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What to do...

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  • What to do...

    So, you've encountered a rules situation. How do you make sure you're correct, given the myriad of golf rules and decisions that nobody can possibly memorize.

    Here's some tips

    1) Be prepared. Have a copy of the rule book on your phone or in your bag (or both). Spend some time reviewing the rules on occasion. Despite the daunting size of the full rule book with decisions, there's really only 5 or 6 basic rules one needs to know to handle 90% of situations you will encounter.

    The majority of the complexity in the rule book comes from trying to unwind situations where proper procedure is not followed. This is what the majority of decisions are about.

    If someone challenges you on a rule, hand them the rule book and demand they show you where you're incorrect.

    2) Know where your ball lays. This is the first thing to ask yourself when encountering a rules situation. If you answer yourself with "my ball lies in a hazard" your procedures and what's allowed is vastly different than if it lies through the green. Same for if it lies in GUR, an abnormal ground condition, etc. Your first order of business is to determine if your ball is touching any feature/condition (hazard, GUR, immovable obstruction, OOB) which has special procedures.

    3) Know some basics.

    For example, how many club lengths do you get to take a relief drop? If you get free relief, it's one-club-length. If you have to pay a penalty, it's two-club-lengths.

    When can you choose an option of stroke-and-distance? Anytime, anywhere.

    When can you use an unplayable lie? Anywhere on the course, except when your ball lies in a water hazard.

    Do you drop or place? In general, if the exact spot is known, you place. If not, you drop.

    4) Determine your form of play. Obviously this one is easy, but handling of rules situations are different for stroke play and match play. If you're playing match play and you follow the stroke play procedure, you're going to incur a penalty.

    5) Do not take any other action until you decide on what you're going to do. Taking an action before you decide on the right decision can take options away from you, or cost you a penalty stroke to resolve.

    A classic example of this is relief from an immovable obstruction. Your ball is laying a cart path, so you pick it up because you know you can get relief. However, as you analyze the situation, you realize your Nearest Point of Relief is on the "bad" side of the path, in waist-high grass. Guess what? It will cost you a penalty stroke to put your ball back. Always leave your ball sitting in position until you make your decision.

    6) If in stroke play and you have doubt, play a second ball under rule 3-3. As above, do this before taking any other action or else you may lose your right to do so. See:!rule-03,3-3

    7) Take immediate action.

    Do not wait until 3 holes later to inform an opponent you saw a rules violation. Do not wait to see if someone is going to be in contention before deciding whether to inform someone of a rules violation.

    In the former case, your claim would be invalid because you failed to make a timely claim. In the second case, you would risk being disqualified yourself.

    8) Re-assess the situation before anyone tees off on the next hole, or leaving the putting green if the situation occurred on the last hole. Once you tee off on the next hole, your situation is usually final. In a tournament situation, it would not be a bad idea to say, "Does everyone agree I proceeded correctly?" Obviously everyone may not agree and thus, the ultimate decision will be left up to the committee. However, making such an assessment before any tees off will likely work in your favor if there's any leeway in a decision. Additionally, should someone point out an error, you have the opportunity to correct the error if nobody has teed off.

    Note: I say "nobody has teed off" because in some situations, having just one member of a side tee off makes the situation final, even if the person involved hasn't teed off yet.

    9) Report to the committee immediately upon finishing the round. Do not do anything else and definitely, do not sign your scorecard. Report to the committee the facts of what transpired (including if you played a second ball) and let them guide you before signing your scorecard.

    Hope this helps and feel free to ask any questions.