Rules of Golf Archives - Troy Denton, PGA Professional - Golf Instruction

Stableford Rules


The Stableford System, developed by Dr. Frank Barney Gorton Stableford in 1931, is a scoring system in which the final score is not the stroke total, but the total points earned for scores on each individual hole.  Unlike traditional golf scoring methods, the objective is to have the highest score.

The number of points awarded on each hole is based on the number of strokes vs. a fixed score, usually par, with individual handicaps factoring into the scoring as well.

The scoring system is as follows:

Double Bogey or worse – 0 points

Bogey – 1 point

Par – 2 points

Birdie – 3 points

Eagle – 4 points

Albatross – 5 points

Also unlike traditional golf, if it’s no longer possible for a player to score a point on a hole, a player is not required to complete it.  They are permitted to pick up the ball and head to the next!  This means greater speed of play, not to mention a whole lot less frustration on a bad hole.

Stableford is a popular form of the game in the United Kingdom and South Africa, with less play here in the States. But, if you’re looking for a different twist on the game, consider this classic next time. 

Defining the Teeing Ground

According to the USGA the definition of the teeing ground is: “The starting place for the hole to be played. It is a rectangular area two club-lengths in depth, the front and the sides of which are defined by the outside limits of two tee-markers. A ball is outside the teeing ground when all of it lies outside the teeing ground. When a player is putting a ball into play from the teeing ground, it must be played from within the teeing ground and from the surface of the ground or from a conforming tee in or on the surface of the ground.”

Although the ball has to be inside the teeing ground you may stand outside the teeing ground while striking the ball that is inside the teeing ground. If you play a ball from outside the teeing ground, you incur a penalty of two strokes and must re-tee a ball from within the teeing ground. So next time you are ready to tee off, make sure your ball is in the teeing ground!

Did You Address the Ball?

The USGA says “A player has “addressed the ball” when he has grounded his club immediately in front of or immediately behind the ball, whether or not he has taken his stance.”

This means you can take a stroke and strike the ball without ever actually addressing the ball. There are already a few times that you may have done this without ever knowing it. For example, while hitting the ball out of the bunker, or hitting the ball out of a lateral or water hazard.

This can come in handy in a situation when you think that the ball may move by grounding the club or by other circumstances. If you prepare to strike the ball by hovering your club behind the ball instead of grounding it you are not addressing the ball. If the ball moves you would not incur a one stroke penalty.  Under rule 18-2b “If a player’s ball in play moves after he has addressed it (other than as a result of a stroke), the player is deemed to have moved the ball and incurs a penalty of one stroke.”

What To Do If You Lost Your Ball

According to Rule 27-1 from the USGA you have five minutes to search for your ball. This time starts from when you actually start searching for the ball. If you do not find the ball within five minutes the ball is lost whether you find it after the five minutes or not. You must play a ball as close to the spot at which the original ball was played while also incurring a one stroke penalty.

Whenever you hit a shot and you are unsure of whether or not you will be able to find your golf ball, you are allowed to hit a second shot from the same spot. This shot is called a provisional. The purpose of this shot is for in the event that your ball is deemed lost you would not have to go all the way back to the original spot to hit another shot because you already did. If your ball is lost, you would then play the provisional ball to finish out the hole. You would still incur the same penalty as if you had to go back and hit another shot after you lost your ball.

Next time if you are unsure if you can find your ball, hit a provisional just in case. It could save you some valuable time.

Not so Hazardous Water

According to the USGA, “‘Casual water’ is any temporary accumulation of water on the course that is not in a water hazard and is visible before or after the player takes his stance. Snow and natural ice, other than frost, are either casual water or loose impediments, at the option of the player. Manufactured ice is an obstruction. Dew and frost are not casual water.”

“A ball is in casual water when it lies in or any part of it touches the casual water.”

According to rule 25-1 without penalty the player can lift and drop the ball within one club length of the nearest point of relief. Whenever you can see standing water under your feet or your ball you are allowed free relief at the nearest point where there is no standing water but the relief also has to be no closer to the hole.

