Sea N Air Men's Golf Club Rules of Golf

This page updated 25 January 2012.

The United States Golf Association (USGA), in conjunction with The Royal and Ancient (R&A) in St. Andrews, Scotland, writes, interprets and maintains the Rules of Golf to guard the tradition and integrity of the game. The two organizations are joint authors and owners of The Rules of Golf and Decisions on the Rules of Golf.

One of our Club's founding objectives is to learn and promote the rules and etiquette of golf among members.

A Guide to Golf Etiquette
The game of golf is one for those who can maintain a calm, cool and collected manner. Maximum enjoyment for all can be achieved when players adhere to a high standard of rules and etiquette.


All weekday "games" and monthly tournaments managed by the Sea N Air Men's Golf Club shall be governed by the USGA Rules of Golf unless modified by our local rules (see below).

CLICK HERE to visit the Rules section at the USGA website.

Any questions concerning the Rule of Golf should addressed to our Rules Chairman: John Gilliland, 619.435.5513

Local Rules
(Adopted 3/23/2011)

The following specimen local rules in Appendix I, Part B of the USGA Rules of Golf  are in effect: (Some clarifications of the rules - in parenthesis - are included)

1.  Water Hazard ~ Provisional Ball:  If there is doubt whether a ball is in or is lost in the water hazard near the teeing area or the green of hole  #12 or the creek in front of hole #14,  the player may play another ball provisionally under any of the applicable options in Rule 26-1.  (Rule 26-1 describes the options of dropping a ball)

If the original ball is found outside the water hazard, the player must continue play with it. (e.g. If the player finds the original ball in an "Unplayable Lie", the player cannot play the provisional ball, because the provisional must be abandoned when the original ball is found.)

If the original ball is found in the water hazard, the player may either play the original ball as it lies or continue with the ball played provisionally under Rule 26-1.

If the original ball is not found or identified within the five-minute search period, the player must continue with the ball played provisionally.

4. a. Embedded Ball:  Through the green, (e.g. Not in a hazard) a ball that is embedded in its own pitch-mark in the ground may be lifted, without penalty, cleaned and dropped as near as possible to where it lay but not nearer the hole.  The ball when dropped must first strike a part of the course through the green.

Exceptions: 1. A player may not take relief under this Local Rule if the ball is embedded in sand in an area that is not closely mown.    2. A player may not take relief under this Local Rule if it is clearly unreasonable for him to make a stroke because of interference by anything other than the condition covered by this Local Rule.  (e.g. A player cannot take embedded-ball relief to move away from a tree.)

9. Distance-Measuring Devices:  For all play at this course, a player may obtain distance information by using a device that measures distance only.  If, during a stipulated round, a player uses a distance-measuring device that is designed to gauge or measure other conditions that might affect his play (e.g. gradient, wind speed, temperature, etc.), the player is in breach of Rule 14-3, for which the penalty is disqualification, regardless of whether any such additional function is actually used.

John Gilliland ~
Rules Chairman Sea'N Air Men's Golf Club

When in doubt: "Play the ball as it lies
and the course as you find it."

ADDRESSING THE BALL - Rule 13 - You may ground the club lightly behind the ball when addressing the ball but you cannot press the club down behind the ball. Rule 13-2.   You cannot  press down on the area behind the ball with your foot.  You can bend or break branches in order to take a stance but you cannot improve the line of play or the area of your swing. You can hit and break branches in the process of making a stroke but not in making a practice swing. (Gray area ~" In some cases, the knocking down of a number of leaves would not improve the area of the intended swing . . ." Decision 13-2/22 )

In a hazard, you cannot ground your club. You can touch the grass, but when the grass is compressed to the point where it will support the weight of the club, it is grounded.  Decision 13-4/8.   You can also touch the grass with a practice swing but not to test the condition of the hazard - Decision 13-4/4. You cannot touch the sand or earth-wall of a bunker (even on your backswing) - Decision13-4/31. However, you can lean on a rake and you can lay other clubs in the bunker.  Decision 13-4/0.5  Breaching Rule 13 is a two-stroke  penalty.

HITTING THE WRONG BALL  Rule 15-3 - If a player makes a stroke at a wrong ball, he incurs a two-stroke penalty.  The player must correct his mistake by playing the correct ball. If he fails to correct his mistake before making a stroke on the next teeing ground, or in the case of the last hole of the round, fails to declare his intention to correct his mistake before leaving the putting green, he is disqualified.  If the wrong-ball belongs to another player, its owner must place a ball on the spot from where the wrong ball was first played and proceed with no penalty.  You are allowed to identify your ball in a hazard (water or sand bunker).  If a ball is moved during removable of loose impediments or sand in order to identify the ball there is no penalty but the ball must be re-covered. Rule 12-1 & Decision 12-1/2

MOVED BALLRule 18 - To be qualified as a "moved ball", the ball must actually change position, not just "rock".  If a ball moves without the influence of the player, after coming to rest, it should be played from its new position without penalty. There is no penalty if a ball moves during removal of a movable obstruction but it needs to be replaced as closely as possible where it will come to rest not nearer the hole. (A loose impediment is not an obstruction ~ a rake in a bunker is an example of a movable obstruction.)

