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I hope no one minds if I post the 18th a few minutes early.

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 your 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; you 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 your ball in play might have gone out of bounds or be lost outside a penalty area.

Parts of Rule 18:

18.1 Relief Under Penalty of Stroke and Distance Allowed at Any Time

18.2 Ball Lost or Out of Bounds: Stroke-and-Distance Relief Must Be Taken

18.3 Provisional Ball

https://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules/rules-2019/rules-of-golf/rules-and-interpretations.html#!ruletype=pe&section=rule&rulenum=18

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Cliffs Notes:

BALL LOST or BALL OUT OF BOUNDS If their ball is out of bounds or if a player doesn't find their golf ball within three minutes of starting their search it is considered lost. The player must then play from where their previous stroke was made. One stroke penalty. (Definition & R18.2)

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Players unfamiliar with the Rules often call this Rule stupid or unfair and refuse to abide by it. They simply drop another ball in a nice patch of grass somewhere near where their ball was lost or went out of bounds.

The R&A and USGA know this. In 2019 provisions for the adoption of a Local Rule, E-5, an alternative to stroke-and-distance was introduced. I expect that the Local Rule, while not formally enacted at most courses, is widely played by many golfers.


Here’s what the Local Rule might look like:

Local Rule  - If a ball is lost or out of bounds, as an alternative to stroke-and-distance relief, Model Local Rule E-5 may be used. For instance, a player may drop a ball within two club-lengths, but not nearer the hole, of the nearest edge of the fairway at an equal distance from the hole to where the ball was believed to be lost or went out of bounds and add two penalty strokes.

This Local Rule may not be used:

     1) if a provisional ball is in play, or 
     2) for a ball in a penalty area, or 
     3) for an unplayable ball.

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Under 8E, look for E-5:

https://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules/rules-2019/rules-of-golf/rules-and-interpretations.html#!ruletype=cp&section=rule&rulenum=8&subrulenum=5

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But wait, there’s more!

Never forget, you may always replay any shot at any time and add one penalty stroke. Suppose you had a three footer that slid by the hole and rolled off the front of the green coming to rest fifty yards back down the fairway. Astonish the other players in your group by retrieving your ball, placing it back on the spot on the green and making the putt all the cost of a short walk and one penalty stroke. Then show ‘em Rule 18.1.

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Click this link to read the titles of the relevant Interpretations for Rule 18:

https://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules/rules-2019/rules-of-golf/rules-and-interpretations.html#!ruletype=interp&section=rule&rulenum=18
 

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Last of the three Penalty Relief Rules is 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).

What’s in the Rule:

19.1 Player May Decide to Take Unplayable Ball Relief Anywhere Except in Penalty Area

19.2 Relief Options for Unplayable Ball in General Area or on Putting Green

19.3 Relief Options for Unplayable Ball in Bunker

https://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules/rules-2019/rules-of-golf/rules-and-interpretations.html#!ruletype=fr&section=rule&rulenum=19

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Cliffs Notes:

For hundreds of years, other players had some say in the determination or play of an unplayable ball. However, since 1950, the player is the sole judge of the “playability” of their ball. Should you be paired up with players whose last glance at the Rules was in 1949, tell them (with a smile) to mind their own business. 

BALL UNPLAYABLE - Except in a penalty area, if a player decides their ball is unplayable they may take relief in three ways: 

   a) replay, 
   b) back-on-the-line, or 
   c) lateral. 

Each with a one stroke penalty. (R19.2)

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BALL “UNPLAYABLE” IN A BUNKER? 

If a player chooses b) back-on-the-line relief or c) lateral relief they must drop in the bunker. 

One stroke penalty. (R19.3a)

Or, new for 2019, is a fourth option, a player may take relief outside the bunker by dropping back-on-the-line. 

Two stroke penalty. (R19.3b)

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BALL “UNPLAYABLE” IN A PENALTY AREA? 

Question #1, But, but . . . what about my ball that’s “unplayable” in a penalty area?

Answer to #1, There’s no such thing as an “unplayable” ball in a penalty area, because a) the Rules say so, and b) because Rule 17's provisions for relief from penalty areas gives you all of the tools needed to deal with that ball that you cannot or don’t wish to play.

Question #2, But, but . . . my ball is “unplayable” because it lies in gopher hole in the penalty area, surely I get free relief from that, right?

Answer to #2, Nope, go back to Rule 16 which states right up front that there’s no free relief from abnormal course conditions in a penalty area. Again, Rule 17 gives you up to three remedies for that lie.

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Click this link to read the titles of the relevant Interpretations:

https://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules/rules-2019/rules-of-golf/rules-and-interpretations.html#!ruletype=interp&section=rule&rulenum=19
 

In a PGA/USGA Rules Workshop some years ago, one of the instructors, David Staebler, the USGA’s Director of Rules Education, casually suggested a way to remember the relief options for two Rules.

It’s as easy as ABC,” he said, referring to relief from red stakes (Rule 17) or an unplayable lie (Rule 19).

A is for Again (replay relief), or
B is for Back (going back-on-the-line for relief), or 
C is for Club-lengths (taking two club-lengths from the reference point for lateral relief). 

You’re welcome!
 

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Here you go, albeit a few minutes early. 😉

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.

Parts of Rule 20:

20.1 Resolving Rules Issues During Round

20.2 Rulings on Issues Under the Rules

20.3 Situations Not Covered by the Rules

https://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules/rules-2019/rules-of-golf/rules-and-interpretations.html#!ruletype=fr&section=rule&rulenum=20

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Rule 20.1 RESOLVING RULES ISSUES DURING YOUR ROUND

Let’s look at two events which we routinely encounter in both match play and stroke play: 

     1) uncertainty as to how to proceed, and 

     2) dealing with a possible Rules breach by another player. 

