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Violations That Require Correction

Posted: 2/6/2012

Rule 1-1 of the Rules of Golf tells you the objective of the game is that “The Game of Golf consists of playing a ball with a club from the teeing ground into the hole by a stroke or successive strokes in accordance with the Rules.”


And Rule 3-1 explains, “A stroke-play competition consists of competitors completing each hole of a stipulated round or rounds and, for each round, returning a score card on which there is a gross score for each hole.”

Therefore, you can see that it is important to have a score for every hole in stroke play and to make that score by playing the game on the course from each teeing ground to each hole. As Richard Tufts’ “Principles Behind the Rules of Golf”states, “Put your ball in play at the start of the hole, play only your own ball and do not touch it until you lift it from the hole.” While the Rules of Golf do allow you to lift your ball under certain circumstances, you still must move it toward the hole by your own skill (a stroke).

There are five Rules in stroke play that require you to correct an error before teeing off from the next hole. If you don’t follow these,you will be disqualified. All these Rules can be seen as coming directly from Tufts’ principle and Rule 1-1. If you don’t correct these errors, you won’t have a proper score for the hole in question or for the round.

The five Rules are:


Rule 3-2 – Failure To Hole Out. In stroke play, you must hole out in order to have a score. If you ever forget this and pick up your ball before holing out, you must go back, replace the ball and hole out before teeing off on the next hole. If you left your ball-marker in place on the putting green, there would be no penalty; otherwise, it would be a one-stroke penalty under Rule 20-1 for lifting your ball on the putting green without marking the position first. If you didn’t know the exact location, estimate it and place a ball on that spot. 


Rule 11-4b – Playing From Outside The Teeing Ground Or 11-5 Playing From Wrong Teeing Ground. It is important that everyone playing in a stroke play competition plays the same course. In order to do this, everyone must start from the same place on each hole. As Rule 1-1 says, you must start from the teeing ground.  Failing to do that means you haven’t played the hole as it was intended to be played.  This Rule draws no distinction between being 1 inch outside the teeing ground and setting your ball 1 inch from the hole to start play. Either way, you must correct the error before you tee off on the next hole. There is a two-stroke penalty for starting the hole from outside the teeing ground, but all the strokes played before you play correctly don’t count so you be laying three after you play correctly. When you correct this error, you may tee your ball.

Rule 15-3b – Wrong Ball. If you play a ball that isn’t your ball in play, you have played a wrong ball. If you hole out with that ball, you won’t have made a proper score.  Therefore, you must go back and either find your ball or, if you can’t find it, put another ball into play under the appropriate Rule or you will be disqualified. There is a two-stroke penalty for playing a wrong ball, but the strokes made at the wrong ball and any penalties directly related to the playing of the wrong ball do not count.

Rule 20-7c – Playing From A Wrong Place. Rule 20-7a says that you have played from a wrong place if you make a stroke at your ball in play either (a) on a part of the course where the Rules do not permit a stroke to be made or a ball to be dropped or placed; or (b) when the Rules require a dropped ball to be re-dropped or a moved ball to be replaced. 

Playing from a wrong place in stroke play is a two-stroke penalty. In most cases, you are required to finish the hole with the ball that was played from the wrong place without correcting the error.

However, there are times when you might gain a significant advantage by playing from a wrong place. When this happens, you are considered to have committed a serious breach of playing from a wrong place. If you commit a serious breach, you must correct the error before starting play of the next hole in your round or you will be disqualified.  

If you short circuit the playing of the hole by moving your ball significantly forward without making a stroke or by moving your ball from a very difficult position to a significantly better one when not permitted by the Rules, then you must correct the error by playing from a place permitted by the Rules. 

For example, your shot to a green landed on the green and backed up into a yellow-staked water hazard; if you dropped a ball on the green side of the hazard and played it you would have committed a serious breach. You would have gained a significant advantage by not having negotiated the hazard with your golf skill and would be disqualified if you did not correct the error by playing a ball from the tee side of the hazard. In cases where you think there is a serious breach, you should play out the hole with the original ball and also with a second ball that corrects the error. Any time that you correct the possible error of playing from a wrong place, you must tell the Committee what you have done and let them decide if you did commit a serious breach.  Again, all the strokes with the ball ruled not to count will not be counted, but the two-stroke penalty for playing from a wrong place will still apply.

If you drop your ball in a wrong place, but you haven’t played it, you can use Rule 20-6 to correct the error with no penalty strokes.

Rule 29-3 – Foursomes Stroke Play. In Foursomes (alternate shot), if the wrong partner makes a stroke at the side’s ball, the stroke is cancelled and the partner who should have played it must correct the error by playing a ball as nearly as possible from the spot the wrong player played from with a penalty of two strokes. If multiple strokes were made, they all get cancelled and you return to the location where the first stroke was made in error.


Should one of these five situations ever occur on the final hole of a round, since there is no next teeing ground, you must state that you are going to correct the error before you leave the putting green or you will be disqualified.

If you are playing in a four-ball event and commit one of the first four errors, you can correct the error with the penalty or choose to not finish the hole. If you do not correct the error, you will only be disqualified for that hole and your partner’s score will count for your side.

In stroke play you must have a correct score for each hole. By failing to start from the correct place, playing a ball other than your own, having the wrong  person play  a shot in foursome (alternate shot) play, gaining a significant advantage without making a stroke or, finally, failing to hole out you would not have a valid score and would be disqualified if you did not correct it appropriately.


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