7 Simple Golf Rules Mistakes

In this video, Neil Tappin and Jezz Ellwood look at 7 rules of golf that are easily broken.

7 Simple Golf Rules Mistakes
(Image credit: Kevin Murray)

7 Simple Golf Rules Mistakes

Covering things such as out of bounds, penalty areas and wrong greens, the scenarios in this video are well worth knowing for any golfer wanting to play competition golf. If you can avoid these 7 simple rules mistakes, you'll avoid unwanted penalty shots as you compete!

7 Simple Golf Rules Mistakes

7. Red penalty areas

When you hit into a red penalty area (opens in new tab) a common misconception is players taking lateral relief from where the ball is lying. This is incorrect because players are supposed to take lateral relief from where the ball last crossed the edge of the penalty area. Therefore you and your playing partners have to be in agreement on where you think the ball last crossed.

Related: 10 Golf Rules Myths (opens in new tab)

6. Hitting the ball with a practice swing

The issue here is that there are times you can and times you can't do it. For example if the ball is on the tee, not in play, then you can get away with it as Zach Johnson did at The Masters in 2019. You also do not get penalised on the putting green either. In the general area and penalty areas however, you do get penalised. Critically you must place the ball back in the spot it was resting, you then incur a one-stroke penalty, and then carry on as normal.

zach johnson driver at the masters

(Image credit: Getty Images)

5. Identifying your ball

Many players fall afoul here. For example if you think you have found your golf ball, without properly checking it, and you then play it, then you will get penalised if it turns out it isn't your golf ball. Therefore it is imperative you positively identify your golf ball and the rules allow you to do that. You are allowed to lift the ball to identify but there are certain provisos to adhere to as well. The first one is there must be a genuine need for you to pick the ball up. Next you must mark the golf ball (opens in new tab) before lifting it and finally you must put the golf ball back as close to the exact spot as possible. If the ball is caked in mud or something, you are only allowed to clean it to the extent necessary to be able to see your identification marks.

4. Out of bounds stakes

Hypothetically if your ball is in bounds but your swing or path is hindered by an out of bounds marker post, you would think you could move the post in the same manner as yellow or red stakes. But this is not the case because white stakes are defined as a boundary object, just like a fence or railings. As such you are not allowed to move it.

Related - Rules of Golf: Out of Bounds

3. Playing from a wrong green

The rules make very clear that you must take relief from a wrong green whether your golf ball is on it or you are standing on it. Also remember, you must take full relief too regardless of how close the other green is or how much you want to play the shot.

2. Two-club lateral relief

In many unplayable scenarios, the two club-length lateral relief option is often a good choice but there are some crucial things to remember. First of course you must be no nearer the hole and the two club-length relief zone is in an arc around your golf ball essentially. Then when it comes to dropping, the problem often comes when the ball doesn't stay within the marked out area. Under the old rules if the ball kept moving from outside the relief area then that was fine. But in the new rules this is no longer the case. The ball now must land and stay in the relief area. If this happens you must then re-drop.

Related - Golf Rules Explained: Provisional Ball (opens in new tab)

1. Out of bounds

Many people think if they hit a ball out of bounds, they can just take a simple lateral drop and get on with the hole and whilst that may be okay in an informal game, it isn't in competition. Unless you have played a provisional there is only one option here and that is to go back and play the shot again. That being said there is sometimes a local rule which some clubs adopt. This rule allows the player to take a drop (opens in new tab) in line with where the ball lies in the out of bounds. The cost is a two-stroke penalty but it does mean the ball can dropped in the fairway too so this could be a good local rule to know about.

Sam Tremlett
Senior Staff Writer

A golfer for most of his life, Sam is a Senior Staff Writer for Golf Monthly. 

Working with golf gear and equipment over the last five years, Sam has quickly built outstanding knowledge and expertise on golf products ranging from drivers, to balls, to shoes. 

He also loves to test golf apparel especially if it a piece that can be used just about anywhere!

As a result he has always been the one family and friends come to for buying advice and tips.

He is a graduate of Swansea University where he studied History and American Studies, and he has been a part of the Golf Monthly team since December 2017. He also previously worked for World Soccer and Rugby World magazines.

Sam now spends most of his time testing and looking after golf gear content for the website. He also oversees all Tour player content as well. 

Unfortunately, Sam is not a member of any club at the moment but regularly gets out on the golf course to keep up the facade of having a handicap of five.