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1) MATCH PLAY and STROKE PLAY treat UNCERTAINTY very, very differently.

MATCH PLAY ONLY - In doubt as to how to proceed because of uncertainty about a rule or procedure? You and your opponent are permitted to come to an agreement as to how you should proceed. (R20.1b1) In doing so, you and your opponent may never agree to disregard a Rules breach or waive a penalty. (R1.3b1)

      If an agreement cannot be reached, you must make a decision and continue playing as you see best. If your opponent disagrees and wishes to request a ruling they must do so before starting the next hole. (R20.1b1)

     Or, if you don't like what your opponent is doing, you must request a ruling before starting the next hole. (R20.1b2) 

     In either case, the Committee will resolve it later. (R20.1b2)

     In match play, you may not play a "second ball." If you do, you will automatically lose the hole. (20.1b4)

https://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules/rules-2019/rules-of-golf/rules-and-interpretations.html#!ruletype=fr&section=rule&rulenum=20&subrulenum=1

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STROKE PLAY ONLY - If you are uncertain about the correct procedure while playing a hole, you may complete the hole with two balls without penalty. (Rule 20.1c3) 

If you wish for the best outcome, you MUST do four things:

     1) You MUST announce your decision to play two balls after the uncertain situation arises and before making a stroke at either ball, then

     2) You MUST announce your choice of which ball you wish to count before making a stroke at either ball, then

     3) You MUST hole out both balls, then

     4) You MUST report the facts of the situation to the Committee before returning your scorecard. 

Omit any of these three and you’ve left the outcome to chance.

https://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules/rules-2019/rules-of-golf/rules-and-interpretations.html#!ruletype=fr&section=rule&rulenum=20&subrulenum=1

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2) Another way in which MATCH PLAY and STROKE PLAY differ is the way you must react should you WITNESS A BREACH OF THE RULES by an opponent or other player.

MATCH PLAY ONLY - Do you think that your opponent might have breached a Rule? 

     You may SILENTLY disregard the breach. 
     (Remember, players may never agree to disregard a Rules breach or waive a penalty.) (R1.3b1) 

     Or, you must speak up and request a ruling before starting the next hole. (R20.1b2)

     The Committee will resolve it later. (R20.1b2) 

https://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules/rules-2019/rules-of-golf/rules-and-interpretations.html#!ruletype=fr&section=rule&rulenum=1&subrulenum=3

https://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules/rules-2019/rules-of-golf/rules-and-interpretations.html#!ruletype=fr&section=rule&rulenum=20&subrulenum=1

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STROKE PLAY ONLY - If you believe that another player has breached or might have breached a Rule and that the other player does not recognize or is ignoring this, you must promptly tell them, the marker, a referee or the Committee. (R20.1c) 

     YOU MAY NOT DISREGARD THE BREACH, if you fail to act on the breach by another player you could find yourself facing disqualification.

     It is your obligation to protect the field.

https://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules/rules-2019/rules-of-golf/rules-and-interpretations.html#!ruletype=fr&section=rule&rulenum=20&subrulenum=1

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Click this link to read the titles of the relevant Interpretations:

https://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules/rules-2019/rules-of-golf/rules-and-interpretations.html#!ruletype=interp&section=rule&rulenum=20

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Other Forms of Play (Rules 21-24)

I’ll cover Rule 23 - Four-Ball because many of us play that frequently.

Purpose of Rule: Rule 23 covers Four-Ball (played either in match play or stroke play), where partners compete as a side with each playing a separate ball. The side’s score for a hole is the lower score of the partners on that hole.

Parts of Rule 23:

23.1 Overview of Four-Ball

23.2 Scoring in Four-Ball

23.3 When Round Starts and Ends; When Hole Is Completed

23.4 One or Both Partners May Represent the Side

23.5 Player’s Actions Affecting Partner’s Play

23.6 Side’s Order of Play

23.7 Partners May Share Clubs

23.8 When Penalty Applies to One Partner Only or Applies to Both Partners

https://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules/rules-2019/rules-of-golf/rules-and-interpretations.html#!ruletype=fr&section=rule&rulenum=23

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Two important reminders on Four-Ball:

1) SCORECARD IN FOUR-BALL STROKE PLAY

The side’s gross scores for each hole must be entered on a single scorecard and, in a handicap competition, each partner’s handicap must be entered on the scorecard. And, for each hole:

The gross score of at least one partner must be entered on the scorecard.

Each score on the scorecard must be clearly identified as the score of the individual partner who made it; if this is not done, the side is disqualified.

2) PRIVILEGES AND LIMITATIONS ON PARTNERS IN FOUR-BALL 

Although each player on a side must play his or her own ball, a player may take any action concerning the partner’s ball that the partner is allowed to take before making a stroke, such as to mark the spot of the ball and lift, replace, drop and place the ball.

A player and the player’s caddie may help the partner in any way that the partner’s caddie is allowed to help (such as to give and be asked for advice and take the other actions allowed under Rule 10), but must not give any help that the partner’s caddie is not allowed to give under the Rules.

In stroke play, partners must not agree with each other to leave a ball in place on the putting green to help either of them or any other player (see Rule 15.3a).

Any action taken by the player concerning the partner’s ball or equipment is treated as having been taken by the partner.

If the player’s action would breach a Rule if taken by the partner, the partner is in breach of the Rule and gets the resulting penalty (see Rule 23.8a).

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Click here to see the Interpretations for Rule 23:

https://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules/rules-2019/rules-of-golf/rules-and-interpretations.html#!ruletype=interp&section=rule&rulenum=23

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READ UP ON THE OTHERS AS THE OCCASION ARISES:

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).

