The Golf Rules
A series of entertaining and educational books on
stroke play, match play, and golf etiquette,
along with a collection of short stories about everything golf.
Quiet On The Course!
Nearly every golfer has been told, and knows, to be quiet on the course when others are playing. But how many times have you broken this rule or seen others act without courtesy?
While at the Marathon Classic last week, an LPGA event, I witnessed the ultimate etiquette faux pau. An older gentleman, apparently hard of hearing, talking on his cell phone quite loudly about thirty yards from the putting green while Anna Nordqvist attempted to hole out. The conversation was so loud that Anna backed off her putt, then her caddy yelled to the man to stop talking. I couldn’t believe my eyes, or ears. Later that round, her paired competitor, Nannette Hill, also turned to the crowd to request a couple to stop their whispering. Throughout the day I heard from the crowd during play many conversations, infrequent noises, and several different ringtones. Last year, at the same tournament, my son was scolded for walking while someone was playing out of a greenside bunker-despite the fact the golfer was facing the opposite direction and twenty yards away. There are even signs on the inside of the port-o-potties that request you close the door gently upon leaving.
This begs the question, at what distance or decibel level is any activity or sound acceptable on the course?
I asked Matt Blum, of the Golf Channel Amateur Tour, how much noise throws off his game. Matt responded that he can generally block out background sounds that he can’t control, such as that from the Goodyear Blimp, generators, or the hospitality tents; but over-powering or awkward noises, such as spectators talking, phones ringing, or passing traffic, can cause him to step away from his shot. He’s fairly used to the tiny sound of cameras but, in a recent tournament, was caught off-guard by a shutter click which caused him to chunk his approach shot.
If golfers with great ability are bothered by the slightest sound it’s no wonder these noises and movements impact the recreational golfer regularly.
So the next time you’re on the course, whether in a friendly round or at a professional tournament, keep your voice down, your phone turned off, and your movements slight whenever near a player.
If you’d like information on over 200 more etiquette items check out my humorous book, The Golf Rules – Etiquette!
Is it a hazard or not?
One of the most beloved events in golf is the USGA’s U.S. Open. This year’s event was held at Oakmont Country Club, where the very iconic Church Pew Bunker resides-right in the tee-shot landing zone off the fairways of the third and fourth holes, just waiting for you to attend.
Pictures do not do this area justice. The scary and score wrecking course feature is a half-acre large at 26,000 square feet! It measures over 300 feet long, averaging 86’ wide, containing 550 tons of sand, and includes 12 separated rows of grass running perpendicular with the fairway. Thus named as the grass knolls in this hazard resemble the seats in a church, and if your ball ends up here you will likely be praying.
Should you find yourself in this beachy area, remember USGA rule#13-4 and do not ground your club, move any loose impediments, nor test the conditions of the sand. Practice swings are allowed but not practice strokes. In other words, swing in the air and not at the ground.
Any infraction of this rule carries a penalty of 2 strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play, known as the general penalty.
You are allowed to touch the sand only if doing so is done to catch yourself as you fall and you can rake the sand if you’re only doing so to care for the course and not to improve your lie, stance, or next stroke.
Did you know that the grass growing in a bunker is not considered part of the hazard, despite the fact these swaths of terra firma are surrounded by sand? If you’re lucky enough to be in the grass, play as you would in the fairway, also known as playing ‘through the green’.
These rules will keep you out of trouble with the rules. Getting out of the hazard trouble is up to you.
I know golfers that have been playing for decades and still get this rule wrong. That’s why I wrote The Golf Rules series. See my humorous books for additional help in tackling the rules and etiquette of golf at TheGolfRules.com.
An Anger Penalty
Have you ever seen someone smack their club at a tee-box marker, a tree, or golf bag?
How about hitting yourself with your club in frustration?
PGA Tour golfer Zac Blair did just that after missing a birdie putt on the fifth hole at the Wells Fargo Championship. Zac must have a hard head as he damaged his club in doing so. Immediately after this incident, he holed out and continued to the next tee box.
