ball might go or come to rest after that player’s next strokeor a later stroke, or
    • Where another player’s ball at rest might go or come to rest if it movesbefore the stroke is made.

Exception – Actions to Care for the Course: There is no penalty under this Rule if the player alters any such other physical conditions to care for the course (such as smoothing footprints in a bunker or replacing a divot in a divot hole).

Penalty for Breach of Rule 8.3: General Penalty.

See Rule 22.2 (in Foursomes, either partner may act for the side and action by the partner is treated as action of the player); 23.5 (in Four-Ball, either partner may act for the side and action by the partner concerning the player’s ball or equipment is treated as action of the player).

Rule 9 - Ball Played as It Lies; Ball at Rest Lifted or Moved

Purpose of Rule: Rule 9 covers a central principle of the game: “play the ball as it lies.”

  • If the player’s ball comes to rest and is then moved by natural forces such as wind or water, the player normally must play it from its new spot.
  • If a ball at rest is lifted or moved by anyone or any outside influence before the stroke is made, the ball must be replaced on its original spot.
  • Players should take care when near any ball at rest, and a player who causes his or her own ball or an opponent’s ball to move will normally get a penalty (except on the putting green).

Rule 9 applies to a ball in play at rest on the course, and applies both during a round and while play is stopped under Rule 5.7a.

9.1 Ball Played as It Lies

  1. Playing Ball from Where It Came to Rest

A player’s ball at rest on the course must be played as it lies, except when the Rules require or allow the player:

  • To play a ball from another place on the course, or
  • To lift a ball and then replaceit on its original spot.
  1. What to Do When Ball Moves During Backswing or Stroke

If a player’s ball at rest begins moving after the player has begun the stroke or the backswing for a stroke and the player goes on to make the stroke:

  • The ball must not be replaced, no matter what caused it to move.
  • Instead, the player must play the ball from where it comes to rest after the stroke.
  • If the player caused the ball to move, see Rule 9.4bto find out if there is a penalty.

Penalty for Playing Incorrectly Substituted Ball or Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 9.1: General Penalty Under Rule 6.3b or 14.7a.

If multiple Rule breaches result from a single act or related acts, see Rule 1.3c(4).

9.2 Deciding Whether Ball Moved and What Caused It to Move

  1. Deciding Whether Ball Moved

A player’s ball at rest is treated as having moved only if it is known or virtually certain that it did.

If the ball might have moved but this is not known or virtually certain, it is treated as not having moved and must be played as it lies.

  1. Deciding What Caused Ball to Move

When a player’s ball at rest has moved:

  • It must be decided what caused it to move.
  • This determines whether the player must replacethe ball or play it as it lies and whether there is a penalty.

(1) Four Possible Causes. The Rules recognize only four possible causes for a ball at rest that moves before the player makes a stroke:

See Rules 22.2 (in Foursomes, either partner may act for the side and action by the partner is treated as action of the player); 23.5 (in Four-Ball, either partner may act for the side and action by the partner concerning the player’s ball or equipment is treated as action of the player).

(2) “Known or Virtually Certain” Standard for Deciding What Caused Ball to Move.

In applying this standard, all reasonably available information must be considered, which means all information the player knows or can get with reasonable effort and without unreasonably delaying play.

9.3 Ball Moved by Natural Forces

If natural forces (such as wind or water) cause a player’s ball at rest to move:

  • There is no penalty, and
  • The ball must be played from its new spot.

Exception – Ball on Putting Green Must Be Replaced If It Moves After Having Already Been Lifted and Replaced (see Rule 13.1d): If the player’s ball on the putting green moves after the player had already lifted and replaced the ball on the spot from which it moved:

  • The ball must be replacedon its original spot (which if not known must be estimated) (see Rule 14.2).
  • This is true no matter what caused it to move(including natural forces).

Penalty for Playing Incorrectly Substituted Ball or Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 9.3: General Penalty under Rule 6.3b or 14.7a.

If multiple Rule breaches result from a single act or related acts, see Rule 1.3c(4).

9.4 Ball Lifted or Moved by Player

This Rule applies only when it is known or virtually certain that a player (including the player’s caddie) lifted his or her ball at rest or caused it to move.

  1. When Lifted or Moved Ball Must Be Replaced

If the player lifts his or her ball at rest or causes it to move, the ball must be replaced on its original spot (which if not known must be estimated) (see Rule 14.2), except:

  • When the player lifts the ball under a Rule to take relief or to replacethe ball on a different spot (see Rules 14.2d and 2e), or
  • When the ball movesonly after the player has begun the stroke or the backswing for a stroke and then goes on to make the stroke (see Rule 9.1b).
  1. Penalty for Lifting or Deliberately Touching Ball or Causing It to Move

If the player lifts or deliberately touches his or her ball at rest or causes it to move, the player gets one penalty stroke.

But there are four exceptions:

Exception 1 – Player Allowed to Lift or Move Ball: There is no penalty when the player lifts the ball or causes it to move under a Rule that:

  • Allows the ball to be lifted and then replacedon its original spot,
  • Requires a movedball to be replaced on its original spot, or
  • Requires or allows the player to dropor place a ball again or to play a ball from a different place.

Exception 2 – Accidental Movement Before Ball Is Found: There is no penalty when the player accidentally causes the ball to move while trying to find or identify it (see Rule 7.4).

Exception 3 – Accidental Movement on Putting Green: There is no penalty when the player accidentally causes the ball to move on the putting green (see Rule 13.1d), no matter how that happens.

Exception 4 – Accidental Movement Anywhere Except on Putting Green While Applying Rule: There is no penalty when the player accidentally causes the ball to move anywhere except on the putting green while taking reasonable actions to:

  • Markthe spot of the ball or lift or replace the ball, when allowed to do so (see Rules 14.1 and 2),
  • Remove a movable obstruction(see Rule 15.2),
  • Restore worsened conditions, when allowed to do so (see Rule 8.1d),
  • Take relief under a Rule, including in determining whether relief is available under a Rule (such as swinging a club to see if there is interference from a condition), or where to take relief (such as determining the nearest point of complete relief), or
  • Measure under a Rule (such as to decide the order of play under Rule 6.4).

Penalty for Playing Incorrectly Substituted Ball or Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 9.4: General Penalty under Rule 6.3b or 14.7a.

If multiple Rule breaches result from a single act or related acts, see Rule 1.3c(4).

9.5 Ball Lifted or Moved by Opponent in Match Play

This Rule applies only when it is known or virtually certain that the opponent (including the opponent’s caddie) lifted a player’s ball at rest or caused it to move.

If the opponent plays the player’s ball as a wrong ball, that is covered by Rule 6.3c(1), not by this Rule.

  1. When Lifted or Moved Ball Must Be Replaced

If the opponent lifts or moves the player’s ball at rest, the ball must be replaced on its original spot (which if not known must be estimated) (see Rule 14.2), except:

  • When the opponentis conceding the next stroke, a hole or the match (see Rule 3.2b), or
  • When the opponentlifts or moves the ball at the player’s request because the player intends to apply a Rule to take relief or to replace the ball on a different spot.
  1. Penalty for Lifting or Deliberately Touching Ball or Causing It to Move

If the opponent lifts or deliberately touches the player’s ball at rest or causes it to move, the opponent gets one penalty stroke.

But there are several exceptions:

Exception 1 – Opponent Allowed to Lift Player’s Ball: There is no penalty when the opponent lifts the ball:

  • When conceding the next stroke, a hole or the match to the player, or
  • At the player’s request.

Exception 2 – Marking and Lifting Player’s Ball on Putting Green by Mistake: There is no penalty when the opponent marks the spot of the player’s ball and lifts it on the putting green in the mistaken belief that it is the opponent’s own ball.

Exception 3 – Same Exceptions as for the Player: There is no penalty when the opponent accidentally causes the ball to move while taking any of the actions covered by Exceptions 2, 3 or 4 in Rule 9.4b.

Penalty for Playing Incorrectly Substituted Ball or Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 9.5: General Penalty under Rule 6.3b or 14.7a.

If multiple Rule breaches result from a single act or related acts, see Rule 1.3c(4).

9.6 Ball Lifted or Moved by Outside Influence

If it is known or virtually certain that an outside influence (including another player in stroke play or another ball) lifted or moved a player’s ball:

  • There is no penalty, and
  • The ball must be replacedon its original spot (which if not known must be estimated) (see Rule 14.2).

This applies whether or not the player’s ball has been found.

But if it is not known or virtually certain that the ball was lifted or moved by an outside influence and the ball is lost, the player must take stroke-and-distance relief under Rule 18.2.

If the player’s ball is played as a wrong ball by another player, that is covered by Rule 6.3c(2), not by this Rule.

Penalty for Playing Incorrectly Substituted Ball or Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 9.6: General Penalty Under Rule 6.3b or14.7a.

If multiple Rule breaches result from a single act or related acts, see Rule 1.3c(4).

9.7 Ball-Marker Lifted or Moved

This Rule covers what to do if a ball-marker that is marking the spot of a lifted ball is lifted or moved before the ball is replaced.

  1. Ball or Ball-Marker Must Be Replaced

If a player’s ball-marker is lifted or moved in any way (including by natural forces) before the ball is replaced, the player must either:

  1. Penalty for Lifting Ball-Marker or Causing It to Move

If the player, or his or her opponent in match play, lifts the player’s ball-marker or causes it to move, (when the ball is lifted and not yet replaced), the player or opponent gets one penalty stroke.

Exception – Rule 9.4b and 9.5b Exceptions Apply to Lifting or Moving Ball-Marker or Causing It to Move: In all cases where the player or opponent gets no penalty for lifting the player’s ball or accidentally causing it to move, there is also no penalty for lifting or accidentally moving the player’s ball-marker.

Penalty for Playing Incorrectly Substituted Ball or Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 9.7: General Penalty Under Rule 6.3b or 14.7a.

If multiple Rule breaches result from a single act or related acts, see Rule 1.3c(4).

Rule 10 - Preparing for and Making a Stroke; Advice and Help; Caddies

Purpose of Rule: Rule 10 covers how to prepare for and make a stroke, including advice and other help the player may get from others (including caddies). The underlying principle is that golf is a game of skill and personal challenge.

10.1 Making a Stroke

Purpose of Rule: Rule 10.1 covers how to make a stroke and several acts that are prohibited in doing so. A stroke is made by fairly striking at a ball with the head of a club. The fundamental challenge is to direct and control the movement of the entire club by freely swinging the club without anchoring it.

a. Fairly Striking the Ball

In making a stroke:

  • The player must fairly strike at the ball with the head of the club such that there is only momentary contact between the club and the ball and must not push, scrape or scoop the ball.
  • If the player’s club accidentally hits the ball more than once, there has been only one strokeand there is no penalty.

b. Anchoring the Club

In making a stroke, the player must not anchor the club, either:

  • Directly, by holding the club or a gripping hand against any part of the body (exceptthat the player may hold the club or a gripping hand against a hand or forearm), or
  • Indirectly, through use of an “anchor point,” by holding a forearm against any part of the body to use a gripping hand as a stable point around which the other hand may swing the club.

If the player’s club, gripping hand or forearm merely touches his or her body or clothing during the stroke, without being held against the body, there is no breach of this Rule.

For the purposes of this Rule, “forearm” means the part of the arm below the elbow joint and includes the wrist.

c. Making Stroke While Standing Across or on Line of Play

The player must not make a stroke from a stance with a foot deliberately placed on each side of, or with either foot deliberately touching, the line of play or an extension of that line behind the ball.

For this Rule only, the line of play does not include a reasonable distance on either side.

Exception – There Is No Penalty If Stance Is Taken Accidentally or to Avoid Another Player’s Line of Play.

d. Playing Moving Ball

A player must not make a stroke at a moving ball:

  • A ball in playis “moving” when it is not at rest on a spot.
  • If a ball that has come to rest is wobbling (sometimes referred to as oscillating) but stays on or returns to its original spot, it is treated as being at rest and is not a moving ball.

But there are three exceptions where there is no penalty:

Exception 1 – Ball Begins to Move Only after Player Begins Backswing for Stroke: Making a stroke at a moving ball in this situation is covered by Rule 9.1b, not by this Rule.

Exception 2 – Ball Falling Off Tee: Making a stroke at a ball falling off a tee is covered by Rule 6.2b(5), not by this Rule.

Exception 3 – Ball Moving in Water: When a ball is moving in temporary water or in water in a penalty area:

  • The player may make a strokeat the moving ball without penalty, or
  • The player may take relief under Rule 16.1or 17, and may lift the moving ball.

In either case, the player must not unreasonably delay play (see Rule 5.6a) to allow the wind or water current to move the ball to a better place.

Penalty for Breach of Rule 10.1: General Penalty.

In stroke play, a stroke made in breach of this Rule counts and the player gets two penalty strokes.

10.2 Advice and Other Help

Purpose of Rule: A fundamental challenge for the player is deciding the strategy and tactics for his or her play. So there are limits to the advice and other help the player may get during a round.

a. Advice

During a round, a player must not:

  • Give adviceto anyone in the competition who is playing on the course,
  • Ask anyone for advice, other than the player’s caddie, or
  • Touch another player’s equipmentto learn information that would be advice if given by or asked of the other player (such as touching the other player’s clubs or bag to see what club is being used).

This does not apply before a round, while play is stopped under Rule 5.7a or between rounds in a competition.

See Rules 2223 and 24 (in forms of play involving partners, a player may give advice to his or her partner or the partner’s caddie and may ask the partner or partner’s caddie for advice).

b. Other Help

(1) Pointing Out Line of Play for Ball Anywhere Except on Putting Green. A player may have his or her line of play pointed out by:

  • Having his or her caddieor any other person stand on or close to the player’s line of play to show where it is, but that person must move away before the stroke is made.
  • Having an object (such as a bag or towel) set down on the courseto show the line of play, but the object must be removed before the stroke is made.