Parts of Rule 21:

21.1 Stableford

21.2 Maximum Score

21.3 Par/Bogey

21.4 Three-Ball Match Play

21.5 Other Forms of Playing Golf

https://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules/rules-2019/rules-of-golf/rules-and-interpretations.html#!ruletype=fr&section=rule&rulenum=21

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Rule 22 - Foursomes (Also Known as Alternate Shot)

Purpose of Rule: Rule 22 covers Foursomes (played either in match play or stroke play), where two partners compete together as a side by alternating in making strokes at a single ball. The Rules for this form of play are essentially the same as for individual play, except for requiring the partners to alternate in teeing off to start a hole and to play out each hole with alternate shots.

Parts of Rule 22:

22.1 Overview of Foursomes

22.2 Either Partner May Act for Side

22.3 Side Must Alternate in Making Strokes

22.4 Starting the Round

22.5 Partners May Share Clubs

https://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules/rules-2019/rules-of-golf/rules-and-interpretations.html#!ruletype=fr&section=rule&rulenum=22


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Rule 24 - Team Competitions

Purpose of Rule: Rule 24 covers team competitions (played in either match play or stroke play), where multiple players or sides compete as a team with the results of their rounds or matches combined to produce an overall team score.

Parts of Rule 24:

24.1 Overview of Team Competitions

24.2 Terms of Team Competition

24.3 Team Captain

24.4 Advice Allowed in Team Competition

https://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules/rules-2019/rules-of-golf/rules-and-interpretations.html#!ruletype=fr&section=rule&rulenum=24

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Things you can do to avoid penalties:

WHILE YOU’RE SITTING AT HOME THIS WINTER (especially this week listening to a loop of Frosty the Snowman.)

Figure out some way to remember what you may (or must) do in a couple of commonly encountered relief situations on the golf course:

LOOSE IMPEDIMENTS - such as sticks and stones and pine cones plus movable obstructions such as bunker rakes and discarded trash, Rule 15

https://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules/rules-2019/rules-of-golf/rules-and-interpretations.html#!ruletype=pe&section=rule&rulenum=15

ABNORMAL COURSE CONDITIONS - such as cart paths and temporary water, Rule 16

https://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules/rules-2019/rules-of-golf/rules-and-interpretations.html#!ruletype=pe&section=rule&rulenum=16

PENALTY AREAS - both yellow and red staked, Rule 17

https://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules/rules-2019/rules-of-golf/rules-and-interpretations.html#!ruletype=pe&section=rule&rulenum=17

LOST OR OUT OF BOUNDS - plus when and how to play a provisional ball, Rule 18

https://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules/rules-2019/rules-of-golf/rules-and-interpretations.html#!ruletype=pe&section=rule&rulenum=18

UNPLAYABLE BALL - where you can and where you can’t, Rule 19

https://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules/rules-2019/rules-of-golf/rules-and-interpretations.html#!ruletype=pe&section=rule&rulenum=19

There’s merit in knowing how to deal with these things, but perhaps more important, you should KNOW WHERE TO LOOK in the Player’s Edition of the Rules.

https://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules/rules-2019/rules-of-golf/rules-and-interpretations.html#!ruletype=pe&section=how 

Image result for rules of golf book

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Things you can do to avoid penalties, Part 2:

BEFORE YOUR ROUND

Mark all of the golf balls in your bag with a Sharpie.

Know your daily Course Handicap.

Know the Local Rules in effect at the course and the Rules for the competition.

Count your clubs before hitting your first shot on hole #1.

ONCE YOUR ROUND HAS BEGUN

If you have even the slightest bit of doubt, identify your golf ball before making a stroke.

If you think that you have a reason to pick up your ball in play, do not do so until you know exactly where and how you will have to put it back in play. (You might not like the relief.)

If you have a reason to pick up or even touch your ball in play, always mark the spot before lifting or touching the ball. (The Rules only require marking sometimes, but there’s never a penalty for marking even when not required.)

Don’t ask for or offer advice. If asked for advice, politely decline to give it. (Advice is any comment or action that is intended to influence a player in choosing a club, making a stroke, or deciding how to play.)

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Let’s finish the month with a couple of Definitions each day. These first few are about the golf course:

AREAS OF THE COURSE - The five defined areas that make up the course:

General Area - The area of the course that covers all of the course except for the other four defined areas: 

●    the teeing area of the hole the player is playing,
●    the putting green of the hole the player is playing,
●    all penalty areas, and
●    all bunkers.

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Teeing Area - The area the player must play from in starting the hole he or she is playing.
    
The teeing area is a rectangle that is two club-lengths deep where the front edge is defined by the line between the forward-most points of two tee-markers set by the Committee, and the side edges are defined by the lines back from the outside points of the tee-markers.
    
All other teeing locations on the course (whether on the same hole or any other hole) are part of the general area.

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Penalty Area - An area from which relief with a one-stroke penalty is allowed if the player’s ball comes to rest there.
        
A penalty area is:
        
●    Any body of water on the course (whether or not marked by the Committee), including a sea, lake, pond, river, ditch, surface drainage ditch or other open watercourse (even if not containing water), and
●    Any other part of the course the Committee defines as a penalty area.
    
There are two different types of penalty areas, distinguished by the color used to mark them:
        
●    Yellow penalty areas (marked with yellow lines or yellow stakes) give the player two relief options (Rules 17.1d(1) and (2)).
●    Red penalty areas (marked with red lines or red stakes) give the player an extra lateral relief option (Rule 17.1d(3)), in addition to the two relief options available for yellow penalty areas.
        
If the color of a penalty area has not been marked or indicated by the Committee, it is treated as a red penalty area.
        
The edge of a penalty area extends both up above the ground and down below the ground. This means that all ground and anything else (such as any natural or artificial object) inside the edge is part of the penalty area, whether on, above or below the surface of the ground.
        
