Our Experts Explain the Rules of Golf

Rules Experts

USGA rules experts provide insight and explanations on rules decisions and interpretations. The experts will also address commonly asked rules questions.  

Latest Articles

How Far Is Too Far?
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Posted: 2/27/2014 2:19:56 PM

Decision 27-2a/1.5 has been updated for 2014 to provide further guidance on how far a player can proceed forward in search of their ball before losing the opportunity to play a provisional ball. Read on for details. ...

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Was it Gravity?
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Posted: 2/18/2014 1:45:05 PM

Decision 18-2b/11 states that a player is not penalized when a ball moves after address if it is caused by another agency. What if that agency, however, is gravity? Read on to learn more. ...

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Posted: 2/11/2014 9:57:20 AM

While new Decision 14-3/18 allows a player to use a multi-functional device to access information about weather conditions, measuring or gauging that information is still a breach of the Rules. Read on for details. ...

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Posted: 1/23/2014 10:54:23 PM

When Phil Mickelson took a swing right-handed to try and advance his ball from underneath a bush during the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, it struck his club twice. Read on to learn why he was penalized, per the Rules of Golf. ...

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Posted: 1/22/2014 12:04:06 PM

When Rory McIlroy took relief from an abnormal ground condition at the 2014 Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, his left foot remained in abnormal ground area, meaning he did not take complete relief from the area in question. John van der Borght explains why he was penalized two strokes, and what he could have done to prevent that. ...

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Too Many Clubs
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Posted: 8/10/2013 10:15:24 AM

Woody Austin discovered he had more than 14 clubs in his bag during the second round of the 2013 PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club in Pittsford, N.Y., and USGA Rules of Golf Associate Liz Carl explains how he was penalized. ...

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Posted: 5/29/2013 11:05:07 AM

Occasionally, there are delays for player making the turn during a two-tee start. John Van der Borght explains that while putting on a practice green while waiting is allowed, using training aids is not. ...

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Shortening the Round
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Posted: 5/29/2013 10:50:20 AM

At the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic, rain made many holes on the Ocean Club Golf Course unplayable. Rob Ockenfuss explains how the Committee was able to shorten the stipulated round to 12 holes. ...

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Posted: 3/29/2013 3:04:11 PM

At the RR Donnelly LPGA Founders Cup, Stacy Lewis was penalized two strokes when her caddie tested the condition of a hazard. USGA Manager, Rules Communication John Van der Borght explains the thought process behind this infraction. ...

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Posted: 3/28/2013 8:56:30 AM

At the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard, Sergio Garcia hit a ball from a tree while bracing himself against a tree. USGA Rules Of Golf Associate Mike Charrie explains why this action was not building a stance. ...

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Posted: 2/22/2013 10:00:37 AM

Snow halted play at the WGC-Accenture Match Play earlier this week. USGA Rules of Golf Associate Mike Charrie explains your options when you encounter snow or natural ice on the course during a round.   ...

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Posted: 1/18/2013 12:07:34 PM

John Van der Borght, Manager Rules Communications Why was Tiger Woods penalized two strokes for an embedded ball in the sand during the second round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championshp? Sand and the Rules of Golf again made headlines on Jan. 18 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.  Last year, Rory McIlroy had a r ...

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Posted: 1/7/2013 12:03:34 PM

John Van Der Borght, Manager, Rules Communications Can you explain why first-round scores were nullified when play was postponed due to high winds at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Maui? Weather conditions frequently interrupt play at golf tournaments, but this past weekend saw extreme weather conditio ...

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Posted: 11/20/2012 1:46:54 PM

Rob Ockenfuss, Manager, Rules Inquiries What is the proper method of taking a drop during the course of a round? Dropping a ball during a round of golf is not uncommon. Whether taking free relief from a cart path or under penalty after hitting into a water hazard or deeming a ball unplayable, dropping is frequ ...