(2) Pointing Out Line of Play for Ball on Putting Green. Before the stroke is made, only the player and his or her caddie may point out the player’s line of playbut with these limitations:

While the stroke is being made, the caddie must not deliberately stand in a location on or close to the player’s line of play or do anything else (such as pointing out a spot on the putting green) to point out the line of play.

Exception – Caddie Attending Flagstick: The caddie may stand in a location on or close to the player’s line of play to attend the flagstick.

(3) No Setting Down Object to Help in Taking Stance. A player must not take a stance for the stroke using any object that was set down by or for the player to help in lining up his or her feet or body, such as a club set down on the ground to show the line of play.

If the player takes a stance in breach of this Rule, he or she cannot avoid penalty by backing away from the stance and removing the object.

(4) Restriction on Caddie Standing Behind Player. When a player begins taking a stance for the stroke and until the stroke is made:

  • The player’s caddiemust not deliberately stand in a location on or close to an extension of the line of play behind the ball for any reason.
  • If the player takes a stancein breach of this Rule, he or she cannot avoid penalty by backing away.

Exception – Ball on Putting Green: When the player’s ball is on the putting green, there is no penalty under this Rule if the player backs away from the stance and does not begin to take the stance again until after the caddie has moved out of that location.

See Rules 2223 and 24 (in forms of play involving partners, a player’s partner and the partner’s caddie may take the same actions (with the same limitations) as the player’s caddie may take under Rules 10.2b(2) and (4).

(5) Physical Help and Protection from Elements. A player must not make a stroke:

  • While getting physical help from his or her caddieor any other person, or
  • With his or her caddieor any other person or object deliberately positioned to give protection from sunlight, rain, wind or other elements.

Before the stroke is made, such help or protection is allowed, except as prohibited in Rules 10.2b(3) and (4).

This Rule does not prohibit the player from taking his or her own actions to protect against the elements while making a stroke, such as by wearing protective clothing or holding an umbrella over his or her own head.

Penalty for Breach of Rule 10.2: General Penalty.

10.3 Caddies

Purpose of Rule: The player may have a caddie to carry the player’s clubs and give advice and other help during the round, but there are limits to what the caddie is allowed to do. The player is responsible for the caddie’s actions during the round and will get a penalty if the caddie breaches the Rules.

a. Caddie May Help Player During Round

(1) Player Allowed Only One Caddie at a Time.

A player may have a caddie to carry, transport and handle his or her clubs, give advice and help him or her in other ways allowed during a roundbut with these limitations:

  • The player must not have more than one caddieat any one time.
  • The player may change caddiesduring a roundbut must not do so temporarily for the sole purpose of getting advice from the new caddie.

Whether or not the player has a caddie, any other person who walks or rides along with the player or who carries other things for the player (such as a rain-suit, umbrella or food and drink) is not the player’s caddie unless he or she is named as such by the player or also carries, transports or handles the player’s clubs.

(2) Two or More Players May Share a Caddie. When there is a Rules issue involving a specific action of a shared caddie and it needs to be decided which player the action was taken for:

  • If the caddie’saction was taken at the specific direction of one of the players sharing the caddie, the action was taken for that player.
  • If none of those players specifically directed that action, the action is treated as taken for the player sharing the caddiewhose ball was involved.

See Committee Procedures, Section 8; Model Local Rule H-1 (the Committee may adopt a Local Rule prohibiting or requiring the use of caddies or restricting a player’s choice of caddie).

Penalty for Breach of Rule 10.3a:

  • The player gets the general penaltyfor each hole during which he or she is helped by more than one caddie at any one time.
  • If the breach happens or continues between two holes, the player gets the general penaltyfor the next hole.

b. What a Caddie May Do

These are examples of what a caddie is allowed and not allowed to do:

(1) Actions Always Allowed. A caddie may always take these actions when allowed under the Rules:

(2) Actions Allowed Only With Player’s Authorization. A caddie may take these actions only when the Rules allow the player to take them and only with the player’s authorization (which must be given specifically each time rather than given generally for a round):

  • Restore conditions that were worsened after the player’s ball came to rest (Rule 8.1d).
  • When the player’s ball is anywhere except on the putting green, lift the player’s ball under a Rule requiring it to be replacedor after the player has decided to take relief under a Rule (Rule 14.1b).

(3) Actions Not Allowed. A caddie is not allowed to take these actions for the player:

c. Player Responsible for Caddie’s Actions and Breach of Rules

A player is responsible for his or her caddie’s actions both during a round and while play is stopped under Rule 5.7a, but not before or after a round.

If the caddie’s action breaches a Rule or would breach a Rule if the action was taken by the player, the player gets the penalty under that Rule.

When application of a Rule depends on whether the player is aware of certain facts, the player’s knowledge is treated as including whatever is known by his or her caddie.

Rule 11 - Ball in Motion Accidentally Hits Person, Animal or Object; Deliberate Actions to Affect Ball in Motion

Purpose of Rule: Rule 11 covers what to do if the player’s ball in motion hits a person, animal, equipment or anything else on the course. When this happens accidentally, there is no penalty and the player normally must accept the result, whether favourable or not, and play the ball from where it comes to rest. Rule 11 also restricts a player from deliberately taking actions to affect where any ball in motion might come to rest.

This Rule applies any time a ball in play is in motion (whether after a stroke or otherwise), except when a ball has been dropped in a relief area and has not yet come to rest. That situation is covered by Rule 14.3.

11.1 Ball in Motion Accidentally Hits Person or Outside Influence

a. No Penalty to Any Player

If a player’s ball in motion accidentally hits any person or outside influence:

  • There is no penalty to any player.
  • This is true even if the ball hits the player, the opponentor any other player or any of their caddies or equipment.

Exception – Ball Played on Putting Green in Stroke Play: If the player’s ball in motion hits another ball at rest on the putting green and both balls were on the putting green before the stroke, the player gets the general penalty (two penalty strokes).

b. Ball Must Be Played as It Lies

If a player’s ball in motion accidentally hits any person or outside influence, the ball must be played as it lies, except in two situations:

Exception 1 – When Ball Played from Anywhere Except Putting Green Comes to Rest on Any Person, Animal or Moving Outside Influence: The player must not play the ball as it lies. Instead, the player must take relief:

  • When Ball Is Anywhere Except on Putting Green. The player must dropthe original ball or another ball in this relief area (see Rule 14.3):
    • Reference Point: The estimated point right under where the ball first came to rest on the person, animalor moving outside influence.
    • Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: One club-lengthbutwith these limits:
    • Limits on Location of Relief Area:
      • Must be in the same area of the courseas the reference point, and
      • Must not be nearer the holethan the reference point.
    • When Ball Is on Putting Green. The player must place the original ball or another ball on the estimated spot right under where the ball first came to rest on the person, animalor moving outside influence, using the procedures for replacing a ball under Rules 14.2b(2) and 2e.

Exception 2 – When Ball Played from Putting Green Accidentally Hits Any Person, Animal or Movable Obstruction (Including Another Ball in Motion) on Putting Green: The stroke does not count and the original ball or another ball must be replaced on its original spot (which if not known must be estimated) (see Rule 14.2), except in these two cases:

  • Ball in Motion Hits Another Ball at Rest or Ball-Marker on Putting Green. The strokecounts and the ball must be played as it lies. (See Rule 11.1a for whether a penalty applies in stroke play).
  • Ball in Motion Accidentally Hits Flagstick or Person Attending Flagstick. This is covered by Rule 13.2b(2), not by this Rule.

Penalty for Playing Incorrectly Substituted Ball or Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 11.1: General Penalty under Rule 6.3b or 14.7a.

If multiple Rule breaches result from a single act or related acts, see Rule 1.3c(4).

11.2 Ball in Motion Deliberately Deflected or Stopped by Person

a. When Rule 11.2 Applies

This Rule applies only when it is known or virtually certain that a player’s ball in motion was deliberately deflected or stopped by a person, which is when:

  • A person deliberately touches the ball in motion, or
  • The ball in motion hits any equipmentor other object (except a ball-marker or another ball at rest before the ball was played or otherwise went into motion) or any person (such as the player’s caddie) that a player deliberately positioned or left in a particular location so that the equipment, object or person might deflect or stop the ball in motion.

Exception – Ball Deliberately Deflected or Stopped in Match Play When No Reasonable Chance It Can Be Holed: An opponent’s ball in motion that is deliberately deflected or stopped at a time when there is no reasonable chance it can be holed, and when done either as a concession or when the ball needed to be holed to tie the hole, is covered by Rule 3.2a(1) or 3.2b(1), not by this Rule.

For a player’s right to have a ball or ball-marker lifted before a stroke is made if he or she reasonably believes the ball or ball-marker might help or interfere with play, see Rule 15.3.

b. When Penalty Applies to a Player

  • A player gets the general penaltyif he or she deliberately deflects or stops any ball in motion.
  • This is true whether it is the player’s own ball or a ball played by an opponentor by another player in stroke play.

Exception – Ball Moving in Water: There is no penalty if a player lifts his or her ball moving in water in temporary water or in a penalty area when taking relief under Rule 16.1 or 17 (see Rule 10.1d Exception 3).

See Rule 22.2 (in Foursomes, either partner may act for the side and action by the partner is treated as action of the player); 23.5 (in Four-Ball, either partner may act for the side and action by the partner concerning the player’s ball or equipment is treated as action of the player).

c. Place from Where Deliberately Deflected or Stopped Ball Must Be Played

If it is known or virtually certain that a player’s ball in motion was deliberately deflected or stopped by a person (whether or not the ball has been found), it must not be played as it lies. Instead, the player must take relief:

(1) Stroke Made from Anywhere Except Putting Green. The player must take relief based on the estimated spot where the ball would have come to rest if not deflected or stopped:

  • When Ball Would Have Come to Rest Anywhere on Course Except on Putting Green. The player must dropthe original ball or another ball in this relief area (see Rule 14.3):
    • Reference Point: The estimated spot where the ball would have come to rest.
    • Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: One club-lengthbutwith these limits:
    • Limits on Location of Relief Area:
      • Must be in the same area of the courseas the reference point, and
      • Must not be nearer the holethan the reference point.
    • When Ball Would Have Come to Rest on Putting Green. The player must place the original ball or another ball on the estimated spot where the ball would have come to rest, using the procedures for replacinga ball under Rules 14.2b(2) and 2e.
    • When Ball Would Have Come to Rest Out of Bounds. The player must take stroke-and-distancerelief under Rule 18.2.

(2) Stroke Made from Putting Green. The stroke does not count, and the original ball or another ball must be replaced on its original spot (which if not known must be estimated) (see Rule 14.2).

Penalty for Playing Incorrectly Substituted Ball or Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 11.2: General Penalty under Rule 6.3b or 14.7a.

If multiple Rule breaches result from a single act or related acts, see Rule 1.3c(4).

11.3 Deliberately Moving Objects or Altering Conditions to Affect Ball in Motion

When a ball is in motion, a player must not deliberately take any of these actions to affect where that ball (whether the player’s own ball or another player’s ball) might come to rest:

Exception – Moving Flagstick, Ball at Rest on Putting Green and Other Player Equipment: This Rule does not prohibit a player from lifting or moving:

Removing the flagstick from the hole (including by attending it) while a ball is in motion is covered by Rule 13.2, not by this Rule.

Penalty for Breach of Rule 11.3: General Penalty.

See Rules 22.2 (in Foursomes, either partner may act for the side and action by the partner is treated as action of the player); 23.5 (in Four-Ball, either partner may act for the side and action by the partner concerning the player’s ball or equipment is treated as action of the player).

Rule 12 - Bunkers

Purpose of Rule: Rule 12 is a specific Rule for bunkers, which are specially prepared areas intended to test the player’s ability to play a ball from the sand. To make sure the player confronts this challenge, there are some restrictions on touching the sand before the stroke is made and on where relief may be taken for a ball in a bunker.

12.1 When Ball Is in Bunker

A ball is in a bunker when any part of the ball:

If a ball lies on soil or grass or other growing or attached natural objects inside the edge of the bunker without touching any sand, the ball is not in the bunker.

If part of the ball is both in a bunker and in another area of the course, see Rule 2.2c.

12.2 Playing Ball in Bunker

This Rule applies both during a round and while play is stopped under Rule 5.7a.

a. Removing Loose Impediments and Movable Obstructions

Before playing a ball in a bunker, a player may remove loose impediments under Rule 15.1 and movable obstructions under Rule 15.2.

This includes any reasonable touching or movement of the sand in the bunker that happens while doing so.

b. Restrictions on Touching Sand in Bunker

(1) When Touching Sand Results in Penalty. Before making a stroke at a ball in a bunker, a player must not:

  • Deliberately touch sand in the bunkerwith a hand, club, rake or other object to test the condition of the sand to learn information for the next stroke, or
  • Touch sand in the bunkerwith a club:

(2) When Touching Sand Does Not Result in PenaltyExcept as covered by (1), this Rule does not prohibit the player from touching sand in the bunker in any other way, including:

  • Digging in with the feet to take a stancefor a practice swing or the stroke,
  • Smoothing the bunkerto care for the course,
  • Placing clubs, equipmentor other objects in the bunker (whether by throwing or setting them down),
  • Measuring, marking, lifting, replacingor taking other actions under a Rule,
  • Leaning on a club to rest, stay balanced or prevent a fall, or
  • Striking the sand in frustration or anger.