If an object is both inside and outside the edge (such as a bridge over the penalty area, or a tree rooted inside the edge with branches extending outside the edge or vice versa), only the part of the object that is inside the edge is part of the penalty area.

The edge of a penalty area should be defined by stakes, lines or physical features:
        
•    Stakes: When defined by stakes, the edge of the penalty area is defined by the line between the outside points of the stakes at ground level, and the stakes are inside the penalty area.    
•    Lines: When defined by a painted line on the ground, the edge of the penalty area is the outside edge of the line, and the line itself is in the penalty area.
•    Physical Features: When defined by physical features (such as a beach or desert area or a retaining wall), the Committee should say how the edge of the penalty area is defined.
•    When the edge of a penalty area is defined by lines or by physical features, stakes may be used to show where the penalty area is, but they have no other meaning.
•    When the edge of a body of water is not defined by the Committee, the edge of that penalty area is defined by its natural boundaries (that is, where the ground slopes down to form the depression that can hold the water).

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Bunker - A specially prepared area of sand, which is often a hollow from which turf or soil was removed.
        
These are not part of a bunker:
        
●    A lip, wall or face at the edge of a prepared area and consisting of soil, grass, stacked turf or artificial materials,
●    Soil or any growing or attached natural object inside the edge of a prepared area (such as grass, bushes or trees),
●    Sand that has spilled over or is outside the edge of a prepared area, and
●    All other areas of sand on the course that are not inside the edge of a prepared area (such as deserts and other natural sand areas or areas sometimes referred to as waste areas).

A Committee may define a prepared area of sand as part of the general area (which means it is not a bunker) or may define a non-prepared area of sand as a bunker.
        
When a bunker is being repaired and the Committee defines the entire bunker as GUR, it is treated as part of the general area (which means it is not a bunker).

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Putting Green - The area on the hole the player is playing that is specially prepared for putting, or the Committee has defined as the putting green (such as when a temporary green is used).
                
The putting green is one of the five defined areas of the course. The putting greens for all other holes (which the player is not playing at the time) are wrong greens and part of the general area.
        
The edge of a putting green is defined by where it can be seen that the specially prepared area starts (such as where the grass has been distinctly cut to show the edge), unless the Committee defines the edge in a different way (such as by using a line or dots).
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Determining Area of Course Where Ball Lies (see Rule 2.2c)

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. 

If part of the ball is in both the general area and one of the four specific areas of the course, it is treated as lying in that specific area of the course.

If part of the ball is in two specific areas of the course, it is treated as lying in the specific area that comes first in this order:

•    penalty area,
•    bunker,
•    putting green.

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Another group of Definitions and their Interpretations.

RULE 16, in part, covers when and how you may take free relief by playing a ball from a different place, such as when you have interference by an abnormal course condition.

These conditions are not treated as part of your challenge of playing the course, and you are generally allowed free relief except in a penalty area.

You normally take relief by dropping a ball in a relief area based on the nearest point of complete relief.

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ABNORMAL COURSE CONDITION - Any of these four defined conditions:

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Animal Hole - Any hole dug in the ground by an animal, except for holes dug by animals that are also defined as loose impediments (such as worms or insects).
        
The term animal hole includes:
        
●    The loose material the animal dug out of the hole,
●    Any worn-down track or trail leading into the hole, and
●    Any area on the ground pushed up or altered as a result of the animal digging the hole underground.
    
    An animal is any living member of the animal kingdom (other than humans), including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates (such as worms, insects, spiders and crustaceans).

    Animal Hole/1 – Isolated Animal Footprint or Hoof Mark Is Not Animal Hole

    An isolated animal footprint that is not leading into an animal hole is not a hole made by an animal but rather is an irregularity of the surface from which relief without penalty is not allowed. However, when such damage is on the putting green, it may be repaired (Rule 13.1c(2) – Improvements Allowed on Putting Green).

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Ground Under Repair - Any part of the course the Committee defines to be GUR (whether by marking it or otherwise). Any defined GUR includes both:
        
All ground inside the edge of the defined area, and
        
Any grass, bush, tree or other growing or attached natural object rooted in the defined area, including any part of those objects that extends up above the ground outside the edge of the defined area (but not when such object is attached to or below the ground outside the edge of the defined area, such as a tree root that is part of a tree rooted inside the edge.)
        
GUR also includes the following things, even if the Committee does not define them as such:
        
•    Any hole made by the Committee or the maintenance staff in Setting up the course (such as a hole where a stake has been removed or the hole on a double green being used for the play of another hole), or    
•    Maintaining the course (such as a hole made in removing turf or a tree stump or laying pipelines, but not including aeration holes).    
•    Grass cuttings, leaves and any other material piled for later removal. But:
•    Any natural materials that are piled for removal are also loose impediments, and
•    Any materials left on the course that are not intended to be removed are not GUR unless the Committee has defined them as such.
•    Any animal habitat (such as a bird’s nest) that is so near a player’s ball that the player’s stroke or stance might damage it, except when the habitat has been made by animals that are defined as loose impediments (such as worms or insects).

The edge of GUR should be defined by stakes, lines or physical features:
        
•    Stakes: When defined by stakes, the edge of the GUR is defined by the line between the outside points of the stakes at ground level, and the stakes are inside the GUR.
•    Lines: When defined by a painted line on the ground, the edge of the GUR is the outside edge of the line, and the line itself is in the GUR.
•    Physical Features: When defined by physical features (such as a flower bed or a turf nursery), the Committee should say how the edge of the GUR is defined.
•    When the edge of GUR is defined by lines or physical features, stakes may be used to show where the GUR is, but they have no other meaning.

