How do you feel about "The Rules of Golf"?
The “Texas WedgeHog” – Rootin’ Out The Truth

*** Take Wedge Guy's Rules Survey ***

Being in the equipment industry, I am on the first line of communication by the USGA when it comes to contemplated changes regarding the manufacture of golf equipment. Most recently, we in the wedge and iron business have been the “victims” of revisions to the rules regarding the geometry of grooves. I’ve written a couple of articles about this, and you’ll be seeing more on the subject in the months ahead, as the new Rules go into effect on January 1, 2010.

I get questions often about the Rules of Golf and am asked what I think about them in many aspects. Should amateurs and professionals play by different sets of rules? Do amateur golfers play by the rules anyway? Do the rules get in the way of enjoyment of the game?

Well, I’m going to give you all a chance to make your opinions known on the subject of The Rules of Golf, but since this is my blog, I’m going to start this off with mine.

First of all, what would the game be without a set of Rules? I mean, we can invent drivers and balls that would allow a 9-year old to hit it 350-500 yards. What would that do to golf courses?

What would happen if each course made their cups whatever size they wanted, instead of the 4-1/4” that the Rules specify? What if each group of players made up the Rules they wanted to play by? Wait a minute, isn’t that what really happens out there in “golf land”?

I grew up on a little 9-hole muni course and never played the ball “down” in my life until I was in my 20s. Not a problem. We took two off the first tee, because there was no range to allow a warm up. We loved and respected golf and the Rules, but we all had a “putting ball” (the one that was new and white and was embodied with good mojo). And we didn’t pay attention to whether we started and finished each round with the same brand of ball.

Did that mean we didn’t play golf? I hardly think so.

Throughout my life, I’ve played very few rounds outside of tournaments where every putt was holed, regardless of length. Conceded putts are part of social golf, even when heavy betting is on the line. But in most any “game” at most any club, you’re going to abide by the essence of the Rules of Golf, adhering to penalties and other rules that should be adhered to in order to make the game have meaning.

That said, I often play golf with my business partner when we travel, and we enjoy ourselves with occasional mulligans and practice shots, never holding up anyone behind us. These are recreational rounds, and scores are not going to be bragged about or posted for handicap purposes. And I like to take in the occasional evening round where I hit multiple shots from places – it’s a practice routine, not a round of golf.

So, in my opinion, the Rules of Golf are there to provide structure and a benchmark for how the game should be played. You and your buddies can take whatever liberties you’d like, as long as they are applied equally and fairly. It doesn’t make your golf any less or more “honorable” or “legal” in my opinion. But when you tee it up in a competition where the Rules of Golf will be applied to the letter, you might be in for a rude awakening, so be knowledgeable and careful in those situations.

The Rules of Golf are there for a reason and they keep order in this crazy game. At least that’s my $.02 worth. But I want to know what you think and how you feel, so I’ve set up this little survey to find out where you readers come in on the topic of The Rules of Golf. Please click here – Rules Survey -- and participate and let’s see what we get. I’ll share the early results in two weeks, OK?

