The Rules we break every day

Here's a selection of the Rules of Golf we tend to overlook or ignore and which can cost us strokes or even the match.

Bob Warters's picture
Tue, 25 Apr 2006

The Rules we break every day

Deep rough – play it as it lies

At the risk of sounding like that schoolteacher, forever reminding you to do your homework, we thought it an appropriate time to check on the Rules of Golf and perhaps jog your memories on the ones we tend to forget.

In almost every round most of us break at least one Rule of Golf but we tend to dismiss it as irrelevant or gloss over it to avoid confrontation.

Playing in a social game recently, I mentioned to one of the guys in the opposing greensome that he shouldn’t be standing beyond the line of his partner’s putt during the stroke (Rule 14.2b) to watch any succeeding borrow or break in the ball’s path.

The way he looked at me indicated that I was being a ‘jobsworth’ and, leaving the green, I apologised to avoid any ill-feeling even though I pointed out that in competition it would be either loss of hole or a two stroke penalty.

It got me thinking that we’re all perhaps a little lax when it comes to playing by the Rules even if we play in the spirit of the laws of the game.

Here’s a handful of Rules we can all trip up on:

You carry more than 14 clubs

Rule 4-4 says: The player must not start a stipulated round with more than 14 clubs. You are limited to the clubs selected for that round except that if you start with fewer than 14 you may add any number provided it does not exceed 14.

Moments after Ian Woosnam discovered he had an extra club

In other words: Golfers are always adding new clubs for a round (I do it all the time, except in competition) but if I have a few extras in the bag during a round, I won't be able to submit my score to get my handicap adjusted or reach the next round of a matchplay competition. Most famous incident is when Ian Woosnam reached the second tee in contention for the final round of the 2001 Open Championship to discover he had two drivers and a total of 15 clubs in his bag.

Penalty: Two strokes for each hole you play with more than 14 clubs, with a maximum penalty of four strokes in strokeplay. Deduct one hole for each hole played with more than 14 clubs (maximum of two holes).

You hit a provisional ball when your ball has, most likely, landed in a water hazard.

Rule 27-2 says: If a ball may be lost outside a water hazard (including a lateral water hazard) or may be out-of-bounds, to save time a player may play another ball provisionally.

In other words: You can’t play a provisional ball solely because you believe the original ball might be lost in a water hazard. If you do, the second ball is not a provisional; it is in play and you incur a stroke penalty. If a ball enter a water hazard you can hit from the original spot but that ball becomes the one in play and you can’t elect to drop near the hazard. You can't re-load and then decide what works best for you. If your original ball is outside of the hazard line, pick it up.

Penalty: Two strokes in stroke play and loss of hole in a match.

You improve your lie

Rule13-1 says: The ball must be played as it lies.

In other words: Lifting the ball out of a sand-filled divot (okay as long as procedure is acceptable under preferred lies Rule), teeing it up in the rough or moving your ball away from a fence or other immovable obstruction is against the Rules.

Penalty: Two strokes in stroke play and loss of hole in a match.

Paul Eales takes a correct drop – from shoulder height

You ask for or give advice

Rule 8-1 says: During a stipulated round, a player must not: (a) give advice to anyone in the competition playing on the course other than their partner or (b) ask for advice from anyone other than their partner (or either of their caddies).

In other words: "I’m thinking it’s a 6-iron but with this wind direction it could be a 5-iron. What did you hit?" or "This putt looks right to left but on this green I’ve found most are straight." Asking for or offering advice that could affect the way a player executes a shot (even if it’s disinformation)is against the Rules unless it comes from a caddie or partner. Even offering swing tips before a shot to a suffering opponent could be construed as ‘advice’ so keep them to yourself. However, the law-makers have ruled that sharing general information (e.g. ‘is that flagstick at the front or back of the green?’)is acceptable as the pin’s location is public knowledge.

Penalty: Two stroke for each offence in strokeplay; loss of hole in a match.

You take an incorrect drop from a staked tree

Rule 24-2b says: "The player must lift the ball and drop it (from shoulder height) without penalty within one club length of and not nearer hole than the nearest point of relief"

In other words: The nearest point of relief, isn’t necessarily the nicest point of relief. Chances are you hit your shot off the fairway and you get a free drop from the condition. Take your punishment and play to the rules even if you don’t fancy the resultant lie.

Penalty: Two strokes in strokeplay or loss of hole in matchplay.

Tell on the forum about the Rules you most often see broken.