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Rules of Golf


For a beginner, the following pages present some basic points to remember. It is a good habit to carry a rule book in your golf bag for any situation that may arise on the course. You can buy one from your local golf shop for a couple of dollars.

Order of Play

The player who with the lowest score on the previous hole has “the honor” (the right to play first) on the next hole. Once play of a hole is underway, the player whose ball is farthest from the hole plays first. In match play, if you play out of turn your opponent may ask you to replay in the correct order. This must be stated before any other shot is played by anyone. When playing from the tee, you must tee your ball between the markers or a little behind them — but not more than two club lengths behind the tee markers.

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Playing The Ball

Identifying Your Ball — you may mark and lift your ball in order to identify it anywhere except in a hazard. However, you must tell your opponent or fellow competitor before doing so and you may not clean it except to the extent necessary to identify it.
Striking the Ball — For a stroke to be considered to have been played, the player must have had the intent to strike the ball. Likewise, if you intend to strike the ball and you miss, that IS a stroke. You may not improve the area in which you intend to make a swing. When tree limbs or weeds are in your way they cannot be moved except to fairly take your stance.

Playing a Wrong Ball — there is never a penalty if you play a wrong ball from a hazard. If you have done so, you must then play the proper ball from the hazard. Outside a hazard, in match play, if you play a ball that is not yours, you lose the hole. In stroke play, if you play a ball that is not yours, there is a two-stroke penalty. You must then play out the hole with your own ball. If you do not do so, you are disqualified.

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Match Play

Match Play is when you play the game by holes. If you win a hole over your opponent you are 1 up. When you have won more points than there are holes remaining you have won the match. As a beginner, you will probably enjoy match play. Your score is not relevant and by a quirk of nature, you may just beat that pro!
More Details — If you are 3 up with 2 holes to play, you have won 3 and 2. This is the oldest form of play and still the most popular in the United Kingdom. Your total score for the round is irrelevant. The general penalty in match play for a violation of the rules is the loss of one hole. In match play, if your ball strikes your opponent, their caddie or their equipment, you have the option of replaying the shot before anything else happens.

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Stroke Play

Stroke Play is sometimes referred to as medal play. The player who finishes the round in the fewest strokes is the winner in stroke play. If you have 94 and your opponent has 97, you are the winner. The ball must be played into each and every hole. There are no gimmies in proper stroke play. The general penalty in stroke play for a violation of the rules is two strokes.

When keeping score in stroke play, you keep your opponent’s score and your opponent keeps yours. Be sure the scores are properly recorded at the end of each hole. This will eliminate problems at the end of the round. Be sure to sign and attest the scorecard at the end of play.

In stroke play, there is no penalty if your ball strikes your opponent, their caddie or their equipment and the ball is played as it lies.

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Player’s Responsibilities

You are allowed no more than fourteen clubs. Except in special circumstances, you must use the same ball for the entire hole. If you have cut your ball during the play of a hole and wish to change it, you must first ask your opponent for permission to do so.

During the play of a hole, you may not hit any practice shots. You may practice putting between the play of two holes so long as you are not delaying play. This always causes confusion because such putting between holes is not permitted on the PGA Tour.

During a round, you may not ask anyone except your caddie or your partner for advice as to how to hit a shot. You may ask for information about the Rules or the fixed position of hazards or the flagstick. Example: It is okay to ask, “Is the hole cut in the back of the green?” It is not okay to ask your opponent, “Do you think I should use a 7 iron?” Likewise, it is not permissible to offer advice to your opponent.

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The Putting Green & The Flagstick

Your ball is considered to be on the green if any part of it is touching the green. You may brush away leaves and other loose Impediments that are on your line of putt with your hand or a club. You are not allowed to use a cap or towel to do this.Ball marks or old hole plugs should be repaired but damage from shoes or spikes cannot be repaired until play of the hole is finished.

You may mark your ball on a green by putting a coin or other marker behind it when you want to pick it up to clean or get it out of another player’s way.
If your ball is off the green, there is no penalty if you play and your ball strikes the flagstick, provided no one is holding the flagstick. If your ball is on the green, do not putt with the flagstick in the hole. Either remove the flagstick from the hole or ask another player to hold it and remove it after you have struck your putt. If you putt and your ball hits the flagstick when it is in the hole, in match play you lose the hole. In stroke play, you must add two penalty strokes to your score for the hole.

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Relief: Lifting & Dropping The Ball

You must put a ball marker like a coin behind your ball if you are going to lift the ball. When you drop a ball, stand erect, hold your arm out straight and drop it. If anyone else’s ball interferes with your swing or is in your line of putt, you may have it marked and lifted. If you believe your ball is in a position to help your opponent you may mark and lift.

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Relief: Hazards & Obstructions

When You Are in a Hazard — A hazard is any bunker or water hazard. In a hazard, you may not touch the sand, the ground or the water with your club before or during your backswing.

In a hazard, you may not remove loose impediments which are natural items like as leaves, twigs, stumps, nuts, etc. Obstructions are artificial objects like cigarettes, milk cartons, rakes, etc. Obstructions can be moved.

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Relief: Ball Lost or Out of Bounds

A ball is lost if it is not found within five minutes after you first begin to search for it. It is out of bounds when all of it lies out of bounds.

If your ball is lost or out of bounds, (OB) you must add one penalty stroke and replay your shot from where you last played.

If you believe your ball may be lost or out of bounds, you are allowed to play a provisional ball from where you originally played. You must declare that it is a provisional ball. This is designed to save time.

If you find your original ball you must play it — you do not have the option of playing your provisional. 

Rules of Golf
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