6 Rules Most Golfers Don’t Know

Jeremy Ellwood and Neil Tappin highlight 6 Rules most golfers don't know in this article and video looking into some of golf's less well-known Rules...

Photo: Kenny Smith
(Image credit: Kenny Smith 07809 450119)

Jeremy Ellwood and Neil Tappin highlight 6 Rules most golfers don't know in this article and video looking into some of golf's less well-known Rules...

6 Rules Most Golfers Don’t Know

Many golfers know the Rules well enough for most scenarios, but here we look at 6 Rules most golfers don't know.

This might be because they're the kind of incident that crops up less often. Or it might be because misunderstandings have created confusion or misinterpretations...

Practice during a round

Many golfers think this is absolutely taboo. But while the default position is that you can't practise during a round, there is an Exception to Rule 5.5.

This allows a limited amount of practice in both strokeplay and matchplay.

You are allowed to practise your putting or chipping (but not bunker shots) on or around the green you’ve just played or the next tee or any practice green as long as you don’t unreasonably hold up play.

A very limited amount of practice is permitted during a round (Photo: Kenny Smith)
(Image credit: Kenny Smith 07809 450119)

Changing ball between holes

At club level, as long as the one-ball Rule is not in force (generally only used in professional and elite amateur events), you can always change your ball between holes even if it is not damaged (Rule 6.3a).

So you could play a hard distance ball on one hole to hit it further, then tee off with a very soft ball on the next, perhaps if it's a shorter hole with a trickier green.

Penalty for moving your ball on a practice swing

In the general area of the course, or in a penalty area, you are still penalised if you move your ball accidentally, perhaps on a practice swing. Under Rule 9.4b, you get a one-shot penalty and must then replace the ball where it was before playing.

Many golfers have perhaps got a little confused by the introduction of no penalty for accidental movement on the putting green or when searching for your ball, and think that things are now more lenient than they actually are.

There is a penalty if you accidentally move your ball on a practice swing in the general area (Photo: Kenny Smith)

There is, however, no penalty if you move your ball on a practice swing in the teeing area. This is because at this stage, the ball is not yet in play on that hole as you have not yet made a stroke at it.

Ball accidentally hits you after you have played

Under Rule 11.1a, there is now no penalty if your ball accidentally hits you after you have played – e.g., after a ricochet off a tree or bunker face.

There is probably still some lingering confusion about this because the Rule has changed twice in the last 13 years.

Some may remember Jeff Maggert's ball ricocheting back off a bunker face and hitting him in the 2003 Masters when he was in contention.

Jeff Maggert incurred a two-shot penalty when his ball hit him during the 2003 Masters. There would now be no penalty (Photo: Getty Images)
(Image credit: Getty Images)

That cost him a two-shot penalty at the time. This was then changed to one shot under the 2008 Rules revisions and then no penalty from the most recent 2019 revisions.

Ball won't stay at rest on tier in putting green

Occasionally, a ball will plug in a steep tier in a putting green, then won't remain at rest when you try to replace it after repairing the pitch mark.

In this scenario, you have two goes at replacing it (you are not allowed to push it into the putting surface) and if it won't remain at rest, you must then find the nearest point not nearer the hole where it will.

Many golfers aren't aware that on certain greens this could be some distance away and you could sometimes even end up on a better tier for the flag, depending on the slope and angle.

If your ball won't stay at rest on the green you must find the nearest spot on the green or in the general area where it will (Photo: Kenny Smith)
(Image credit: Kenny Smith 07809 450119)

Rule 14.2e also states that for a ball that won't stay at rest on the putting green, the nearest point can either be on the putting green or in the general area, so the fringe, fairway or even rough.

Too many clubs in a Stableford

Penalties in Stablefords are generally applied to the hole where a breach occurs, but not always.

If you look at Rule 21.1c, there are three Exceptions to this. The one we are concerned with here is the penalty for carrying more than 14 clubs.

In such a scenario, the penalty (two shots per hole subject to a maximum of four strokes) is actually applied via a deduction of two or four points from your overall Stableford score at the end of the round.

Shots are deducted from your overall score if you're carrying too many clubs in a Stableford (Photo: Kenny Smith)
(Image credit: Kenny Smith)

The reason it's done this way? If two strokes were added to the individual holes where the breaches occurred, and they were holes where you had failed to score anyway, you would effectively end up escaping penalty.

Jeremy Ellwood
Contributing Editor

Jeremy Ellwood has worked in the golf industry since 1993 and for Golf Monthly since 2002 when he started out as equipment editor. He is now a freelance journalist writing mainly for Golf Monthly across the whole spectrum from courses and Rules to equipment and instruction. He also edits The Golf Club Secretary Newsletter, a highly regarded trade publication for golf club secretaries and managers, and has authored or co-authored three books and written for a number of national papers including The Telegraph and The Independent. He is a senior panelist for Golf Monthly's Top 100 UK & Ireland Course Rankings and has played all of the Top 100 plus 91 of the Next 100, making him well-qualified when it comes to assessing and comparing our premier golf courses. He has now played well over 950 golf courses worldwide in 35 countries, right across the spectrum from the humblest of nine-holers in the Scottish Highlands to the very grandest of international golf resorts, but put him on a links course anywhere and he will be blissfully content.

Jezz can be contacted via Twitter - @JezzEllwoodGolf


Jeremy is currently playing...

Driver: Ping G425 LST 10.5˚ (draw setting), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 55 S shaft

3 wood: Ping G425 Max 15˚ (set to flat +1), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 65 S shaft

Hybrid: Ping G425 17˚, Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro Orange 80 S shaft

Irons 3-PW: Ping i525, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts

Wedges: Ping Glide 4.0 50˚ and 54˚, 12˚ bounce, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts

Putter: Ping Fetch 2021 model, 33in shaft (set flat 2)

Ball: Varies but mostly now TaylorMade Tour Response