In the meantime, sound off readers!!!!
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[ comments ]
Kickntrue says:
I'm a bit mixed, because tracking info and stats on oob is all about being accurate and true. In reality you could probably have more fun marking rounds as "practice" and still learning about the game. It's a tough line for me personally. That said- I think there is nothing more unfair than hitting a perfect drive- and being in a divot, or being in a hole 2 feet off the green because the course isn't well kept. It's really hard to play the ball "Down" 100% of the time.
bducharm says:
The Rules of Golf can be very convaluted and confusing - especially for those that do not play tournament golf. I see SO many violations every time I am at the course. I try to educate people in a way that is not threatening and hopefully they will remember. I think the rules could be made simpler but with organizations like the USGA and the Royal and Ancient, that will never happen! Final answer - professional and amateur alike need to play by the same rules!!!
dlouder says:
I agree with bducharm.
Jattruia says:
Rules are rules, and i agree with following them as closely as possible (especially when tracking stats/handi). But when it comes to course conditions (divots in the fairways, muddy/rocky bunkers, ball marks all over the greens) i see nothing wrong with bending a rule and not taking a penalty. The pros don't run into these issues where they play, so why should we?
mjaber says:
I agree that rules are rules, and they should be followed. That being said, I don't know ALL the rules of golf, and never have any intention of learning all of them. I'm not going to penalize myself for pulling the wrong ball out of my pocket to putt with. If it's a friendly foursome, as long as everyone plays by the same rules, have fun.
Kickntrue says:
The better you are at golf- the more the rules matter because you can manipulate them. A great example is the changing balls thing. You could use a distance ball of the tee, and then slip a ProV1 into play for your 2nd shot, that's going to make a big difference for a better golfer, not so much for others. Other rules though- like placing a ball, removing the mark, then having the wind blow the blow... are ridiculous. How is that a penalty in anyone's world? How can you ever control that even a little bit?
Shankapotamus says:
I think the most difficult rule for amateurs to abide by (and the one violated most often) is the lost ball rule. Tournament players have forecaddies to help them find errant shots. The rules require you to locate your ball anytime it is not hit in a hazard. If you can't find it in 5 minutes, you have to return to the place where you last played and penalize yourself a stroke. However, how often do you see an amateur hit a provisional after hitting their ball in the woods, tall grass, or even just thick rough? Never. If everday amateurs hit a provisional every time they thought they might not be able to find their ball, your average foursome could have 10 balls in play on any given hole. For better players, it is easier to follow the rules and I agree that they should be followed. However, if every golfer on the course played to the letter of the law, it would take eight hours to complete an average round at a public course.
aaronm04 says:
Well ... this is why golf is a gentleman's game. It is gentlemanly to follow the rules and keep a proper score. That said, we all know not everyone does it, usually based on skill level. In the interest of time, my group has a "double par" max on any hole. If you are on a par 4 and have hit your 8th shot and it's not in the hole, pick up your ball, write down an 8, and move on. Certainly not within the rules of golf, but I'm sure the group behind us appreciates it. I would consider a good pace of play more gentlemanly than strict adherence to the rules.
blackhawk says:
I follow the rules as much as I can with exceptions for "pace of play". Double par+1 max scores for holes and if I lose a ball in the rough, I drop a new ball in the rough and hit it out without improving my lie. Some of the courses I play on have waste areas that is 12-18" thick.
ipv6freely says:
I think part of the problem in the amateur vs pro thing is that amateurs playing on a public course need to take into account the people behind them and trying to play at a decent pace. Pros have the time to go back to the tee.

Myself personally, I have no problem with some "house rules", given that all players involved agree on those rules. Many games and sports have house rules. I don't see a problem with that, as long as you understand that playing for fun with some friends and playing in a tournament are two very different things. And don't assume that everyone is going to be okay with your house rules, either. If playing with strangers, just follow the rules and be sure to ask about things like dropping a ball if you lose one, how many strokes to take, etc.