    Ground Under Repair/1 – Damage Caused by Committee or Maintenance Staff Is Not Always Ground Under Repair

    A hole made by maintenance staff is GUR even when not marked as GUR. However, not all damage caused by maintenance staff is GUR by default.

    Examples of damage that is not GUR by default include:

    A rut made by a tractor (but the Committee is justified in declaring a deep rut to be GUR). An old hole plug that is sunk below the putting green surface, but see Rule 13.1c (Improvements Allowed on Putting Green).

    Ground Under Repair/2 – Ball in Tree Rooted in Ground Under Repair Is in Ground Under Repair

    If a tree is rooted in GUR and a player’s ball is in a branch of that tree, the ball is in GUR even if the branch extends outside the defined area.

    If the player decides to take free relief under Rule 16.1 and the spot on the ground directly under where the ball lies in the tree is outside the GUR, the reference point for determining the relief area and taking relief is that spot on the ground.

    Ground Under Repair/3 – Fallen Tree or Tree Stump Is Not Always Ground Under Repair

    A fallen tree or tree stump that the Committee intends to remove, but is not in the process of being removed, is not automatically ground under repair. However, if the tree and the tree stump are in the process of being unearthed or cut up for later removal, they are “material piled for later removal” and therefore GUR.

    For example, a tree that has fallen in the general area and is still attached to the stump is not GUR. However, a player could request relief from the Committee and the Committee would be justified in declaring the area covered by the fallen tree to be GUR.

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Immovable Obstruction - Any obstruction that cannot be moved without unreasonable effort or without damaging the obstruction or the course, and otherwise does not meet the definition of a movable obstruction.
        
The Committee may define any obstruction to be an immovable obstruction, even if it meets the definition of movable obstruction.

    Immovable Obstruction/1 – Turf Around Obstruction Is Not Part of Obstruction

    Any turf that is leading to an immovable obstruction or covering an immovable obstruction, is not part of the obstruction.

    For example, a water pipe is partly underground and partly above ground. If the pipe that is underground causes the turf to be raised, the raised turf is not part of the immovable obstruction.

    Obstruction/1 – Status of Paint Dots and Paint Lines

    Although artificial objects are obstructions so long as they are not boundary objects or integral objects, paint dots and paint lines are not obstructions.

    Sometimes paint dots and lines are used for purposes other than course marking (such as indicating the front and back of putting greens). Such dots and lines are not an abnormal course condition unless the Committee declares them to be GUR (see Committee Procedures; Model Local Rule F-21).

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Temporary Water - Any temporary accumulation of water on the surface of the ground (such as puddles from rain or irrigation or an overflow from a body of water) that:
        
Is not in a penalty area, and can be seen before or after the player takes a stance (without pressing down excessively with his or her feet).
        
It is not enough for the ground to be merely wet, muddy or soft or for the water to be momentarily visible as the player steps on the ground; an accumulation of water must remain present either before or after the stance is taken.
        

Special cases:
        
●    Dew and Frost are not temporary water.
●    Snow and Natural Ice (other than frost), are either loose impediments or, when on the ground, temporary water, at the player’s option.
●    Manufactured Ice is an obstruction.

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Two more Definitions and their Interpretations. These two are ones we use frequently!


NEAREST POINT OF COMPLETE RELIEF - The reference point for taking free relief from an abnormal course condition (Rule 16.1), dangerous animal condition (Rule 16.2), wrong green (Rule 13.1f) or no play zone (Rules 16.1f and 17.1e), or in taking relief under certain Local Rules.
    
It is the estimated point where the ball would lie that is nearest to the ball’s original spot, but not nearer the hole than that spot, in the required area of the course, and where the condition does not interfere with the stroke the player would have made from the original spot if the condition was not there.
    
Estimating this reference point requires the player to identify the choice of club, stance, swing and line of play he or she would have used for that stroke.
    
The player does not need to simulate that stroke by taking an actual stance and swinging with the chosen club (but it is recommended that the player normally do this to help in making an accurate estimate).
    
The nearest point of complete relief relates solely to the particular condition from which relief is being taken and may be in a location where there is interference by something else:
    
If the player takes relief and then has interference by another condition from which relief is allowed, the player may take relief again by determining a new nearest point of complete relief from the new condition.
    
Relief must be taken separately for each condition, except that the player may take relief from both conditions at the same time (based on determining the nearest point of complete relief from both) when, having already taken relief separately from each condition, it becomes reasonable to conclude that continuing to do so will result in continued interference by one or the other.

    Nearest Point of Complete Relief/1 – Nearest Point of Complete Relief

    The nearest point of complete relief must be strictly interpreted. A player is not allowed to choose on which side of the GUR the ball will be dropped, unless there are two equidistant nearest points of complete relief. Even if one side of the GUR is fairway and the other is bushes, if the nearest point of complete relief is in the bushes, then that is the player’s nearest point of complete relief.

    Nearest Point of Complete Relief/2 – Player Does Not Follow Recommended Procedure in Determining Nearest Point of Complete Relief

    Although there is a recommended procedure for determining the nearest point of complete relief, the Rules do not require a player to determine this point when taking relief under a relevant Rule (such as when taking relief from an abnormal course condition under Rule 16.1b (Relief for Ball in General Area)). If a player does not determine a nearest point of complete relief accurately or identifies an incorrect nearest point of complete relief, the player only gets a penalty if this results in him or her dropping a ball into a relief area that does not satisfy the requirements of the Rule and the ball is then played.

    Nearest Point of Complete Relief/3 – Whether Player Has Taken Relief Incorrectly If Condition Still Interferes for Stroke with Club Not Used to Determine Nearest Point of Complete Relief

    When a player is taking relief from an abnormal course condition, he or she is taking relief only for interference that he or she had with the club, stance, swing and line of play that would have been used to play the ball from that spot. After the player has taken relief and there is no longer interference for the stroke the player would have made, any further interference is a new situation.

