Before commencing your round:
(1) Read the Local Rules on the score card.
(2) Put an identification mark on your ball. Many golfers play the same brand of ball and if you can’t identify your ball, it’s lost.
(3) Count your clubs. You are allowed a maximum of 14 clubs.
During the round, don’t ask for “advice” from anyone except your partner or caddie. Don’t give advice to anyone except your partner.
During a hole you may not play a practice stroke.
Tee off between and not in front of the tee-markers. You may tee off up to two club-lengths behind the front line of the tee-markers.
Teeing off outside this area – in match play there is no penalty but your opponent may ask you to replay your stroke; in stroke play you incur a two-stroke penalty and must then play from within the proper area.
PLAYING THE BALL
Play the ball as it lies. Don’t improve your lie, the area of your intended swing or your line of play by moving, bending or breaking anything fixed or growing except in fairly taking your stance or making your swing. Don’t press anything down or build a stance.
If your ball lies in a bunker or a water hazard don’t touch the ground in the bunker, or the ground or water in the water hazard, before your downswing.
The ball must be fairly struck, not pushed or spooned.
Playing a wrong ball (except in a hazard) – in match play you lose the hole; in stroke play you incur a two-stroke penalty and you must then play the correct ball.
ON THE PUTTING GREEN
You may repair ball marks and old hole plugs on the line of your putt but not any other damage, including spike marks.
You may mark, lift and clean your ball on the putting gre·en. Always replace it on the exact spot.
Don’t test the putting surface by scraping it or rolling a ball over it.
Ball played from putting green strikes flagstick – in match play you lose the hole; in stroke play you incur a two-stroke penalty.
BALL AT REST MOVED
If your ball is at rest and it is moved by you, your partner or your caddie, except as permitted by the Rules, or if it moves after you have addressed it, add a penalty stroke and replace your ball.
If your ball is at rest and is moved by someone else or another ball, replace it without penalty to you.
BALL IN MOTION DEFLECTED OR STOPPED
Ball struck by you is deflected or stopped by you, your partner or your caddie – in match play you lose the hole; in stroke play you incur a two-stroke penalty and the ball is played as it lies.
Ball struck by you is deflected or stopped by someone else – play your ball as it lies wihout penalty, except (a) in match play, if an opponent or his caddie deflects the ball you have an option to replay the stroke or (b) in stroke play, if the ball is deflected after a stroke from on the putting green, you must replay it.
Ball struck by you is deflected or stopped by another ball at rest- in matchplay, no penalty and the ball is played as it lies except. In stroke play you incur a two-stroke penalty if your ball and the other ball were on the putting green before you played.
LIFTING, DROPPING AND PLACING THE BALL
If a lifted ball is to be replaced, its position must be marked. If a ball is to be dropped or placed in any other position (e.g. taking relief from GUR, etc.) it is recommended that the ball’s original position be marked.
When dropping, stand erect, hold the ball at shoulder height and arm’s length and drop it. If a dropped ball strikes you or your partner, caddie or equipment it must be re-dropped without penalty.
There are eight instances where a dropped ball rolls to such a position that it must be re-dropped – see Rules of Golf Rule 20 – 2c
BALL INTERFERING WITH OR ASSISTING PLAY
You may lift your ball if it might assist any other player.
You may have any ball lifted if it might interfere with your play or assist any other player.
You may move a loose impediment unless it and your ball are in a hazard. However, if you have touched a loose impediment within one club-length of your ball and your ball moves, the ball must be replaced and (unless your ball was on the putting green) you incur a penalty stroke.
Check the Local Rules on the score card for guidance on immovable obstructions (e.g. surfaced roads and paths etc.) .
Movable obstructions (e.g. rakes, tin cans etc.) anywhere on the course may be moved. If the ball moves it must be replaced without penalty.
If an immovable obstruction (e.g. a water fountain) interferes with your stance or swing, you may drop the ball within one club-length of the nearest point of relief not nearer the hole. There is no relief for intervention on your line of play unless your ball and the obstruction are on the putting green.
CASUAL WATER, GROUND UNDER REPAIR etc.
If your ball is in casual water, ground under repair or a hole or cast made by a burrowing animal e.g. a rabbit, you may drop without penalty within one club-length of the nearest point of relief not nearer the hole.
Check the Local Rules on the score card to establish whether the sea,lake, river etc. is a `water hazard’ or a `lateral water hazard’.
Ball in watery hazard – play the ball as it lies or, under penalty of one stroke, (a) drop any distance behind the water hazard keeping a straight line between the hole, the point where the ball crossed the margin of the water hazard and spot on which the ball is dropped, or (b) play again from where you hit the ball into the hazard.
Ball in lateral water hazard – in addition to the options for a ball in a water hazard (see above), under penalty of one stroke, you may drop within two club-lengths of (a) the point where the ball crossed the margin of the hazard or (b) a point on the opposite side of the hazard equidistant from the hole.
BALL LOST OR OUT OF BOUNDS
Check the Local Rules on the score card to identify the boundaries of the course. If your ball is lost outside a water hazard or out of bounds you must play another ball from the spot where the last shot was played under penalty of one stroke i.e. stroke and distance. You are allowed 5 minutes to search for a ball, after which if it is not found or identified it is lost. If, after playing a shot, you think your ball may be lost outside a water hazard or out of bounds you may play a `provisional ball’. You must state that it is a provisional ball and play it before you go forward to search for the original ball. If the original ball is lost or out of bounds you must continue with the provisional ball under penalty of one stroke. If the original ball is not lost or out of bounds, you must continue play of the hole with it and the provisional ball must be abandoned.
If you believe your ball is unplayable outside a water hazard (and you are the sole judge), you may under penalty of one stroke, (a) drop within two club-lengths of where the ball lies not nearer the hole, (b) drop any distance behind the point where the ball lay keeping a straight line between the hole, the point where the ball lay and the spot on which the ball is dropped, or (c) replay the shot. If your ball is in a bunker you may proceed under (a), (b) and (c). However, if you elect to proceed under (a) or (b) you must drop in the bunker.
A good score may be spoiled, or a match lost, due to a penalty incurred through ignorance or confusion concerning the Rules. A sound knowledge of the above summary should aid the golfer in tackling a “Rules problem”. Nevertheless, the complete Rules of Golf as approved by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews and the United States Golf Association, should be consulted where any doubt arises.