Just use common sense - that's all it really comes down to.
wmillion says:
I agree tough to play down when you place course that isn't well maintained. I hate when I hit a good drive and have a bare lie, with no grass in the middle of the fairway. How is that fair? Or a bunker with no sand? or a bunker with standing water in it? What is everyone's thought about trees that over hang the greeen?
onedollarwed says:
Good topic. A while back I was teaching golf to beginners and thought it would be good to organize the basic rules and etiquette on an index card that they could slip in their bag. It wouldn't fit so I tried an 8 1/2 x 11 handout. Let me tell you... it was a real struggle to include the basic information needed to play any round in public on a sheet of paper without making the writing microfiche-like. Try it sometime. There are an awful lot of things to know to play a simple round of golf. Mentoring is the only good way to accomplish this.
onedollarwed says:
Besides all that, here are my personal rules:
1. If you're going to break or damage a club, consult your mate for a reasonable drop.
2. If you lose a ball where it seemed improbable to do so (no provisional), make a reasonable drop and 1 stroke penalty.
3. For stroke play - putt every ball in - you need the practice even from 2 feet.
4. Putt with the flag in from distance when playing alone.
5. If you can hit from OB and you're not pissing anyone off, do so (it's the more original rule)
6. If your going to report a score make it the real score - sometimes this is not possible due to fictional situations. Don't report it. Just talk about real things, like, "I got 5 pars today."
7. What's more fair? Saying you made that 5 foot putt when you didn't, or having a great drive land in a divot? I thought so, hit it out of the divot!
NitekastGuitar says:
We played the ball down at my course from the time I first joined there 5 years ago. I started out as a 25 handicap and jumped right in playing skins with the clubs best players in order to learn the game quicker. Like I stated earlier we always played the ball down. Gimmes were at the discretion of the other group members and were usually fair and guaranteed gimmes. I took last year off due to my wife and I having a child and when i joined again this year I was pleasantly surprised that the same guys were now rolling the ball. I really dont like moving the ball unless theres mud on it, rocks, or something else extreme. To me its bad karma to mess with your lie but when i called the guys out on it they threw a fit and a shouting match ensued. Sissys. Anyways they are still rolling while i play it down.
JWHpurist says:
The "Rules Of Golf" provide a sound foundation and structure for this game and should be observed to post accurate scores, legitimate handicaps, and properly measure the skill level of any "serious player". The decisions by "The USGA and others on club design & technology tend to be extreme at times, unwarranted and lack objectivity! It would have been stupid and shortsighted for those associations to tell Stan Thompson that "The Ginty" was not a "Legal" club design when he developed and patented that design many years ago. It was "The Original Rescue Club" that others copy today!! I still play them and love the originals! JWHpurist
onedollarwed says:
The gimmie probably originated from match play or the like - anything where total strokes aren't totalled. It would be gentlemanly - or womanmanly - to not make a bloke who had already lost a hole to miss another. That it would have a place in stroke play seems absolutley ridiculous - anything that close can't take much time and can't be missed anyway. There are times when a player has clubs on a cart on the other side of the green and is only holding a wedge, and has just chipped it to a foot. And yes, why spend all that precious time to take out the flag and walk around to get a putter? After all, it's not like you really want to be playing golf anyway!
Gimmies are really "takies" from what I've seen. It's a mind game that appeals to gamblers, con men, and the like.
Bryan K says:
I follow the rules I know to the best of my ability while not slowing down the pace of play for those behind me. I like to play the ball "down" because I view the game as a game where every shot is practice. Every shot is a challenge, and my final score on a round is a reflection of how well I've responded to each of the challenges I have faced. I also think that the most important aspect of learning to get better at golf is learning to be honest with onesself. How do you know if you have improved if you lose count of your mulligans? Hey, I'm a terrible golfer. I know it. But I strive to get better, and I'd like to be able to look at my handicap one day with pride.
birdieXris says:
The rules are the rules. I have no problem with people not playing by them if they're not playing competitive golf as long as they're observing the rules that are in place so a) the course doesn't get bitched up and b) so nobody gets hurt. That's it for me. I always follow the rules unless it's a practice round -- then i hit 2 and 3 balls.
southping says:
The fact of the matter is that most weekend golfers don't have a clue on the actual rules of golf . The average amateur plays with his friends and "their" set of rules . Which is fine as long as they don't play golf with anyone that plays by the actual rules . If they ever were to play by the letter of the law , they would at the very least , get to know how good the pros and top amateurs really are . But for most , even if they use "their" rules , the game is plenty difficult . So without the rules officials on every three holes at the Muny , there will always be "house" rules . Which is fine by me as long as they aren't taking my money and picking up 4 footers .
onedollarwed says:
Right. And most of us can't actually follow all of the rules - it's too impractical. You can't and don't walk 250 yds back into the group behind after losing a ball unexpectedly - but you'll have to in any serious tournament. The wind blew my ball off the green at Delta View in Pittsburgh CA (very windy there). It rolled down the slope and about 70 yds away. I was lining up a 10ft putt. I went and got it and put it back - even though the official rules would forbid that.
The truly wonderful gift of golf (If it's not a career) is real humility, and real triumph when hard work and concentration pays off. If you do it right, it'll come - no matter what level you're at.
onedollarwed says:
You really have to start with the basics: Hit it where and as it lies.

It seems to work fine.