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Posted: 8/21/2012 9:20:46 AM

Mike Charrie, Rules of Golf Associate In the final round of the 2012 PGA Championship, Carl Pettersson’s ball went in a lateral water hazard on the first hole. Before he played the stroke from the hazard, Pettersson asked the referee, who was walking with the group, if he could brush the grass with his club during ...

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Posted: 8/15/2012 9:28:20 AM

Elizabeth Carl, USGA In the battle for the PGA’s Wanamaker trophy last weekend at The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, ranked No. 1 on “Golf Digest’s Toughest Courses in America,” players didn’t have to worry about one difficulty found on most courses. Even though there was plenty of sand to deal with, there we ...

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Posted: 7/24/2012 9:24:18 AM

By Mike Charrie, Rules of Golf Associate During the final round of the 2012 Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, Tiger Woods found himself in an unfavorable position in a bunker on the sixth hole. Many players would likely have thought about deeming their ball unplayable, taking the one-stroke penalt ...

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Posted: 5/30/2012 8:52:08 AM

John Van der Borght, Manager, Rules Communications Why was Zach Johnson penalized two strokes on the 18th green at Colonial at this past weekend's PGA Tour event? On the 18th hole of the final round of the Crown Plaza Invitational at Colonial, Zach Johnson’s third shot came to rest 5 feet from the hole, where ...

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Posted: 5/16/2012 1:48:07 PM

John Van der Borght, Manager, Rules Communications Why was Kevin Na allowed to play from the cart path on the 18th hole in Sunday's final round of The Players Championship? During the final round of The Players Championship, Kevin Na’s tee shot came to rest on an awkward slope just to the right of the cart pat ...

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Posted: 4/16/2012 8:29:57 AM

John Van der Borght What are the differences between match play and stroke play? One thing which makes golf a unique game is that it is played in two very different forms. Match play, which involves two golfers or two pairs of golfers competing directly against each other, was the first form of the game that d ...

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Posted: 3/6/2012 9:04:35 AM

Rob Ockenfuss, Manager of Rules Inquiries Why was Rory McIlroy penalized two strokes at the Abu Dhabi Championship for brushing away and removing sand in his line of play? During the second round of this year’s Abu Dhabi Championship, U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy was penalized two strokes for brushing away ...

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Posted: 2/6/2012 10:28:43 AM

John Van der Borght 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 con ...

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Posted: 12/21/2011 10:44:24 AM

Wendy Wooley, John Van der Borght, USGA Typically during a round a golfer is likely to find himself in a bunker. A bunker is a hazard and Rule 13-4 (Ball in Hazard; Prohibited Actions) tells us what a player is prohibited from doing when his ball is in a hazard (bunker or water hazard).   Rule 12-1 (S ...

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Posted: 12/21/2011 9:48:42 AM

John Van der Borght On Jan. 1, 2012, the Rules of Golf will change. One change that has received significant interest is to Rule 18-2b (Ball Moving After Address) regarding a ball that moves after address. Rule 18-2b states:   If a player’s ball in play moves after he has addressed it (other than as a res ...

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Posted: 10/24/2011 11:29:12 AM

By Shannon Rouillard, USGA The USGA receives a fair number of calls and e-mails each year regarding whether a player may take relief from an obstruction (i.e cart path, sprinkler head or something similar) if the interference occurs through the use of an abnormal stance, swing or direction of play. Picture the f ...

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Posted: 10/4/2011 6:58:45 AM

John Van der Borght During the third round of the 2011 Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open at TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas, Nev., Kevin Na was playing the par-4 15th hole. As he started the downswing for his tee shot, he felt something was amiss. He continued the swing, but purposely missed his ba ...

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Posted: 8/16/2011 11:20:43 AM

Rules Question: During the recent Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) conference and show several of my fellow superintendents from the Midwest were discussing the possibility of an abnormally hot, dry summer season. Can the USGA point me in the direction of a credible source of long-range ...

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Posted: 8/10/2011 2:02:18 PM

John Van der Borght During the third round of the 2011 WGC Bridgestone Invitational, Adam Scott’s ball in the fairway was struck and moved by fellow-competitor Ryan Moore’s tee shot. After consulting with an official, Scott lifted his ball, cleaned it and dropped it. During the third round of the 2011 WGC ...

