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Frequently Used USGA Rules

Updated:  March 2017
1. 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.

a. Yellow stakes and lines - Water hazard USGA Rule 26.

b. Red stakes or lines - Lateral hazard USGA Rule 26-1. Note - some wooded areas are marked as lateral hazards. USGA Rule 26-lc.

c. White stakes or lines - Property lines and fences are out of bounds. USGA Rule 27.applies

d. Solid white lines - Ground under repair. Lift and drop, without penalty, within one Club length from the nearest point of relief, no nearer the hole. USGA Rule 25 applies.

e. 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.

2. 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 three options.


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” are the wooden yardage markers. See USGA Rule Appendix 1-7A, relief option III page 132.

AERATION: See Aeration: USGA Appendix 1, page 129 (d. aeration holes)