But the player gets the general penalty if his or her actions in touching the sand improve the conditions affecting the stroke in breach of Rule 8.1a. (See also Rules 8.2 and 8.3 for limitations on improving or worsening other physical conditions to affect play.)

(3) No Restrictions After Ball Is Played Out of Bunker. After a ball in a bunker is played and it is outside the bunker, the player may:

This is true even if the ball comes to rest outside the bunker and:

But if the ball played from the bunker comes back into the bunker, or the player takes relief by dropping a ball in the bunker, the restrictions in Rules 12.2b(1) and 8.1a again apply to that ball in play in the bunker.

Penalty for Breach of Rule 12.2: General Penalty.

12.3 Specific Rules for Relief for Ball in Bunker

When a ball is in a bunker, specific relief Rules may apply in these situations:

Rule 13 - Putting Greens

Purpose of Rule: Rule 13 is a specific Rule for putting greens. Putting greens are specially prepared for playing the ball along the ground and there is a flagstick for the hole on each putting green, so certain different Rules apply than for other areas of the course.

13.1 Actions Allowed or Required on Putting Greens

Purpose of Rule: This Rule allows the player to do things on the putting green that are normally not allowed off the putting green, such as being allowed to mark, lift, clean and replace a ball and to repair damage and remove sand and loose soil on the putting green. There is no penalty for accidentally causing a ball or ball-marker to move on the putting green.

a. When Ball Is on Putting Green

A ball is on the putting green when any part of the ball:

If part of the ball is both on the putting green and in another area of the course, see Rule 2.2c.

b. Marking, Lifting and Cleaning Ball on Putting Green

A ball on the putting green may be lifted and cleaned (see Rule 14.1).

The spot of the ball must be marked before it is lifted and the ball must be replaced on its original spot (see Rule 14.2).

c. Improvements Allowed on Putting Green

During a round and while play is stopped under Rule 5.7a, a player may take these two actions on the putting green, no matter whether the ball is on or off the putting green:

(1) Removal of Sand and Loose Soil. Sand and loose soil on the putting green (but not anywhere else on the course) may be removed without penalty.

(2) Repair of Damage. A player may repair damage on the putting green without penalty by taking reasonable actions to restore the putting green as nearly as possible to its original condition, but only:

  • By using his or her hand, foot or other part of the body or a normal ball-mark repair tool, tee, club or similar item of normal equipment, and
  • Without unreasonably delaying play (see Rule 5.6a).

But if the player improves the putting green by taking actions that exceed what is reasonable to restore the putting green to its original condition (such as by creating a pathway to the hole or by using an object that is not allowed), the player gets the general penalty for breach of Rule 8.1a.

“Damage on the putting green ” means any damage caused by a person or outside influence, such as:

  • Ball marks, shoe damage (such as spike marks) and scrapes or indentations caused by equipmentor a flagstick,
  • Old holeplugs, turf plugs, seams of cut turf and scrapes or indentations from maintenance tools or vehicles,
  • Animaltracks or hoof indentations, and
  • Embedded objects (such as a stone, acorn or tee).

But “damage on the putting green ” does not include any damage or conditions that result from:

  • Normal practices for maintaining the overall condition of the putting green(such as aeration holes and grooves from vertical mowing),
  • Irrigation or rain or other natural forces,
  • Natural surface imperfections (such as weeds or areas of bare, diseased or uneven growth), or
  • Natural wear of the hole.

d. When Ball or Ball-Marker Moves on Putting Green

There are two specific Rules for a ball or ball-marker that moves on the putting green.

(1) No Penalty for Accidentally Causing Ball to Move. There is no penalty if the player, opponent or another player in stroke play accidentally moves the player’s ball or ball-marker on the putting green.

The player must:

Exception – Ball Must Be Played as It Lies When Ball Begins to Move During Backswing or Stroke and Stroke Is Made (see Rule 9.1b).

If the player or opponent deliberately lifts the player’s ball or ball-marker on the putting green, see Rule 9.4 or 9.5 to find out if there is a penalty.

(2) When to Replace Ball Moved by Natural Forces. If natural forces cause a player’s ball on the putting green to move, where the player must play from next depends on whether the ball had already been lifted and replaced on its original spot:

e. No Deliberate Testing of Greens

During a round and while play is stopped under Rule 5.7a, a player must not deliberately take either of these actions to test the putting green or a wrong green:

  • Rub the surface, or
  • Roll a ball.

Exception – Testing Greens When Between Two Holes: Between two holes, a player may rub the surface or roll a ball on the putting green of the hole just completed and on any practice green (see Rule 5.5b).

Penalty for Testing the Putting Green or a Wrong Green in Breach of Rule 13.1e: General Penalty.

If multiple Rule breaches result from a single act or related acts, see Rule 1.3c(4).

See Committee Procedures, Section 8; Model Local Rule I-2 (the Committee may adopt a Local Rule prohibiting a player from rolling a ball on the putting green of the hole just completed.)

f. Relief Must Be Taken from Wrong Green

(1) Meaning of Interference by Wrong Green. Interference under this Rule exists when:

(2) Relief Must Be Taken. When there is interference by a wrong green, a player must not play the ball as it lies.

Instead, the player must take free relief by dropping the original ball or another ball in this relief area (see Rule 14.3):

(3) No Relief Where Clearly Unreasonable. There is no relief under Rule 13.1f if interference exists only because the player chooses a club, type of stance or swing or direction of play that is clearly unreasonable under the circumstances.

See Committee Procedures, Section 8; Model Local Rule D-3 (the Committee may adopt a Local Rule denying relief from a wrong green that only interferes with the area of intended stance).

Penalty for Playing Incorrectly Substituted Ball or Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 13.1: General Penalty under Rule 6.3b or 14.7a.

If multiple Rule breaches result from a single act or related acts, see Rule 1.3c(4).

13.2 The Flagstick

Purpose of Rule: This Rule covers the player’s choices for dealing with the flagstick. The player may leave the flagstick in the hole or have it removed (which includes having someone attend the flagstick and remove it after the ball is played), but must decide before making a stroke. There is normally no penalty if a ball in motion hits the flagstick.

This Rule applies to a ball played from anywhere on the course, whether on or off the putting green.

  1. Leaving Flagstick in Hole

(1) Player May Leave Flagstick in Hole. The player may make a stroke with the flagstick left in the hole, so that it is possible for the ball in motion to hit the flagstick.

The player must decide this before making the stroke, by either:

  • Leaving the flagstickwhere it is in the hole or moving it so that it is centred in the hole and leaving it there, or
  • Having a removed flagstickput back in the hole.

In either case:

  • The player must not try to gain an advantage by deliberately moving the flagstickto a position other than centred in the hole.
  • If the player does so and the ball in motion then hits the flagstick, he or she gets the general penalty.

(2) No Penalty If Ball Hits Flagstick Left in Hole. If the player makes a stroke with the flagstick left in the hole and the ball in motion then hits the flagstick:

  • There is no penalty (exceptas provided in (1)), and
  • The ball must be played as it lies.

(3) Limitation on Player Moving or Removing Flagstick in Hole While Ball Is in Motion. After making a stroke with the flagstick left in the hole:

  • The player and his or her caddiemust not deliberately move or remove the flagstick to affect where the player’s ball in motion might come to rest (such as to avoid having the ball hit the flagstick). If this is done, the player gets the general penalty.
  • Butthere is no penalty if the player has the flagstick in the hole moved or removed for any other reason, such as when he or she reasonably believes that the ball in motion will not hit the flagstick before coming to rest.

(4) Limitation on Other Players Moving or Removing Flagstick When Player Has Decided to Leave It in Hole. When the player has left the flagstick in the hole and has not authorized anyone to attend the flagstick (see Rule 13.2b(1)), another player must not deliberately move or remove the flagstick to affect where the player’s ball in motion might come to rest.

  • If another player or his or her caddiedoes so before or during the stroke and the player makes the stroke without being aware of this, or does so while the player’s ball is in motion after the stroke, that other player gets the general penalty.
  • Butthere is no penalty if the other player or his or her caddie moves or removes the flagstick for any other reason, such as when he or she:
    • Reasonably believes that the player’s ball in motion will not hit the flagstickbefore coming to rest, or
    • Is not aware that the player is about to play or that the player’s ball is in motion.

See Rule 22.2 (in Foursomes, either partner may act for the side and action by the partner is treated as action of the player); 23.5 (in Four-Ball, either partner may act for the side and action by the partner concerning the player’s ball or equipment is treated as action of the player).

  1. Removing Flagstick from Hole

(1) Player May Have Flagstick Removed from Hole. The player may make a stroke with the flagstick removed from the hole, so that his or her ball in motion will not hit the flagstick in the hole.

The player must decide this before making the stroke, by either:

  • Having the flagstickremoved from the hole before playing the ball, or
  • Authorizing someone to attend the flagstick, which means to remove it by:

The player is treated as having authorized the flagstick to be attended if:

  • The player’s caddieis holding the flagstick in, above or next to the hole or is standing right next to the hole when the stroke is made, even if the player is not aware the caddie is doing so,
  • The player asks any other person to attend the flagstickand that person does so, or
  • The player sees any other person holding the flagstickin, above or next to the hole or standing right next to the hole, and the player makes the stroke without asking that person to move away or to leave the flagstick in the hole.

(2) What to Do If Ball Hits Flagstick or Person Attending Flagstick. If the player’s ball in motion hits a flagstick that the player had decided to have removed under (1), or hits the person who is attending the flagstick (or anything the person is holding), what happens depends on whether this was accidental or deliberate:

  • Ball Accidentally Hits Flagstick or Person Who Removed or Is Attending It. If the player’s ball in motion accidentally hits the flagstickor the person who removed or is attending it (or anything the person is holding), there is no penalty and the ball must be played as it lies.
  • Ball Deliberately Deflected or Stopped by Person Attending Flagstick. If the person who is attending the flagstickdeliberately deflects or stops the player’s ball in motion, Rule 11.2c applies:
    • Where Ball Is Played from. The player must not play the ball as it lies and instead must take relief under Rule 11.2c.
    • When Penalty Applies. If the person who deliberately deflected or stopped the ball was a player or his or her caddie, that player gets the general penaltyfor a breach of Rule 11.2.

For purposes of this Rule, “deliberately deflected or stopped” means the same thing as in Rule 11.2a, and includes when the player’s ball in motion hits:

  • A removed flagstickthat was deliberately positioned or left in a particular place on the ground so that it might deflect or stop the ball,
  • An attended flagstickthat the person deliberately failed to remove from the hole or to move out of the way of the ball, or
  • The person who attended or removed the flagstick(or anything the person was holding), when he or she deliberately failed to move out of the way of the ball.

Exception – Restrictions on Deliberately Moving Flagstick to Affect a Ball in Motion (see Rule 11.3).

See Rule 22.2 (in Foursomes, either partner may act for the side and action by the partner is treated as action of the player); 23.5 (in Four-Ball, either partner may act for the side and action by the partner concerning the player’s ball or equipment is treated as action of the player).

  1. Ball Resting Against Flagstick in Hole

If a player’s ball comes to rest against the flagstick left in the hole:

  • If any part of the ball is in the holebelow the surface of the putting green, the ball is treated as holed even if the entire ball is not below the surface.
  • If no part of the ball is in the holebelow the surface of the putting green:
    • The ball is not holedand must be played as it lies.
    • If the flagstickis removed and the ball moves (whether it falls into the hole or moves away from the hole), there is no penalty and the ball must be replaced on the lip of the hole (see Rule 14.2).

Penalty for Playing Incorrectly Substituted Ball or Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 13.2c: General Penalty under Rule 6.3b or 14.7a.

If multiple Rule breaches result from a single act or related acts, see Rule 1.3c(4).

In stroke play, the player is disqualified if he or she fails to hole out as required under Rule 3.3c.

13.3 Ball Overhanging Hole

  1. Waiting Time to See If Ball Overhanging Hole Will Fall into Hole

If any part of a player’s ball overhangs the lip of the hole:

  • The player is allowed a reasonable time to reach the holeand ten more seconds to wait to see whether the ball will fall into the hole.
  • If the ball falls into the holein this waiting time, the player has holed out with the previous stroke.
  • If the ball does not fall into the holein this waiting time:
    • The ball is treated as being at rest.
    • If the ball then falls into the holebefore it is played, the player has holed out with the previous strokebut gets one penalty stroke added to the score for the hole.
  1. What to Do If Ball Overhanging Hole Is Lifted or Moved Before Waiting Time Has Ended

If a ball overhanging the hole is lifted or moved before the waiting time under Rule 13.3a has ended, the ball is treated as having come to rest:

If the opponent in match play or another player in stroke play deliberately lifts or moves the player’s ball overhanging the hole before the waiting time has ended:

Rule 14 - Procedures for Ball: Marking, Lifting and Cleaning; Replacing on Spot; Dropping in Relief Area; Playing from Wrong Place

Purpose of Rule: Rule 14 covers when and how the player may mark the spot of a ball at rest and lift and clean the ball and how to put a ball back into play so that the ball is played from the right place.

  • When a lifted or moved ball is to be replaced, the same ball must be set down on its original spot.
  • When taking free relief or penalty relief, a substituted ball or the original ball must be dropped in a particular relief area.

A mistake in using these procedures may be corrected without penalty before the ball is played, but the player gets a penalty if he or she plays the ball from the wrong place.

14.1 Marking, Lifting and Cleaning Ball

This Rule applies to the deliberate “lifting” of a player’s ball at rest, which includes picking up the ball by hand, rotating it or otherwise deliberately causing it to move from its spot.

  1. Spot of Ball to Be Lifted and Replaced Must Be Marked

Before lifting a ball under a Rule requiring the ball to be replaced on its original spot, the player must mark the spot which means to:

  • Place a ball-markerright behind or right next to the ball, or
  • Hold a club on the ground right behind or right next to the ball.