    For example, the player’s ball lies in heavy rough in the general area approximately 230 yards from the green. The player selects a wedge to make the next stroke and finds that his or her stance touches a line defining an area of GUR. The player determines the nearest point of complete relief and drops a ball in the prescribed relief area according to Rule 14.3b(3) (Ball Must Be Dropped in Relief Area) and Rule 16.1 (Relief from Abnormal Course Conditions).

    The ball rolls into a good lie within the relief area from where the player believes that the next stroke could be played with a 3-wood. If the player used a wedge for the next stroke there would be no interference from the GUR. However, using the 3-wood, the player again touches the line defining the GUR with his or her foot. This is a new situation and the player may play the ball as it lies or take relief for the new situation.

    Nearest Point of Complete Relief/4 – Player Determines Nearest Point of Complete Relief but Is Physically Unable to Make Intended Stroke

    The purpose of determining the nearest point of complete relief is to find a reference point in a location that is as near as possible to where the interfering condition no longer interferes. In determining the nearest point of complete relief, the player is not guaranteed a good or playable lie.

    For example, if a player is unable to make a stroke from what appears to be the required relief area as measured from the nearest point of complete relief because either the direction of play is blocked by a tree, or the player is unable to take the backswing for the intended stroke due to a bush, this does not change the fact that the identified point is the nearest point of complete relief.

    After the ball is in play, the player must then decide what type of stroke he or she will make. This stroke, which includes the choice of club, may be different than the one that would have been made from the ball’s original spot had the condition not been there.

    If it is not physically possible to drop the ball in any part of the identified relief area, the player is not allowed relief from the condition.

    Nearest Point of Complete Relief/5 – Player Physically Unable to Determine Nearest Point of Complete Relief

    If a player is physically unable to determine his or her nearest point of complete relief, it must be estimated, and the relief area is then based on the estimated point.

    For example, in taking relief under Rule 16.1, a player is physically unable to determine the nearest point of complete relief because that point is within the trunk of a tree or a boundary fence prevents the player from adopting the required stance.

    The player must estimate the nearest point of complete relief and drop a ball in the identified relief area.

    If it is not physically possible to drop the ball in the identified relief area, the player is not allowed relief under Rule 16.1.

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RELIEF AREA - The area where a player must drop a ball when taking relief under a Rule. Each relief Rule requires the player to use a specific relief area whose size and location are based on these three factors:
    
Reference Point: The point from which the size of relief area is measured.
    
Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: 

The relief area is either one or two club-lengths from the reference point, but with certain limits:
    
Limits on Location of Relief Area: 

The location of the relief area may be limited in one or more ways so that, for example:
    
It is only in certain defined areas of the course, such as only in the general area, or not in a bunker or a penalty area,
    
It is not nearer the hole than the reference point or must be outside a penalty area or a bunker from which relief is being taken, or
    
It is where there is no interference (as defined in the particular Rule) from the condition from which relief is being taken.
    
In using club-lengths to determine the size of a relief area, the player may measure directly across a ditch, hole or similar thing, and directly across or through an object (such as a tree, fence, wall, tunnel, drain or sprinkler head), but is not allowed to measure through ground that naturally slopes up and down.
 

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A single very important Definition and its relevant Interpretations.

KNOWN OR VIRTUALLY CERTAIN - The standard for deciding what happened to a player’s ball – for example, whether the ball came to rest in a penalty area, whether it moved or what caused it to move.
    
Known or virtually certain means more than just possible or probable. It means that either:
    
There is conclusive evidence that the event in question happened to the player’s ball, such as when the player or other witnesses saw it happen, or although there is a very small degree of doubt, all reasonably available information shows that it is at least 95% likely that the event in question happened. “All reasonably available information” includes all information the player knows and all other information he or she can get with reasonable effort and without unreasonable delay.

    Known or Virtually Certain/1 – Applying “Known or Virtually Certain” Standard When Ball Moves

    When it is not “known” what caused the ball to move, all reasonably available information must be considered and the evidence must be evaluated to determine if it is “virtually certain” that the player, opponent or outside influence caused the ball to move.

    Depending on the circumstances, reasonably available information may include, but is not limited to:

    The effect of any actions taken near the ball (such as movement of loose impediments, practice swings, grounding club and taking a stance),

    Time elapsed between such actions and the movement of the ball,

    The lie of the ball before it moved (such as on a fairway, perched on longer grass, on a surface imperfection or on the putting green),

    The conditions of the ground near the ball (such as the degree of slope or presence of surface irregularities, etc), and

    Wind speed and direction, rain and other weather conditions.

    Known or Virtually Certain/2 – Virtual Certainty Is Irrelevant if It Comes to Light After Three-Minute Search Expires

    Determining whether there is knowledge or virtual certainty must be based on evidence known to the player at the time the three-minute search time expires.
    
    Examples of when the player’s later findings are irrelevant include when:

    A player’s tee shot comes to rest in an area containing heavy rough and a large animal hole. After a three-minute search, it is determined that it is not known or virtually certain that the ball is in the animal hole. As the player returns to the teeing area, the ball is found in the animal hole.

    Even though the player has not yet put another ball in play, the player must take stroke-and-distance relief for a lost ball (Rule 18.2b – What to Do When Ball is Lost or Out of Bounds) since it was not known or virtually certain that the ball was in the animal hole, when the search time expired.

    A player cannot find his or her ball and believes it may have been picked up by a spectator (outside influence), but there is not enough evidence to be virtually certain of this. A short time after the three minute search time expires, a spectator is found to have the player’s ball. The player must take stroke-and-distance relief for a lost ball (Rule 18.2b) since the movement by the outside influence only became known after the search time expired.

