Here’s a great list of abused golf rules, found at the Northern Nevada Women’s Golf Association:

1. Giving advice on the course:

You cannot ask what club a fellow-competitor or opponent used, or tell anyone how to execute a swing. You can ask your partner what club she used.

You cannot ask how far it is from your ball (but you can ask what the yardage is from a permanent marker that is public knowledge).

You cannot ask if your ball is playable if someone finds a lost ball for you (but you can ask for Rules of Golf information on what your options are for an unplayable lie).

2. Grounding a club in a hazard:

Before hitting a ball out of a bunker or water hazard, you are prohibited from touching the ground in the hazard with your club or hand, even when setting up to the ball. You may not touch or move any loose impediments (such as rocks or leaves), nor test the condition of the sand before hitting.

3. Where to play a ball which is in a water hazard:

You cannot drop a ball along the imaginary line known as the “line of flight.”

For a regular water hazard, marked with yellow stakes or lines, there are three options: 1)play the ball as it lies; or, under penalty of one stroke, 2)play another ball from where the original ball was struck into the hazard; or 3)drop behind the hazard, keeping the point where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped. SEE ILLUSTRATION.

For a lateral water hazard, marked with red stakes or lines, there are five options, the first three are the same as for a regular hazard. The other two options are also under penalty of one stroke, 4)drop 2 club lengths from the point of entry into the hazard; or 5)drop 2 club lengths from point on the opposite margin, equidistant from the hole. SEE ILLUSTRATION.

4. Improving your lie or position by moving growing things:

You cannot improve the position or lie of your ball, the area of your intended swing, or your line of play by moving or bending anything growing or fixed, or moving or pressing anything down with your club or foot, unless you are taking your stance or actually making a stroke.

5. Procedure for a lost ball:

If a ball is lost or out-of-bounds, the player MUST go back and hit again from the point where the last shot was played (one stroke penalty). If you lose your ball on your drive, you must return to the tee (and may re-tee the ball) to play your third shot, etc.

Golfers commonly look for a lost ball longer than the 5 minutes allowed. The time begins when the golfer or partner start looking for the ball.

6. Playing a provisional ball:

When a golfer hits a ball from the teeing ground and feels the ball may be lost or out-of-bounds, she should wait for all other players in the group to tee off, then hit her “provisional” ball. If the first ball is lost or out-of-bounds, the provisional ball will become the ball in play with one penalty stroke. In other words, the player lies three. If the first ball is found on the golf course, it remains the ball in play and the provisional ball MUST be picked up without any penalty. (Remember to always announce that the second ball you’re hitting is a provisional and use the word “provisional,” or the original ball is out of play and you are lying three.)

Any other time you hit a ball that may be lost or out-of-bounds, you MUST announce and play the “provisional” ball before going forward to search for the first ball. NEVER say “I am going back to hit a provisional ball.”

Be sure to clearly identify the two balls with different brands, numbers or marks to be sure which ball is first and which is second.

7. Taking relief from immovable obstructions:

If a player’s ball comes to rest on or close to an immovable obstruction such as a sprinkler head, road or cartpath, and the lie, stance or area of intended swing is interfered with by this obstruction, the player is allowed to drop a ball within one club length of the nearest point of relief, providing it’s no closer to the hole than where the ball originally had come to rest.

The player should determine the nearest point of relief using the club she expects to play her next stoke. Then she may use any club to measure the one club length area in which to drop the ball.

The nearest point of relief is the point where the ball will be played which is nearest to where the original ball lies, which is no closer to the hole and which, if the ball were so positioned, no interference would exist for the lie of the ball, the stance or the intended area of the swing. SEE ILLUSTRATION.

8. What to do if your ball is unplayable:

When a ball comes to rest under a large bush, some golfers think they can measure the 2 club lengths from the edge of the bush. This is WRONG — the 2 club lengths MUST be measured from the ball’s position.

There are actually three options for a ball declared unplayable by a player: under penalty of one stroke, 1)play a ball from where the ball was originally played; 2)play a ball within 2 club lengths from where it lies in the unplayable position; or 3)keep the position where the ball lay unplayable between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped. SEE ILLUSTRATION

9. Touching the line of putt:

On the putting green, a player may not touch the line of putt other than to: 1)move loose impediments by picking them up or brushing them aside with a hand or club; 2)address the ball; or 3)to mark and lift the ball or remove movable obstructions. The player can repair old hole plugs or ball marks, but not spike marks.

Harvey Specter
Posted at 6:00 am September 5, 2007
Michael Bruyninckx

Hey Deep Rough,

This post is pretty interesting for a lot of people out there, I’m doing about 40% of these things too.
Number 1 and 4 is so common, people don’t even think about it.
Here in Belgium, you need to take a test on the rules (ok, you can use a rule book, but anyway) before you get your “golf licence”. So I read that book at once… but what people do out there on the course is more or less a gathering of experiences… if you never played in the water yet, you probably don’t really know what to do… so a lot of weird stuff happens out there…

I learned a lot today by reading this post, and I’m sure 90% of the golfers out there might too by reading this.

aka GolferNut

Harvey Specter
Posted at 8:33 am September 25, 2008
Michael Ithurralde

A player has played a ball but after hitting it he realizes that his ball was lying out of bound. Does he get the normal penalty for ball out of bound or does he also need to add a penalty for also having played the ball in a wrong place.

Thanking you in advance for your answer.


Harvey Specter
Posted at 3:58 pm June 2, 2009
Bryan Kelly

The link for the unplayable illustration is broken. It is:

It should be:

Harvey Specter
Posted at 6:17 am June 16, 2009

Thanks for pointing that out Bryan. It’s been a while since I had a look at this post! Brings back good memories!

Harvey Specter
Posted at 3:39 pm August 31, 2009

I was playing with my brother and my ball was 2 inches from being out of bounds from a fence post. I didn’t have a swing so I stated that I was going to take an unplayable lie relief. I dropped the ball but it was closer to the hole so I had to re-drop. At that time one of the other players said I could have taken nearest point of relief from the fence because my left foot was on the cart path with my normal stance. My brother said it was too late because I had already put the ball back in play, although I had not yet taken a proper drop. What is the ruling?


Harvey Specter
Posted at 3:45 pm August 31, 2009

Not sure Lenny, sounds like you need to consult the USGA Rules & Decisions book!

My guess would be that since you had not made a proper drop the ball was not ‘in play’. But who knows, there are a lot of strange rules!

Harvey Specter
Posted at 8:29 am July 9, 2010
Gene Silvagni

If a ball is declared unplayable fron the tee can he bring it back and Retee it i say no others say yes who is right

Harvey Specter
Posted at 7:55 am July 29, 2010

Hi, QUESTION. My friend’s golf ball came to rest up against the left side of a raised cart path edge, making it impossible to hit. His nearest point of relief was into bushes, giving him an unplayable lie. He took full relief back about ten yards, giving him a full swing and made a par. I told him it was wrong. He disagreed. Please help.

Harvey Specter
Posted at 9:50 am August 13, 2010
Dario Zuniga M.D.

My friend was in the green, The ball was there for about 4 minutes, before he addressed the ball it moved 2 feet closer to rhe hole, he putted and made par, i gave him a bogey because he should have placed the ball at the original position and putt. Therefore iassessed wit 1 strke penalty, am I wrong?

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