If the spot is marked with a ball-marker, after replacing the ball the player must remove the ball-marker before making a stroke.

If the player lifts the ball without marking its spot, marks its spot in a wrong way or makes a stroke with a ball-marker left in place, the player gets one penalty stroke.

If multiple Rule breaches result from a single act or related acts, see Rule 1.3c(4).

When a ball is lifted to take relief under a Rule, the player is not required to mark the spot before lifting the ball.

  1. Who May Lift Ball

The player’s ball may be lifted under the Rules only by:

  • The player, or
  • Anyone the player authorizes, butsuch authorization must be given each time before the ball is lifted rather than given generally for the round.

Exception – Caddie May Lift Player’s Ball on Putting Green Without Authorization: When the player’s ball is on the putting green, his or her caddie may lift the ball without the player’s authorization.

If the caddie lifts the ball without authorization when it is anywhere except on the putting green, the player gets one penalty stroke (see Rule 9.4).

  1. Cleaning Lifted Ball

A ball lifted from the putting green may always be cleaned (see Rule 13.1b).

A ball lifted from anywhere else may always be cleaned except when it is lifted:

  • To See If It Is Cut or Cracked. Cleaning is not allowed (see Rule 4.2c(1)).
  • To Identify It. Cleaning is allowed only as needed to identify it (see Rule 7.3).
  • Because It Interferes with Play. Cleaning is not allowed (see Rule 15.3b(2)).
  • To See If It Lies in Condition Where Relief Is Allowed. Cleaning is not allowed, unless the player then takes relief under a Rule (see Rule 16.4).

If the player cleans a lifted ball when not allowed, he or she gets one penalty stroke.

If multiple Rule breaches result from a single act or related acts, see Rule 1.3c(4).

See Rule 22.2 (in Foursomes, either partner may act for the side and action by the partner is treated as action of the player); 23.5 (in Four-Ball, either partner may act for the side and action by the partner concerning the player’s ball or equipment is treated as action of the player).

14.2 Replacing Ball on Spot

This Rule applies whenever a ball is lifted or moved and a Rule requires it to be replaced on a spot.

  1. Original Ball Must Be Used

The original ball must be used when replacing a ball.

Exception – Another Ball May Be Used When:

  • The original ball cannot be recovered with reasonable effort and in a few seconds, so long as the player did not deliberately cause the ball to become unrecoverable,
  • The original ball is cut or cracked (see Rule 4.2c),
  • Play resumes after it had been stopped (see Rule 5.7d), or
  • The original ball was played by another player as a wrong ball(see Rule 6.3c(2)).
  1. Who Must Replace Ball and How It Must Be Replaced

(1) Who May Replace Ball: The player’s ball must be replaced under the Rules only by:

  • The player, or
  • Any person who lifted the ball or caused it to move(even if that person was not allowed to do so under the Rules).

If the player plays a ball that was replaced by someone not allowed to do so, the player gets one penalty stroke.

(2) How Ball Must Be Replaced. The ball must be replaced by setting it down on the required spot and letting it go so that it stays on that spot.

If the player plays a ball that was replaced in a wrong way but on the required spot, the player gets one penalty stroke.

  1. Spot Where Ball Is Replaced

The ball must be replaced on its original spot (which if not known must be estimated), except when the ball must be replaced on a different spot under Rules 14.2d(2) and 14.2e.

If the ball was at rest on, under or against any immovable obstructionintegral objectboundary object or growing or attached natural object:

  • The “spot” of the ball includes its vertical location relative to the ground.
  • This means that the ball must be replacedon its original spot on, under or against such object.

If any loose impediments were removed as a result of the ball being lifted or moved or before the ball was replaced, they do not need to be replaced.

For restrictions on removing loose impediments before replacing a lifted or moved ball see Rule 15.1a, Exception 1.

  1. Where to Replace Ball When Original Lie Altered

If the lie of a lifted or moved ball that must be replaced is altered, the player must replace the ball in this way:

(1) Ball in Sand. When the ball was in sand, whether in a bunker or anywhere else on the course:

  • In replacingthe ball on its original spot (which if not known must be estimated) (see Rule 14.2c), the player must re-create the original lie as much as possible.
  • In re-creating the lie, the player may leave a small part of the ball visible if the ball had been covered by sand.

If the player fails to re-create the lie in breach of this Rule, the player has played from a wrong place.

(2) Ball Anywhere Except in Sand. When the ball was anywhere except in sand, the player must replace the ball by placing it on the nearest spot with a lie most similar to the original lie that is:

If the player knows that the original lie was altered but does not know what the lie was, the player must estimate the original lie and replace the ball under (1) or (2).

Exception – For Lies Altered While Play is Stopped and Ball Has Been Lifted, see Rule 5.7d.

  1. What to Do If Replaced Ball Does Not Stay on Original Spot

If the player tries to replace a ball but it does not stay on its original spot, the player must try a second time.

If the ball again does not stay on that spot, the player must replace the ball by placing it on the nearest spot where the ball will stay at rest, but with these limits depending on where the original spot is located:

  • The spot must not be nearer the hole.
  • Original Spot in General Area. The nearest spot must be in the general area.
  • Original Spot in Bunker or Penalty Area. The nearest spot must be either in the same bunkeror in the same penalty area.
  • Original Spot on Putting Green. The nearest spot must be either on the putting greenor in the general area.

Penalty for Playing Incorrectly Substituted Ball or Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 14.2: General Penalty under Rule 6.3b or 14.7a.

If multiple Rule breaches result from a single act or related acts, see Rule 1.3c(4).

See Rule 22.2 (in Foursomes, either partner may act for the side and action by the partner is treated as action of the player); 23.5 (in Four-Ball, either partner may act for the side and action by the partner concerning the player’s ball or equipment is treated as action of the player).

14.3 Dropping Ball in Relief Area

This Rule applies whenever a player must drop a ball in taking relief under a Rule, including when the player must complete taking relief by placing a ball under Rule 14.3c(2).

If the player improves the relief area before or when dropping a ball, see Rule 8.1.

  1. Original Ball or Another Ball May Be Used

The player may use the original ball or another ball.

This means that the player may use any ball each time he or she drops or places a ball under this Rule.

  1. Ball Must Be Dropped in Right Way

The player must drop a ball in the right way, which means all three of these things:

(1) Player Must Drop Ball. The ball must be dropped only by the player. Neither the player’s caddie nor anyone else may do so.

(2) Ball Must Be Dropped Straight Down from Knee Height Without Touching Player or Equipment. The player must let go of the ball from a location at knee height so that the ball:

  • Falls straight down, without the player throwing, spinning or rolling it or using any other motion that might affect where the ball will come to rest, and
  • Does not touch any part of the player’s body or equipmentbefore it hits the ground.

“Knee height” means the height of the player’s knee when in a standing position.

(3) Ball Must Be Dropped in Relief Area. The ball must be dropped in the relief area. The player may stand either inside or outside the relief area when dropping the ball.

If a ball is dropped in a wrong way in breach of one or more of these three requirements:

  • The player must dropa ball again in the right way, and there is no limit to the number of times the player must do so.
  • A ball droppedin the wrong way does not count as one of the two drops required before a ball must be placed under Rule 14.3c(2).

If the player does not drop again and instead makes a stroke at the ball from where it came to rest after being dropped in a wrong way:

  • If the ball was played from the relief area, the player gets one penalty stroke(but has not played from a wrong place under Rule 14.7a).
  • Butif the ball was played from outside the relief area, or after it was placed when required to be dropped (no matter where it was played from), the player gets the general penalty.

c. Ball Dropped in Right Way Must Come to Rest in Relief Area

This Rule applies only when a ball is dropped in the right way under Rule 14.3b.

(1) Player Has Completed Taking Relief When Ball Dropped in Right Way Comes to Rest in Relief Area. The ball must come to rest in the relief area.

It does not matter whether the ball, after hitting the ground, touches any person, equipment or other outside influence before coming to rest:

  • If the ball comes to rest in the relief area, the player has completed taking relief and must play the ball as it lies.
  • If the ball comes to rest outside the relief area, the player must use the procedures in Rule 14.3c(2).

In either case, there is no penalty to any player if a ball dropped in the right way accidentally hits any person, equipment or other outside influence before coming to rest.

Exception – When Ball Dropped in Right Way is Deliberately Deflected or Stopped by Any Person: For what to do when the dropped ball is deliberately deflected or stopped by any person before it comes to rest, see Rule 14.3d.

(2) What to Do if Ball Dropped in Right Way Comes to Rest Outside Relief Area. If the ball comes to rest outside the relief area, the player must drop a ball in the right way a second time.

If that ball also comes to rest outside the relief area, the player must then complete taking relief by placing a ball using the procedures for replacing a ball in Rules 14.2b(2) and 14.2e:

  • The player must place a ball on the spot where the ball droppedthe second time first touched the ground.
  • If the placed ball does not stay at rest on that spot, the player must place a ball on that spot a second time.
  • If the ball placed a second time also does not stay on that spot, the player must place a ball on the nearest spot where the ball will stay at rest, subject to the limits in Rule 14.2e.

d. What to Do if Ball Dropped in Right Way is Deliberately Deflected or Stopped by Person

For purposes of this Rule, a dropped ball is “deliberately deflected or stopped” when:

  • A person deliberately touches the ball in motion after it hits the ground, or
  • The ball in motion hits any equipmentor other object or any person (such as the player’s caddie) that a player deliberately positioned or left in a particular location so that the equipment, object or person might deflect or stop the ball in motion.

When a ball dropped in the right way is deliberately deflected or stopped by any person (whether in the relief area or outside the relief area) before it comes to rest:

  • The player must dropa ball again, using the procedures in Rule 14.3b (which means that the ball that was deliberately deflected or stopped does not count as one of the two drops required before a ball must be placed under Rule 14.3c(2)).
  • If the ball was deliberately deflected or stopped by any player or his or her caddie, that player gets the general penalty

Exception – When There Is No Reasonable Chance Ball Will Come to Rest in Relief Area: If a ball dropped in the right way is deliberately deflected or stopped (whether in the relief area or outside the relief area) when there is no reasonable chance it will come to rest in the relief area:

  • There is no penalty to any player, and
  • The droppedball is treated as having come to rest outside the relief area and counts as one of the two drops required before a ball must be placed under Rule 14.3c(2).

Penalty for Playing Ball from a Wrong Place or Playing Ball that was Placed Instead of Dropped in Breach of Rule 14.3: General Penalty Under Rule 14.7a.

If multiple Rule breaches result from a single act or related acts, see Rule 1.3c(4).

See Rule 22.2 (in Foursomes, either partner may act for the side and action by the partner is treated as action of the player); 23.5 (in Four-Ball, either partner may act for the side and action by the partner concerning the player’s ball or equipment is treated as action of the player).

14.4 When Player’s Ball is Back in Play after Original Ball Was Out of Play

When a player’s ball in play is lifted from the course or is lost or out of bounds, the ball is no longer in play.

The player has a ball in play again only when he or she:

  • Plays the original ball or another ball from the teeing area, or
  • Replacesdropsor places the original ball or another ball on the course with the intent for that ball to be in play.

If the player returns a ball to the course in any way with the intent for it to be in play, the ball is in play even if it was:

  • Substitutedfor the original ball when not allowed under the Rules, or
  • Replaceddroppedor placed (1) in a wrong place, (2) in a wrong way or (3) by using a procedure that did not apply.

replaced ball is in play even if the ball-marker marking its spot has not been removed.

14.5 Correcting Mistake Made in Substituting, Replacing, Dropping or Placing Ball

a. Player May Lift Ball to Correct Mistake Before Ball Is Played

When a player has substituted another ball for the original ball when not allowed under the Rules or the player’s ball in play was replaceddropped or placed (1) in a wrong place or came to rest in a wrong place, (2) in a wrong way or (3) by using a procedure that did not apply:

  • The player may lift the ball without penalty and correct the mistake.
  • Butthis is allowed only before the ball is played.

b. When Player May Change to a Different Rule or Relief Option When Correcting Mistake in Taking Relief

When correcting a mistake in taking relief, whether the player must use the same Rule and relief option originally used or may change to a different Rule or relief option depends on the nature of the mistake:

(1) When Ball Was Put in Play Under Rule That Did Not Apply.

  • In correcting this mistake, the player may use any Rule that applies to his or her situation.
  • For example, if the player mistakenly took unplayable ball relief for his or her ball in a penalty area(which Rule 19.1 does not allow), the player must correct the mistake by either replacing the ball (if it had been lifted) under Rule 9.4, or taking penalty relief under Rule 17 and may use any relief option under that Rule that applies to his or her situation.

(2) When Ball Was Put in Play Under Rule That Applied but Ball Was Dropped or Placed in Wrong Place.

  • In correcting this mistake, the player must go on to take relief under the same Rule but may use any relief option under that Rule that applies to his or her situation.
  • For example, if when taking relief for an unplayable ball, the player used the lateral relief option Rule (2c) and mistakenly droppedthe ball outside the required relief area, in correcting the mistake the player must go on to take relief under Rule 19.2 but may use any of the relief options in Rule 19.2ab or c.

(3) When Ball Was Put in Play Under Rule That Applied and Was Dropped or Placed in Right Place, but Rule Requires Ball to Be Dropped or Placed Again.

