Hittin’ the Links is on hiatus this week, just like the PGA Tour. Instead we are going to delve into the complicated world of rules.
At the golf course, many golfers think it is fine to play without rules. It is evident among the pages of our forum just how misunderstood or unknown the USGA Rules of Golf really are (or the R&A’s, if you’re outside the USGA’s jurisdiction). Many “What’s the ruling?” or “Did I do this correctly?” threads pop up asking for advice. As golfers we enjoy helping others play by the rules. So we here at The Sand Trap thought, well, why don’t we have a column to help people learn about and understand the rules.
Let me introduce the Sand Trap Rules Quiz Number One.
Larry, Logan, Lonna, and Bob play golf on a regular basis. While it’s a friendly game Bob frequently gets upset with how the others tend to interpret the rules to their advantage. So Bob has asked The Sand Trap to referee, so to speak, this week’s round to help with the many rules questions. So come along for the ride and test your own knowledge of the rules. Here we go.
To see the answers, hover your mouse over the area between the  brackets.
One: Searching for a Ball
On her first hole of the day, Lonna hooks her drive into the rough where there are a bunch of leaves that have fallen off the nearby trees. While looking for her ball, Larry accidentally kicks it, moving it forward a few feet. Lonna, who has a $5.00 nassau going with him, calls foul and says it’s a one-stroke penalty for moving her ball. Is she correct?
Answer: [There is no penalty, but the ball has to be moved back to its original spot. While the rules differ from stroke play to match play, there would not be a penalty in either format. Rule 18]
Two: Ball on the Green Moves
Logan’s ball is resting on the green so he marks, lifts, and cleans his ball. He then replaces his ball but does not remove the mark from behind it. Just then a huge gust of wind comes along and blows his ball five feet farther away from the hole. Logan says that his ball mark is still in the correct place and moves his ball back in front of it. Bob says no way. Who is correct?
Answer: [Rule 20-4 says a ball lifted is again in play when dropped or placed, so leaving the coin behind is of no consequence. And because wind is not an outside agency, Logan should have played from where the ball came to rest after the wind moved it. Decision 18-1/12. His penalty in stroke play is 2 strokes, in match play loss of hole. Rule 20-7]
Three: Club Me
On the next hole, Bob hits his drive into a gigantic fairway bunker. He is unsure of his yardage so he takes three clubs into the bunker with him until he can ascertain which one he will need. Once he decides on a club he sits the other two clubs in the sand next to him. Lonna calls out and says he has grounded his club in a hazard and therefore incurs a two-stroke penalty. Bob disagrees. Who is correct?
Answer: [Bob is correct there is no penalty as long as he was not testing the condition of the hazard by setting his clubs down. Exception 1 Rule 13-4]
Four: What if I Don’t Want To?
Play moves on to the seventh hole where Larry hits a huge slice and his ball ends up on the fifth green. Since nearest relief puts Larry in an awkward lie he decides to play his next shot from the putting surface. Bob tells Larry he has to take relief, but Larry replies that you never have to take relief. Who is correct?
Answer: [Bob is right again. In this situation Larry must take relief, one club length from the nearest point of relief, no closer to the hole. Rule 25-3b]
Five: A Stroke’s a Stroke
This rules fiasco continues on the ninth hole where Lonna is getting ready to tee off. On her backswing the head of her driver goes flying off. Unable to stop herself she still swings at the ball and misses. Logan, between fits of laughter, points out that she still made a swing at the ball and so now lies two on the tee. Lonna thinks this is unfair. Does she lie two?
Answer: [No Lonna does not lie two on the tee. A stroke is defined as “the forward movement of the club…”. Since a shaft by itself is not a club she never made a stroke. Decision 14/2 and Rule 4-1a]
Six: Maybe I Read Your Mind
On the 12th, Bob and Logan hit their balls into the fairway within a few inches of each other. Bob lifts his ball to get it out of Larry’s way. Larry says that’s illegal because he hadn’t asked Bob to do it yet. Bob disagrees saying Larry would have had to ask him eventually. What’s the ruling?
Answer: [Sorry Bob it is you that is wrong this time. Rule 22-2 states that you can only lift your ball if you are asked to do so. One stroke penalty.]
Seven: To Tee or Not To Tee
Well poor Larry is having a bad day and it only gets worse as the crew moves on to the 15th hole. Larry winds up with his driver and takes a mighty cut at the ball but unfortunately misses badly. In his embarrassment for his miss he accidentally knocks the ball off the tee while addressing it for a follow up stroke. He retees but is quickly told by Bob he is now hitting three because he made his ball move. Larry cries foul saying you can accidentally knock he ball off the tee without a penalty stroke. Who is correct?
Answer: [Well unfortunately for Larry, when he made the first stroke he officially put his ball into play. Therefore, when he knocked his ball off the tee on the next attempt he is deemed to have made his ball move while addressing it. One stroke penalty, but at least he gets to put the ball back onto the tee. Decision 11-3/1]
Eight: The Divots
We move onward and on the very next hole Lonna hits her second shot from the fairway and because she is a conscientious golfer replaces her divot and a couple others left behind by less caring golfers. When she gets up to where she thought her ball went it is nowhere in sight. She is then forced to go back to where she hit the last shot and replay it. Looking to rub it in Logan also points out she improved the area where she is going to drop by fixing the other two divots and therefore incurs a two stroke penalty under Rule 13-2. Is he correct?
Answer: [No Logan is not correct. As Lonna did not know she was going to have to drop there she does not incur a penalty. Decision 13-2/4.5]
Nine: What’s My Score?
On the seventeenth hole, a par three, Larry hits his drive towards a water hazard defined by red stakes. Luckily, he finds his ball but it is inside the boundary of the hazard. He decides to play it from that spot and on his next shot duffs it into the middle of the hazard, losing it. He decides to play his next ball from the same spot from where he just played. He drops his ball as near as possible to where he hit the last shot, and it embeds. He then abandons that ball, plays another from the tee which lands on the green, and proceeds to two-putt. When asked for his score, he says “Put me down for a five.” Is he correct?
Answer: [Yeah try adding two more to that score there Larry, since you actually made a seven. You got yourself two penalty strokes big guy, one for the lost ball in the hazard and another for abandoning the dropped ball even though you never hit it. Better luck next time. Can you say blow-up hole? Decision 26-2/1]
Ten: Change Your Mind, Not Your Stance
With the blessed end in sight, these four cannot help but have another issue on the dreaded 18th hole. Bob hits his approach shot into a gaping greenside bunker. He takes his club into the trap, sets his feet and gets ready to play his third shot. Better judgment then overtakes him and he returns to the cart to get another club. He returns to the bunker smoothes out the footprints he left behind from his previous visit and digs in to finally hit his shot. Poor Larry, trying to get even on the round, explains to Bob that he has again broken a rule. Bob says Larry’s just a poor sport. Who’s right?
Answer: [Sorry again Bob, but you just broke Rule 13-4 when you smoothed out your first set of footprints. Had you just stepped into the footprints you had already made all would have been fine.]
Hopefully your own rounds are not quite so full of these types of situations but just think of how impressed your Saturday foursome will be when you know the answers if any of these do come up. Hopefully you have learned something or we have at least sparked your interest enough so that you become better acquainted with the Rules of Golf on your own. Play well and play by the rules.