If you really ponder that, and accept it, you may not play the same way at all. There was a time before penalty strokes, drops, lifts, cleans, etc. Granted, some of those rules developed without a ton of trees and ponds as well. Danger was real. Maybe you only had a couple of balls to your name. People today play with such wild abandon that the game and its boundaries become unreal. There are incredibly unrealistic expectations out there re: course conditions. You can pay more for that!
For match play, skins, fine!
But we're sharing our scores here - let's make it real.
onedollarwed says:
A fine image: somebody riding a cart, drinking, smoking, living in a subdivion where forests were cut and swamps drained, never fixes ball marks, never replaces divots, never practicies... complaining about the price, slow play, the weather. goose turds, and the course conditions. Oh yeah, that four footer was good.
Bryan K says:
I thought I'd add one thing here. The hardest rule for me to follow is the rule that states that I must finish a round with the same ball or the same kind of ball. I'm not a rich guy. I lose at least one ball per round, and I like to golf every day. I can't afford to pay $20 every time I want to go buy a budget package of six golf balls. I buy used balls in bulk off of ebay. That same $20 buys me 100 balls. When the day comes when my handicap is in single digits and I am forced to throw balls away ever few rounds because the cover is trashed, I'll definitely abide by that rule. However, there really isn't any kind of advantage to my game by reaching into my pocket and using the first ball my hand wraps around after I hit it in the water. I'm not trying to get extra spin when the ball lands on the green. I'm just trying not to flub the ball off the toe of my club.
hhkan says:
For social golf, it is more important to keep up a reasonable pace than following the rules of golf to the letter. If someone is not playing well and needs to pick up the ball from the fairway and drop it on the green just to keep up the pace, then he should do it. That's how I play. My topmost concern is alway safety and pace of play.
Barroomhero says:
This is my first year ever golfing. I have gone out a total of 5 times, needless to say I am still learning. We do drop some balls that would be difficult for my skill level to play. But I have also tried to play some. I think that learning the rules is part of the game and as my skill level increases I intend to follow the rules more strictly. I do not pick up 4 foot putts nor will I pick up a 1 foot putt, playing the ball where it lies is part of the game and the more practice you get in the more you learn. As for the same ball rule, kind of impossible to follow at this point, I seem to buy balls that are attracted to water. Following the rules as close as possible or at least knowing what the rule is for the situation I feel is important to the game.
davenahmias says:
In general the rules of golf are a good thing, but they have become more convoluted and esoteric than the tax code. The idea that they are fair to all is a myth. I play public courses and we lose balls just off the fairway, when does that happen to a pro or a country club member?
We have eliminated most of the rules of golf with this simple one:
you can return and drop along the flight path of your ball as far as you want, whenever you want, as long as it is no closer to the hole for a one stroke penalty.
This one rule takes care of all of the silliness of where it crossed the hazard, is it lost, returning to re-tee, provisionals and probably half the rule book. It is fair to all players and speeds play - so what makes the 200 pages of rules better than this one.
cjgiant says:
The full rules of golf are meant for better players, flat out. When I played earlier in life, I had more fun and kept pace of play by abiding by certain rules, taking mulligans, etc. Once I got better and wanted to establish a HC for my own knowledge and for tournament play, I started playing by the rules.

The rules that most make a difference:
Hitting ball OB (lost ball), and the use of a provisional to keep pace.
Play lateral hazard from point of cross, NOT parallel to landing point.
Playing ball from any lie (exception to unmarked ground-under-repair at cheaper courses)

