Jeremy Ellwood and Neil Tappin run through some of the Rules that golfers find confusing and help to clear up the confusion...
6 Rules Golfers Find Confusing
1) Accidental movement of ball
Many people think that there's no penalty if you accidentally move your ball. Generally, however, this isn't the case, so you must tread carefully near your ball when it is in play.
There are some scenarios in which you won't be penalised for moving your ball. For example, accidental movement on the putting green or if you move your ball when searching for it.
You also won't be penalised if you accidentally nudge the ball off a tee peg in the teeing area. This is because your ball is not yet in play on that hole.
But in most other circumstances, you will be penalised one stroke for moving your own ball when it is in play (regardless of whether the movement is accidental). You must also remember to replace the ball on its original spot before continuing.
So take particular care setting your club down behind your ball if the lie looks a bit precarious. You will be penalised if that action is deemed to have caused your ball to move.
This is perhaps one of the main Rules golfers find confusing.
2) What practice is allowed during a round?
Many golfers, perhaps choosing to err on the side of caution, think nothing is permitted during a round in the way of practice.
But Rule 5.5 confirms that you may practise chipping and putting (no bunker shots though) between holes. You are allowed to do this on or near the putting green last played or the next tee as long as you don’t unreasonably delay play.
So you can quickly have another go at that putt you just missed if no-one is waiting to play in.
This Rule applies in both stroke play and match play.
3) Finishing off in matchplay
If you knock it to two and a half feet and your opponent doesn’t concede it, you don’t have the right to tap in in match play if your opponent's ball lies further away.
This would constitute playing out of order. Although there is no penalty, your opponent could choose to ask you to replay the stroke in the correct order.
Yes, tapping in would now be encouraged in stroke play as part of the drive towards ready golf and faster rounds. But it’s not the same in match play.
4) Wiping away sand on your line on the fringe
Sand and loose soil are not defined as loose impediments under the Rules.
This means you are not allowed to brush sand away on your line on the fringe or fairway.
The only time you can do this is if that sand came to be there after your ball had come to rest. So perhaps from another player's bunker shot before you take your next shot.
In such circumstances you would be entitled to reinstate the conditions that prevailed when your ball had come to rest.
However, there is special dispensation under Rule 13.1c to wipe away sand or loose soil on the putting green only at any time, even if your ball is not on the putting green.
5) You can't putt from a wrong green
A wrong green is any green on the course other than the putting green on the hole you are playing.
On a links course, for example, two greens might lie very close together. Practically, there would be no reason why you couldn’t putt from a wrong green back to your green.
But the Rules are very clear that if your ball lies on a wrong green, or a wrong green physically interferes with your area of intended stance or swing, you must take complete relief under Rule 13.1f.
This is regardless of how close the wrong green is to your putting green and what club you intend to use.
6) Maximum available relief
Generally in golf, you must take complete relief when taking relief from a condition such that it no longer interferes with the lie of your ball or area of intended stance or swing.
However, there are two scenarios where you can take maximum available relief if complete relief is not available from an Abnormal Course Condition (ACC).
1) In a bunker, typically from an accumulation of temporary water (Rule 16.1c). The drop must be within the bunker to avoid a penalty drop outside back on line:
This means you can drop where the water is shallower, or your feet would perhaps still be in it when you take your stance, if complete relief is not available.
This point must be not nearer the hole.
2) On a putting green, again typically from an accumulation of temporary water (Rule 16.1d). It is worth remembering that on the putting green, you also get relief if the temporary water is on your line.
So, it may be that you end up putting through shallower water still if complete relief is not available anywhere.
We hope that this rundown of 6 Rules golfers find confusing will help you and maybe even save you a shot or two here and there.
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
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