Rules Review – Parts of the Golf Course 2

Part Two of a Four-Part Series

Every golf course is divided into four major parts.  Understanding these four parts of the golf course is essential to understanding HOW to apply the Rules of Golf. In the next four weeks we are going to discuss the four parts of the golf course.


Week Two: The Putting Green

The putting green is all ground of the hole being played (similar to the teeing ground, it must be of the hole being played) that is specially prepared for putting or otherwise defined as such by the Committee. Every other putting green (including practice putting or chipping greens) are WRONG putting greens. (see Rule 25-3)

A ball is ON the putting green when ANY part of it touches the putting green. This is perhaps the most important part of the definition – if even ONE dimple of your golf ball is touching the putting green, your ball is ON the putting green. Why is that important? Because now you can mark your ball, lift it and clean it before making a stroke!


A few Rules to remember about the putting green:

  • You may repair a ball mark on the putting green at ANY time, whether or not your ball lies on the putting green. You may also repair an old hole plug at any time. (Rule 16-1c)
  • You MAY NOT repair spike marks or any other damage to the putting green if it might assist you in the subsequent play of the hole. (Rule 16-1c)
  • You MUST NOT touch your line of put, except in these seven instances (Rule 16-1a):
    1. you may move loose impediments
    2. you may place the club in front of the ball when addressing it
    3. in measuring (i.e. when you are moving your ball marker out of someone’s line of putt)
    4. in lifting or replacing the ball
    5. in pressing down a ball marker
    6. in repairing old hole plugs or ball marks on the putting green
    7. in removing movable obstructions (such as a cigarette butt)
  • You, your partner or a person you authorize (such as a caddy) may mark and lift your golf ball on the putting green. (Rule 20-1)
  • Similarly, you, your partner or the person who lifted the ball may replace your golf ball on the putting green. (Rule 20-3a)

Helpful hints about the putting green:

  • Whether you’re playing match play or stroke play, the ball farthest from the hole should always be played first. It does not matter if one ball is on the green and the other is not. (Rule 10-1b, Rule 10-2b)
  • If a player’s ball is in motion and it may strike the removed flagstick, you CAN move the flagstick so that the player’s ball does not strike it and therefore incur a penalty. (Rule 24-1)
  • Once you have finished putting and all players in your group are done with the hole, it is fine to tap down spike marks for the players coming behind you. (Decision 1-2/0.7)

Make sure to check back next week for Part Three of this series – Hazards!
Questions about the putting green? Email Maggie.

Rules Review – Parts of the Golf Course

Part One of a Four-Part Series

Every golf course is divided into four major parts.  Understanding these four parts of the golf course is essential to understanding HOW to apply the Rules of Golf. In the next four weeks we are going to discuss the four parts of the golf course.rules-of-golf-notes_html_3debb6f2

Week One: The Teeing Ground

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 sides of which are defined by the outside limits of two tee-markers.  ONLY the two club-length area is considered the teeing ground, even though that area does not take up all the area on a tee box.


A few Rules to remember about the teeing ground:

  • If you accidentally knock your ball off the tee and you had no intention of making a stroke, there is no penalty. You may replace the ball and play away. (Rule 11-3)
  • You may stand outside the teeing ground to make a stroke at a ball that is inside the teeing ground. (Rule 11-1)
  • Don’t touch the tee markers – if you move a tee marker before you make your first stroke from the teeing ground, you will be penalized under Rule 13-2 for improving your lie, area of intended swing or line of play. (Rule 11-2)
  • Make sure you’re playing from the correct tee markers – In stroke play, if a player plays from outside the teeing ground (which also includes playing from the WRONG teeing ground), she incurs a two-stroke penalty and must then play a ball from inside the teeing ground. If she fails to do so before making a stroke from the next teeing ground, she is disqualified. Make sure you know which set of tee markers you are supposed to play from BEFORE starting your round. (Rule 11-4b)

Helpful hints about the teeing ground:

  • If you are proceeding under the stroke and distance option of a Rule (i.e. you hit your ball out of bounds and must return to the tee, you are taking relief from a water hazard, you have declared your ball unplayable), and your original stroke was made from the teeing ground, you can tee your ball for your next stroke.
  • Every tee box on the course other than the teeing ground of the hole being played is THROUGH THE GREEN (therefore, if a relief option is available that will allow you to drop on a different tee box, you do NOT get to re-tee the ball).

Make sure to check back next week for Part Two of this series – the Putting Green!
Questions about the teeing ground? Email Maggie.

Rules Review

Declaring Virtual Certainty: How certain are you?

A player hits her tee shot toward a lateral water hazard (red line) that runs down the left side of the hole. She (and her playing partners) see the ball heading toward the water, but nobody is quite sure where it ends up. When she reaches the spot where she believes her ball could be, she can’t find it and there is a lot of thick grass and shrubbery around the area. How should she proceed?  Should she assume her ball is in the water hazard and take relief?

Before a player can proceed under Rule 26-1 (Relief For Ball in a Water Hazard), she must FIRST have knowledge or virtual certainty that the ball is in the water hazard.  Just because a player hits her ball TOWARD a water hazard doesn’t necessarily mean that the ball ended up IN the water hazard. In the absence of knowledge or virtual certainty, the player must proceed under Rule 27-1c (Ball Not Found Within Five Minutes), which is a stroke and distance penalty (same as hitting your ball out of bounds). So how can you be virtually certain if you don’t physically FIND your ball in the hazard?  Let’s look at a couple photos:

In the picture on the left, if you hit your ball to the left or right (or behind the green) and can’t find it, chances are it is IN the water. That’s mostly because there’s really nowhere else it could be.  The grass around the bank is short, there aren’t many trees or shrubs, and there’s nowhere that the ball could really be lost other than IN the water. However, in the picture on the right, there is tall grass around the edge of the water, trees on either side of the hazard and LOTS of places a ball could be lost other than in the water. I would argue that if you hit your ball toward the hazard on the right and you didn’t physically see it go in or see or hear a splash, there’s a really good chance that ball is NOT in the hazard. Therefore, you would not have virtual certainty.

Decision 26-1/1 clearly defines knowledge or virtual certainty and in order to truly understand this concept, it is a must-read. The decisions states: in determining whether “virtual certainty” exists, some of the relevant factors in the area of the water hazard to be considered include topography, turf conditions, grass heights, visibility, weather conditions and the proximity of trees, bushes and abnormal ground conditions.

The bottom line with virtual certainty is this: You need to be virtually certain that the ball cannot be ANYWHERE OTHER THAN in the water hazard in order to take relief under this Rule. If there is an argument that the ball could be lost ANYWHERE ELSE, you don’t have virtual certainty and you cannot proceed with your water hazard relief options under Rule 26-1.

Make sure to check back next week for another Rules Review!
Questions about virtual certainty? Email Maggie.