  • In correcting this mistake, the player must go on to take relief using the same Rule and the same relief option under that Rule.
  • For example, if when taking relief for an unplayable ball, the player used the lateral relief option (Rule 19.2c) and the ball was (1) droppedin the right relief area but (2) was dropped in a wrong way (see Rule 14.3b) or came to rest outside the relief area (see Rule 14.3c), in correcting the mistake the player must go on to take relief under Rule 19.2 and must use the same relief option (lateral relief under Rule 19.2c).

c. No Penalties for Ball Lifted to Correct Mistake

When a ball is lifted under Rule 14.5a to correct a mistake:

  • The player does not count any penalty for actions that were taken relating to that ball after the mistake and before it was lifted, such as for accidentally causing it to move(see Rule 9.4b).
  • Butif those same actions were also in breach of a Rule relating to the ball that was put in play to correct the mistake (such as when those actions improved the conditions affecting the stroke for both the ball now in play and the original ball before it was lifted), the penalty applies to the ball now in play.

14.6 Making Next Stroke from Where Previous Stroke Made

This Rule applies whenever a player is required or allowed under the Rules to make the next stroke from where a previous stroke was made (that is, when taking stroke-and-distance relief, or playing again after a stroke that is cancelled or otherwise does not count).

  • How the player must put a ball in playdepends on the area of the course where that previous stroke was made.
  • In all of these situations, the player may use either the original ball or another ball.

a. Previous Stroke Made from Teeing Area

The original ball or another ball must be played from anywhere inside the teeing area (and may be teed) under Rule 6.2b.

b. Previous Stroke Made from General Area, Penalty Area or Bunker

The original ball or another ball must be dropped in this relief area (see Rule 14.3):

  • Reference Point: The spot where the previous strokewas made (which if not known must be estimated).
  • Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: One club-lengthbutwith these limits:
  • Limits on Location of Relief Area:
    • Must be in the same area of the courseas the reference point, and
    • Must not be nearer the holethan the reference point.

c. Previous Stroke Made from Putting Green

The original ball or another ball must be placed on the spot where the previous stroke was made (which if not known must be estimated) (see Rule 14.2), using the procedures for replacing a ball under Rules 14.2b(2) and 14.2e.

Penalty for Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 14.6: General Penalty Under Rule 14.7a.

If multiple Rule breaches result from a single act or related acts, see Rule 1.3c(4) .

14.7 Playing from Wrong Place

a. Place from Where Ball Must Be Played

After starting a hole:

  • A player must make each strokefrom where his or her ball comes to rest, except when the Rules require or allow the player to play a ball from another place (see Rule 9.1).
  • A player must not play his or her ball in playfrom a wrong place.

Penalty for Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 14.7a: General Penalty.

If multiple Rule breaches result from a single act or related acts, see Rule 1.3c(4).

b. How to Complete a Hole after Playing from Wrong Place in Stroke Play

(1) Player Must Decide Whether to Play Out Hole with Ball Played from Wrong Place or to Correct the Mistake by Playing from Right Place. What a player does next depends on whether it was a serious breach – that is, whether the player could have gained a significant advantage by playing from a wrong place:

  • Not a Serious Breach. The player must play out the hole with the ball played from a wrong place, without correcting the mistake.
  • Serious Breach.
    • The player must correct the mistake by playing out the hole with a ball played from a right place under the Rules.
    • If the player does not correct the mistake before making a stroketo begin another hole or, for the final hole of the round, before returning his or her scorecard, the player is disqualified.
  • What to Do If Uncertain Whether Breach Is Serious. The player should play out the hole with both the ball played from a wrong placeand a second ball played from a right place under the Rules.

(2) Player Who Tries to Correct Mistake Must Report to Committee. If the player tries to correct the mistake under (1) by playing a ball from a right place:

  • The player must report the facts to the Committeebefore returning the scorecard.
  • This applies whether the player played out the hole with only that ball or with two balls (and even if the player scores the same with both balls).

If the player does not report the facts to the Committee, he or she is disqualified.

(3) When Player Tried to Correct Mistake, Committee Will Decide Player’s Score for Hole. The player’s score for the hole depends on whether the Committee decides that there was a serious breach in playing the original ball from a wrong place:

  • No Serious Breach.
    • The score with the ball played from a wrong placecounts, and the player gets the general penaltyunder Rule 14.7a (which means that two penalty strokes are added to the score with that ball).
    • If a second ball was played, all strokes with that ball (including strokesmade and any penalty strokes solely from playing that ball) do not count.
  • Serious Breach.
    • The score with the ball played to correct the mistake of playing from a wrong placecounts, and the player gets the general penaltyunder Rule 14.7a (which means that two penalty strokes are added to the score with that ball).
    • The strokemade in playing the original ball from a wrong placeand any more strokes with that ball (including strokes made and any penalty strokes solely from playing that ball) do not count.
    • If the ball played to correct the mistake was also played from a wrong place:
Rule 15 - Relief from Loose Impediments and Movable Obstructions (including Ball or Ball-Marker Helping or Interfering with Play)

Purpose of Rule: Rule 15 covers when and how the player may take free relief from loose impediments and movable obstructions.

  • These movable natural and artificial objects are not treated as part of the challenge of playing the course, and a player is normally allowed to remove them when they interfere with play.
  • But the player needs to be careful in moving loose impediments near his or her ball off the putting green, because there will be a penalty if moving them causes the ball to move.

15.1 Loose Impediments

a. Removal of Loose Impediment

Without penalty, a player may remove a loose impediment anywhere on or off the course, and may do so in any way (such as by using a hand or foot or a club or other equipment).

But there are two exceptions:

Exception 1 – Removing Loose Impediment Where Ball Must Be Replaced: Before replacing a ball that was lifted or moved from anywhere except the putting green:

  • A player must not deliberately remove a loose impedimentthat, if moved when the ball was at rest, would have been likely to have caused the ball to move.
  • If the player does so, he or she gets one penalty strokebutthe removed loose impediment does not need to be replaced.

This exception applies both during a round and while play is stopped under Rule 5.7a. It does not apply to a loose impediment that is removed as a result of marking the spot of a ball, or lifting, moving or replacing a ball or causing a ball to move.

Exception 2 – Restrictions on Deliberately Removing Loose Impediments to Affect Ball in Motion (see Rule 11.3).

b. Ball Moved When Removing Loose Impediment

If a player’s removal of a loose impediment causes his or her ball to move:

Penalty for Playing Incorrectly Substituted Ball or Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 15.1: General Penalty Under Rule 6.3b or 14.7a.

If multiple Rule breaches result from a single act or related acts, see Rule 1.3c(4).

15.2 Movable Obstructions

This Rule covers free relief that is allowed from artificial objects that meet the definition of movable obstruction.

It does not give relief from immovable obstructions (a different type of free relief is allowed under Rule 16.1) or boundary objects or integral objects (no free relief is allowed).

a. Relief from Movable Obstruction

(1) Removal of Movable Obstruction. Without penalty, a player may remove a movable obstruction anywhere on or off the course and may do so in any way.

But there are two exceptions:

Exception 1 – Tee Markers Must Not be Moved When Ball Will Be Played from Teeing Area (see Rules 6.2b(4) and 8.1a(1)).

Exception 2 – Restrictions on Deliberately Removing Movable Obstruction to Affect a Ball in Motion (see Rule 11.3).

If a player’s ball moves while he or she is removing a movable obstruction:

  • There is no penalty, and
  • The ball must be replacedon its original spot (which if not known must be estimated) (see Rule 14.2).

(2) Relief When Ball Is in or on Movable Obstruction Anywhere on Course Except on Putting Green. The player may take free relief by lifting the ball, removing the movable obstruction and dropping the original ball or another ball in this relief area (see Rule 14.3):

  • Reference Point: The estimated point right under where the ball was at rest in or on the movable obstruction.
  • Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: One club-lengthbutwith these limits:
  • Limits on Location of Relief Area:
    • Must be in the same area of the courseas the reference point, and
    • Must not be nearer the holethan the reference point.

(3) Relief When Ball Is in or on Movable Obstruction on Putting Green. The player may take free relief by:

b. Relief for Ball Not Found but in or on Movable Obstruction

If a player’s ball has not been found and it is known or virtually certain that it came to rest in or on a movable obstruction on the course, the player may use this relief option instead of taking stroke-and-distance relief:

  • The player may take free relief under Rule 15.2a(2)or 2a(3), using the estimated point right under where the ball last crossed the edge of the movable obstruction on the course as the reference point.
  • Once the player puts another ball in playto take relief in this way:
    • The original ball is no longer in playand must not be played.
    • This is true even if it is then found on the coursebefore the end of the three-minute search time (see Rule 6.3b)

But if it is not known or virtually certain that the ball came to rest in or on a movable obstruction and the ball is lost, the player must take stroke-and-distance relief under Rule 18.2.

Penalty for Playing Incorrectly Substituted Ball or Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 15.2: General Penalty Under Rule 6.3b or Rule 14.7a.

If multiple Rule breaches result from a single act or related acts, see Rule 1.3c(4).

15.3 Ball or Ball-Marker Helping or Interfering with Play

a. Ball on Putting Green Helping Play

Rule 15.3a applies only to a ball at rest on the putting green, not anywhere else on the course.

If a player reasonably believes that a ball on the putting green might help anyone’s play (such as by serving as a possible backstop near the hole), the player may:

  • Markthe spot of the ball and lift it under Rule 13.1b if it is his or her own ball, or if the ball belongs to another player, require the other player to mark the spot and lift the ball (see Rule 14.1).
  • The lifted ball must be replacedon its original spot (see Rule 14.2).

In stroke play only:

  • A player who is required to lift a ball may play first instead, and
  • If two or more players agree to leave a ball in place to help any player, and that player then makes a strokewith the helping ball left in place, each player who made the agreement gets the general penalty (two penalty strokes).

b. Ball Anywhere on Course Interfering with Play

(1) Meaning of Interference by Another Player’s Ball. Interference under this Rule exists when another player’s ball at rest:

  • Might interfere with the player’s area of intended stanceor area of intended swing,
  • Is on or close to the player’s line of playsuch that, given the intended stroke, there is a reasonable chance the player’s ball in motion could hit that ball, or
  • Is close enough to distract the player in making the stroke.

(2) When Relief Is Allowed from Interfering Ball. If a player reasonably believes that another player’s ball anywhere on the course might interfere with the player’s own play:

  • The player may require the other player to markthe spot and lift the ball (see Rule 14.1), and the ball must not be cleaned (except when lifted from the putting green under Rule 13.1b) and must be replaced on its original spot (see Rule 14.2).
  • If the other player does not markthe spot before lifting the ball or cleans the lifted ball when not allowed, he or she gets one penalty stroke.
  • In stroke playonly, a player required to lift his or her ball under this Rule may play first instead.

A player is not allowed to lift his or her ball under this Rule based only on the player’s own belief that the ball might interfere with another player’s play.

If the player lifts his or her ball when not required to do so by the other player (except when lifting the ball on the putting green under Rule 13.1b), the player gets one penalty stroke.

c. Ball-Marker Helping or Interfering with Play

If a ball-marker might help or interfere with play, a player may:

  • Move the ball-markerout of the way if it is his or her own, or
  • If the ball-markerbelongs to another player, require that player to move the ball-marker out of the way, for the same reasons as he or she may require a ball to be lifted under Rules 15.3a and 3b.

The ball-marker must be moved out of the way to a new spot measured from its original spot, such as by using one or more clubhead-lengths.

Either the lifted ball must be replaced on its original spot (see Rule 14.2) or the ball-marker must be replaced to mark that spot.

Penalty for Breach of Rule 15.3: General Penalty.

This penalty also applies if the player:

  • Makes a strokewithout waiting for a helping ball or ball-marker to be lifted or moved after becoming aware that another player (1) intended to lift or move it under this Rule or (2) had required someone else to do so, or
  • Refuses to lift his or her ball or move his or her ball-markerwhen required to do so and a stroke is then made by the other player whose play might have been helped or interfered with.

Penalty for Playing Incorrectly Substituted Ball or Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 15.3: General Penalty Under Rule 6.3b or 14.7a.

If multiple Rule breaches result from a single act or related acts, see Rule 1.3c(4).

Rule 16 - Relief from Abnormal Course Conditions (Including Immovable Obstructions), Dangerous Animal Condition, Embedded Ball

Purpose of Rule: Rule 16 covers when and how the player may take free relief by playing a ball from a different place, such as when there is interference by an abnormal course condition or a dangerous animal condition.

  • These conditions are not treated as part of the challenge of playing the course, and free relief is generally allowed except in a penalty area.
  • The player normally takes relief by dropping a ball in a relief area based on the nearest point of complete relief.

This Rule also covers free relief when a player’s ball is embedded in its own pitch mark in the general area.

16.1 Abnormal Course Conditions (Including Immovable Obstructions)

This Rule covers free relief that is allowed from interference by animal holesground under repairimmovable obstructions or temporary water:

a. When Relief Is Allowed

(1) Meaning of Interference by Abnormal Course Condition. Interference exists when any one of these is true:

If the abnormal course condition is close enough to distract the player but does not meet any of these requirements, there is no interference under this Rule.

See Committee Procedures, Section 8; Model Local Rule F-6 (the Committee may adopt a Local Rule denying relief from an abnormal course condition that only interferes with the area of intended stance).

(2) Relief Allowed Anywhere on Course Except When Ball Is in Penalty Area. Relief from interference by an abnormal course condition is allowed under Rule 16.1 only when both:

(3) No Relief When Clearly Unreasonable to Play Ball. There is no relief under Rule 16.1:

  • When playing the ball as it lies would be clearly unreasonable because of something other than an abnormal course condition(such as when a player is standing in temporary water or on an immovable obstruction but would be unable to make a stroke because of where the ball lies in a bush), or 
  • When interference exists only because a player chooses a club, type of stanceor swing or direction of play that is clearly unreasonable under the circumstances.

