Rules Corner

Rules: Rub Of The Green

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July 13, 2012
John Van der Borght, USGA

Rub of the green is a term that has been a part of the game of golf since the earliest versions of the Rules. Simply put, it means any time a ball in motion after a stroke strikes an outside agency. Outside agencies are anything or anyone that is not a part of a player’s match or the player’s side in stroke play. A tree is as much an outside agency as a spectator or a fellow-competitor in stroke play. Rule 19-1 says that anytime a ball in motion strikes an outside agency it is a rub of the green and the ball is played as it lies.


Many golfers think of a rub of the green as only a bad thing. But it can also be a good thing.

During the second round of the U.S. Senior Open, Kirk Maynord’s tee shot on the par 4 12th hole was hooked toward a lake that runs down the left side of the fairway. When the group arrived in the landing zone, the players were surprised to see Maynord’s ball in the rough short of the water. Maynord told the marshal he was surprised that the ball hadn’t reached the water. The marshal replied that it did go into the hazard on its first bounce.  Within the hazard is a large 4-foot diameter metal pipe sticking straight out of the water.  The ball had struck the pipe and bounced backward onto dry ground outside the hazard.

Maynord tried to make the best of the good break, but his second shot came up short of the green and he went on to make a bogey 5.

Remember that when you get that good bounce off a tree back into the fairway, it is just as much a “rub of the green” as when you get the bad bounce off the cart path into a water hazard.

John Van der Borght is a manager of Rules education. For more information on the Rules of Golf, go to the Rules of Golf page at or watch the Rules of Golf videos at 

Ball Overhanging Lip Of The Hole

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John Van der Borght, USGA

Lake Orion – On the sixth hole of the second round of the U.S. Senior Open Tom Watson had a 7-foot putt from the right of the hole. His putt ran up to the lip and appeared to stop. As he started forward to tap it in, the ball fell into the hole.

How long could Watson wait for his ball to fall into the hole?

Rule 16-2 says that if any part of the ball is overhanging the hole, the player is allowed enough time to reach the hole without unreasonable delay and an additional 10 seconds to determine if the ball is at rest. If the ball falls in before that point, the ball is holed. If the ball has not fallen into the hole by that time, it is deemed to be at rest.

At this point if it falls in on its own, the ball is considered holed, but the player must add a penalty of one stroke. This is exactly the same result as if the player tapped the ball in.  Therefore, after 10 seconds, there is no benefit for the player to wait any longer and the player should just tap it in.

The term “reach the hole without unreasonable delay” allows a variable amount of time for the player. In Watson’s case, he was only 7 feet from the hole. The Rule would allow some amount of reaction and then he should walk to the hole. Once there, the clock would start on the 10 seconds. Watson had barely started toward the hole when the ball fell in.

If the shot was from the fairway, 150 yards away, it might take the player a minute or two to reach the hole. If he had to wait for other players to play it might be even longer. Regardless of where the shot was played from, if the ball is overhanging the hole, the player can reach the hole and wait 10 seconds.

John Van der Borght is a manager of Rules education. For more information on the Rules of Golf, go to the Rules of Golf page at or watch the Rules of Golf videos at


Pavin’s Ball Moves On The Fifth Hole

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By John Van der Borght, USGA

Lake Orion, Mich. – Corey Pavin’s tee shot on the par-3 fifth hole at the U.S. Senior Open (his 14th hole) came to rest in the rough behind the green. From there he played a chip shot to just beyond the hole. A television replay showed that his ball had moved after he addressed it.

Pavin thought his ball had oscillated and returned to its original position. Unfortunately it did not return to the original position. The Definition of a Ball Deemed to Moved says that if the ball comes to rest in a new position it is deemed to have moved. Had the ball returned to its original position, Decision 18/2 (Ball Oscillates During Address) states there would be no penalty.

Rule 18-2b (Ball at Rest Moved ; Ball Moving After Address)  says that if a ball moves after address, the player is penalized one stroke and must replace the ball. If he fails to replace the ball, the penalty becomes a loss of hole in match play or two strokes in stroke play. Since Pavin did not replace his ball, he incurred the full two-stroke penalty.

Pavin viewed the video after the round and agreed that the ball had moved and not just oscillated. The two-stroke penalty changed his score from 65 to 67.

For more information on the Rules of Golf, go to the Rules of Golf page at or watch the Rules of Golf videos at

John Van der Borght is a manager of Rules communications.

Rules: Obstructions Near Greens

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By John Van der Borght


Lake Orion, Mich. – If you are attending the U.S. Senior Open at Indianwood Country Club this week or watching it on TV, one of the things you will notice is the 18th green. The green is more than 50 yards deep and nearly as wide. In order to water a green this size, a number of sprinkler heads are located at the edges of the green. Additionally, there are two large drains situated directly off the edge of the green on the front right-hand side.


Because the area around the green has been mown to fairway height, many players who are just off the green may choose to putt the ball.  But what is the player to do if there is a sprinkler head or a large drain directly on his line of play?

Rule 24 (Obstructions) does not provide relief for an immovable obstruction that is on the player’s line of play throu   gh the green as long as it does not interfere with the area of his intended swing. This means that a player may have to find a different way to play this shot to avoid the obstruction.

The Rules of Golf do provide a number of local rules that may optionally be invoked by the committee in charge of a competition or the course. These local rules can be found in Appendix I of the Rules of Golf. One of the local rules provided allows for relief in situations such as this. Let’s take a look at this local rule.

The local rule states that if a ball lies through the green and an immovable obstruction on or within two club-lengths of the putting green and within two club-lengths of the ball intervenes on the line of play between the ball and the hole, the player may take relief.  Relief under this local rule is different than ordinary relief from an obstruction. When taking relief under Rule 24, a player determines his nearest point of relief and drops a ball within one club-length of that point, not nearer the hole. But, under this local rule, the player must drop the ball at the nearest point of relief, rather than within one club-length of that point. In both cases, the nearest point of relief must be no nearer the hole and not on a putting green or in a hazard and the ball must be dropped no nearer than the nearest point and not on a putting green or in a hazard.

In 2012, a note was added to this local rule, which gives the committee the right to restrict where it may be used. The committee may restrict its use to only balls lying in closely mown areas, to specific obstructions, only obstructions lying in closely mown areas or to specific holes.

Because the 18th hole at Indianwood is the only hole on the course where the use of closely mown areas around the greens is prevalent, the committee in charge of the U.S. Senior Open decided to implement the local rule only for play of the 18th hole.

As a player, you should always be sure to familiarize yourself with the local rules that are in force at the club where you are playing or for the tournament in which you are playing.

For more information on the Rules of Golf, go to the Rules of Golf page at or watch the Rules of Golf videos at  

Written by John Van der Borght, manager of Rules communications for the USGA. 


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