MOVING THE BALL A player receives a one-stroke penalty if he causes the ball to move or if a ball in motion is deflected by the player's or his partner's equipment or if the ball moves when removing a loose impediment such as leaves, sticks, or rocks ~ If moved, the ball should be replaced. (You cannot remove loose impediments, such as grass or dirt, from the ball itself) If you are on the green and hit another ball on the green with your putted ball, it is a two-stroke penalty. Oddly, in match play, there is no penalty.  Rule 19-5a

If a player causes his ball to move on the putting green, it should be replaced with a one-stroke penalty.  A new decision of golf allows movement of the ball if it moves in the process of marking or replacing it. Rule 18-6   If a ball rests against a rake in a bunker and moves when the rake or other obstruction is removed, the ball needs to be placed, with no penalty, as near as possible to its original position where it can remain at rest, no nearer to the hole, in the bunker, without pressing it into the sand.

If a player accidentally steps on or drives over his ball in the rough and moves it, there is a one-stroke penalty. The ball must be placed within one club length in a similar lie to the original position. 18-2a

LIFTING, DROPPING AND PLACING -Rule 20 - The position of a ball to be lifted and replaced,  must be marked before lifting, on or off the green, or the player incurs a one-stroke penalty.   A ball dropped from an immovable obstruction and abnormal ground conditions is not going to be replaced and marking is recommended but not required.  (The ball can be marked with anything, including a leaf or stick ~ even on the green. Decision 20-1/16 )

 If a penalty is involved (i.e. out of a lateral hazard) you need to drop within two club lengths of the nearest relief.  If no penalty is involved (Relief from an obstruction such as a road) you need to drop within one club length of  nearest relief. (You get swing relief and one club length.) If a ball when dropped is not recoverable, another ball may be substituted.

When taking nearest relief from an obstruction, the specific club with which the player would have made his next stroke - if the obstruction were not there - must be used for measuring the one-length. (Take a stance with the club in your hands that provides complete relief, mark the spot at the end of the club, and drop within one club length of the marked spot.  When taking a penalty stroke and measuring the two-club lengths for an unplayable lie, any club may be used for measuring.

When dropping from a hazard or obstruction, if the ball strikes a person or equipment, or comes to rest more than two club lengths from where it first struck the course or if it rolls nearer the hole or back into or out of a hazard, it must be redropped.  If this occurs twice, it may be placed where last dropped and loose impediments can be removed before the placement.

When dropping  from an unplayable lie, (See UNPLAYABLE LIE below) you are not allowed to redrop without penalty ~as you can when dropping from an obstruction or water hazard ~ unless, luckily perhaps, the ball rolls more than two club lengths from where it first struck the course or if it rolls closer to the hole. Think about what might happen when you drop a ball before you lift it. (Once lifted, through the green, you can't replace it without penalty except for identification.)

IMMOVABLE OBSTRUCTIONS -Rule 24 - An unmovable obstruction is a man-made item that interferes with your stance or swing and is too large to move. (Not an item ten feet away between you and the green) You can drop the ball within one club-length of the nearest relief. (A boundary fence is not an obstruction and the ball must be played as it lies or the player may invoke the unplayable lie option with a one-stroke penalty.)

 "Nearest relief" is the nearest place -not closer to the hole- you can receive relief from an obstruction. (It is not a place nearby that looks like a good place to drop!  Dropping into or out of a hazard, out-of-bounds or into casual water, is not considered nearest relief - so keep looking;  however, if nearest relief is into a bush or other nasty place then you should consider playing the ball as it lies. Decision 25-1b/2   A player may not take relief under this Rule if:  a) it is clearly unreasonable for him to make a stroke because of interference by anything other than the immovable obstruction ~  i.e. a tree.  or b) if interference by the immovable obstruction would occur only through use of an unnecessarily abnormal stance, swing or direction of play.  In a bunker, you can "Place" the ball after removing a rake. Rule 20-3.b(iii).

When a ball is in motion, equipment of any player and the flag stick can be moved without penalty. (Decision 17-1/6)

Red and Yellow water hazard stakes are moveable obstructions and can be moved. White out of bounds stakes are not considered obstructions and, hence, cannot be moved. (Unplayable lie rules apply)

A road or path to which any foreign material (i.e. gravel, concrete and wood chips)  has been applied is an unmovable obstruction and a player MAY (You don't have to) take nearest relief.  For right-handed golfers, that is normally on the left side of the  path since the ball only needs to be moved a few inches from the cart path for the player to take a stance off the path. (On a wide road with the ball on the right side of the road, the nearest relief for a right-handed golfer might be on the right side of the road.)  Again, nearest relief may be in a bush or behind a tree so think before you lift.