How Many “Strokes” did You Actually Take?

The USGA defines a stroke as “the forward movement of the club made with the intention of striking at and moving the ball, but if a player checks his downswing voluntarily before the clubhead reaches the ball he has not made a stroke.”

This means you do not actually have to touch the ball for it to make a stroke. Under this definition a “whiff” would count as a stroke. This also means that in the process of your downswing you can “abort” the swing by intentionally missing the ball. It will not count as a stroke because you did not intend to strike the ball nor did you strike the ball. If you strike the ball, regardless of your intentions, it counts as a stroke.

The next time you count up your score make sure to count those “whiffs”.

Rules: Winter Rules

cdn-winter-rulesMany people just start using “Winter Rules” whenever they deem – but did you know it’s actually a rule accounted for in the Rules of Golf – Appendix I Section?

Here is the rule, make sure when you are playing golf this winter that the course has invoked Appendix I – 4b.

Course Conditions – Mud, Extreme Wetness, Poor Conditions And Protection Of Course
“Preferred Lies” and “Winter Rules”: Adverse conditions, including the poor condition of the course or the existence of mud, are sometimes so general, particularly during winter months, that the Committee may decide to grant relief by temporary Local Rule either to protect the course or to promote fair and pleasant play. The Local Rule should be withdrawn as soon as the conditions warrant.

New and Revised Decisions on the Rules Of Golf

decisions2014The USGA and the R&A have recently released a new Decisions on the Rules of Golf 2014-2015. If you are not familiar with the Decisions on the Rules book – it is a book about 10 times the size of the Rules of Golf book and contains 1,200 entries addressing specific situations under the Rules of Golf. Basically, this book contains real world examples of how the rules of golf are applied to different situations. On November 19, 2013 the USGA and R&A (the two governing bodies of golf) released the new Decisions on the Rules book which included a few new interesting decisions along with a total of 87 new changes.

David Rickman, The R&A’s executive director – Rules and Equipment Standards, said, “It is important to consider carefully new developments in the game and that is reflected in the new Decisions on the Rules which give greater clarity on the use of smart phones and advanced video technology.”

The four particularly interesting new changes to the decisions are as follows:

  • New Decision 14-3/18 confirms that players can access reports on weather conditions on a smartphone during a round without breaching the Rules. Importantly, this new Decision also clarifies that players are permitted to access information on the threat of an impending storm in order to protect their own safety.
  • New Decision 18/4 provides that, where enhanced technological evidence (e.g. HDTV, digital recording or online visual media, etc.) shows that a ball has left its position and come to rest in another location, the ball will not be deemed to have moved if that movement was not reasonably discernible to the naked eye at the time.
  • Revised Decision 25-2/0.5 helps to clarify when a golf ball is considered to be embedded in the ground through the use of illustrations.
  • Revised Decision 27-2a/1.5 allows a player to go forward up to approximately 50 yards without forfeiting his or her right to go back and play a provisional ball.

The decision to allow players to access weather reports on a smartphone is definitely an interesting one. Previously, access to a smartphone was prohibited unless there was a local rule allowing distance measuring devices AND the smartphone had no other “features or applications” installed on that device that would render it non-conforming (Rule 14-3).

The decision regarding the use of TV footage to determine whether or not a ball oscillated or moved from it’s original position is reminiscent of how the NFL uses TV footage to review rulings that might have been tough to determine by the naked eye.

Decision 27-2a/1.5 that allows a player to go approximately 50 yards without forfeiting his or her right to go back and play a provisional ball can be a pretty nice benefit if a few situations. If you happened to hit a tree branch close to the tee or maybe can’t see around a corner, then being able to walk 50 yards to get a better view could save you some time and mental anguish during a tournament.

The rules of golf are constantly evolving – so knowing them will help you make better decisions and save strokes during a tournament.

Rule 23 – Loose Impediments

tiger-rockWe have all heard the term “loose impediments”, but what is a loose impediment?

