Golf seems like an easy enough game, just hit the ball into the hole, and truth is that many of these rules may be ignored if you’re just playing a game with friends and no one’s being too competitive. However, that all changes once you’re in a tournament or competitive game. There are many different rules that most new players don’t know about and aren’t accustomed to.
Here we will go over some basic golf rules that you need to know in order to win competitive games. This will also help you play in a more official manner with your friend and show them just how much you know about the game.
9 Basic Golf Rules
01. Number of Clubs
There are so many different clubs available that each serve a different purpose. Some have larger or smaller heads, some are made of iron or wood and others have high or low degrees of loft. In a friendly game you’ll want to bring as many as possible so that you don’t limit your choices, but that’s not technically possible in a competitive game.
According to the basic golf rules, players can only bring 14 clubs with them. Compared to the massive number of clubs available on the market, this isn’t much. You have to strategically consider which ones will be best for all situations and hope that you picked right.
While you can technically bring more than 14, there are some large penalties for doing so. You will often get an average penalty of two strokes per extra club, making most holes a losing game even if you’re playing your best.
02. Tee Parameters
Every game will have lines designating where you can set and play your tee. There are red lines for female players, yellow for men and white for medals. Make sure that you are within these parameters when playing. While you are free to move around the designated area and set your tee where you want, going outside can have a two-stroke penalty. Unless you think those two strokes are worth it, pay attention to the lines and don’t go outside of them.
03. Wrong Ball
This isn’t about selecting the wrong ball, but rather hitting another person’s ball. Most golf balls look exactly the same, especially if you just bought one from the store that has no markings. If you and an opponent land in a similar area, then you might accidentally hit the other person’s ball. Depending on how you are playing, this will result in one or two penalties.
You may either get a two-stroke penalty or the loss of a hole. However, there is a rule that allows you to check whether the ball is truly yours or not. Let the other player know that you are going to check the ball, this is crucial. After that, place a tee peg in the spot of the ball and lift it up. Do not clean it at all, just lift it up and look for identifying marks. Once you’re satisfied that it either is or is not your ball, put it back down.
04. Green Rules
You finally got your ball on the green and you’re within putting distance. There are a few rules here that may impact your game if you don’t follow them properly. First of all, you can actually clean your ball off to make it easier to hit. Mark the spot with a coin or disc and lift your ball, clean it off, and then place it back down in the exact same spot. You don’t want to use a tee peg because this can cause damage to the green.
Speaking of damage, you can actually repair the green, but within certain regulations. You can lift up or pat down the turf to make it flatter before the hole is completed, but you cannot do it within line of your put or another player’s put.
Also, try to have the flag raised whenever you are near the hole to avoid confusion when your ball gets in the hole. It can be a hard ruling if the ball hits the flag and somewhat goes in the hole but not fully, so just have it raised.
05. Play as it Is
Except for in specific situations, you must play your ball as it is. It doesn’t matter if you are near a tree, in the rough or in a sand trap, you have to play the ball as it is and just do your best with the obstacles. However, you can take solace in the face that sometimes, in very rare instances, you can move the ball or obstacles to make the play a little easier for you.
First of all, if there are twigs and leaves, you can remove them and clear your path. If there are sprinkles, drainage areas or man-made paths, then you can move your ball, but within certain parameters. You can move your ball within one club distance, but it cannot get any closer to the hole. You can use this to your advantage, but even this may not always save you depending on how the obstacles are arranged.
06. Unplayable Lie
You are faced with an obstacle or situation where your ball is unplayable. Do you give up? Of course not. In a friendly game, you would probably just move the ball and laugh it off, but there are some basic golf rules that govern how to handle this situation in a competitive game.
In this situation you have three options available to you. You can hit another ball from where you previously shot, move the ball within two club lengths on either side of you (as long as it isn’t closer to the hole) or move the ball behind the obstacle. Each option is viable and can help your game, but they all come with a one-stroke penalty. Choosing the right one for your situation can help save the game.
07. Out of Bounds
Your ball has sailed far right or left and is now out of bounds or lost within a water hazard. Many beginners don’t know what to do here, so here are the basic golf rules if this happens to you. You can declare the ball out of bounds, in which case you have five minutes to search for it.
If the ball is indeed out of bounds or trapped in a water hazard, then you can play a provisional ball from your original spot with a one-stroke penalty. If the ball is found within bounds or dry within five minutes, then you have to play wherever the ball landed.
08. Asking Advice
Believe it or not, there are rules governing who you can ask for advice and what type of information you can ask about. Beginners can often fall into this trap because they are still getting used to the game and don’t always know what the best move is, so it’s very good to know these rules.
You can ask about club selection and strategy, but only from team mates or a caddie. You cannot ask an opponent, even if things are friendly between you two. Nor can you offer this advice to an opponent without penalty. However, you can ask opponents about basic information, such as distance to the hole or information on rules, but not their opinion on the rules or how best to implement them.
09. Regulated Stroke
Here’s something else that beginners might get tripped up on. Let’s say that your ball is within a difficult area to completely move your body, like near a tree or a bush, or if the ball is in a sand trap. It would be easier to just flick or scrape the ball to move it consider the area, so can you do that?
According to basic golf rules, every play must be considered a stroke. You must raise and lower the club in a stroke fashion and actually hit the ball, regardless of the environment. Failing to do this has a big penalty. You have a two-stroke penalty along with the loss of a hole, so it’s best to just hit the ball as best you can rather than face the wrath of this rule.
The basic rules of golf aren’t that difficult, it’s just that there are a lot of rules that govern even the smallest areas of play. From talking to other players to proper strokes and how to deal with obstacles, there are rules surrounding everything. While many of these rules may be ignored during a friendly game, they can make or break a real competitive game.
It’s best to study up and learn about how to play. These basic rules will help improve your game and let you know how to handle certain situations without facing a penalty (or at least having the smallest penalty possible). Just keep calm, understand the rules and you’ll be just fine.