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Posted: 5/17/2011 2:15:46 PM

John Van der Borght, USGA We all hate it when we can’t find our ball, or when we do find it – just out of bounds. When your ball goes out of bounds or is lost outside a water hazard, Rule 27-1 requires you to return to the spot from which the original ball was last played, and under penalty of one stroke, put anot ...

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Posted: 4/11/2011 2:22:26 PM

Yellow-Staked Water Hazard – No Two Club-Length Relief Have you ever struck your ball into a water hazard? We all have. However, did you know that not all water hazards are treated the same? Have you ever struck your ball into a water hazard? Of course you have. We all have. However, did you know that not a ...

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Staying Put
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Posted: 5/27/2009 3:42:58 PM

Have you ever played on a windy day when, on a relatively fast or sloping putting green after marking, lifting and perhaps giving your golf ball a good cleaning, you attempt to replace it, but it won’t stay in place? ...

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Railroad Ties
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Posted: 5/11/2009 2:49:21 PM

Railroad ties are popular in many golf course designs. They are man made wooden objects and often times are found in bunkers or serve as bulkheads in water hazards. So what do you do when you find your golf ball... ...

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Posted: 5/11/2009 2:48:36 PM

There are several common occurrences during a round of golf where a player is going to lift their ball and in some of these cases they will need to put the ball back to where it was lifted from. Perhaps the ... ...

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Posted: 5/11/2009 2:45:44 PM

If you play golf, you’ve had interference from an obstruction, abnormal ground condition or wrong putting green.If you play golf, you’ve had interference from an obstruction, abnormal ground condition or wrong putting green. You know that you must find the... ...

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Partner Links
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The USGA and Chevron have committed to using the game of golf to encourage students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines. This commitment has led to the creation of extensive golf-focused STEM teaching tools, and has resulted in charitable contributions to support golf-related programs through Eagles for Education™

At U.S. Open Championships the Chevron STEM ZONE™ is an interactive experience highlighting the science and math behind the game of golf through a variety of hands-on exhibits and experiments.

The partnership has also produced educational materials such as the Science of Golf video series and a nationally-distributed newspaper insert which are provided to teachers as tools to enhance existing curriculum in schools. These lessons teach the science behind the USGA’s equipment testing, handicapping, and agronomy efforts.

For more interactive experiences featuring golf-focused STEM lessons, visit the partnership homepage.


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Rolex has been a longtime supporter of the USGA and salutes the sportsmanship and great traditions unique to the game. This support includes the Rules of Golf where Rolex has partnered with the USGA to ensure golfers understand and appreciate the game.

As the official timekeeper of the USGA and its championships, they also provide clocks throughout host sites for spectator convenience.

For more information on Rolex and their celebration of the game, visit the Rolex and Golf homepage.



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IBM has partnered with the USGA to bring the same technology, expertise, and innovation it provides to businesses all over the world to the USGA and golf's national championship.

IBM provides the information technology to develop and host the U.S. Open’s official website, www.usopen.com, as well as the mobile apps and scoring systems for the three U.S. Open championships. These real-time technology solutions provide an enhanced experience for fans following the championship onsite and online.

For more information on IBM and the technology that powers the U.S. Open and businesses worldwide, visit http://www.usopen.com/IBM

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Lexus is committed to partnering with the USGA to deliver a best-in-class experience for the world’s best golfers by providing a fleet of courtesy luxury vehicles for all USGA Championships.

At each U.S. Open, Women’s Open and Senior Open, Lexus provides spectators with access to unique experiences ranging from the opportunity to have a picture taken with both the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open trophies to autograph signings with legendary Lexus Golf Ambassadors in the Lexus Performance Drive Pavilion.

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Together, American Express and the USGA have been providing world-class service to golf fans since 2006. By creating interactive U.S. Open experiences both onsite and online, American Express enhances the USGA’s effort to make the game more accessible and enjoyable for fans.

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