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Frequently Used USGA Rules

Updated: March 2018
 1. All putts in individual play must be holed. Continuous putting is encouraged. If you lift your ball before putting out but place your ball back in its original location and putt out, it is a one stroke penalty for lifting your ball without marking (see USGA Rule 20-1). If you fail to hole out and do not correct the mistake before teeing at the next hole or, in the case of the last hole of the round before you leave the putting green, you will be disqualified. (See USGA Rule #3-2.)

2. Doubt as to Procedure: USGA Rule 3.3 In stroke play only, when a competitor is doubtful of her rights or procedures, she may, without penalty, play a second ball. The competitor should announce to her fellow competitors her decision and the ball with which she will score if the Rule permits. The competitor must report the facts in all cases to the Rules Committee when returning her scorecard. If she fails to do so, she is disqualified. DO NOT SIGN the scorecard UNTIL the decision had been made.

3. Maximum of 14 clubs allowed. USGA Rule #4-4.

4. Hazards: Any bunker or water hazard. A “water hazard” is any sea, lake pond, river, ditch, surface drainage ditch or other open water course (whether or not containing water) and anything of a similar nature. The margin of a water hazard, if not otherwise marked, is the spot where the ground breaks down to form the depression containing the water. The lines and stakes are normally placed in that area. When playing from a hazard, you may NOT improve your lie, test the condition of the hazard, touch or move loose impediments or ground your club. USGA Rule 13-4 (Prohibited actions). See important changes regarding identifying ball in hazard and hitting a wrong ball in hazard see USGA Rule 12-2 and 15-3.
  1. Yellow stakes and lines - Water hazard USGA Rule 26. 
  2. Red stakes or lines - Lateral hazard USGA Rule 26-1. Note: some wooded areas are marked as lateral hazards. USGA Rule 26-lc. 
  3. White stakes or lines - Property lines and fences are out of bounds. USGA Rule 27 applies. 
  4. Solid white lines - Ground Under Repair. Lift and drop, without penalty, within in club length from the nearest point of relief, no nearer the hole. USGA Rule 25 applies. 
  5. LOST BALL: If a competitor’s ball may be lost outside a water hazard or out of bounds, play a provisional ball. If you fail to announce to your fellow competitors your intentions to play a provisional ball, then the second ball automatically becomes the ball in play. You are allowed 5 minutes to search. See USGA Rule 27-1, 27-2 for penalty information.

NOTE: When the ball goes in a wooded area that is marked by RED STAKES see USGA Rule 26-c on lateral hazard. If it is not known or virtually certain a ball is lost in a wooded area marked by RED STAKES, see USGA Rule 27-1 on stroke and distance.

5. Unplayable Ball: A player may declare her ball unplayable at any place on the course, except in a water hazard. The player is the sole judge as to when the ball is unplayable. See USGA Rule 28 for your 3 options.

6. Obstructions:
a.  Immovable: Interference by an immovable “obstruction” occurs when a ball lies in or on the obstruction, or so close to it that it interferes with the player’s stance or swing. Cart paths, birdhouses and metal sprinkler boxes are immovable obstructions. Drop one club length from the nearest point of relief, no nearer the hole, see USGA Rule 24-2.

b. Immovable Temporary: Temporary immovable “obstructions” arethe wooden yardage markers. See USGA Rule Appendix 1-74. 
7. Aeration: See Aeration: USGA Appendix 1, page 129 (d. Aeration holes)