See Committee Procedures, Section 8; Model Local Rule F-23 (the Committee may adopt a Local Rule allowing free relief from interference by temporary immovable obstructions on or off the course).

b. Relief for Ball in General Area

If a player’s ball is in the general area and there is interference by an abnormal course condition on the course, the player may take free relief by dropping the original ball or another ball in this relief area (see Rule 14.3):

c. Relief for Ball in Bunker

If a player’s ball is in a bunker and there is interference by an abnormal course condition on the course, the player may take either free relief under (1) or penalty relief under (2):

(1) Free Relief: Playing from Bunker. The player may take free relief under Rule 16.1bexcept that:

(2) Penalty Relief: Playing from Outside Bunker (Back-On-the-Line Relief). For one penalty stroke, the player may drop the original ball or another ball (see Rule 14.3) in a relief area based on a reference line going straight back from the hole through the spot of the original ball:

  • Reference Point: A point on the coursechosen by the player that is on the reference line and is farther from the hole than that original spot (with no limit on how far back on the line):
    • In choosing this reference point, the player should indicate the point by using an object (such as a tee).
    • If the player dropsthe ball without having chosen this point, the reference point is treated as being the point on the line that is the same distance from the holeas where the dropped ball first touched the ground.
  • Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: One club-lengthbutwith these limits:
  • Limits on Location of Relief Area:

d. Relief for Ball on Putting Green

If a player’s ball is on the putting green and there is interference by an abnormal course condition on the course, the player may take free relief by placing the original ball or another ball on the spot of the nearest point of complete relief, using the procedures for replacing a ball under Rules 14.2b(2) and 14.2e.

e. Relief for Ball Not Found but in or on Abnormal Course Condition

If a player’s ball has not been found and it is known or virtually certain that the ball came to rest in or on an abnormal course condition on the course, the player may use this relief option instead of taking stroke-and-distance relief:

But if it is not known or virtually certain that the ball came to rest in or on an abnormal course condition and the ball is lost, the player must take stroke-and-distance relief under Rule 18.2.

f. Relief Must Be Taken from Interference by No Play Zone in Abnormal Course Condition

In each of these situations, the ball must not be played as it lies:

(1) When Ball Is in No Play Zone. If the player’s ball is in a no play zone in or on an abnormal course condition in the general area, in a bunker or on the putting green:

  • No Play Zone in General Area. The player must take free relief under Rule 16.1b.
  • No Play Zone in Bunker. The player must take free relief or penalty relief under Rule 16.1c(1)or (2).
  • No Play Zone on Putting Green. The player must take free relief under Rule 16.1d.

(2) When No Play Zone Interferes with Stance or Swing for Ball Anywhere on Course Except Penalty Area. If a player’s ball is outside a no play zone and is in the general area, in a bunker or on the putting green, and a no play zone (whether in an abnormal course condition or in a penalty area) interferes with the player’s area of intended stance or area of intended swing, the player must either:

For what to do when there is interference by a no play zone for a ball in a penalty area, see Rule 17.1e.

Penalty for Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 16.1: General Penalty Under Rule 14.7a.

16.2 Dangerous Animal Condition

a. When Relief Is Allowed

A “dangerous animal condition” exists when a dangerous animal (such as poisonous snakes, stinging bees, alligators, fire ants or bears) near a ball could cause serious physical injury to the player if he or she had to play the ball as it lies.

A player may take relief under Rule 16.2b from interference by a dangerous animal condition no matter where his or her ball is on the courseexcept that relief is not allowed:

  • When playing the ball as it lies is clearly unreasonable because of something other than the dangerous animalcondition (for example, when a player is unable to make a stroke because of where the ball lies in a bush), or
  • When interference exists only because the player chooses a club, type of stanceor swing or direction of play that is clearly unreasonable under the circumstances.

b. Relief for Dangerous Animal Condition

When there is interference by a dangerous animal condition:

(1) When Ball Is Anywhere Except Penalty Area. The player may take relief under Rule 16.1bc or d, depending on whether the ball is in the general area, in a bunker or on the putting green.

(2) When Ball Is in Penalty Area. The player may take free relief or penalty relief:

  • Free Relief: Playing from Inside Penalty Area. The player may take free relief under Rule 16.1bexceptthat the nearest point of complete relief and the relief area must be in the penalty area.
  • Penalty Relief: Playing from Outside Penalty Area.
    • The player may take penalty relief under Rule 17.1d.
    • If there is interference by a dangerous animalcondition where the ball would be played after taking this penalty relief outside the penalty area, the player may take further relief under (1)without additional penalty.

For purposes of this Rule, the nearest point of complete relief means the nearest point (not nearer the hole) where the dangerous animal condition does not exist.

Penalty for Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 16.2: General Penalty Under Rule 14.7a.

16.3 Embedded Ball

a. When Relief Is Allowed

(1) Ball Must Be Embedded in General Area. Relief is allowed under Rule 16.3b only when a player’s ball is embedded in the general area.

  • There is no relief under this Rule if the ball is embeddedanywhere except in the general area.
  • Butif the ball is embedded on the putting green, the player may mark the spot of the ball and lift and clean the ball, repair the damage caused by the ball’s impact, and replace the ball on its original spot (see Rule 13.1c(2)).

Exceptions – When Relief Not Allowed for Ball Embedded in General Area: Relief under Rule 16.3b is not allowed:

  • When the ball is embeddedin sand in a part of the general area that is not cut to fairway height or less, or
  • When interference by anything other than the ball being embeddedmakes the stroke clearly unreasonable (for example, when a player is unable to make a stroke because of where the ball lies in a bush).

(2) Determining Whether Ball Is Embedded. A player’s ball is embedded only if:

  • It is in its own pitch-mark made as a result of the player’s previous stroke, and
  • Part of the ball is below the level of the ground.

If the player cannot tell for sure whether the ball is in its own pitch-mark or a pitch-mark made by another ball, the player may treat the ball as embedded if it is reasonable to conclude from the available information that the ball is in its own pitch-mark.

A ball is not embedded if it is below the level of the ground as a result of anything other than the player’s previous stroke, such as when:

  • The ball is pushed into the ground by someone stepping on it,
  • The ball is driven straight into the ground without becoming airborne, or
  • The ball was droppedin taking relief under a Rule.

b. Relief for Embedded Ball

When a player’s ball is embedded in the general area and relief is allowed under Rule 16.3a, the player may take free relief by dropping the original ball or another ball in this relief area (see Rule 14.3):

  • Reference Point: The spot right behind where the ball is embedded.
  • Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: One club-lengthbutwith these limits:
  • Limits on Location of Relief Area:
    • Must be in the general area, and
    • Must not be nearer the holethan the reference point.

See Committee Procedures, Section 8; Model Local Rule F-2 (the Committee may adopt a Local Rule allowing relief only for a ball embedded in an area cut to fairway height or less).

Penalty for Playing a Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 16.3: General Penalty Under Rule 14.7a.

16.4 Lifting Ball to See If It Lies in Condition Where Relief Allowed

If a player reasonably believes that his or her ball lies in a condition where free relief is allowed under Rule 15.216.1 or 16.3, but cannot decide that without lifting the ball:

  • The player may lift the ball to see if relief is allowed, but:
  • The spot of the ball must first be marked, and the lifted ball must not be cleaned (excepton the putting green) (see Rule 14.1).

If the player lifts the ball without having this reasonable belief (except on the putting green where the player may lift under Rule 13.1b), he or she gets one penalty stroke.

If relief is allowed and the player takes relief, there is no penalty even if the player did not mark the spot of the ball before lifting it or cleaned the lifted ball.

If relief is not allowed, or if the player chooses not to take relief that is allowed:

  • The player gets one penalty strokeif he or she did not mark the spot of the ball before lifting it or cleaned the lifted ball when not allowed, and
  • The ball must be replacedon its original spot (see Rule 14.2).

Penalty for Playing Incorrectly Substituted Ball or Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 16.4: General Penalty Under Rule 6.3b or 14.7a.

If multiple Rule breaches result from a single act or related acts, see Rule 1.3c(4).

 

 

Rule 17 - Penalty Areas

Purpose of Rule: Rule 17 is a specific Rule for penalty areas, which are bodies of water or other areas defined by the Committee where a ball is often lost or unable to be played. For one penalty stroke, players may use specific relief options to play a ball from outside the penalty area.

17.1 Options for Ball in Penalty Area

Penalty areas are defined as either red or yellow. This affects the player’s relief options (see Rule 17.1d).

A player may stand in a penalty area to play a ball outside the penalty area, including after taking relief from the penalty area.

a. When Ball Is in Penalty Area

A ball is in a penalty area when any part of the ball:

  • Lies on or touches the ground or anything else (such as any natural or artificial object) inside the edge of the penalty area, or
  • Is above the edge or any other part of the penalty area.

If part of the ball is both in a penalty area and in another area of the course, see Rule 2.2c.

b. Player May Play Ball as It Lies in Penalty Area or Take Penalty Relief

The player may either:

  • Play the ball as it lies without penalty, under the same Rules that apply to a ball in the general area(which means there are no special Rules limiting how a ball may be played from a penalty area), or
  • Play a ball from outside the penalty areaby taking penalty relief under Rule 17.1d or 2.

Exception – Relief Must Be Taken from Interference by No Play Zone in Penalty Area (see Rule 17.1e).

c. Relief for Ball Not Found but in Penalty Area

If a player’s ball has not been found and it is known or virtually certain that the ball came to rest in a penalty area:

  • The player may take penalty relief under Rule 17.1dor 2.
  • Once the player puts another ball in playto take relief in this way:
    • The original ball is no longer in playand must not be played.
    • This is true even if it is then found on the coursebefore the end of the three-minute search time (see Rule 6.3b).

But if it is not known or virtually certain that the ball came to rest in a penalty area and the ball is lost, the player must take stroke-and-distance relief under Rule 18.2.

d. Relief for Ball in Penalty Area

If a player’s ball is in a penalty area, including when it is known or virtually certain to be in a penalty area even though not found, the player has these relief options, each for one penalty stroke:

(1) Stroke-and-Distance Relief. The player may play the original ball or another ball from where the previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6).

(2) Back-On-the-Line Relief. The player may drop the original ball or another ball (see Rule 14.3) in a relief area that is based on a reference line going straight back from the hole through the estimated point where the original ball last crossed the edge of the penalty area:

  • Reference Point: A point on the coursechosen by the player that is on the reference line and is farther from the hole than the estimated point (with no limit on how far back on the line):
    • In choosing this reference point, the player should indicate the point by using an object (such as a tee).
    • If the player dropsthe ball without having chosen this point, the reference point is treated as being the point on the line that is the same distance from the holeas where the dropped ball first touched the ground.
  • Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: One club-lengthbutwith these limits:
  • Limits on Location of Relief Area:

(3) Lateral Relief (Only for Red Penalty Area). When the ball last crossed the edge of a red penalty area, the player may drop the original ball or another ball in this lateral relief area (see Rule 14.3):

  • Reference Point: The estimated point where the original ball last crossed the edge of the red penalty area.
  • Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: Two club-lengthsbutwith these limits:
  • Limits on Location of Relief Area:

See Committee Procedures, Section 8; Model Local Rule B-2 (the Committee may adopt a Local Rule allowing lateral relief on the opposite side of a red penalty area at an equal distance from the hole).

e. Relief Must Be Taken from Interference by No Play Zone in Penalty Area

In each of these situations, the player must not play the ball as it lies:

(1) When Ball Is in No Play Zone in Penalty Area. The player must take penalty relief under Rule 17.1d or 17.2.

(2) When No Play Zone on Course Interferes with Stance or Swing for Ball in Penalty Area. If a player’s ball is in a penalty area, and is outside a no play zone but a no play zone (whether in an abnormal course condition or in a penalty area) interferes with his or her area of intended stance or area of intended swing, the player must either:

But there is no free relief from interference by the no play zone under (2):

  • When playing the ball as it lies would be clearly unreasonable because of something other than the no play zone(for example, when a player is unable to make a stroke because of where the ball lies in a bush), or
  • When interference exists only because the player chooses a club, type of stanceor swing, or direction of play that is clearly unreasonable under the circumstances.

For what to do when there is interference by a no play zone for a ball anywhere except in a penalty area, see Rule 16.1f.

Penalty for Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 17.1: General Penalty Under Rule 14.7a.

17.2 Options After Playing Ball from Penalty Area

a. When Ball Played from Penalty Area Comes to Rest in Same or Another Penalty Area

If a ball played from a penalty area comes to rest in the same penalty area or another penalty area, the player may play the ball as it lies (see Rule 17.1b).

Or, for one penalty stroke, the player may take relief under any of these options:

(1) Normal Relief Options. The player may take stroke-and-distance relief under Rule 17.1d(1), back-on-the-line relief under Rule 17.1d(2) or, for a red penalty area, lateral relief under Rule 17.1d(3).

Under Rule 17.1d(2) or (3), the estimated point used to determine the relief area is where the original ball last crossed the edge of the penalty area where the ball now lies.

If the player takes stroke-and-distance relief by dropping a ball in the penalty area (see Rule 14.6) and then decides not to play the dropped ball from where it comes to rest:

(2) Extra Relief Option: Playing from Where Last Stroke Made Outside a Penalty Area. Instead of using one of the normal relief options under (1), the player may choose to play the original ball or another ball from where he or she made the last stroke from outside a penalty area (see Rule 14.6).

b. When Ball Played from Penalty Area Is Lost, Out of Bounds or Unplayable Outside Penalty Area

After playing a ball from a penalty area, a player may sometimes be required or choose to take stroke-and-distance relief because the original ball is either:

If the player takes stroke-and-distance relief by dropping a ball in the penalty area (see Rule 14.6) and then decides not to play the dropped ball from where it comes to rest:

The player may directly take such relief outside the penalty area without first dropping a ball in the penalty areabut still gets a total of two penalty strokes.

