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Marc Rovner
Golf is much more complex than it appears. The
object is simple: Hit the ball into the hole in the
fewest number of strokes possible. However, there
are dozens of rules that dictate the game. In fact, the
United States Golf Association's official rule book is
more than 150 pages and has rules covering course
boundaries, standards of player conduct, and
player equipment. Recreational players mustn’t
necessarily familiarize themselves with this rule
book, but should know some of the most critical
rules.
Players begin each hole from the tee box, where
they must hit between or within two club lengths
behind the appropriate markers. For instance, if a
player’s driver is three feet long, they can stand as
far back as six feet of the markers. Teeing the ball
further behind or in front of the markers can result
in a two-stroke penalty.
After hitting the ball, players need to make sure to
track where it lands. Marking it with a unique
inscription or symbol can make it easier to find and
play the right ball. This seems obvious, but it’s not
uncommon for golfers to play the wrong ball as so
many are similarly stamped. Playing the wrong ball
is a two-stroke penalty and can even disqualify a
player from winning the hole in match play.
The ball must also be played where it lies, unless it
is out of bounds or deemed unplayable. If a player
hits a ball outside of the confines of the course, they
must take a penalty stroke and hit another ball from
the same position. If the ball is found in bounds but
deemed unplayable, the player can take a penalty
stroke and drop the original or another ball in a
relief area determined by a reference point further
from the hole than the spot in which the ball
landed. The player can also take lateral relief,
meaning the ball can be placed within two club
lengths of the reference point.
Once players hit their ball onto the green, they need
to be aware of certain rules. The ball can be picked
up and cleaned, but only if the spot in which it lies
is marked with a coin or ball marker. It must then
be placed exactly where it was. Moreover, players
can repair marks on the green made from spikes,
club indentations, or balls, but cannot fix natural
surface imperfections or aeration holes.
Proper pace of play is also important to know.
Players should attempt to keep up with the group
ahead of them by walking to their ball at a
reasonable speed. Once at their ball, they should
take less than 45 seconds to select their club and
make their shot.
For official tournaments or competitions, players
are only permitted to have 14 clubs in their bag.
There is no minimum requirement or rules
regulating specific clubs that can be placed in the
bag. Players can be penalized for having more than
14 clubs, however. Another rule to know for
tournaments is that players aren’t permitted to ask
other players for tips about particular shots or
aspects of the course. Advice can only be given by
caddies or teammates

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Golf Rules Explained

  • 2. Golf is much more complex than it appears. The object is simple: Hit the ball into the hole in the fewest number of strokes possible. However, there are dozens of rules that dictate the game. In fact, the United States Golf Association's official rule book is more than 150 pages and has rules covering course boundaries, standards of player conduct, and player equipment. Recreational players mustn’t necessarily familiarize themselves with this rule book, but should know some of the most critical rules.
  • 3. Players begin each hole from the tee box, where they must hit between or within two club lengths behind the appropriate markers. For instance, if a player’s driver is three feet long, they can stand as far back as six feet of the markers. Teeing the ball further behind or in front of the markers can result in a two-stroke penalty.
  • 4. After hitting the ball, players need to make sure to track where it lands. Marking it with a unique inscription or symbol can make it easier to find and play the right ball. This seems obvious, but it’s not uncommon for golfers to play the wrong ball as so many are similarly stamped. Playing the wrong ball is a two-stroke penalty and can even disqualify a player from winning the hole in match play.
  • 5. The ball must also be played where it lies, unless it is out of bounds or deemed unplayable. If a player hits a ball outside of the confines of the course, they must take a penalty stroke and hit another ball from the same position. If the ball is found in bounds but deemed unplayable, the player can take a penalty stroke and drop the original or another ball in a relief area determined by a reference point further from the hole than the spot in which the ball landed. The player can also take lateral relief, meaning the ball can be placed within two club lengths of the reference point.
  • 6. Once players hit their ball onto the green, they need to be aware of certain rules. The ball can be picked up and cleaned, but only if the spot in which it lies is marked with a coin or ball marker. It must then be placed exactly where it was. Moreover, players can repair marks on the green made from spikes, club indentations, or balls, but cannot fix natural surface imperfections or aeration holes.
  • 7. Proper pace of play is also important to know. Players should attempt to keep up with the group ahead of them by walking to their ball at a reasonable speed. Once at their ball, they should take less than 45 seconds to select their club and make their shot.
  • 8. For official tournaments or competitions, players are only permitted to have 14 clubs in their bag. There is no minimum requirement or rules regulating specific clubs that can be placed in the bag. Players can be penalized for having more than 14 clubs, however. Another rule to know for tournaments is that players aren’t permitted to ask other players for tips about particular shots or aspects of the course. Advice can only be given by caddies or teammates