Rules of golf help keep the game fair

Where would we be without rules? We live each and every day of our lives by a set of rules, values and morals set forth by our religion, society and of course by what our parents have engrained into us since we were very young.



Where would we be without rules? We live each and every day of our lives by a set of rules, values and morals set forth by our religion, society and of course by what our parents have engrained into us since we were very young.

Of course, rules were meant to be broken and quite frankly get broken each and every˙ day of our lives.

This is no different in the game of golf. From the beginning of the game, a set of rules was created to assist in keeping the game fair and equitable for all players.

Over a century after the birth of golf, the sport’s governing body continues to review and update situations within the rules of golf attempting to keep them current and without question.

As indicated, rules were meant to be broken. In the game of golf this not the rule but it seems to be the norm. The majority of golfers seem to play by a set of rules that benefit them.

Of course, this is not exactly true as I believe that most players do not intentionally go out to break the rules of golf to create a competitive edge for themselves.

The fact, or at least to the best that I can tell, is that most golfers simply do not understand or care to pay attention to the rules of golf.

In fact, unless you play or have played competitively, you may simply not understand the rules that govern play.

In North America, the game is relatively in its infancy and therefore we as golfers were not brought up with the history of the game as those in the UK. Children grew up sitting by the dinner table listening to their parents discuss and debate rules as we do with the game of hockey, football and baseball. You see, they lived the game each and every day of their lives from childhood to adulthood, therefore it is no wonder the tradition and therefore rules of the game of golf is second nature to them, but not us.

Last week I wrote an article introducing the rules of the game of golf.

I made reference to the fact that each and every one of us that plays golf acts as the judge, jury and referee to the rules of the game of golf. Therefore it is your responsibility to not only understand the rules that govern play, but to play by the rules.

This week I shall shed light on a few of the rules that each and every golfer should know. These include taking proper relief from a water hazard and free drops.

When it comes to water hazards there are only two types to be aware of. The first is referred too as a ‘water hazard’ and it is — or should be — clearly marked with yellow stakes. The second is referred to as a lateral water hazard and it is — or should be —clearly marked with red stakes.

Although both are water hazards, what differentiates one from the other is how to proceed when you hit into one of them.

In fact, golf courses will decide to mark a water hazard based on its location on the golf course. Although each golf course is responsible for properly marking its hazards, this is generally done considering what is best for the golfer.

When taking relief from a water hazard (yellow stakes) you have three options. The options are as follows:

(1) You can replay your shot from the location that the original shot that went into the hazard was played from; (2) You can keep the spot that the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard between you and the hole and go back as far as you like not past the location that you originally played your shot from; (3) Drop your ball two club lengths from the margin of the hazard that your ball last crossed the hazard.

When taking relief from a ‘lateral water hazard’ (red stakes) you have four options. The first three are exactly the same as with the yellow-stake water hazard.

The fourth is what differentiates the two and you can proceed as follows: You can drop your ball an equal distance across the hazard from the spot that your ball last crossed the margin of the hazard.

In other words, you may take you ball and drop it on the other side of the water hazard if it is better to do so, no closer to the hole than where your original ball last crossed the margin of the hazard.

The penalty for hitting into a water hazard regardless of whether it has red or yellow stakes on it is one stroke.

The difference between hitting a ball out of bounds and hitting into a water hazard is that your only choice when hitting your ball out of bounds is to replay your shot from the spot that you originally hit the shot that went out of bounds.

It is not in compliance with the rules of golf to drop a ball in the approximate location that you thought your ball to be lost.

There are a number of situations that you would receive a free drop from.

This would include ground under repair (ground deemed by a course official to be unfit for play, generally surrounded by white paint), casual water (standing water on the course that is not within the bounds of a water hazard), cart paths (generally paved or gravel surfaced paths) and staked trees or trees with ribbons on them.

The proper way to proceed when you find yourself faced with one of these situations is to take full relief at your nearest point (ensure you are not standing in or on the area that you have taken relief from or that your swing does not hit a tree that you are taking relief from) plus one club length, ensuring that the location that you plan to drop your ball is no closer to the hole than the spot that your original ball lay.

In some situations the spot that you are required to drop your ball is not necessarily a better location than the spot when your ball originally sat. Understand this as it may be better to hit the ball as it lies.

I had a couple of our regular golfers this week come to me disappointed that they had to play by the rules.

This of course came out after they had read my article last week.

The two were quietly laughing as they told me that the game is not nearly as much fun if they cannot use their foot wedge.

This of course brought a smile to my face as they play the game for fun and their type of fun on occasion does, involve the odd foot wedge.

Keep in mind that in the game of golf you never stop learning.

We all play the game for different reasons and in some occasions the basic rules of golf can be altered to suit your game.

However, if you play competitively or in any league then you need to take it upon yourself to understand the rules and play by them, as your score can directly influence whether you win or do not win a prize. Enjoy your week on the links.

Scott Bergdahl is the teaching pro at Lakewoods Golf Resort near Sylvan Lake

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