Rules Review – Local Rules

What is the difference between a Rule and a Local Rule?

As you probably already know, the USGA has announced a new Local Rule concerning the accidental movement of a ball on the putting green that takes effect January 1, 2017. We will discuss that Rule in its entirety at a later date, but for now let’s discuss exactly what a Local Rule is.

Every time we step foot on a golf course to play a round, be it a casual Sunday afternoon round or the final round of the U.S. Women’s Open, the Rules of Golf are in effect. The Rules of Golf are the standard set of regulations and procedures that every round of golf must be played by. Although the Rules are extensive, they do not always address EVERY situation a player might find herself in on every course in the world. For that reason, the USGA and the R&A created a standard set of Local Rules that can be put into effect by the Committee in charge when necessary.

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When you play in a CGA event, there is a standard set of Local Rules that we call our CGA Hard Card. This Hard Card includes Local Rules that are in effect at every CGA tournament, but are not covered in the Rules of Golf. At all CGA championships you will also receive a Notice to Competitors that is specific to that golf course and has specific Local Rules in effect for that day of competition. Additionally, most clubs across the country have a specific set of Local Rules that are in effect for their daily play.

So what is the difference between a Rule of Golf and a Local Rule? The difference is that the Rules of Golf are ALWAYS in effect and Local Rules must be PUT INTO effect. So, in order for a round of golf to be played under a Local Rule, the Rule must be put into effect by the Committee in charge. Like it sounds, a LOCAL Rule is LOCAL to that golf course and/or that competition.

Here are a few examples of commonly-used Local Rules:

  • EMBEDDED BALL: “Through the green”, a ball that is embedded in its own pitch-mark in the ground may be lifted, without penalty, cleaned and dropped as near as possible to where it lay but not nearer the hole. The ball when dropped must first strike a part of the course through the green. Exceptions: 1. A player may not take relief under this Local Rule if the ball is embedded in sand in an area that is not closely-mown. 2. A player may not take relief under this Local Rule if interference by anything other than the condition covered by this Local Rule makes the stroke clearly impracticable.
  • DISTANCE MEASURING DEVICES: In this competition, a player may use a device to measure distance only. However, if, during a stipulated round, a player uses a function to measure other conditions that might affect his play (e.g., gradient, wind-speed, temperature, etc.); the player is in breach of Rule 14-3.
  • IMMOVABLE OBSTRUCTIONS CLOSE TO THE PUTTING GREEN (BALL IN CLOSELY-MOWN AREA): Relief from interference by an immovable obstruction may be taken under Rule 24-2.  In addition, if a ball lies off the putting green and in a closely mown area through the green and an immovable obstruction on or within two club-lengths of the putting green and within two club-lengths of the ball intervenes on the line of play between the ball and the hole, the player may take relief as follows: The ball must be lifted and dropped at the nearest point to where the ball lay that (a) is not nearer the hole, (b) avoids intervention and (c) is not in a hazard or on a putting green.  The ball may be cleaned when lifted.
  • STONES IN BUNKERS: Stones in bunkers are movable obstructions.

So why is this important? Because if distance measuring devices aren’t allowed by Local Rule, you are not allowed to use them and will be penalized (and possibly disqualified) if you do. Please remember that Local Rules must be put into effect in order for players to use them. If your club does not adopt the new Local Rule concerning the accidental movement of a ball on the putting green, that Rule does not apply to your round at your club.

Make sure to check back soon for another Rules Review!
Questions about Local Rules? Email Maggie.

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