Sand Trap Rules Quiz Number One

Otherwise known as “How to Break the Rules of Golf”

USGA LogoHittin’ 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.

Our Foursome

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.]

In Conclusion

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.

16 thoughts on “Sand Trap Rules Quiz Number One”

  1. I think if i actually enforced most of these rules i would have no more friends. We try to play by the rules, but for example, i have had a ball still marked move in the wind and replaced it, as have my friends.
    If i was to tell them the ball that just moved 5 feet further away was a stroke penalty they would crucify me.
    I understand the rules of golf and work hard to gradually learn them so i am not your typical “drive the tee shot off into woods then take a 1 stroke drop at woods”.
    I am not that guy.
    But a real round with a foursome like you described, it if it were real life, would me a miserable, un-fun round, official or not.

  2. We try to play by the rules, but for example, i have had a ball still marked move in the wind and replaced it, as have my friends.
    If i was to tell them the ball that just moved 5 feet further away was a stroke penalty they would crucify me.

    There is not a penalty for the wind moving the ball. The penalty described in the article above was incurred because Logan moved the ball back to its original location rather than playing it from the new location.

    This was a great article, and a great way to describe some unusual circumstances that may frequently come up!

  3. Many rules of golf exist in such detail because every once in a while some meathead finds a loophole and chooses to exploit it in order to win money or acclaim. By choosing not to golf with meatheads I avoid much of the drama associated with the rule book. It also helps not to bet money. Isn’t golf fun enough without it? 😎

  4. I think there needs to be some common-sense to these rules. I love golf and play by the rules as best I can but I agree with Shark – I would hate to play with anyone so sticky about these rules

  5. I think its a great way to teach people the rules. Mark and Shark, no disrespect, but what game are you playing, if you are NOT playing by the rules, then you are NOT playing golf.

  6. I think there needs to be some common-sense to these rules. I love golf and play by the rules as best I can but I agree with Shark – I would hate to play with anyone so sticky about these rules

    beer at the turn on me….and a free drop 😉

  7. These are basic rules. I did not add any really obscure rulings into the column. Of course noone would act this way on a course but a dry blah, blah, blah, here are the rules column would have been no fun at all to write or read. If playing by any of the rules explained here would cause you discomfort or to lose a friendship I worry for you. These rules are put in place to level the field and make golf as fair as it can be. To not use them is to not really play golf.

    In the coming weeks I will put out another column just dealing with the absolute basics of golf rules. Keep a look out.

  8. Great stuff Danny! And I’m not afraid to admit I missed a couple of the questions. After reading the answers, however, I felt dumb for not knowing the correct answer.

    I know most of the basic rules of golf, but I don’t know them well enough. That’s one of my goals for the next year or so. Like you said, they are there for a reason.

  9. Danny great article, I hope you will have others periodically. I am one of those guys that make every attempt to play by the rules. But I don’t enforce the rules on others. Golf doesn’t ask me to do that.

    But I think playing by the rules has forced me to become a better player. Now if I hit my drive OB, I am much more careful with my provisional or third shot off the tee and so on.

    But within our group we do play by the rules (as best as we can, sometimes we don’t know what the ruling should be). Between those that have agreed to play by the rules, the general agreement is that the playing partner will make rulings that best represent the interest of the rules and not the playing partner. However people have got smarter and now know how to frame the question or offer possibilities to the playing partner to best take advantage or to minimize the effect of the rule that they must comply with. All in all, I have to say following the rules by general agreement in our group has been very positive and has helped to lower everyone’s handicap.

    But anyone outside our core group that plays with us is not expected to follow the rules at all. We just enjoy playing with them and hopefully they enjoy playing with us.

  10. Danny, I neglected to say earlier that one thing that has introduced confusion on applying the rules correctly in some cases is that the rules of golf are intricately tied in with course markings.

    When hazards, out of bounds, drop zones and so on are poorly marked or local rules not listed properly on score cards, then the application of the rules becomes challenging.

    Courses must correctly identify what is what on the course and as golfers we should work together to see if this can be improved.

    Something else that I would like to see happen but am unsure how to go about it, is to see if golf courses can have some standardization on green speeds for amateurs. I think this is a big benefit to tour players in that from week to week green speeds are consistent, but this is not true for us and I know I struggle to putt consistently from week to week. Not that I am a good putter anyway!

  11. Good stuff, one small point though – you headlined the players as “our foursome” when they are clearly not!

  12. Great approach to teaching the rules Danny!
    If you play in tournaments it’s hard to be competitive if everyone is making up their own rules or ignoring those that seem irrelevant — while you’re playing by the rules.
    Those of us who play in regular tournaments frequently see a flight won by one stroke. Then, when we see who won, we may wonder if that one stroke came at the expense of a rule that was ignore.
    I agree with Jason above … the rules are complex because there are a lot of people who want to find a loophole and exploit it.
    Sergio, for example, seemed to be searching for a loophole on Sunday at the Ryder Cup when he had an unplayable lie next to the the concrete steps. His apparent attempt to exploit the rule tarnished his image as a professional for me. But, that’s just me.
    I don’t think RT Jones would’ve even considered exploiting a rule — at least not after he got serious about playing.
    Besides, what’s wrong with learning and playing by the rules? They’re part of the game and while I don’t know them all, I don’t know anyone else who does either.
    The rules can get tricky, but they can be learned and that can be fun too.
    As you mentioned, rules are part of the game. If you play golf, you play by the rules or it’s not golf.
    Again, great job Danny. Keep it up!

  13. You don’t have to be a Rules fuddy-duddy to play by the rules. All of the rules broken in those scenarios are basic to the game. Even if I’m not concerned with assessing penalties, I’ll still mention such breaches to friends when I’m playing. And 99% of the time I’m thanked for it. One friend (who has only been playing for 3 years) is even now studying the rules, and planning to attend the local USGA Rules Workshop next spring.

    Face it, if you play in an organized club, or for money, or even for beer at the 19th hole, everyone has to be on the same page, playing the same game, or it isn’t a fair match. The best possible way to do that is to play by the Rules of Golf. That lends one more benefit too. When playing with strangers, they are more likely to know what to expect from you if they see that you know what the game is about.

  14. Playing in a recent matchplay competition, I entered a sand trap with a SW and then decided to play a different shot from the sand with another club. I returned the SW to my bag and took the other club and played the shot from my same stance position in the sand. My opponent then said I had violated a rule (I can’t find it) by entering the sand with one club and then leaving it and exchanging it for another club and reentering the sand. He said, “once you enter the sand with a club, you must play that club”.

    I don’t think that is right – anyone know for sure ?

    thanks, wannaberightRay

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