Golf is a game full of rules…
But before you worry about learning all of them, know that the average golfer typically encounters four situations where you will need to be knowledgeable about the rules of golf.
The four situations you will likely encounter are:
Out of Bounds
Lateral Water Hazard
First, let’s talk about out of bounds or “OB”. This is defined by the USGA as “beyond the boundaries of the course or any part of the course so marked by the committee.” Out of bounds is usually marked by white posts or a fence along the property boundaries.
What do you do if you hit a shot and your golf ball goes out of bounds?
When a ball is hit OB remember two things: stroke and distance. You lose a stroke and you lose the distance that the ball traveled.
- You have to take a penalty stroke.
- You have to play your next shot from the same spot (or as close as possible) where you hit your previous shot from.
So when you count your strokes, think of it this way…I hit my first ball OB, therefore it is one out, two in and I am playing three.
You also need to know what to do if you hit your ball onto the cart path.
So you strike a shot and it goes a bit wayward landing on the cart path. Do you have to play it from the path? Should you?
No. The cart path is an immovable obstruction so you get free relief. There is no penalty stroke to move the ball off of the path so you should do so. Playing your ball from the asphalt will damage your club.
To take free relief, find the nearest point from where your ball lies on the path to where it can be dropped on the grass that is not closer to the hole you are playing. Once you declare that spot, you receive one club length from that spot and you may drop your ball within that club length. Play continues and no penalty stroke is added to your score.
There will come a time when you hit a shot into the water.
So what do you do when that happens? First, you have to determine if this is a water hazard or a lateral water hazard.
Let me explain…
Have you noticed yellow and red stakes on the course? They are used to define hazards.
Yellow stakes (or paint) are used to define water hazards.
Red stakes (or paint) are used to define lateral water hazards.
What’s the difference?
Water hazards generally cross the fairway being played forcing the player to hit over the water. A water hazard can be a pond, lake, river, stream, bay, ocean or any other open water on the course, including ditches and drainage ditches.
When your ball enters an area that is marked with yellow, you have 3 options to choose from.
- You may play your ball as it lies with no penalty stroke.
- You may play your ball from the position you played your original shot from, taking a one stroke penalty.
- You may drop your ball on a line from where it crossed the hazard, keeping it in line with the pin as far back as you wish, taking a one stroke penalty.
A lateral water hazard is a water hazard running parallel to the fairway. The distinction is that lateral water hazards are those which you cannot drop a ball behind should your ball land in it.
When your ball enters an area that is marked with red, you have 5 options to choose from.
- You may play your ball as it lies with no penalty stroke. (same as a water hazard)
- You may play your ball from the position you played your original shot from, taking a one stroke penalty. (same as a water hazard)
- You may drop your ball on a line from where it crossed the hazard, keeping it in line with the pin as far back as you wish, taking a one stroke penalty. (same as a water hazard)
- You may drop your ball two club lengths from where your ball entered the hazard, no closer to the hole, taking a one stroke penalty.
- You may take a drop on the opposite side of the lateral hazard (if applicable). Your drop must be the same distance from the hole as where your shot originally entered the hazard. You may take a drop on the line from the correct point as far back on that line as you wish and in line with the pin, taking a one stroke penalty.
An easy way to remember this rule is yellow is three and red is five.
So that’s it…the four situations you will likely come up against where you need to know the proper rules of golf.
For more information about the rules of golf visit www.usga.org/rules.
You can also post your questions or comments here.