Explaining the Rules

Modified Rules of Golf for casual amateur play         

Comments in Bold Italic

Since the USGA requires amateur golfers to play by the “principles of the Rules of Golf” rather than play by the Rules of Golf this list is an attempt to standardize some modifications.  The purpose is to help the pace of play and to encourage golfers to golf more often and have more fun.   Any golfer may elect to continue to play by the traditional Rules of Golf if they desire.  The purpose of this set of modified rules is to start the discussion needed to have a uniform set of rules for casual amateur golf.  If you do not keep score or you are golfing just for fun you may follow or ignore any golf rule you desire.  If you post your scores to maintain a USGA Handicap Index you must post all “acceptable scores”.  According to the USGA Handicap Manual you do not need to play by all of the Rules of Golf to have an “acceptable score.   But you do need to play by the principles of the Rules of Golf.  See USGA Handicap Manual section 4-2 and Decision 4-2/1 and Rule 5-1a.  http://www.usga.org/Rule-Books/Handicap-System-Manual/Decision-04/#4-2/1

1                   Tee it Forward.  All golfers are encouraged to Tee it Forward and use a Teeing area that best suits the length of their average drive, not their best drive.  All golfers do not need to use the same Tees.  If your average drive is 280+ use the Blues, if 220 to 280 use White Tees, if 175 to 220 use Gold Tees, if 160 to 200 use Red Tees, and if less than 160 use Forward (Green/Orange) Tees.  These yardages are based on the yardages of many courses.  If yours are different then determine what length average drive it will take to comfortably reach each green in regulation.  If your course does not have a set of Tees forward of the traditional Red Tees, you need to have a set installed.  See  http://www.pga.com/news/pga/nicklaus-johnson-and-creamer-encourage-golfers-tee-it-forward

2                   Ready Golf.  Play “ready golf” both on the Tee and on the course.  No honors, except maybe for Birdies.  Get ready to hit while someone else is hitting.  Hit when ready, you don’t always have to wait until it is your turn.

3                    Mulligans.  One Mulligan is allowed per round, normally on the first Tee.  Tee shot only.  While the Mulligan will take a little extra time it may save several strokes if the poorer shot was used.

4                   Putting.  When putting normally continue to putt until the ball is holed unless you must stand on the line of someone’s putt or someone else is ready to putt.   Gimmies are encouraged and allowed if “within the leather”, about 22 inches.  Gimmies count one stroke.  Your forth putt is always a Gimmie.  When in doubt put a piece of tape or string on your putter to show approved length.  If any part of the ball is outside the mark, putt it.  If you are not in competition pick up whenever you want to.  The USGA Handicap Manual authorizes and explains how to score a gimmie.  Rule 4-1 and Decision 4-1/1.  http://www.usga.org/Rule-Books/Handicap-System-Manual/Rule-04/#4-1  

5                   Water hazards.  Golf balls hit into a water hazard shall be placed no more than two club lengths from the water’s edge, parallel to where the ball landed in water (not where it crossed into the hazard).  One stroke penalty.  If there is a designated drop zone, hit from there.  One stroke penalty.  You should have the penalty for hitting into the water but to speed up play you get to take advantage of the distance you hit your ball.

6                   Out of Bounds.  Golf balls hit out of bounds shall be played like a ball lost in a hazard.  The ball may be placed no more than two club lengths from the OB margin closest to where the ball came to rest with a one stroke penalty.  This is designed to speed up play.  No provisional balls required.  You continue to play just as you would if your ball was in water rather than OB.  This concept (as well as #8) is now endorsed by Play Golf America, a  site sponsored by the USGA and the PGA at http://pdf.pgalinks.com/p-g-a/Pace_of_Play.pdf.  

7                    Improve your lie.  Play winter type rules year round.  If your ball is dirty, lift, clean and replace it.  Bumping or placing your ball is permitted to a maximum of 6 inches.  No penalty.  Divots are Ground Under Repair.  The purpose here is to help you have more fun and score better.  If the rough is wet and tough, fluffing up the ball may lessen the chance of your injury.  The USGA Handicap Manual approves using Winter Rules all year long.  See Section 4-2.

8                   Lost ball.  Three minutes maximum to look for a lost ball.  If not found, put a ball in play in short grass (fairway or rough) near where you expected to find the lost ball.   One stroke penalty.  On too many courses you cannot tell from the Tee if your ball can be found.  This eliminates the provisional ball and/or the trip back to hit again.  This will speed up play.   See comments to #6 above.

9                   Landscaping.  A ball coming to rest in landscaped plants or where your swing is obstructed by same plants, may be moved two club lengths no closer to the hole– no penalty.  If the ball came to rest in rocks or gravel it may be removed to nearest grass, no closer to the hole, with no penalty.  Non-staked trees are not considered landscaped plants.  If we are playing for fun why should we damage our clubs or damage the lovely landscaping at the course.  

10                Sand Traps/Bunkers.  These may be played like a hazard if you desire.  Remove and drop/place your ball on grass no closer to the hole.  One stroke penalty.  It is OK to swing first and then pick up.  The Pro’s sometimes like sand bunkers.  Sometimes we don’t.  Why should hitting into a sand bunker cost more strokes than hitting into a lake?  This gives you the option of hitting from the bunker, trying to hit from the bunker and/or just lifting out with a one stroke penalty.  Some golfers swing once and if still in the bunker they lift out and take the penalty stroke.  This hole should be scored by recording your “most likely” score  as authorized by section 4-1 of the Manual.  Frequently you actual score will be the same as your most likely score.

11              When to pick up.  If you are not in a stroke play competition you may pick up your ball and move to the next hole when you have reached the maximum number of strokes you could post for the hole, or, if you do not post your scores for handicap purposes, when you have reached a double par for the hole.   This “mercy rule” puts some end to the frustration of a bad hole and speeds up play.  If you are just playing for fun, pick up whenever you desire.

12              No harm, no foul.  You may ignore any “technical rule of golf” if you are not harming someone’s game and you are not gaining an unfair advantage.   Too many clubs in your bag?  Hit your ball on a practice stroke?  Accidently grounded your club in a bunker?  You made your putt while the flag was in the hole?  Etc.  Ignore those penalties and just play golf and have fun.  A whiff should be considered a practice stroke.  Remember you do not need to follow all of the Rules of Golf, you just need to play by the principles of the Rules of Golf.

13              Rule interpretation.  There is no rules committee.  Each player is allowed to interpret the rules as he/she desires after discussion with other golfers.  If you don’t like how someone else interprets the rules don’t golf with them anymore.  It is important to discuss your interpretation of these modified rules with other golfers so both you and they understand the “what and why” of what you are doing.


3 Responses to Explaining the Rules

  1. barb beeching says:

    if you give a player a put and they decide to putt it anyway and they miss the “gimmie” should they count it or say “Well it doesn’t matter ‘ you gave it to me

  2. Barb, rule 13 says there is no “rules committee” including me. So if a golfer says they accepted the gimmie but made a practice putt, even saying that after missing the gimmie, so be it.

    Regards, Ed Beeksma

  3. Sandyb says:

    EXCELLENT, May common sense prevail in at least our small part of the world. Love the section on choice of teeing ground. It has nothing to do with sex or age but only how far your average drive will go to give you a chance to reach greens in regulation.

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