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Rules FAQs

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What is the penalty if I play out of turn in stroke play?
Should rakes be left inside or outside of the bunker?
After searching for my tee shot for three minutes, can I go back to the tee to play a provisional ba
Can I share golf balls and/or clubs with my opponent or fellow competitor?
Do I get free relief from a sprinkler head on the fringe of the putting green if it’s situated direc
Am I entitled to free relief from exposed tree roots?
Do the relief options differ depending on the type of water hazard?
Why are some water hazards defined with yellow stakes and others with red stakes?
May I have the flagstick attended if my ball lies off the putting green?
May I have the flagstick attended if my ball lies off the putting green?
Are range finders or other distance measuring devices legal?

Q: What is the penalty if I play out of turn in stroke play?

 A: As long as competitors aren’t playing out of turn to give one of them an advantage, there is no penalty for playing out of turn in stroke. In some cases, it is actually recommended and can greatly speed up play (e.g., “ready golf,” tapping in on the putting green, etc.).

Q: Should rakes be left inside or outside of the bunker?

A: The USGA recommends that rakes be left outside bunkers in areas where they are least likely to affect the movement of the ball; however, it is ultimately a matter for the committee to decide.

Q: After searching for my tee shot for three minutes, can I go back to the tee to play a provisional ba

A: No. After having gone forward to search for your ball, you may not return to (in this example) the tee to play a “provisional ball.” If you put another ball into play at the spot from which your previous stroke was made, you are deemed to have proceeded under stroke and distance. That ball becomes your ball in play and the original is lost.

Q: Can I share golf balls and/or clubs with my opponent or fellow competitor?

A: You may share golf balls and other forms of equipment such as towels, gloves, tees, etc. However, you may not share clubs with your opponent or fellow competitor.

Q: Do I get free relief from a sprinkler head on the fringe of the putting green if it’s situated direc

A: The answer depends on whether or not the committee has adopted the “Immovable Obstructions Close to the Putting Green” local rule. In the absence of this local rule, you are not entitled to relief if an immovable obstruction (in this case, the sprinkler) interferes on your line of play. If the local rule has been adopted, you are entitled to relief—assuming the sprinkler is within two club lengths of the putting green and the ball is within two club lengths of the sprinkler.

In general, this local rule should only be adopted at courses where the conditions around the putting greens are such that these obstructions interfere with the proper playing of the game.

Q: Am I entitled to free relief from exposed tree roots?

A: No. Exposed tree roots are not abnormal. The committee may not adopt a local rule allowing relief from them.

Q: Do the relief options differ depending on the type of water hazard?

A: Yes. Options “a” and “b” are acceptable options regardless of what type of water hazard it is. Option “c” is only available when taking relief from a lateral water hazard (red stakes and lines). Below are the options for relief from a water or lateral water hazard under Rule 26-1:
  1. Play a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played; or
  2. Drop a ball behind the water hazard, keeping the point at which the original ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind the water hazard the ball may be dropped; or
  3. As additional options available only if the ball last crossed the margin of a lateral water hazard, drop a ball outside the water hazard within two club-lengths of and not nearer the hole than (i) the point where the original ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard or (ii) a point on the opposite margin of the water hazard equidistant from the hole.

Q: Why are some water hazards defined with yellow stakes and others with red stakes?

A: Under the Rules of Golf, water hazards are defined by yellow stakes and lines, and lateral water hazards are defined by red stakes and lines. Committees mark certain water hazards as lateral water hazards (using red stakes and lines) due to the layout and position of the hazard relative to the course and the hole on which it is serving as an obstacle.

Q: May I have the flagstick attended if my ball lies off the putting green?

A: Yes. Before making a stroke from anywhere on the course, you may have the flagstick attended, removed or held up to indicate the position of the hole.

Q: May I have the flagstick attended if my ball lies off the putting green?

A: Yes. Before making a stroke from anywhere on the course, you may have the flagstick attended, removed or held up to indicate the position of the hole.

Q: Are range finders or other distance measuring devices legal?

The committee may make a local rule allowing players to use devices that measure or gauge distance only. In the absence of this local rule, distance-measuring devices are prohibited. Devices that measure wind, slope, etc., are never permitted—even if these functions are turned off.