Know The Rules of Golf - MASSGOLF


Whether you are looking to brush up on the rules of golf or are new to the game and are learning the rules for the first time, Mass Golf has got you covered! Check out some of our growing content surrounding the rules of golf to gain a better understanding. Got questions? Our staff and volunteer rules officials are always here to help!


playing a competitive round of golf – IS IT IN OR OUT???


The 2019 revision to the Rules of Golf states there are 5 areas of the course:  The general area covers the entire course except for the four specific areas of the course which are the teeing area of the hole being played, all penalty areas, all bunkers and the putting green of the hole being played.

When a rules official is called upon to make a ruling, a key (but basic) factor is where the ball is.  Is the ball in the players hand, or on the ground?  If on the ground, the specific area of the course where the ball lies will obviously determine which rule(s) will apply.  Thus, its important to know where your ball lies when applying the rules.

In a previous Mass Golf/The Up & Down Women’s Newsletter, we discussed what constitutes the teeing area of the hole being played.

Rules 17 (Penalty Areas) states that a ball is in a penalty area when any part of the ball lies on or touches the ground inside the edge of the penalty area or is above the penalty area (such as on a bridge over a penalty area).  When defined by stakes, the edge of the penalty area is defined by a line between the outside points of the stakes at ground level and the stakes are inside the penalty area. When defined by a painted line on the ground, the edge of the penalty area is the outside edge of the line and the line itself is in the penalty area.  Thus, if your ball is touching a red or yellow penalty area line, it is in the penalty area.  When a penalty area is defined by both lines and stakes, the stakes are merely to identify that it is a penalty area.

Understanding when we are in a bunker may not be as easy as it sounds.  As sand spills out of the bunkers from normal play, the edge of the bunker becomes distorted.  By definition a bunker is a specifically prepared area of sand.  Any wall, lip or face of the bunker which consists of soil, grass, stacked turf or artificial objects are not part of the bunker.  Sand that has spilled outside the edge of the ‘prepared area’ of the bunker is not part of the bunker.

The putting green is an area specifically prepared for putting.   A ball is on the putting green when any part of the ball touches the putting green.  But this only applies to the putting green of the hole being played; all other putting greens are wrong greens and part of the general area.

And lastly, although not a specific area of the course, its important to know what constitutes out of bounds.  When out of bounds is defined by boundary objects (white stakes, a fence) the boundary edge is defined by the line between the course-side points of the stakes or fence posts at ground level; those stakes or fence posts are out of bounds.  When defined by a painted line on the ground, the boundary edge is the course side edge of the ground and the line itself is out of bounds.  If a ball is completely touching the line it is out of bounds; if a part of the ball is on the general area, it is in bounds.



playing a competitive round of golf – KEEPING SCORE


With the introduction of electronic scoring, and more recently, the restrictions resulting from COVID-19, scorecards for a competitive round can have a very different look, as well as some additional guidelines for verifying a player’s score when electronic scoring is utilized.

When playing in a competition that offers the option of both paper scorecard or electronic scoring, you need to know which form of scorecard is considered the ‘official’ scorecard.

If a competition is using paper scorecards, you will exchange scorecards with another player so that you have a marker for your score, and you will also be a marker for another player in your group.  At the completion of the round, the scorecard must be signed by both the player and the marker.  You are encouraged to keep your own score so that you can do a hole by hole comparison with your marker at the end of your round before signing the scorecard.  Hole by hole is encouraged rather than simply comparing total scores.

Mass Golf, along with most clubs, is now using the USGA Tournament Management App, known as Golf Genius.  If a competition is using electronic scoring as the official scorecard, you should maintain a paper scorecard to verify your own score at the end of the round.  Only one person in each group will need to enter the electronic scores.  Verifying scores at the end of the round when electronic scorecards are utilized can be done in a few different ways, but the goal is the same as with paper scorecards; you will want to verify your electronic score hole by hole and give a verbal signature/approval.

Golf Genius Software


In a handicap competition, whether you are using an electronic scoring or a paper scorecard, each player is responsible for playing to their correct handicap.  If you play to an incorrect handicap that is lower than your handicap, your score will stand.  If you play to a handicap that is higher, the penalty is disqualification.  With the changes that have occurred in the handicap system this year, handicaps are updated daily.  Thus, in order to know your correct handicap, you will need to know the date the handicap was established for scoring purposes for your competitive round.


Rules tips when playing a competitive round of golf


A competitive round of golf begins with your starting time.  Mass Golf encourages players to arrive at their assigned teeing area 10 minutes before your tee time.  A player must be ready to play at their assigned starting time and at their starting point (tee assigned).   An 8:00 am starting time means 8:00:00.  If a player arrives at their starting time ready to play no more than 5 minutes late, they get the general penalty (2 strokes added to their score on the first hole of play).  If they arrive more than 5 minutes late the penalty is disqualification.

Play begins within the teeing area of the starting hole assigned.  The teeing area is a rectangle that is two club lengths deep where the front edge is defined by the line between the forward most points of the two tee markers and the side edges are defined by the lines back and from the outside points of the tee markers.   All other areas of the ‘tee boxes’ outside this rectangular area on the hole being played are considered the general area.

If a player makes a stroke to start play of the hole or round from outside the teeing area, in stroke play, the player gets the general penalty (two penalty strokes added to the score of that hole) and must correct the mistake by playing from inside the teeing area.  The ball played from outside the teeing area is not in play and any further strokes made with that ball before the mistake is corrected do not count.  If a player does not correct the mistake before making a stroke to begin the next hole (or on the final hole before returning a scorecard) they are disqualified.

In match play, there is no penalty for starting play outside the teeing area, however, your opponent may cancel the stroke.  This must be done promptly and before either player makes another stroke.

Other hints when starting a competitive round of golf:  make sure you have no more than 14 clubs in your bag and place an identifying mark on your golf ball.

For more information on Rule 6 – Playing a Hole, CLICK HERE