This can be a tough answer. A good rule of thumb is that a “loose impediment” is anything natural, as opposed to a “movable obstruction” which is artificial (or man-made).

Some examples of loose impediments are:

  • Gravel
  • Sea Shells
  • Fruit Skins
  • Leaves
  • Stones
  • Acorns
  • Insects
  • Dung

However, under the rules sand and loose soil are loose impediments on the putting green, but not elsewhere. Snow and natural ice, are either casual water or loose impediments at the option of the player. Dew and frost are not loose impediments.

It can get a little confusing, but here is how you can take relief according to the USGA Rules of Golf:

Except when both the loose impediment and the ball lie in or touch the same hazard, any loose impediment may be removed without penalty.

If the ball lies anywhere other than on the putting green and the removal of a loose impediment by the player causes the ball to move, Rule 18-2a applies.

On the putting green, if the ball or ball-marker is accidentally moved in the process of the player removing a loose impediment, the ball or ball-marker must be replaced. There is no penalty, provided the movement of the ball or ball-marker is directly attributable to the removal of the loose impediment. Otherwise, if the player causes the ball to move, he incurs a penalty of one stroke under Rule 18-2a.

When a ball is in motion, a loose impediment that might influence the movement of the ball must not be removed.

Note: If the ball lies in a hazard, the player must not touch or move any loose impediment lying in or touching the same hazard – see Rule 13-4c.

Rule 12 – Searching For And Identifying Ball

searching-ballWe’ve all hit a golf ball that we had to search for at one point or another. I have listed out some situations and how to proceed under the rules in those situations – so you’re not penalized two strokes under Rule 12.

A player is not necessarily entitled to see his ball when making a stroke.

In searching for his ball anywhere on the course, the player may touch or bend long grass, rushes, bushes, whins, heather or the like, but only to the extent necessary to find or identify the ball, provided that this does not improve the lie of the ball, the area of his intended stance or swing or his line of play; if the ball is moved, Rule 18-2a applies except as provided in clauses a – d of this Rule.

In addition to the methods of searching for and identifying a ball that are otherwise permitted by the Rules, the player may also search for and identify a ball under Rule 12-1 as follows:

a. Searching for or Identifying Ball Covered by Sand
If the player’s ball lying anywhere on the course is believed to be covered by sand, to the extent that he cannot find or identify it, he may, without penalty, touch or move the sand in order to find or identify the ball. If the ball is found, and identified as his, the player must re-create the lie as nearly as possible by replacing the sand. If the ball is moved during the touching or moving of sand while searching for or identifying the ball, there is no penalty; the ball must be replaced and the lie re-created.

In re-creating a lie under this Rule, the player is permitted to leave a small part of the ball visible.

b. Searching for or Identifying Ball Covered by Loose Impediments in Hazard
In a hazard, if the player’s ball is believed to be covered by loose impediments to the extent that he cannot find or identify it, he may, without penalty, touch or move loose impediments in order to find or identify the ball. If the ball is found or identified as his, the player must replace the loose impediments. If the ball is moved during the touching or moving of loose impediments while searching for or identifying the ball, Rule 18-2a applies; if the ball is moved during the replacement of the loose impediments, there is no penalty and the ball must be replaced.

If the ball was entirely covered by loose impediments, the player must re-cover the ball but is permitted to leave a small part of the ball visible.

c. Searching for Ball in Water in Water Hazard
If a ball is believed to be lying in water in a water hazard, the player may, without penalty, probe for it with a club or otherwise. If the ball in water is accidentally moved while probing, there is no penalty; the ball must be replaced, unless the player elects to proceed under Rule 26-1. If the moved ball was not lying in water or the ball was accidentally moved by the player other than while probing, Rule 18-2a applies.

d. Searching for Ball Within Obstruction or Abnormal Ground Condition
If a ball lying in or on an obstruction or in an abnormal ground condition is accidentally moved during search, there is no penalty; the ball must be replaced unless the player elects to proceed under Rule 24-1b, 24-2b or 25-1b as applicable. If the player replaces the ball, he may still proceed under one of those Rules, if applicable.