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Section II – Definitions

The Definitions are listed alphabetically and, in the Rules themselves, defined terms are in italics.

Abnormal Ground Conditions

An “abnormal ground condition” is any casual water, ground under repair or hole, cast or runway on the course made by a burrowing animal, a reptile or a bird.

Addressing the Ball

A player has “addressed the ball” when he has grounded his club immediately in front of or immediately behind the ball, whether or not he has taken his stance.

Advice

Advice’’ is any counsel or suggestion that could influence a player in determining his play, the choice of a club or the method of making a stroke.

Information on the Rules, distance or matters of public information, such as the position of hazards or the flagstick on the putting green, is not advice.

Ball Deemed to Move

See “Move or Moved.’’

Ball Holed

See “Holed.

Ball Lost

See “Lost Ball.’’

Ball in Play

A ball is “in play” as soon as the player has made a stroke on the teeing ground. It remains in play until it is holed, except when it is lost, out of bounds or lifted, or another ball has been substituted, whether or not the substitution is permitted; a ball so substituted becomes the ball in play.

If a ball is played from outside the teeing ground when the player is starting play of a hole, or when attempting to correct this mistake, the ball is not in play and Rule 11-4 or 11-5 applies. Otherwise, ball in play includes a ball played from outside the teeing ground when the player elects or is required to play his next stroke from the teeing ground.

Exception in match play: Ball in play includes a ball played by the player from outside the teeing ground when starting play of a hole if the opponent does not require the stroke to be canceled in accordance with Rule 11-4a.

Best-Ball

See “Forms of Match Play.”

Bunker

A “bunker’’ is a hazard consisting of a prepared area of ground, often a hollow, from which turf or soil has been removed and replaced with sand or the like.

Grass-covered ground bordering or within a bunker, including a stacked turf face (whether grass-covered or earthen), is not part of the bunker. A wall or lip of the bunker not covered with grass is part of the bunker. The margin of a bunker extends vertically downwards, but not upwards.

A ball is in a bunker when it lies in or any part of it touches the bunker.

Burrowing Animal

A “burrowing animal” is an animal (other than a worm, insect or the like) that makes a hole for habitation or shelter, such as a rabbit, mole, groundhog, gopher or salamander.

Note: A hole made by a non-burrowing animal, such as a dog, is not an abnormal ground condition unless marked or declared as ground under repair.

Caddie

A “caddie” is one who assists the player in accordance with the Rules, which may include carrying or handling the player’s clubs during play.

When one caddie is employed by more than one player, he is always deemed to be the caddie of the player sharing the caddie whose ball (or whose partner’s ball) is involved, and equipment carried by him is deemed to be that player’s equipment, except when the caddie acts upon specific directions of another player (or the partner of another player) sharing the caddie, in which case he is considered to be that other player’s caddie.

Casual Water

Casual water’’ is any temporary accumulation of water on the course that is not in a water hazard and is visible before or after the player takes his stance. Snow and natural ice, other than frost, are either casual water or loose impediments, at the option of the player. Manufactured ice is an obstruction. Dew and frost are not casual water.

A ball is in casual water when it lies in or any part of it touches the casual water.

Committee

The “Committee’’ is the committee in charge of the competition or, if the matter does not arise in a competition, the committee in charge of the course.

Competitor

A “competitor’’ is a player in a stroke-play competition. A “fellow-competitor’’ is any person with whom the competitor plays. Neither is partner of the other.

In stroke play foursome and four-ball competitions, where the context so admits, the word “competitor’’ or “fellow-competitor’’ includes his partner.

Course

The “course’’ is the whole area within any boundaries established by the Committee (see Rule 33-2).

Equipment

Equipment” is anything used, worn or carried by the player or anything carried for the player by his partner or either of their caddies, except any ball he has played at the hole being played and any small object, such as a coin or a tee, when used to mark the position of a ball or the extent of an area in which a ball is to be dropped. Equipment includes a golf cart, whether or not motorized.

Note 1: A ball played at the hole being played is equipment when it has been lifted and not put back into play.

Note 2: When a golf cart is shared by two or more players, the cart and everything in it are deemed to be the equipment of one of the players sharing the cart.

If the cart is being moved by one of the players (or the partner of one of the players) sharing it, the cart and everything in it are deemed to be that player’s equipment. Otherwise, the cart and everything in it are deemed to be the equipment of the player sharing the cart whose ball (or whose partner’s ball) is involved.