Penalty for Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 17.2: General Penalty Under Rule 14.7a.

17.3 No Relief Under Other Rules for Ball in Penalty Area

When a player’s ball is in a penalty area, there is no relief for:

The player’s only relief option is to take penalty relief under Rule 17.

But when a dangerous animal condition interferes with the play of a ball in a penalty area, the player may take either free relief in the penalty area or penalty relief outside the penalty area (see Rule 16.2b(2)).

 

Rule 18 - Stroke-and-Distance Relief; Ball Lost or Out of Bounds; Provisional Ball

Purpose of Rule: Rule 18 covers taking relief under penalty of stroke and distance. When a ball is lost outside a penalty area or comes to rest out of bounds, the required progression of playing from the teeing area to the hole is broken; the player must resume that progression by playing again from where the previous stroke was made.

This Rule also covers how and when a provisional ball may be played to save time when the ball in play might have gone out of bounds or be lost outside a penalty area.

18.1 Relief Under Penalty of Stroke and Distance Allowed at Any Time

At any time, a player may take stroke-and-distance relief by adding one penalty stroke and playing the original ball or another ball from where the previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6).

The player always has this stroke-and-distance relief option:

  • No matter where the player’s ball is on the course, and
  • Even when a Rule requires the player to take relief in a certain way or to play a ball from a certain place.

Once the player puts another ball in play under penalty of stroke and distance (see Rule 14.4):

  • The original ball is no longer in playand must not be played.
  • This is true even if the original ball is then found on the coursebefore the end of the three-minute search time (see Rule 6.3b).

But this does not apply to a ball to be played from where the previous stroke was made when the player:

18.2 Ball Lost or Out of Bounds: Stroke-and-Distance Relief Must Be Taken

a. When Ball Is Lost or Out of Bounds

(1) When Ball Is Lost. A ball is lost if not found in three minutes after the player or his or her caddie begins to search for it.

If a ball is found in that time but it is uncertain whether it is the player’s ball:

  • The player must promptly attempt to identify the ball (see Rule 7.2) and is allowed a reasonable time to do so, even if that happens after the three-minute search time has ended.
  • This includes a reasonable time to get to the ball if the player is not where the ball is found.

If the player does not identify his or her ball in that reasonable time, the ball is lost.

(2) When Ball Is Out of Bounds. A ball at rest is out of bounds only when all of it is outside the boundary edge of the course.

A ball is in bounds when any part of the ball:

  • Lies on or touches the ground or anything else (such as any natural or artificial object) inside the boundary edge, or
  • Is above the boundary edge or any other part of the course.

A player may stand out of bounds to play a ball on the course.

b. What to Do When Ball Is Lost or Out of Bounds

If a ball is lost or out of bounds, the player must take stroke-and-distance relief by adding one penalty stroke and playing the original ball or another ball from where the previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6).

Exception – Player May Substitute Another Ball Under Other Rule When It Is Known or Virtually Certain What Happened to Ball: Instead of taking stroke-and-distance relief, the player may substitute another ball as allowed under a Rule that applies when his or her ball has not been found and it is known or virtually certain that the ball:

Penalty for Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 18.2: General Penalty Under Rule 14.7a.

18.3 Provisional Ball

a. When Provisional Ball Is Allowed

If a ball might be lost outside a penalty area or be out of bounds, to save time the player may play another ball provisionally under penalty of stroke and distance (see Rule 14.6).

For a ball that might be lost, this applies:

  • When the original ball has not been found and identified and is not yet lost, and
  • When a ball might be lostin a penalty area but also might be lost somewhere else on the course.

But if the player is aware that the only possible place the original ball could be lost is in a penalty area, a provisional ball is not allowed and a ball played from where the previous stroke was made becomes the player’s ball in play under penalty of stroke and distance (see Rule 18.1).

If a provisional ball itself might be lost outside a penalty area or be out of bounds:

b. Announcing Play of Provisional Ball

Before the stroke is made, the player must announce that he or she is going to play a provisional ball:

  • It is not enough for the player only to say that he or she is playing another ball or is playing again.
  • The player must use the word “provisional” or otherwise clearly indicate that he or she is playing the ball provisionally under Rule 18.3.

If the player does not announce this (even if he or she intended to play a provisional ball) and plays a ball from where the previous stroke was made, that ball is the player’s ball in play under penalty of stroke and distance (see Rule 18.1).

c. Playing Provisional Ball Until It Becomes the Ball in Play or Is Abandoned

(1) Playing Provisional Ball More Than Once. The player may continue to play the provisional ball without it losing its status as a provisional ball so long as it is played from a spot that is the same distance or farther from the hole than where the original ball is estimated to be.

This is true even if the provisional ball is played several times.

But it stops being a provisional ball when it becomes the ball in play under (2) or is abandoned under (3) and therefore becomes a wrong ball.

(2) When Provisional Ball Becomes Ball in Play. The provisional ball becomes the player’s ball in play under penalty of stroke and distance in either of these two cases:

  • When Original Ball Is Lost Anywhere on Course Except in Penalty Area or Is Out of Bounds. The original ball is no longer in play(even if it is then found on the course after the end of the three-minute search time) and is now a wrong ball that must not be played (see Rule 6.3c).
  • When Provisional Ball Is Played from Spot Nearer Hole Than Where Original Ball Is Estimated to Be. The original ball is no longer in play(even if it is then found on the course before the end of the three-minute search time or is found nearer the hole than had been estimated) and is now a wrong ball that must not be played (see Rule 6.3c).

If the player plays a provisional ball into the same general location as the original ball and is unable to identify which ball is which:

  • If only one of the balls is found on the course, that ball is treated as the provisional ballwhich is now in play.
  • If both balls are found on the course, the player must choose one of the balls to be treated as the provisional ballwhich is now in play, and the other ball is treated as lost and must not be played.

Exception – Player May Substitute Another Ball Under Other Rule When It Is Known or Virtually Certain What Happened to Ball: The player has an extra option when his or her ball has not been found and it is known or virtually certain that the ball:

When one of those Rules applies, the player may either:

(3) When Provisional Ball Must Be Abandoned. When a provisional ball has not yet become the ball in play, it must be abandoned in either of these two cases:

  • When Original Ball Is Found on Course Outside Penalty Area Before the End of the Three Minute Search Time. The player must play the original ball as it lies.
  • When Original Ball Is Found in Penalty Area or Is Known or Virtually Certain to Be in Penalty Area. The player must either play the original ball as it lies or take penalty relief under Rule 17.1d.

In either case:

Penalty for Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 18.3: General Penalty Under Rule 14.7a.

Rule 19 - Unplayable Ball

Purpose of Rule: Rule 19 covers the player’s several relief options for an unplayable ball. This allows the player to choose which option to use – normally with one penalty stroke – to get out of a difficult situation anywhere on the course (except in a penalty area).

19.1 Player May Decide to Take Unplayable Ball Relief Anywhere Except Penalty Area

A player is the only person who may decide to treat his or her ball as unplayable by taking penalty relief under Rule 19.2 or 19.3.

  • Unplayable ball relief is allowed anywhere on the courseexceptin a penalty area.
  • If a ball is unplayable in a penalty area, the player’s only relief option is to take penalty relief under Rule 17.

19.2 Relief Options for Unplayable Ball in General Area or on Putting Green

A player may take unplayable ball relief using one of the three options in Rule 19.2ab or c, in each case adding one penalty stroke.

  • The player may take stroke-and-distancerelief under Rule 19.2a even if the original ball has not been found and identified.
  • Butto take back-on-the-line relief under Rule 19.2b or lateral relief under Rule 19.2c, the player must know the spot of the original ball.

a. Stroke-and-Distance Relief

The player may play the original ball or another ball from where the previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6).

b. Back-On-the-Line Relief

The player may drop the original ball or another ball (see Rule 14.3) in a relief area that is based on a reference line going straight back from the hole through the spot of the original ball:

  • Reference Point: A point on the coursechosen by the player that is on the reference line and is farther from the hole than the spot of the original ball (with no limit on how far back on the line):
    • In choosing this point, the player should indicate the point by using an object (such as a tee).
    • If the player dropsthe ball without having chosen this point, the reference point is treated as being the point on the line that is the same distance from the hole as where the dropped ball first touched the ground.
  • Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: One club-lengthbutwith these limits:
  • Limits on Location of Relief Area:

c. Lateral Relief

The player may drop the original ball or another ball in this lateral relief area (see Rule 14.3):

Penalty for Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 19.2: General Penalty Under Rule 14.7a.

19.3 Relief Options for Unplayable Ball in Bunker

a. Normal Relief Options (One Penalty Stroke)

When a player’s ball is in a bunker:

  • The player may take unplayable ball relief for one penalty strokeunder any of the options in Rule 19.2, except that:
  • The ball must be droppedin and come to rest in a relief area in the bunker if the player takes either back-on-the-line relief (see Rule 19.2b) or lateral relief (see Rule 19.2c).

b. Extra Relief Option (Two Penalty Strokes)

As an extra relief option when a player’s ball is in a bunker, for a total of two penalty strokes, the player may take back-on-the-line relief outside the bunker under Rule 19.2b.

Penalty for Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 19.3: General Penalty Under Rule 14.7a.

Rule 20 - Resolving Rules Issues During Round; Rulings by Referee and Committee

Purpose of Rule: Rule 20 covers what players should do when they have questions about the Rules during a round, including the procedures (which differ in match play and stroke play) allowing a player to protect the right to get a ruling at a later time.

The Rule also covers the role of referees who are authorized to decide questions of fact and apply the Rules. Rulings from a referee or the Committee are binding on all players.

20.1 Resolving Rules Issues During Round

a. Players Must Avoid Unreasonable Delay

Players must not unreasonably delay play when seeking help with the Rules during a round:

b. Rules Issues in Match Play

(1) Deciding Issues by Agreement. During a round, the players in a match may agree how to decide a Rules issue:

  • The agreed outcome is conclusive even if it turns out to have been wrong under the Rules, so long as the players did not deliberately agree to ignore any Rule or penalty they knew applied (see Rule 1.3b(1)).
  • Butif a referee is assigned to the match, the referee must rule on any issue that comes to his or her attention in time and the players must follow that ruling.

In the absence of a referee, if the players do not agree or have doubt about how the Rules apply, either player may request a ruling under Rule 20.1b(2).

(2) Ruling Request Made Before Result of Match Is Final. When a player wants a referee or the Committee to decide how to apply the Rules to his or her own play or the opponent’s play, the player may make a request for a ruling.

If a referee or the Committee is not available in a reasonable time, the player may make the request for a ruling by notifying the opponent that a later ruling will be sought when a referee or the Committee becomes available.

If a player makes a request for a ruling before the result of the match is final:

  • A ruling will be given only if the request is made in time, which depends on when the player becomes aware of the facts creating the Rules issue:
    • When Player Becomes Aware of the Facts Before Either Player Starts the Final Hole of the Match. When the player becomes aware of the facts, the ruling request must be made before either player makes a stroketo begin another hole.
    • When Player Becomes Aware of the Facts During or After Completion of the Final Hole of the Match. The ruling request must be made before the result of the match is final (see Rule 3.2a(5)).
  • If the player does not make the request in this time, a ruling will not be given by a refereeor the Committee and the result of the hole(s) in question will stand even if the Rules were applied in the wrong way.

If the player requests a ruling about an earlier hole, a ruling will be given only if all three of these apply:

  • The opponentbreached Rule 3.2d(1) (giving wrong number of strokes taken) or Rule 3.2d(2) (failing to tell the player about a penalty),
  • The request is based on facts the player was not aware of before either player made a stroketo begin the hole being played or, if between holes, the hole just completed, and
  • After becoming aware of these facts, the player makes a request for a ruling in time (as set out above).

(3) Ruling Request Made After Result of Match Is Final. When a player makes a request for a ruling after the result of the match is final:

  • The Committeewill give the player a ruling only if both of these apply:
    • The request is based on facts the player was not aware of before the result of the match was final, and
    • The opponentbreached Rule 3.2d(1)(giving wrong number of strokes taken) or Rule 3.2d(2) (failing to tell the player about a penalty) and knew of the breach before the result of the match was final.
  • There is no time limit on giving such a ruling.

(4) No Right to Play Two Balls. A player who is uncertain about the right procedure in a match is not allowed to play out the hole with two balls. That procedure applies only in stroke play (see Rule 20.1c).

c. Rules Issues in Stroke Play

(1) No Right to Decide Rules Issues by Agreement. If a referee or the Committee is not available in a reasonable time to help with a Rules issue:

  • The players are encouraged to help each other in applying the Rules, butthey have no right to decide a Rules issue by agreement and any such agreement they may reach is not binding on any player, a referee or the Committee.
  • A player should raise any Rules issues with the Committeebefore returning his or her scorecard.

(2) Players Should Protect Other Players in the Competition. To protect the interests of all other players:

  • If a player knows or believes that another player has breached or might have breached the Rules and that the other player does not recognize or is ignoring this, the player should tell the other player, the player’s marker, a refereeor the Committee.
  • This should be done promptly after the player becomes aware of the issue, and no later than before the other player returns his or her scorecardunless it is not possible to do so.

If the player fails to do so, the Committee may disqualify the player under Rule 1.2a if it decides that this was serious misconduct contrary to the spirit of the game.

