ClubsYou are only allowed to carry 14 clubs in your golf bag during the round. You shouldn't stress about this as a recreational golfer, mainly because most sets of clubs have 14 or less (driver, 3 wood, 5 wood, 3 iron - 9 iron, putter, sand wedge, and pitching wedge are in a typical set), but also because no one is going to count if you are just out having fun. =Side note: If you are wondering about what might be the extra clubs, you should check out our "The definitive guide to approach wedges" coming soon = You are not legally allowed to borrow a club from a fellow golfer according to the rules, but as a recreational player if you want to try out your buddies new driver, go ahead, keep the fun in the game!
BallsAny regular approved (don't worry they are all approved at your level) golf ball will do as long as it has not been modified or doesn't have any cuts, cracks, or splits in it. You can change your ball after the hole if you like. (Don't ask me to explain on how a ball picks up bad luck along the way!) An interesting note here is that if your ball gets a cut or explodes you can replace it with no penalty. =Side note: trying to choose a ball? We will bring you our definitive guide soon =
PlayersYou may be assisted by one caddy throughout your round. You are expected to know the rules (why you are here obviously) and maintain the pace set by the course officials (they will let you know if you are too slow, don't stress about this.) Also, one person is the 'marker' or scorekeeper for the round.
AdviceThis may seem odd, but you are not allowed to ask for advice throughout the round, except for your caddy or your partner if playing in teams. The only advice you can give is where the green (specifically "flagstick") is. As an amateur/ recreational golfer, I wouldn't stress about this rule. You are learning the game, and sometimes advice is helpful, especially if you are playing with a pro for the specific reason of getting tips on how to improve. =See our guide to golf etiquette for why you shouldn't ask for advice=
Order Of PlayThe order of play is determined randomly at the start of the round. This can be done any number of ways but one of the most common is flipping a tee in the air and whoever it points to is up first (unless an official sets the order). This order is the order for the round, but the lead off golfer (or "person who has honours") may change throughout. The player with the lowest score on the previous hole gets to tee off first. All other players follow the same order the started in. In the event of a tie (even if it's not the person with honours) then the same order is maintained. The player who's ball is furthest from the hole shoots first. If it is hard to tell, then mutual agreement on who shoots next is made. There is no penalty for shooting out of turn, but in match play, the player who was supposed to shoot next can ask for the stroke of the other player to be cancelled. A good variation of the order to golf in is to play 'ready golf'. This is simply, whoever is ready to golf goes first.
Tee Off BoxYour ball can be teed up anywhere in between the tee markers, but not further forward than them. If your ball falls off the tee not during a stroke it is not a penalty. But if you swing and miss and it falls off then it is a penalty. As a beginner golfer this may happen to you a few times. Don't stress about it, and don't count it as a stroke if you don't want, the game is hard enough as is with all that stupid water and trees :p. If you do tee up outside the tee off markers, it is a 2 stroke penalty in stroke play.
Searching For Your BallWhen searching for your ball you cannot move it, unless you need to identify it. In such a case, you must put it back to the original spot it was found. You cannot improve your lie. In fact, if the ball moves you are charged with a 1 stroke penalty. Make sure it is your ball that you are hitting because hitting the wrong ball is a two stoke penalty.
Play It As It LiesAs mentioned above you cannot move your ball without a penalty, which leads to this rule. You must play it as it lies. This also means you can't move the grass in and around your ball or where you will be standing. You may move loose impediments such as twigs and branches provided you do not move your ball (1 stoke penalty if it does). You may also move 'movable obstructions' such as rakes, bottles, etc. If your ball moves in this situation it is not a penalty. The movable object must be able to be moved without undue delay that is. A note here is that if you are in a hazard you cannot let your club tough the ground (grounding) before your shot. Doing this results in a 1 stroke penalty. As a beginner you may not be used to there surfaces and / or the length of your clubs yet. To this I say go ahead and take a practice swing, so long as you do not move your ball in the process.
Striking The BallThe technical rules are pretty funny in the area. It says it must be a fair swing and not putting, cupping or scraping. In other words, no wrist shots allowed. It also states that you can't use any artificial/ unusual equipment or be unassisted by any other player/ caddy. Sounds to me like someone was doing some major checking back in the day. That means no more 'hand wedges' for you! You also cannot strike a moving ball, and if it hits your club twice it is a penalty of 1 stroke.
Putting GreenOnce on the green you are allowed to lift your ball and clean it. You must put it back no closer to the hole. You are allowed to clean debris from your putting line, but you cannot touch it with your hand or club. You can, however repair ball divot or impact marks. You cannot test out a green before making your put. Also if your ball is sitting on the rim of the cup, you are allowed to wait 10 seconds to see if it will drop.
The FlagstickYou may authorize other players or caddies to remove, hold up, or attend your flagstick, but it must be done before your shot. If you hit a flagstick that is being tended to, you will incur a penalty of 2 strokes. This basically means you have to decide whether or not you want the flag in or out before your shot. You can get them to hold the flag in place so you know where you are shooting, but ultimately they will remove it.
Golf Balls In Motion Or At RestYou might be wondering what happens to your ball if another ball hits it? Well, (un)lucky for you, it gets replaced to the spot it was originally in. If it was your ball that hit the opponents ball, then you must play yours as it lies. The only caveat to this is if you are on the green. On the green if you hit another ball you get a 2 stroke penalty! So make sure that you get the other players to mark their ball. What about if your ball gets picked up by a gopher or some other ‘outside agent’? In this case you estimate where the ball would have ended up and play from there. On the green, however, you must replay the shot. What if your caddy stops your ball? If it is accidental, then it is a 1 stroke penalty and you play it as it lies. If it is intentional then a 2 stroke penalty is incurred. If, however, it is your opponent that does this intentionally during stroke play, they received the 2 stroke penalty.
Lifting, Dropping, and PlacingYou can chose to re-drop your ball in certain circumstances. This must be done by you, your caddie, or someone you authorize, and must not touch and equipment or players (if it does, it must be re-dropped). To drop a ball you must stand erect, with the ball at shoulder height, and arm’s length to drop it. Don’t worry if your ball rolls out of bounds or into a hazard when you drop, as this results in a free drop.
Abnormal Ground ConditionsIf your ball comes to rest in abnormal ground conditions, you get a free drop (i.e. No penalty). Some examples of this could be puddled water in the middle of a fairway, a gopher hole, some grass clippings that were piled for the grounds crew, an area marked as under ground repair, etc. The rule is also applicable if your feet end up in the ‘abnormal ground conditions’. Some common questions that come up: What if my ball comes to rest on a cart path? Answer: You get a free drop! What if my ball comes to a stop on a different green? Answer: You get a free drop with this one as well. You drop this one off the green. My ball is stuck in it’s own impact mark on the ground, what do I do? Answer: You can pick up your ball, clean it if you want, and drop it as close to the spot you picked it up from with no penalty. Remember that the free drop is within 1 club length and no closer to the hole.
Water HazardsWater hazards are found throughout a course, often near the greens. They are usually staked with yellow markers. Sometimes there are lateral hazards that run alongside a hole. These will be staked with red markers usually. When your ball ends up in the water (or ‘in the drink’ as some call it) you can try to play it from there with no penalty stroke (this is fun and hilarious, but generally a bad idea), or you can take a 1 stroke penalty. If you decide to take the penalty on a normal hazard, you have 2 options.
- Drop the ball from where you played your last shot.
- Drop a ball from behind the hazard in line with where it entered the water. (Note: there is no limit to how far back you go).
- Play another shot from the spot of your last shot.
- Drop a ball within 2 club lengths of where it entered the hazard.