Category Archives: The Rules of Golf

Commenting on the Comments

George had a couple of one liners over the weekend that are worth responding to.  George, if you don’t know, is a two time Teacher of the Year (including 2011) up in Connecticut, and a long time friend.  I highly recommend going to and keeping up with his writings. 

Anyway, he made me giggle this morning when I checked out his comments from my last two blogs. 

In response to my picture of the empty driving range, he optimistically wrote: “Maybe they are all on the putting green?…”

We both know that chipping and putting practice are far more productive in terms of score for everyone’s game.  Golfers should be spending a significant amount of time on and around the greens…. 

His second one liner was in response to Calvin rolling and eating the golf ball….   “rule 18″.  that’s it.  It took me a second to realize he was referring to Calvin moving a ball at rest.  Calvin would be an ‘outside agency’ that moved a ball at rest.  The rule states that I would replace the ball (once I could get it away from him) to its original position.  No penalty. 

Now, if Calvin had a bib on and was my caddie for the day, I would replace the ball and receive a one shot penalty for having moved the ball!

Morals of the day:   CHIP AND PUTT!  And replace a ball at rest that has moved. 

Learning The Rules of Golf

I received a comment on an ‘easier way’ to learn the rules of golf. 

Susan, that’s a great question.  Yes, there are several books, some simple videos, and even some laminated placards that you can purchase that go over the basic rules. 

I particularly like “Golf Rules Quick Reference”, by Yves C. Ton-That. 

These guides can help you get ‘the basics’ down a little faster, and are well organized.

*Attend any rules seminars given at your club! 

Unfortunately, in most cases, even the quick reference book or laminated card won’t get you out of the situation you find yourself in during a tournament!  The situation you find yourself in is either not covered in the simple rules, or it’s just as hard to find and understand at that moment! 

Learning the rules is WAY EASIER than learning a language, but to truly get a grasp of the rules, the learning process is eerily similar. 

So for the golf novice, look for a simple book, laminated card, or video to help with the rules…. As you get more serious, spend some time with that little white book!


PGA professionals learn the rules in the following ways:

*We study the rules book enough to understand how it is laid out.  We learn how to use it to find specific rules

*We study and understand the definitions given at the beginning of the book. Without a clear understanding of the terminology, learning the rules will always seem complicated

*We study and try to memorize the order of the 30+ rules in the book (I say try, because I’ve remembered and forgotten the order several times… but have a basic idea as to where to find most rulings and know how to use the index at the front of the book.)

*We immerse ourselves in golf.  One of the keys to learning the rules of golf, is being around golf…   Play a lot, and listen to other golfers discuss the rules! 

Like learning a language, it’s almost impossible to dabble around and learn much.  Like learning a language, the more you memorize grammar, and immerse yourself in the ‘DOING’, the better you’ll get. 

****Most important! Don’t be afraid of the LITTLE WHITE BOOK!  Spend some time figuring out the flow of the book.  It’s extremely well written and efficient in it’s lay out. 

****REMEMBER GOOGLE!  Get on the internet and simply type in your rules question!  It’s a great resource! 

The Importance of Stroke play Comptetition

I certainly play golf for fun.  I enjoy 2-4 person teams, 2 off the first tee and ‘gimmies’.  I’m all for PLAYING GOLF FAST, and if that means taking an illegal drop from the woods rather than going back to the tee as required by the rules of golf…. terrific.  (Of course, after that illegal drop, the player is ‘out’ of that particular hole)

But I also believe it is very important for all golfers to at least experience individual stroke play competition.  
We just had the first Club Championship here at Carolina Colours Golf Club.  We’ve got quite a few golfers that have very little experience in individual stroke play competition.  In today’s world of golf, most events people play in are geared more for fun, than individual competition.  If you have a bad hole, or two or three…. other players on your team can come to your rescue….
The downside of all these FUN games, is that golfers do not learn the REAL RULES OF GOLF.  
The most educational comment I heard over the weekend was how interesting it was to have to play ‘by the rules’….  
Golfers ABSOLUTELY should know the basic rules of golf.  They should know drops.  Free drops from obstructions and ground under repair.  Penalty drops from unplayable lies and hazards. Golfers should understand the benefits of hitting a provisional for a lost ball and what can and can’t be moved around your golf ball.  
By playing in INDIVIDUAL stroke play events, golfers will inevitably be put into situations that demand a knowledge of the basic rules.  It can often be stressful and frustrating…  At first it may even seem complicated. 
The upside is a better understanding of the rules of golf.  There is nothing like being IN A SITUATION in order to learn.  
By knowing the rules, a whole new world of golf open ups for you.  You can play your fun games, you can take your ‘gimmies’ and bend the rules in your team games…. But now you KNOW what’s right and what’s wrong.  You’ll KNOW when you are ‘in’ a hole, or ‘out’ of a hole.  You’ll be able to guide your teammates and fellow competitors.  
The rules of golf are fantastic.  They are extremely well written, and more often HELP a golfer rather than penalize.  Know them.  Play in tournaments a few times a year that put the rules in play, and you’ll be better off for it!  

Answer to a Rules Question

So the bunkers are all washed out.  The rules committee has decided to play them as GROUND UNDER REPAIR, giving a player the option of a free drop, no closer to the hole, outside of the bunker.  

