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7 Rules of Golf You HAVE to Know

7 Rules of Golf You HAVE to Know

Golf is one of those games where the letter of the law matters. You don’t want to go out on the course and have no idea what the rules are. In fact, without an understanding of some of the basic rules of golf, you will struggle to find common ground with a host of golfers.

The rules of golf that govern the United States and Mexico are compiled by the USGA and allow all of us to play with consistent rules in competitive play.

I hope that the person or persons who taught you how to play this great sport left some impression of the rules of golf with you. If not, here is a list of 7 golf rules you must know when on the course. 

1. Play the Ball As It Lies – USGA Rule 9

The general gist of this rule is that wherever the ball comes to rest, you must play the ball from that spot. If wind or water moves your ball, then you must play the ball from the new spot. However, if a ball at rest is moved by anyone or any outside influence before you take your stroke, then the ball must be placed in its original spot. 

2. Free Relief from Loose and Movable Obstructions – USGA Rule 15

The player may take free relief when loose natural impediments and artificial objects are interfering with play. However, if in the process of moving loose impediments, your ball moves, then you must incur a penalty.

3. Free Relief from Abnormal Course Conditions – USGA Rule 16

Free relief is allowed when abnormal course conditions interfere with your right to play your ball. One example of this could be standing water on the fairway, bunker, or green. Ground under repair and animal holes also qualify for this relief. Lastly, dangerous animal conditions are included, such as snakes, stinging bees, alligators, bears, etc.

4. Unplayable Lie – USGA Rules 19

A player is allowed to declare his ball unplayable in its current lie but must access a one-stroke penalty. Once you declare a lie unplayable, you have three options: drop a ball where you played your previous shot (if that was on the tee, you can tee it up again), drop a ball within two club lengths of where your shot came to rest no closer to the hole or drop a ball any distance being the unplayable lie, keeping that spot between you and the hole. 

One bit of clarification is that if you are declaring an unplayable lie in a bunker, you must drop the ball back in the bunker and still take a one-stroke penalty.

5. Repairing the Putting Green – USGA Rule 13

A player may repair damage on the putting green without penalty by taking reasonable actions to restore the putting green to its original conditions, but only by using their hand, foot, other body parts, tee, club, or repair tool without unreasonably delaying play.

6. Ball Lost or Out of Bounds – USGA Rule 18

A ball is considered lost if it is not found within three minutes of the caddie or the player beginning a search. 

A ball is considered out of bounds when the entire ball is outside of the boundary edge of the course. 

When your ball is lost or out of bounds, you must take a stroke and distance relief by adding one penalty stroke and playing the original ball (or another ball if lost) from where the previous stroke was made. 

7. Don’t Touch the Sand! – USGA Rule 12

Touching the sand in the bunker can cause you to trigger a penalty. Before making a stroke in a bunker, you can not deliberately touch sand in the bunker with a hand, club, rake, or another object. You can not touch sand in the bunker with a club in the area right in front of or right behind the ball. You can not touch the bunker with a club on your backswing. And you can not touch the bunker with a club during a practice swing. 

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