    Known or Virtually Certain/3 – Player Unaware Ball Played by Another Player

    It must be known or virtually certain that a player’s ball has been played by another player as a wrong ball to treat it as being moved.

    For example, in stroke play, Player A and Player B hit their tee shots into the same general location. Player A finds a ball and plays it. Player B goes forward to look for his or her ball and cannot find it. After three minutes, Player B starts back to the tee to play another ball. On the way, Player B finds Player A’s ball and knows then that Player A has played his or her ball in error.

    Player A gets the general penalty for playing a wrong ball and must then play his or her own ball (Rule 6.3c). Player A’s ball was not lost even though both players searched for more than three minutes because Player A did not start searching for his or her ball; the searching was for Player B’s ball. Regarding Player B’s ball, Player B’s original ball was lost and he or she must put another ball in play under penalty of stroke and distance (Rule 18.2b), because it was not known or virtually certain when the three minute search time expired that the ball had been played by another player.

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Hey, my ball moved, or did it?

Some relevant Definitions and their Interpretations:

MOVED - When a ball at rest has left its original spot and come to rest on any other spot, and this can be seen by the naked eye (whether or not anyone actually sees it do so).
    
This applies whether the ball has gone up, down or horizontally in any direction away from its original spot.
    
If the ball only wobbles (sometimes referred to as oscillating) and stays on or returns to its original spot, the ball has not moved.

    Moved/1 – When Ball Resting on Object Has Moved

    For the purpose of deciding whether a ball must be replaced or whether a player gets a penalty, a ball is treated as having moved only if it has moved in relation to a specific part of the larger condition or object it is resting on, unless the entire object the ball is resting on has moved in relation to the ground.
    
    An example of when a ball has not moved includes when:

    A ball is resting in the fork of a tree branch and the tree branch moves, but the ball’s spot in the branch does not change.

    Examples of when a ball has moved include when:

    A ball is resting in a stationary plastic cup and the cup itself moves in relation to the ground because it is being blown by the wind.

    A ball is resting in or on a stationary motorized cart that starts to move.

    Moved/2 – Television Evidence Shows Ball at Rest Changed Position but by Amount Not Reasonably Discernible to Naked Eye

    When determining whether or not a ball at rest has moved, a player must make that judgment based on all the information reasonably available to him or her at the time, so that he or she can determine whether the ball must be replaced under the Rules. When the player’s ball has left its original position and come to rest in another place by an amount that was not reasonably discernible to the naked eye at the time, a player’s determination that the ball has not moved is conclusive, even if that determination is later shown to be incorrect through the use of sophisticated technology.

    On the other hand, if the Committee determines, based on all of the evidence it has available, that the ball changed its position by an amount that was reasonably discernible to the naked eye at the time, the ball will be determined to have moved even though no-one actually saw it move.

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NATURAL FORCES - The effects of nature such as wind, water or when something happens for no apparent reason because of the effects of gravity.

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OUTSIDE INFLUENCE - Any of these people or things that can affect what happens to a player’s ball or equipment or to the course:
    
Any person (including another player), except the player or his or her caddie or the player’s partner or opponent or any of their caddies,
    
Any animal, and any natural or artificial object or anything else (including another ball in motion), except for natural forces.

    Outside Influence/1 – Status of Air and Water When Artificially Propelled

    Although wind and water are natural forces and not outside influences, artificially propelled air and water are outside influences. Examples include:

    •    If a ball at rest on the putting green has not been lifted and replaced and is moved by air from a greenside fan, the ball must be replaced (Rule 9.6 and Rule 14.2).
    •    If a ball at rest is moved by water coming from an irrigation system, the ball must be replaced (Rule 9.6 and Rule 14.2).


**************************************************************8*****

Now that we know about the ball moving, what are we to do?

BALL MOVED BY THE PLAYER - Except on the putting green or during a search, if a player either accidentally or intentionally causes their ball in play to move or picks up their ball when not allowed by the Rules, the ball must be replaced. The penalty is one stroke. (R9.4b)

BALL MOVED ON PUTTING GREEN - If a player accidentally moves their ball or ball-marker on the putting green, the ball or ball-marker must be replaced. No penalty. (R13.1d)

BALL MOVED DURING SEARCH - If the player or anyone else accidentally moves the player’s ball while looking for it, the ball must be replaced. 44
No penalty to anyone. (R7.4)

BALL MOVED BY OUTSIDE INFLUENCE - If it is known or virtually certain that a player’s ball has been moved by someone or something else, the ball must be replaced. No penalty to anyone. (R9.6)

BALL MOVED ON ITS OWN - If a player’s ball is moved by natural forces such as wind, water or gravity, the ball must be played from its new location. No penalty. (R9.3)

 ☛ Exception: On the putting green, if the ball moves on its own after having been lifted and replaced, the player may not play the ball from the new location and the ball must be replaced. No penalty. (R13.1d2)

BALL MOVED BY ANOTHER BALL and BALL HITS ANOTHER BALL - If a player’s ball is accidentally moved by another ball or if a player’s ball accidentally hits another ball, the moved ball must be replaced. (R9.6) The ball which did the “hitting” is played as it lies. (R11.1a & b) No penalty to anyone.

 ☛ Exception: If a player’s putt hits another ball at rest on the putting green, the player’s ball must be played as it lies. (R11.1b) The moved ball must be replaced. (R9.6) The penalty to the player is two strokes. (R11.1a, Exception)

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Some “wrong thing” Definitions: 

WRONG BALL - Any ball other than the player’s:
    
●    Ball in play (whether the original ball or a substituted ball),
●    Provisional ball (before it is abandoned under Rule 18.3c), or
●    Second ball in stroke play played under Rules 14.7b or 20.1c.
    
Examples of a wrong ball are:
    
●    Another player’s ball in play.
●    A stray ball.
●    The player’s own ball that is out of bounds, has become lost or has been lifted and not yet put back in play.