The question that came up was….  Do you still post your score if you are playing a course where all the bunkers are GROUND UNDER REPAIR?
It’s one of those questions that really get the rules guys at the Carolinas Golf Association excited because the answer is so….  interesting.  
The first question that Michael Dann asked me when I brought this up was, “How many bunkers did you go in?”   
You see, this is a personal decision, rather than a blanket decision as to posting your scores.  The handicap manual is fairly clear in determining when and how a golfer should post scores.  Some golfers may go into 8-12 bunkers in a round of golf.  These golfers have a great case for NOT posting their tournament round for the day…..  Most golfers will go into 4 or less of our bunkers, and therefore THE MAJORITY of the holes that they played are under normal conditions…. These golfers SHOULD post their scores.  
Great question, interesting answer.  Fortunately, our grounds crew was able to get to most of the bunkers before the weekend tournament began, so our golfers were advised to DEFINITELY post their scores…. 
So, would you ADJUST your score based on your handicap on the holes where you hit into unplayable bunkers?   
GO PLAY GOLF! Stop THINKING golf swing!  Best,  

Handicap/Rules Question

If you open up as quickly as possible after a very large storm (any old really large storm), and your bunkers are washed out to the point they are considered GROUND UNDER REPAIR….  Do you still post your scores? 

This question was posed to me just prior to opening our course on Friday. 

I contacted GOLFNET, the company that manages the handicap system for the Carolinas Golf Association. 

THEY LOVED THE QUESTION, and referred me to a specialist…. 

I’ll give you a couple of days to think about it. 

Integrity of The Game

If you didn’t see the ruling that Charles Schwartzel got yesterday at the Memorial Tournament, you should go to golf channel and check it out. 

I was very surprised that he was able to take relief from his situation.  Maybe the angle on TV was misleading, but it seemed almost impossible for him to make contact with those sprinkler heads…. 

Funny how in the world we have sayings that back up both positions:

“You never know unless you ask.”   Charles properly asked a rules official for relief.  After a lengthy discussion, he received relief.  What he did was perfectly legal, and he benefitted greatly from the relief.  Perhaps that illustrates the benefits of asking….

“If you have to ask, the answer is no.”-Arnold Palmer 
This is a saying that I learned early in my golfing life.  The idea was that golf is a game based on two major premises:  1.  Integrity  2. Play the ball as it lies

In any type of competitive round, if it is not abundantly clear that you should receive relief, then you shouldn’t.  End of story.  If your ball is on the edge of the fringe/green and you want to know if you can mark and clean your ball….  If you are not sure, don’t mark it. 

I struggle with judging others simply because I agree with both of the above statements….  I was shocked he got relief.   I am in no position to say anything about his character.  *He did hit a fantastic 2nd shot from a perfect lie!

The world is not black and white.  Of that I’m sure….


Happy Thanksgiving.  Hope you enjoyed the day as much as I did.  My wife and dog were in town which is just fantastic!  We hung out with our new friends in the Carolina Colours community, had a nice dinner and over all just enjoyed the day. 

OK, let’s talk about sandbaggers…..  I hear so many golfers talking about working their handicaps up just so they can compete in tournaments….  I just don’t get that.  I know that in many cases, the guys that are sandbagging(cheating) will walk away with the prizes, but why give away your integrity for a prize or some money?  Here’s a great quote I just read (Thanks for sending along the article, Leon)

“it amuses me that fellows who regularly rail against the welfare system should rely on what amounts to a handout system when they play golf.” -Robert Carney

Here’s the link so you can read the whole article.

Final Thought:  The handicap system was brilliantly brought about so that in golf, unlike almost any other sport, competitors of varying skill levels could compete against one another.  As soon as you begin to “work” your handicap, the entire system collapses.  YOU’RE CHEATING YOURSELF, aren’t you?  What kind of pride can you take in beating someone because you “gamed the system”…. ?  Don’t you see that you didn’t really beat them?

…. I shake my head

Why Dustin Johnson Was Correctly Penalized

I watched the end of the PGA Championship in amazement.  The drama of the last few holes with Bubba Watson, Martin Kaymer, Rory Mcilroy, Steve Elkington, Zach Johnson and Dustin Johnson was awesome….  I was routing for pretty much everyone and that was kind of fun.  Dustin’s Shot from the junk behind the 18th green was spectacular!  As much as I was ready for a playoff with Bubba and Dustin, at that point, I thought it was a great time for Dustin to win his first major….

Then the rules official came over.   I couldn’t believe what was happening!  I think I felt much like former tour professional David Feherity who was incredulous about the ruling!  It never crossed anyone’s mind that what Dustin’s ball lay in was a bunker!  

My initial reaction was that the call was bogus.  I was hoping someone would walk in and say, “enough, let’s get the three way playoff started.  That was dirt, not a bunker.”

Then I heard the response of Mark Wilson, the USGA Rules official who described the situation.  I have tremendous respect for these guys, and I believe the rules of golf are by far the best laid out rules of any sport.  Add to that fact that the integrity of the game rests with the player, and the rules officials time and time again work to help golfers make the right decision, Mr. Wilson’s comments made the situation quite clear.  Because the local rules sheet stated that all areas “intended” to be bunkers on Whistling Straits would be considered hazards and treated as such, the USGA got the call right.  

Do I think that Dustin gained an advantage by grounding his club?  No.  Do I think that he had mal intent by grounding his club?  Absolutely not!  Do I think he deserved to be in the playoff?  You bet!!!

But emotion can’t rule the day in this situation.  Not being aware is not an excuse for a rules violation.  

The rules officials aren’t looking to penalize in golf, they are simply there to make sure that all golfers play under the same conditions of competition.  Maybe it was unfortunate that anyone noticed, but in the era of T.V., nothing goes un-noticed.  Because it was brought to the attention of the officials, they were then obligated to bring it to Dustin’s attention.  

The integrity of the game must be more important than the emotion of the moment.  I don’t like it either, but I applaud the USGA rules officials, again.