What’s The Ruling?

How well do you know the rules of golf?

Your knowledge of the rules can help you to win or lose.  Learn the rules and improve your score.  Here are a few rules to test you knowledge.

USGA Rules of Golf


Can you take relief for an unplayable ball in the bunker?

YES.  What are your options?

Rule 28 Ball Unplayable.

  1. Proceed under the stroke and distance provision of Rule 27 – 1 by playing a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played (see Rule 20-5); or
  2. Drop a ball behind the point where the ball lay, keeping that point directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind that point the ball may be dropped; or
  3. Drop a ball within two club-lengths of the spot where the ball lay, but not nearer the hole.

If the unplayable ball is in a bunker, the player may proceed under Clause a, b or c.  If he elects to proceed under Clause b or c, a ball must be dropped in the bunker.


After addressing the ball, the ball moves prior to you beginning your swing.  What is the ruling?

Rule 18-2.  Ball Moving After Address.

If a player’s ball in play moves after he has addressed it (other than as a result of a stroke), the player is deemed to have moved the ball and incurs a penalty of one stroke.

The ball must be replaced unless the movement of the ball occurs after the player has begun the stroke or the backward movement of the club for the stroke and the stroke is made.


You hit your tee shot into the desert, take out another ball, and tell your fellow competitors you are hitting your third shot. You hit this shot into the fairway .  You find your first ball and it is playable from the desert.  Can you play this shot?  What is the ruling?

Rule 27-2. Provisional Ball

a. Procedure. If a ball may be lost outside a water hazard or may be out of bounds, to save time the player may play another ball provisionally in accordance with Rule 27-1.  The player must inform his opponent in match play or his marker or a fellow-competitor in stroke play that he intends to play a provisional ball, and he must play it before he or his partner goes forward to search for the original ball.

If he fails to do so and plays another ball, that ball is not a provisional ball and becomes the ball in play under penalty of stroke and distance (Rule 27-1); the original ball is lost.

You must play the third shot you hit off the tee since you did not declare your shot from the tee as a provisional ball.


Playing the rules is an integral part of the game. Get a 2014 USGA Rule Book and become familiar with the rules of the game. You can also go to USGA.org website and access the Rules and Decisions of golf. The Decisions will give you many detailed examples of how the rule is applied.

Contributing Writer:  Mark Oswald, PGA

Mark Oswald has been a PGA Member for over 25 years. Mark has worked with all levels of golfers from the first time beginners to PGA Tour Professionals. Mark is the General Manager at Oro Valley Country Club and has managed several clubs in Arizona including the Hilton El Conquistador, The Golf Club at Vistoso, Prescott Country Club and Great Eagle Golf Club.

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