The 10 Most Misunderstood Golf Rules

The Rules of GolfMost avid golfers pride themselves on knowing the Rules of Golf, yet many times golfers have a different interpretation of the Rules and how to handle a specific situation.  Ron Kaspriske at shares a list of the 10 Most Misunderstood Rules and the correct ruling behind these myths.

1. MYTH: A golfer who is off the green must play a shot before a golfer who is on the green.

FACT: The player farthest from the hole, regardless of position, is always entitled to play first. So if a golfer has 50-foot putt while another golfer is facing a 5-yard chip, the golfer on the green is entitled to play first. Note, there is no penalty for playing out of order. However, in match play, you can be made to replay your shot by your opponent if you don’t wait your turn.

2. MYTH: A ball that is touched and falls off the tee after it has been addressed counts as a stroke.

FACT: In most cases, it doesn’t count as a stroke and the ball should be re-teed without penalty. It counts as a stroke if the ball already was in play (if you whiffed on your first attempt, for example), or if you were making a stroke at the time the ball fell off the tee.

3. MYTH: In a scramble or other team format, you can stand on or close to an extension of your partner’s line of putt while he makes a stroke.

FACT: No one on your side, including caddies, can intentionally stand on or close to an extension of the line of putt during a stroke. Intentionally is the key word. If someone on your side was standing there inadvertently, there would be no penalty.

4. MYTH: If you hit a ball into a water hazard, you can hit a provisional ball before going to search for the original.

FACT: If you’re virtually certain your ball is in a water hazard, you can’t hit a provisional. The next shot you hit is considered a ball in play (plus add a penalty stroke). If you hit a ball in a hazard, proceed under options for Rule 26. If you think your ball could possibly be outside the hazard, then you can hit the provisional. But if it turns out that your ball is in the hazard, you must abandon the provisional.

5. MYTH: If you hit a ball in a water hazard marked with yellow stakes or lines, you can always drop within two club-lengths of where the ball last crossed the hazard’s boundary.

FACT: Only hazards marked with red stakes or lines (lateral water hazard) allow you the option of dropping within two club-lengths, no closer to the hole. You have three options when a ball enters a hazard marked by yellow stakes or lines:

1. Play it as it lies.

2. Replay from the previous position.

3. Drop a ball outside the hazard behind the point where the ball last entered it, keeping that point directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped. There is no limit how far behind that point you can drop.

(The last two options come with a one-stroke penalty.)


6. MYTH: If your ball is unplayable, you’re entitled to a drop in a spot that gives you a “playable” lie.


FACT: You have three options (under penalty of one stroke) if you declare a ball unplayable:

                1. Replay the previous shot.

2. Drop a ball behind the point where the ball lay, keeping that point directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit how far behind that point the ball may be dropped.

3. Drop within two club-lengths of the spot where the ball lay, no closer to the hole. Keep in mind that none of these options guarantee that you’ll be able to play from an unfettered position.

7. MYTH: You can either remove an out-of-bounds stake, or take relief from it or any fence/wall marking the course’s boundary.

FACT: You do not get relief from anything marking the course’s boundary. Play the ball as it lies or take an unplayable lie and proceed under those options (see previous myth/fact).

8. MYTH: You can’t have a ball marked off the green unless it interferes with your ball, stance or swing.

FACT: If you think another ball might interfere with your play of a hole, you can request it be marked and lifted. Note: A ball marked in this instance CAN’T be cleaned unless it’s on the putting green.

9. MYTH: If you can’t find your ball, you can go back to the tee and play a provisional ball.

FACT: A provisional must be played before you go up to look for your ball. If you go back and play another ball, your original is lost.

10. MYTH: When your ball, stance or swing is interfered with by a cart path (immovable obstruction), you always take relief on the side farthest away from the hole.

FACT: You have to locate the nearest spot off the cart path that allows you to stand and swing without interference and is not nearer the hole than the ball’s location. That spot could be on either side of the cart path depending on your ball’s position and the stroke you intend to make for your next shot. Once you determine where that spot is, you’re allowed to drop within one club-length of that spot, no closer to the hole.

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