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Golf Course Rules

You’ve just hit your tee shot into the woods. You find it close to a tree. You can hit it, but if you do you will definitely hit your shaft against the tree possibly breaking it. You’re faced with the choice of either hitting the shot and breaking your club, or just punching out away from the tree.

That was the decision Tiger Woods faced on the 11th hole during the 2007 Masters. After Tiger Woods’ tee shot went into the woods, he found himself in just that situation. He decided to hit it and hit he did. Tiger got it out nicely and saved his par, but he did break the club.

For the rest of us, it’s not such an easy decision to make. If you break a club, you’ll have to play the rest of that round and probably a few more without it because you will have to order a replacement and that may take a couple of weeks. Tiger on the other hand would have been allowed to replace it because according to the rules — if you break a club in the course of normal play, removing or replacing a club in the bag, using a club to search for or retrieve a ball, leaning on a club while waiting to play, teeing a ball or removing a ball from the hole, or accidentally dropping a club — you can repair it or put a replacement club in your bag as long as it doesn’t unduly delay play.

“Out of Bounds” in golf is anything that is beyond the boundaries of the course as it’s marked, or any part of the course marked as out of bounds by the committee.

If out of bounds is defined by stakes or a fence, the out of bounds line is determined by the nearest inside points of the stakes or fence posts at ground level which means, if you take a string or similar object and put it against the inside edge at ground level of the stakes or posts defining out of bounds the ball has to be completely past the string to be out of bounds.

Objects that define out of bounds are not obstruction are deemed to be fixed and are themselves out of bounds and cannot be moved. This means that if your swing is interfered with by a stake marking out of bounds the stake cannot be moved without penalty.

Possibly one of the most misunderstood rules in the book is rule 26 regarding how to play your ball from a water hazard.

You’re on a par three and have to hit over water to the green. Your tee shot sails over the hazard, lands short of the green on an upslope and rolls back into the water hazard. Now what do you do? You have options. The options you have depend on what type of water hazard it is. Typically, water hazards (other than lateral water hazards) will be marked by yellow stakes. For this example, we will assume that the stakes are yellow. You have three options.

  1. Play the ball from the water hazard. Or, under penalty of one stroke:
  2. Play a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played.Or, under penalty of one stroke:
  3. 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 and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind the water hazard the ball may be dropped as long as it is in bounds.

Bob has hit his tee shot on a par three and it landed on grass covered ground that was in the middle of a bunker. He doesn’t think he can play the ball and wants to declare it unplayable. Is he allowed to do this and if he is, does he have to drop it within the bunker?

Yes, he can declare his ball unplayable anywhere on the course, except in a water hazard.

No, he doesn’t have to drop the ball inside the bunker. See Rule 28.

Recently I was playing with some friends and on the first hole after missing the green, I chipped my ball to within a foot of the hole. I didn’t want to hold anyone else up so I walked up to the flagstick, grabbed the flag with my left hand and putted the ball in with the putter in my right hand. Immediately someone asked if it was permissible to do that. I told them that yes it is permissible, provided that the ball does not strike the flagstick as it goes into the hole.

See Decision 17-1/5 of the Decisions on the Rules of Golf

Some of you who are very observant may have noticed something a little different when players on the PGA Tour are finishing a short putt. A new Decision to the Rules of Golf allows a player to make a putting stroke with his feet inadvertently positioned on an extension of the line of putt behind the ball. Players will often do this to avoid standing on another player’s line of putt. Players will no longer be penalized.

See Decision 16-1e/2 of the Decisions on the Rules of Golf

Through the Green

There are many rulings that depend on whether your ball is through the green or not. For example, if your ball is embedded in a closely mown area through the green, it may be lifted. If your ball is embedded in a hazard, you aren’t allowed to lift it. What does the term through the green mean?

Through the Green Is:

  1. Everything that is in bounds on the golf course, except the teeing area and the putting green of the hole being played
  2. And all hazards.


I have been asked by many people if it is now allowable to use distance measuring devices in golf tournaments.

Due to a recent change in the decision concerning the use of distance measuring devices, with approval of the committee, golfers are allowed to use them as long as the device tells only distance and don’t measure elevation change or anything else that might affect the play.

While we request appropriate golf attire for all guests visiting Pelican Hill® Golf Club, Resort guests exclusively using the driving range are permitted to wear street clothes as well.