    Wrong Ball/1 – Part of Wrong Ball Is Still Wrong Ball

    If a player makes a stroke at part of a stray ball that he or she mistakenly thought was the ball in play, he or she has made a stroke at a wrong ball and Rule 6.3c applies.
    
Rule 6.3 tells us what we must do if we play a wrong ball.

In match play, you lose the hole. 

In stroke play, you must locate the "right ball" and play it into the hole. Penalty is two strokes.

https://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules/rules-2019/rules-of-golf/rules-and-interpretations.html#!ruletype=fr&section=rule&rulenum=6&subrulenum=3

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WRONG PLACE - Any place on the course other than where the player is required or allowed to play his or her ball under the Rules.
    
Examples of playing from a wrong place are:

●    Playing a ball after replacing it on the wrong spot or without replacing it when required by the Rules.
●    Playing a dropped ball from outside the required relief area.    
●    Taking relief under a wrong Rule, so that the ball is dropped in and played from a place not allowed under the Rules.
●    Playing a ball from a no play zone: A part of the course where the Committee has prohibited play. A no play zone must be defined as part of either an abnormal course condition or a penalty area. or when a no play zone interferes with the player’s area of intended stance or swing.
●    Playing a ball from outside the teeing area in starting play of a hole or in trying to correct that mistake is not playing from a wrong place (see Rule 6.1b).

Rule 14.7 tells us what we must do if we play a ball from the wrong place. 

Usually, you must continue play with the ball played from the wrong place and add two penalty strokes. (Take a look at the Rule for the exception to the "usually.")

https://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules/rules-2019/rules-of-golf/rules-and-interpretations.html#!ruletype=fr&section=rule&rulenum=14&subrulenum=7

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WRONG GREEN - Any green on the course other than the putting green for the hole the player is playing. Wrong greens include:
    
•    The putting greens for all other holes that the player is not playing at the time,
•    The normal putting green for a hole where a temporary green is being used, and
•    All practice greens for putting, chipping or pitching, unless the Committee excludes them by Local Rule.
    
Wrong greens are part of the general area.

And as we know, Rule 13.1 prohibits playing a ball that lies on a wrong green. You MUST take free relief.

https://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules/rules-2019/rules-of-golf/rules-and-interpretations.html#!ruletype=fr&section=rule&rulenum=13&subrulenum=1
 

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Who's who?

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COMMITTEE - The person or group in charge of the competition or the course.

Your group of four can be a Committee, so long as you're not part of a larger competition, and enact your Local Rules. These Local Rules, however, must comply with Committee Procedures, Section 8, Model Local Rules.

https://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules/rules-2019/rules-of-golf/rules-and-interpretations.html#!ruletype=cp&section=rule&rulenum=8

REFEREE - An official named by the Committee to decide questions of fact and apply the Rules. See Committee Procedures, Section 6C (explaining the responsibilities and authority of a referee).

MARKER - In stroke play, the person responsible for entering a player’s score on the player’s scorecard and for certifying that scorecard. The marker may be another player, but not a partner. The Committee may identify who will be the player’s marker or tell the players how they may choose a marker.

OPPONENT - The person a player competes against in a match. The term opponent applies only in match play.

PARTNER - A player who competes together with another player as a side, in either match play or stroke play.

SIDE - Two or more partners competing as a single unit in a round in match play or stroke play.
    
Each set of partners is a side, whether each partner plays his or her own ball (Four-Ball) or the partners play one ball (Foursomes).
    
A side is not the same as a team. In a team competition, each team consists of players competing as individuals or as sides.

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FELLOW COMPETITOR - Here’s one won’t find in 2019. This was the term for another player in stroke play prior to 2019. Now, in 2019 and forevermore, that person is referred to as “another player.”

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The end of the month is the time to look at the back of the book. An interesting part of the Rules of Golf is a section near the back of the book called Committee Procedures.

https://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules/rules-2019/rules-of-golf/rules-and-interpretations.html#!ruletype=cp&section=rule

The Role of the Committee
   1A General Play
   1B Competitions

2 Course Marking for General Play

3 Local Rules for General Play

4 Additional Considerations for General Play

5 Before the Competition

6 During the Competition

7 After the Competition

8 Model Local Rules

9 Other Forms of Play

----------------------------------------------------

Section 8, Model Local Rules is a good spot to wander around.

https://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules/rules-2019/rules-of-golf/rules-and-interpretations.html#!ruletype=cp&section=rule&rulenum=8

Take a good look at 8L, Unauthorized Local Rules. In part it says,

While a Committee has significant authority under the Rules of Golf to adopt Local Rules to fit the particular needs of a course or competition, any Local Rules that it chooses to put in place must be consistent with the policies established in Section 8, Model Local Rules.

The Committee does not have the authority to apply penalties in a different way than stated in the Rules of Golf. 

It is inappropriate for a Committee to write an unauthorized Local Rule that waives a penalty or changes a penalty. For example, a Committee cannot change the penalty for using a non-conforming club from disqualification to the general penalty or change the general penalty for failing to replace a ball which was moved to a single stroke. 

The Committee must not impose penalties when the Rules do not impose them, for example, penalizing a player who failed to total his or her score on the scorecard in stroke play.

In addition, Committees must not write a Local Rule that goes beyond the authorized Local Rules in ways which compromise the basic principles of the Rules of Golf. As examples, allowing players to use preferred lies throughout the general area or giving free relief from divot holes in the fairway compromise the basic principle of playing the ball as it lies.

If the Committee believes that a Local Rule not covered by the policies established in Section 8 may be needed because of local abnormal conditions that interfere with fair play, it should consult the USGA directly.

-------------------

Happy New Year, my friends.  🥂

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