GROUND UNDER REPAIR- Rule 25 - You can take nearest relief from ground under repair. Ground under repair includes marked areas, material piled for removal and any hole made by a greenkeeper, even if not so marked.  Grass cuttings left on the course from a mower and mower tire tracks are not ground under repair unless marked ~ the cuttings may be played as loose impediments.

LOST/OUT OF BOUNDS- Rule 27 - . A ball is Out of Bounds when all of  it lies beyond the inside points of the out-of-bounds markers. (See "Definitions") A ball is deemed  Lost  if the player has made a stroke at a substituted ball from the place where the original ball is likely to be or if it is not found within five minutes after the player has searched for it.

If a ball is lost or has landed out of bounds, the player must drop and hit another ball from the original spot and receive a penalty - one stroke and distance. NO other options are available. (Hopefully, you played a provisional ball to save time.)

A provisional ball can only be played for a ball that may be lost outside of (Not inside) a water hazard or may be out-of-bounds.  The provisional ball - if played - becomes the ball in play if the original ball is found in a water hazard ~ even if the ball in the hazard is playable.  If the original ball is found inbounds, it is the ball in play. If the ball is found but is "Unplayable" the provisional ball must be abandoned and the "Unplayable Lie" options invoked using the original ball. (This might mean going back to the spot of the original stroke even though a provisional ball was previously played.)

WATER HAZARDS -Rule 26 - A ball is in a water hazard, when it breaks the outside plane of the line marking the hazard. (Decision 26/1) Without grounding his club and/or moving loose impediments, animal casts or other items, a player may play the ball as it lies without penalty.  (See "Addressing the Ball" for more details.)

With a one-stroke penalty, the player may: a) play a ball at the spot from which the original ball was last played. b) drop a ball behind the water hazard, keeping the point at which the original ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard directly between the hole ~ not the tee box ~ and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind the water hazard the ball may be dropped.  c) for a lateral water hazard (marked with red states), a player may drop a ball within two club lengths of the entry point on either side of the lateral water hazard. (On an equal-distance arc, not nearer the pin if on the opposite side of the hazard.)

For a water hazard (marked with yellow stakes), the ball must be played as it lies - or, with a penalty of one-stroke:  a) at the spot from which the original ball was last played, or b) on a spot on line with the hole, keeping the water hazard point of entry between that spot and the hole ~ not on line with the tee box.

If you hit a ball from behind the green back into a water hazard (marked with yellow stakes) or if your approach shot carries the lake and spins back into the lake on the green side, you can hit from the previous spot with a one-stroke penalty or go to the far side of the lake from the green and hit with a one-stroke penalty ~ you do not get to just lay it out within two-club lengths on the green-side of the lake, no nearer the hole, as you would with a lateral water hazard)

UNPLAYABLE LIE - Rule 28 - At any time, a player may (under penalty of one stroke:  a) play a ball from the spot where the ball was last played. (If you hit a ball into a bunker - let's say - ten feet in front of you and it is buried in the lip, consider declaring it an unplayable lie and return to the previous spot just ten feet away ~ of course, with a one-stroke penalty.)

If the player's ball is not in a hazard, the other two options are to: b) drop within two club lengths (with any club) or  c) go back on line with the pin as far back as necessary. If a ball is deemed unplayable in a bunker, it must be replayed from its original position or dropped in the bunker. (You cannot go back on line with the pin as you could if  the ball were not in a bunker)

Be careful when making the drop from an unplayable lie ~ if the ball comes to rest back in the previous position or another unplayable position, the player must again invoke the unplayable lie rule, incurring an additional penalty stroke (Unless, Whew!,  it happened to stop "Nearer the hole" or unless (Damn) he decides to play the recently dropped ball as it now lies.) Decision 28/3  (See LIFTING and DROPPING - above)

DOUBT AS TO PROCEDURE - In stroke play, if a competitor is doubtful of his rights or the correct procedure during the play of a hole, he may, without penalty, complete the hole with two balls and confer with the committee after completion of the round.  Decision 33-8/3 specifically restricts the play of a second ball to stroke play.

CONCESSIONS - In match play, concessions may not be declined or withdrawn;  however, if you are conceded a stroke (i.e. in a match-play situation) you must record, for handicap purposes, the most likely score.  The most likely score may not exceed net par. (USGA Handicap System p.25)

 ETIQUETTE - Golf relies on the integrity of the individual to show consideration for other players and to abide by the Rules.  All players should conduct themselves in a DISCIPLINED manner (Save loud expressions of emotion for pleasant events.), demonstrating courtesy and sportsmanship at all times.  Players should not stand close to or directly behind the ball, or directly behind the hole, when a player is about to play.

 In order to avoid damaging the hole, players should not stand too close to the hole and should not use the head of a club to remove a ball from the hole.  Players should fill divots, repair ball marks and rake bunkers.

CLICK HERE to bring up a four page, 20 question Rules of Golf Quiz produced and distributed by the SCGA. The last page contains the answers with references back to the Rule Book.

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Any questions concerning the Rule of Golf should addressed to our Rules Chairman: John Gilliland, 619.435.5513