During a competition – whether the club championship or the U.S. Open – is not the time to discover that you are a rules ignoramus. So often maligned at the 19th hole, or decried as grossly unfair when invoked on the golf course, having a basic grasp of the Rules of Golf may save your hide, and save yourself a few strokes, when it can mean the difference between finishing as the champ, or a chump. Here are a few primers to remember before you walk onto the first tee, and all of the nerves that tournament experience entails.
- Mark your golf balls with an identifying mark (Rule 6-5).
- About that Provisional ball – know when you can invoke this option (see Rule 27-2).
- Is it match play or stroke play? It goes without saying that the two are different. That said, there are explicit differences when the rules are applied (Rules 2 and 3).
- Practice on the golf course (see Rule 7, and the conditions of competition, 33-1).
- Doubt as to procedure (or when to play a second ball if the procedure is in doubt, see Rule 3-3).
- Agreement to waive the rules… is an instant disqualification (see Rule 1-3).
- Distance Measuring Devices, otherwise known as rangefinders, are allowed in most competitions as a Local Rule. Make sure you ask.
- Find your ball on a cart path or paved surface – don’t pick it up until you know how to proceed and where to find relief. Once you pick up the ball, you are committed to take relief…and the relief may be a fate worse than hitting your ball off of the paved surface.
- Do you know your options for a ball in a water hazard, and a lateral water hazard? Best to review if in doubt (Rule 26).
- Sign and return your scorecard.
- Tournament tee times are not like restaurant reservations — don’t be late for your tee time (Rule 6-3).
- Count the number of clubs in your golf bag (there is a max of 14, Rule 4-4). A fairly obvious rule, yet so often violated… just ask Ian Woosnam.
- Get a Rules book and read the Definitions first… Golf, like many nuanced games, has its own lingo… and if you’re going to survive in the world of competitive golf you had better know the language.