(3) Playing Two Balls When Uncertain What to Do. A player who is uncertain about the right procedure while playing a hole may complete the hole with two balls without penalty:

  • The player must decide to play two balls after the uncertain situation arises and before making a stroke.
  • The player should choose which ball will count if the Rules allow the procedure used for that ball, by announcing that choice to his or her markeror to another player before making a stroke.
  • If the player does not choose in time, the ball played first is treated as the ball chosen by default.
  • The player must report the facts of the situation to the Committeebefore returning the scorecard, even if the player scores the same with both balls. The player is disqualified if he or she fails to do so.
  • If the player made a strokebefore deciding to play a second ball:
    • This Rule does not apply at all and the score that counts is the score with the ball played before the player decided to play the second ball.
    • Butthe player gets no penalty for playing the second ball.

A second ball played under this Rule is not the same as a provisional ball under Rule 18.3.

(4) Committee Decision on Score for Hole. When a player plays two balls under (3), the Committee will decide the player’s score for the hole in this way:

  • The score with the ball chosen (whether by the player or by default) counts if the Rules allow the procedure used for that ball.
  • If the Rules do not allow the procedure used for that ball, the score with the other ball played counts if the Rules allow the procedure used for that other ball.
  • If the Rules do not allow the procedures used for each of the two balls, the score with the ball chosen (whether by the player or by default) counts unless there was a serious breachin playing that ball from a wrong place, in which case the score with the other ball counts.
  • If there was a serious breachin playing each ball from a wrong place, the player is disqualified.
  • All strokes with the ball that does not count (including strokesmade and any penalty strokes solely from playing that ball) do not count in the player’s score for the hole.

“Rules allow the procedure used” means that either: (a) the original ball was played as it lies and play was allowed from there, or (b) the ball that was played was put in play under the right procedure, in the right way and in the right place under the Rules.

20.2 Rulings on Issues Under the Rules

a. Rulings by Referee

referee is an official named by the Committee to decide questions of fact and apply the Rules.

referee’s ruling on the facts or how the Rules apply must be followed by the player.

See Committee Procedures, Section 6C (explaining the scope of a referee’s authority).

b. Rulings by Committee

When there is no referee to give a ruling or when a referee refers a ruling to the Committee:

If the Committee cannot reach a decision, it may refer the issue to the Rules of Golf Committee of the USGA, whose decision is final.

c. Applying “Naked Eye” Standard When Using Video Evidence

When the Committee is deciding questions of fact in making a ruling, the use of video evidence is limited by the “naked eye” standard:

  • If the facts shown on the video could not reasonably have been seen with the naked eye, that video evidence will be disregarded even if it indicates a breach of the Rules.
  • Buteven where video evidence is disregarded under the “naked eye” standard, a breach of the Rules will still be found if the player was otherwise aware of facts establishing a breach (such as where the player felt the club touch sand in a bunker even though that could not be seen by the naked eye).

d. When Wrong Rulings Will Be Corrected

If a ruling by a referee or the Committee is later found to be wrong:

  • The ruling will be corrected if possible under the Rules.
  • If it is too late to do so, the wrong ruling stands.

If a player takes an action in breach of a Rule based on a reasonable misunderstanding of a referee’s or Committee’s instruction during a round or while play is stopped under Rule 5.7a (such as lifting a ball in play when not allowed under the Rules), there is no penalty and the instruction is treated like a wrong ruling.

See Committee Procedures, Section 6C (what the Committee should do when there has been a wrong ruling).

e. Disqualifying Players After Result of Match or Competition Is Final

(1) Match Play. There is no time limit on disqualifying a player under Rule 1.2 (serious misconduct) or Rule 1.3b(1) (deliberately ignoring a known breach or penalty, or agreeing with another player to ignore any Rule or penalty they know applies).

This may be done even after the result of the match is final (see Rule 3.2a(5)).

For when the Committee will give a ruling when a request is made after the result of the match is final, see Rule 20.1b(3).

(2) Stroke Play. Normally, a penalty must not be added or corrected after a stroke-play competition has closed, which is:

  • When the result becomes final in the way set by the Committeeor,
  • In stroke-playqualifying followed by match play, when the player has teed off to start his or her first match.

But a player must be disqualified even after the competition is closed if he or she:

  • Returned a score for any hole lower than actually taken for any reason other than failing to include one or more penalty strokes that, before the competition closed, the player did not know about (see Rule 3.3b(3)),
  • Knew before the competition had closed that the returned scorecardshowed a handicap that was higher than the actual handicap, and this affected the number of handicap strokes used to adjust the player’s score (see Rule 3.3b(4)),
  • Knew before the competition had closed that he or she was in breach of any other Rule with a penalty of disqualification, or
  • Deliberately agreed with another player to ignore any Rule or penalty they knew applied (see Rule 1.3b(1)).

The Committee may also disqualify a player under Rule 1.2 (serious misconduct) after the competition has closed.

20.3 Situations Not Covered by the Rules

Any situation not covered by the Rules should be decided by the Committee:

  • Considering all the circumstances, and
  • Treating the situation in a way that is reasonable, fair and consistent with how similar situations are treated under the Rules.
Rule 21 - Other Forms of Individual Stroke Play and Match Play

Purpose of Rule: Rule 21 covers four other forms of individual play, including three forms of stroke play where scoring is different than in regular stroke play: Stableford (scoring by points awarded on each hole); Maximum Score (the score for each hole is capped at a maximum); and Par/Bogey (match play scoring used on a hole by hole basis).

21.1 Stableford

  1. Overview of Stableford

Stableford is a form of stroke play where:

  • A player’s or side’sscore for a hole is based on points awarded by comparing the player’s or side’s number of strokes (including strokes made and penalty strokes) on the hole to a fixed target score for the hole set by the Committee, and
  • The competition is won by the player or sidewho completes all rounds with the most points.

The normal Rules for stroke play in Rules 1-20 apply, as modified by these specific Rules. Rule 21.1 is written for:

  • Scratch competitions, but can be adapted for handicap competitions, and
  • Individual play, but can be adapted for competitions involving partners, as modified by Rules 22(Foursomes) and 23 (Four-Ball), and for team competitions, as modified by Rule 24.
  1. Scoring in Stableford

(1) How Points Are Awarded. Points are awarded to a player for each hole by comparing the player’s score to the fixed target score for the hole, which is par unless the Committee sets a different fixed score:

Hole Played In

Points

More than one over fixed target score or no score returned

0

One over fixed target score

1

Fixed target score

2

One under fixed target score

3

Two under fixed target score

4

Three under fixed target score

5

Four under fixed target score

6

A player who does not hole out under the Rules for any reason gets zero points for the hole.

To help pace of play, players are encouraged to stop playing a hole when their score will result in zero points.

The hole is completed when the player holes out, chooses not to do so or when his or her score will result in zero points.

(2) Score Entered for Each Hole. To meet the requirements in Rule 3.3b for entering hole scores on the scorecard:

  • If Hole Is Completed by Holing Out:
    • When Score Would Result in Points Being Awarded. The scorecardmust show the score.
    • When Score Would Result in Zero Points. The scorecardmust show either no score or any score that results in zero points being awarded.
  • If Hole Is Completed Without Holing Out. If the player does not hole outunder the Rules, the scorecard must show either no score or any score that results in zero points being awarded.

The Committee is responsible for calculating how many points the player gets on each hole and, in a handicap competition, for applying handicap strokes to the score entered for each hole before calculating the number of points.

See Committee Procedures, Section 5A(5) (the Terms of the Competition may encourage but not require players to enter the points awarded for each hole on the scorecard).

  1. Penalties in Stableford

(1) Penalties Other Than Disqualification. All penalty strokes are added to the player’s score for the hole where the breach happened, but there are three exceptions:

Exception 1 – Excess, Shared, Added or Replaced Clubs: If a player breaches Rule 4.1b (Limit of 14 Clubs; Sharing, Adding or Replacing Clubs During Round), the Committee will deduct two points (if the breach applies to only one hole) or four points (if the breach applies to two or more holes) under Rule 4.1b from the player’s total points for the round.

Exception 2 – Time of Starting: If a player breaches Rule 5.3a by (1) arriving late but within five minutes after the starting time or (2) starting early but within five minutes of the starting time (see Rule 5.3 Penalty Statement, Exceptions 1 and 2), the Committee will deduct two points from the player’s total points for the round.

Exception 3 – Unreasonable Delay: If a player breaches Rule 5.6a, the Committee will deduct one point for the first breach and an additional two points for the second breach from the player’s total points for the round. (For a third breach of Rule 5.6a, see Rule 21.1c(2).)

For each exception, the player must report the facts about the breach to the Committee before returning the scorecard so that the Committee may apply the penalty. If the player fails to do so, the player is disqualified.

See Committee Procedures, Section 8; Model Local Rule K-3 (how to adopt Pace of Play Policy in Stableford with deduction of points used in the penalties for breach).

(2) Disqualification Penalties. A player who breaches any of these four Rules is not disqualified but gets zero points for the hole where the breach happened:

If the player breaches any other Rule with a penalty of disqualification, the player is disqualified.

  1. Exception to Rule 11.2 in Stableford

Rule 11.2 does not apply in this situation:

If a player’s ball in motion needs to be holed to get one point on the hole and any person deliberately deflects or stops the ball at a time when there is no reasonable chance it can be holed, there is no penalty to that person and the player gets zero points on the hole.

  1. When Round Ends in Stableford

A player’s round ends when the player:

  • Holes outon his or her final hole (including correction of a mistake, such as under Rule 6.1 or 7b), or
  • Chooses not to hole outon the final hole or already cannot get more than zero points on the hole.

21.2 Maximum Score

  1. Overview of Maximum Score

Maximum Score is a form of stroke play where a player’s or side’s score for a hole is capped at a maximum number of strokes set by the Committee, such as two times par, a fixed number or net double bogey.

The normal Rules for stroke play in Rules 1-20 apply, as modified by these specific Rules. Rule 21.2 is written for:

  • Scratch competitions, but can be adapted for handicap competitions as well, and
  • Individual play, but can be adapted for competitions involving partners, as modified by Rules 22(Foursomes) and 23 (Four-Ball), and for team competitions, as modified by Rule 24.
  1. Scoring in Maximum Score

(1) Player’s Score on Hole. A player’s score for a hole is based on the player’s number of strokes (including strokes made and penalty strokes), except that the player will get only the maximum score even if the actual score exceeds the maximum.

A player who does not hole out under the Rules for any reason gets the maximum score for the hole.

To help pace of play, players are encouraged to stop playing a hole when their score has reached the maximum.

The hole is completed when the player holes out, chooses not to do so or when his or her score has reached the maximum.

(2) Score Entered for Each Hole. To meet the requirements in Rule 3.3b for entering hole scores on the scorecard:

  • If Hole Is Completed by Holing Out:
    • When Score Is Lower Than Maximum. The scorecardmust show the actual score.
    • When Score Is Same as or Higher Than Maximum. The scorecardmust show either no score or any score at or above the maximum.
  • If Hole Is Completed Without Holing Out. If the player does not hole outunder the Rules, the scorecard must show either no score or any score at or above the maximum.

The Committee is responsible for adjusting the player’s score to the maximum for any hole where the scorecard shows either no score or any score above the maximum and, in a handicap competition, for applying handicap strokes to the score entered for each hole.

  1. Penalties in Maximum Score

All penalties that apply in stroke play apply in Maximum Scoreexcept that a player who breaches any of these four Rules is not disqualified but gets the maximum score for the hole where the breach happened:

If the player breaches any other Rule with a penalty of disqualification, the player is disqualified.

After applying any penalty strokes, the player’s score for a hole cannot exceed the maximum score set by the Committee.

  1. Exception to Rule 11.2 in Maximum Score

Rule 11.2 does not apply in this situation:

If a player’s ball in motion needs to be holed to score one lower than the maximum score on the hole and any person deliberately deflects or stops the ball at a time when there is no reasonable chance it can be holed, there is no penalty to that person and the player gets the maximum score on the hole.

  1. When Round Ends in Maximum Score

A player’s round ends when the player:

  • Holes outon his or her final hole (including correction of a mistake, such as under Rule 6.1 or 7b), or
  • Chooses not to hole outon the final hole or already will get the maximum score on the hole.

21.3 Par/Bogey

  1. Overview of Par/Bogey

Par/Bogey is a form of stroke play that uses scoring as in match play where:

  • A player or sidewins or loses a hole by completing the hole in fewer strokes or more strokes than a fixed target score for that hole set by the Committee, and
  • The competition is won by the player or sidewith the highest total of holes won versus holes lost (that is, adding up the holes won and deducting the holes lost).

The normal Rules for stroke play in Rules 1-20 apply, as modified by these specific Rules. Rule 21.3 is written for:

  • Scratch competitions, but can be adapted for handicap competitions as well, and
  • Individual play, but can be adapted for competitions involving partners, as modified by Rules 22(Foursomes) and 23 (Four-Ball), and for team competitions, as modified by Rule 24.
  1. Scoring in Par/Bogey

(1) How Holes Are Won or Lost. Scoring is done as in match play, with holes being won or lost by comparing the player’s number of strokes (including strokes made and penalty strokes) to the fixed target score (typically par or bogey) set by the Committee:

  • If the player’s score is lower than the fixed score, the player wins the hole.
  • If the player’s score is the same as the fixed score, the hole is tied (also known as halved).
  • If the player’s score is higher than the fixed score, or no score is returned, the player loses the hole.

A player who does not hole out under the Rules for any reason loses the hole.

To help pace of play, players are encouraged to stop playing a hole when their score exceeds the fixed score (as they have lost the hole).

The hole is completed when the player holes out, chooses not to do so or when his or her score exceeds the fixed score.

(2) Score Entered for Each Hole. To meet the requirements in Rule 3.3b for entering hole scores on the