Understanding local rules in golf

We all know that we should arrive at the course well before our starting time, in order to prepare properly for our round. But, when we are playing a course that is unfamiliar to us, we often forget about what I consider to be one of the most important tasks of all, to read the Local Rules pertaining.

This involves reading the permanent Local Rules, usually found somewhere on the score card, and then finding out if there are any temporary Local Rules in operation, which are usually posted on the locker room notice board or in the Pro Shop.

It is Rule 33-8a that permits Committees to make and publish Local Rules for local abnormal conditions, providing they are consistent with the policy established in Appendix l to the Rules book.

Let us consider why it is so important to familiarize yourself with Local Rules by posing a few questions.

If there are no Local Rules in effect;

  1. May you take relief without penalty when your ball comes to rest on a teeing area?
  2. May you remove stones from bunkers?
  3. May you use an artificial device that solely measures distances?
  4. May you use binoculars?
  5. May you take relief from young, staked trees?
  6. May you take relief from woodchip pathways?
  7. May you choose to play from ground under repair rather than take relief?
  8. May you take relief without penalty for a ball embedded in its own pitch-mark in the rough?
  9. May you take line of putt relief from a sprinkler head located at the edge of a putting green?
  10. May you take relief without penalty if your ball comes to rest in an aeration hole made by a greenkeeper?

Here are the answers. Remember, this is when there are no Local Rules in effect;

  1. May you take relief without penalty when your ball comes to rest on a teeing area? No.
  2. May you remove stones from bunkers? No.
  3. May you use an artificial device that solely measures distances? No.
  4. May you use binoculars? Yes.
  5. May you take relief from young, staked trees? No.
  6. May you take relief from woodchip pathways? Yes.
  7. May you choose to play from ground under repair rather than take relief? Yes.
  8. May you take relief without penalty for a ball embedded in its own pitch-mark in the rough? No.
  9. May you take line of putt relief from a sprinkler head located at the edge of a putting green? No.
  10. May you take relief without penalty if your ball comes to rest in an aeration hole made by a greenkeeper? No.

How many out of 10 did you get right?

Now, if the Committee had introduced Local Rules;

  • to prohibit playing from all teeing areas
  • permitting the removal of stones from bunkers
  • permitting relief from sprinkler heads located close to putting greens
  • permitting the use of devices to measure distances only
  • permitting relief for a ball that is embedded through the green
  • making it mandatory to take relief from staked trees
  • making it mandatory to take relief from GUR

Then seven of these answers would have been different. I hope that this persuades you that it is imperative to scrutinize the Local Rules before you start a competitive round of golf.

A related point that many players overlook is that if you do not fully comply with a Local Rule then you still incur the penalty. For example, if your ball comes to rest close to a staked tree and there is a Local Rule stating that you must take relief from staked trees, you have to ensure that neither your club nor any part of your body touches any part of that tree during your stroke, or you will incur a penalty of two strokes in stroke play, or loss of hole in match play. This is true even if you have taken relief, but not sufficiently to have avoided the tree during your stroke. You must take full relief from the staked tree that interferes with your stance or stroke.

4 Responses to Understanding local rules in golf

  1. Mike October 30, 2017 at 4:48 pm #

    Barry knows his stuff! I’ve subscribed to his blogs for many years and learn things all the time! And what’s best, if you have a question, email him, and he’ll get back to you! He’s awesome! More people should learn the rules!

  2. Tony Gargiulo October 30, 2017 at 5:05 pm #

    I would like to be on mailing list

  3. Richard October 30, 2017 at 7:08 pm #

    My club has a local tournament rule that requires forward tee players to have 75 percent of their rounds played from the club’s forward tees. I say this violates the intents a purposes of the GHIN rules. What do you think?

    • Keith @ GolfersRX November 12, 2017 at 5:50 am #

      Unlike the Rules of Golf, which are unified across the world, there are a range of different handicapping systems used by national golfing bodies and I do not have any knowledge of the GHIN system.

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