Upon pulling his putter out of his bag on the next green, he realized the damage that was caused on the prior hole. In true golf-etiquette fashion he contacted a rules official to call the penalty on himself. Unfortunately, this penalty comes with a disqualification assessment.
USGA Rule# 4-3b, states "if a player's club is damaged other than in the normal course of play rendering it non-conforming or changing its playing characteristics, the club must not subsequently be used..."
And beating yourself in the head with the club is not considered by the USGA as normal play, although I know several golfers that would argue this point. Penalty for Breach of Rule 4-3b: Disqualification.
What could Zac have done to avoid this? Had he known of the damage, a different club could have been used in place of his putter. He wouldn’t have been the first pro that needed to hole out on the dance floor with a driver or 3-iron.
So the next time you decide to slam your club into your head or anything other than a golf ball in play, consider the rules (and your potential headache).
I know golfers that have been playing for decades and still get this rule wrong. That’s why I wrote The Golf Rules series. See my humorous books for additional help in tackling the rules and etiquette of golf – TheGolfRules.com.
Alchemy on the course, turning lead into gold
In medieval times there was a desire to turn lead into gold. Despite best efforts, this quest ended in despair.
The same can be said for many golfer’s dreams of having a ‘pure as gold’ swing. What usually happens is the ball flies like a lead balloon. Don’t give up, there are shortcuts in this mystical process though!
It took me 30 years of golfing with a high handicap before I learned that a smooth, arcing swing path, a stable and quiet lower body, coupled with and the idea that less is best, will produce a consistent and desired ball flight. My son learned these lessons after only a few years of playing. So why does his magic work better or faster? The answer is simple – he met with a qualified alchemist. And by that I mean a professional golf instructor.
If you enjoy golfing but desire to shave ten to twenty strokes off your game (I dropped 18 strokes one summer by making a single and simple swing change) then see a pro. The money spent will come back to you in piles of gold through a more relaxed and enjoyable game, maybe even in winnings from your friends.
Unfortunately, while the instructional articles in golfing magazines are accurate they are very difficult to understand and implement.
With coaching, you can turn lead into gold. And as the saying goes, the sooner the better. Take some lessons now, before the seasons gets into full swing. The extra time will be helpful to ingrain any new swing or train your muscles to move in a different direction.
And don’t forget about the rules and etiquette of the game! Most golfers don’t have this alchemist’s secret to enhance the value of your game. Knowing the rules and etiquette can turn you into a golden and desired playing partner or guest. If you don’t want to spend a week at USGA rules’ school, and don’t want to pick up the little white book and read the legalese, try my humorous yet education book series, The Golf Rules.
I knew a guy that would put lip balm on his golf ball when he had a downhill putt in order to slow the roll of his ball and help him not to overshoot the hole. News flash, that’s against the rules. USGA#4-2a says “During a stipulated round, the playing characteristics of a club must not be purposely changed by adjustment or by any other means”, and 4-2b states “foreign material must not be applied to the club face for the purpose of influencing the movement of the ball.”
Earlier this year Jordan Spieth commented he likes to spit on the bottom of his putter to add some friction when he’s practicing and the grass is dry. When he then asked a rules official if this action would be allowed during competition he was told ‘we aren’t sure.’
The ‘sticky’ part of this situation is that ‘water’ is considered an integral part of golfing and the course, although there is definitely intent to artificially change the behavior of golf equipment in this example.
Here’s where it gets really complicated. If Jordan were to use a wet towel to rub the bottom of his putter in order to wet it then there’s no issue nor rule infraction. If the towel were dry, and he purposefully wet it so as to soak his putter when applied then we have a breach of the rules. It all goes back to a person’s intent and/or the actions they take to better their swing, stance, or equipment.
The rules of golf have been crafted over hundreds of years as to cover every situation that could come up in order for the world to play in harmony. Because of this, rules explanations can be confusing. I know golfers that have been playing for decades and still get many rules wrong. That’s why I wrote The Golf Rules series. See these humorous books for additional help in tackling the rules and etiquette of golf at TheGolfRules.com.
So, the next time you’re playing and are considering applying sunscreen, hand lotion, or saliva to any club or ball just say no.