I would argue, however, that the respect you gain from playing 100% by the rules will be lost if you are novice and are so strict as to slow play down. I laugh when me and my friends sometimes get weird looks for hitting provisionals even if we are one pace for mid-80s and our foursome partners are shooting "100".
ToddRobb says:
A casual round of golf should be just that, I used to play pick up basketball, we didn't call three seconds, or shoot foul shots when someone got fouled. Playing tournament rules at a muni course for a casual round is not only not practical, it's just plain crazy. Let's not forget that it is a game, I know for a fact no one wants to be on the course for 5 and 6 hours for 18 holes, waiting several minutes to hit your next shot. I consider myself an above average amateur golfer, and so are the guys I play with, we NEVER play the ball "down". Why would we??? I've played in tournaments that were strict rules of golf, quite frankly I liked that better, because EVERYONE is doing it and time isn't a factor. But for a casual round amongst friends, "House rules" should always be used.
ToddRobb says:
The lost ball rule alone would add at LEAST an hour to the average round if everyone on the course was playing by the proper rules. Just imagine all of the people going back to the tee to hit another ball after not finding their first one, AFTER looking for it for five minute!!
Tim Horan says:
Personally I like to know just how good/ bad I am doing and this can only be done honestly within the rules; anything else and you are kidding yourself. I played in a medal competition on Saturday...Tee shot (possibly in the far side of lake but not confirmed) provisional ball (played from tee not being sure that the first ball was in the lake) definitely in the lake. Here is where I do not agree with the rules. I should be allowed to play another provisional in the front of the lake (to save time) pending search for first ball. Instead the rules say you have to search first and then return to play a ball from the front of the lake. Rules are Rules.
DJBehr says:
First, one quick thing: thereGÇÖs some talk about switching golf balls during a round. I sure thought that the rule is, you canGÇÖt switch balls during a hole, but you can between different holes.
I think this is a great topic. I play from the tips 100% of the time and by the rules pretty much 99% of the time. Having said that, pros have it pretty sweet.
1. They have actual sand in their bunkers.
2.Forecaddies: How many times do we amateurs hit a ball that it only slightly off GÇÿthe grassGÇÖ but itGÇÖs nowhere to be found?
3. Caddies: how many things do they do?
4. Practice rounds before tourney begins? How much would that help?
I could go on and on.
My point is, if for example, if I am in the middle of a fairway and am sitting on a crap lie of dirt, I may move it to grass. However, a divot (filled) is a divot and pros play from divots in the fairway, so I will too.
ToddRobb says:
The funny thing is around 80% of amateur golfers don't know ALL of the rules to begin with, so how could anyone expect amateurs to play by them? There are guys on the tour that don't know all of the rules for goodness sake. If you read all these post most of the "pro rules" people say things like "I want to keep track of my game" etc, etc.. but then turn around and criticize the rules that they don't like. You can't have it both ways, either you're playing strict rules of golf or you're not, there is no in between! I see guys that are not very good trying to adhere to the rules, and have no clue what the rules are, how is that helping them keep track of their game? BTW, at the end of the day, no one really cares about your score but you, especially if you're not playing for money. If it's a casual round (not a tournament), play your own version of house rules and keep it movin.
ToddRobb says:
I played a round with a gentlemen that shot his age 72. There is no doubt that had he played by the rules and played the ball "down", the course would have added at anywhere from 5 to 10 more strokes to his score. He was basically playing "winter rules", rolling the ball in the fairway. Does that make his 72 at age 72 any less significant? I was more than happy to sign his card as a witness, as a matter of fact I saw him on the course yesterday and felt like I had some sort of bond with him, he clearly remembered me as the one that was his witness. I told the group I was playing with the story and didn't think for a second to say "but he was playing winter rules".
wedgeguy says:
This is great, guys. One comment I might add here. Several times I saw someone mention "fair". Jack Nicklaus once said, "Who ever said golf was 'fair'"? He certainly had it right. Maybe that's why this game is such a great metaphor for life -- sometimes bad things happen through no fault of our own. One of the great lessons in life from my Dad was that "Life isn't fair, son. Don't expect it to be." Isn't golf a lot like that?
onedollarwed says:
Exactly. My use of "fair" was to mock people who help themselves to stroke after stroke (It's pretty amazing to see people gobble up almost 10 strokes/ round and then announce their score triumphantly.) because they claim things aren't fair: There's a long list: volocano holes, divots, all manner of cosmetic issues with the course, weather conditions, mental lapses. It's like there's something not fair about the course, but they never give anything back when they're lucky.
I love what John Updike wrote about golf - there's a collection called Golf Dreams. He loved the game, but wasn't all that great. But he was very honest about his play. One line he repeats goes something like... "and then you've got to go find your ball in the poison ivy where you put it."
The best part is how he takes full responsibility for bad shots, and crummy lies.
onedollarwed says:
Like I've said before if we drove our cars like we drove our balls, we'd crash every mile.
Real Men play the ball down. If you can't add extra penalty strokes, at least count the number of times you actually hit the ball. How hard can that be? It's just a number.
ToddRobb says:
"Real Men play the ball down" LOL!! Now that's funny!!
kickoutbettman says:
Hi all, great post, very interresting.
Here's my tought. I'm 27, I've playing since the age of 5 and I play around 35 to 45 games a year. I score around 80's. I usually play with the same group of friends and they play around 90' up to 100. Our only "house rules" are the following.
1.If you didn't hit a provisional, then we start somewhere we think the ball lands and add 2 penality stokes. (If you lost your drive, then you'll hit 4 from the spot you think it lands...)This is pretty fair with the real rule.
2.We play ball down only in the rought, fringe, greens. Usually we move the ball at maximum of 3inches to get rid of the divot.

For the rest I try to follow the rules the most as I can and I try to educate my friends (which are still learning the basics) to play by the rule.
Dawg64 says:
Why is playing the ball down or as it "lies" such a hard thing to do? I have been playing the ball down for the past two years - play on a public course and there are not many people that replace divots. I have become a better ball striker and have managed to lower my handicap at the same time. There have only been a few time where the ball was in an undesirable position on the fairway.
And yes there many rules to follow but for most rounds there are only a few that apply, lost balls , hazards and how to take a proper drop when taking relief. The decision around those rules are are compiled into a large book, be thankful these do not need to be remembered as well.
Albatross says:
I've been playing golf for over 40 years and I am proud to say I carry a 2 hcp. I play the ball down year round, 150+ rounds each year. Is it fair? No, but it is the same for everyone I play with. I do not think the Pro's should have a different set of rules, but I do wish I could play the conditions they play. Pro conditions eliminate many of the problems amateurs face. If you have ever seen Pro's practice, they also role the ball once in a while.
c5agalb says:
Rule 1: Enjoy yourself
Rule 2: Keep up pace of play so others enjoy themselves.
Rule 3: Set and abide by rules so your group enjoys themselves in friendly competition.
Rule 4: Observe USGA rules when round calls for it.
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