Fellow-Competitor

See “Competitor.’’

Flagstick

The “flagstick” is a movable straight indicator, with or without bunting or other material attached, centered in the hole to show its position. It must be circular in cross-section. Padding or shock absorbent material that might unduly influence the movement of the ball is prohibited.

Forecaddie

A “forecaddie’’ is one who is employed by the Committee to indicate to players the position of balls during play. He is an outside agency.

Forms of Match Play

Single: A match in which one player plays against another player.

Threesome: A match in which one player plays against two other players, and each side plays one ball.

Foursome: A match in which two players play against two other players, and each side plays one ball.

Three-Ball: Three players play a match against one another, each playing his own ball. Each player is playing two distinct matches.

Best-Ball: A match in which one player plays against the better ball of two other players or the best ball of three other players.

Four-Ball: A match in which two players play their better ball against the better ball of two other players.

Forms of Stroke Play

Individual: A competition in which each competitor plays as an individual.

Foursome: A competition in which two competitors play as partners and play one ball.

Four-Ball: A competition in which two competitors play as partners, each playing his own ball. The lower score of the partners is the score for the hole. If one partner fails to complete the play of a hole, there is no penalty.

Note: For bogey, par and Stableford competitions, see Rule 32-1.

Four-Ball

See “Forms of Match Play” and “Forms of Stroke Play.”

Foursome

See “Forms of Match Play” and “Forms of Stroke Play.”

Ground Under Repair

Ground under repair” is any part of the course so marked by order of the Committee or so declared by its authorized representative. All ground and any grass, bush, tree or other growing thing within the ground under repair are part of the ground under repair. Ground under repair includes material piled for removal and a hole made by a greenkeeper, even if not so marked. Grass cuttings and other material left on the course that have been abandoned and are not intended to be removed are not ground under repair unless so marked.

When the margin of ground under repair is defined by stakes, the stakes are inside the ground under repair, and the margin of the ground under repair is defined by the nearest outside points of the stakes at ground level. When both stakes and lines are used to indicate ground under repair, the stakes identify the ground under repair and the lines define the margin of the ground under repair. When the margin of ground under repair is defined by a line on the ground, the line itself is in the ground under repair. The margin of ground under repair extends vertically downwards but not upwards.

A ball is in ground under repair when it lies in or any part of it touches the ground under repair.

Stakes used to define the margin of or identify ground under repair are obstructions.

Note: The Committee may make a Local Rule prohibiting play from ground under repair or an environmentally-sensitive area defined as ground under repair.

Hazards

A “hazard’’ is any bunker or water hazard.

Hole

The “hole’’ must be 4 1⁄4 inches (108 mm) in diameter and at least 4 inches (101.6 mm) deep. If a lining is used, it must be sunk at least 1 inch (25.4 mm) below the putting green surface, unless the nature of the soil makes it impracticable to do so; its outer diameter must not exceed 4 1⁄4 inches (108 mm).

Holed

A ball is “holed” when it is at rest within the circumference of the hole and all of it is below the level of the lip of the hole.

Honor

The player who is to play first from the teeing ground is said to have the “honor.”

Lateral Water Hazard

A “lateral water hazard” is a water hazard or that part of a water hazard so situated that it is not possible, or is deemed by the Committee to be impracticable, to drop a ball behind the water hazard in accordance with Rule 26-Ib. All ground and water within the margin of a lateral water hazard are part of the lateral water hazard.

When the margin of a lateral water hazard is defined by stakes, the stakes are inside the lateral water hazard, and the margin of the hazard is defined by the nearest outside points of the stakes at ground level. When both stakes and lines are used to indicate a lateral water hazard, the stakes identify the hazard and the lines define the hazard margin. When the margin of a lateral water hazard is defined by a line on the ground, the line itself is in the lateral water hazard. The margin of a lateral water hazard extends vertically upwards and downwards.

A ball is in a lateral water hazard when it lies in or any part of it touches the lateral water hazard.

Stakes used to define the margin of or identify a lateral water hazard are obstructions.

Note 1: That part of a water hazard to be played as a lateral water hazard must be distinctively marked. Stakes or lines used to define the margin of or identify a lateral water hazard must be red.

Note 2: The Committee may make a Local Rule prohibiting play from an environmentally-sensitive area defined as a lateral water hazard.

Note 3: The Committee may define a lateral water hazard as a water hazard.

Line of Play

The “line of play’’ is the direction that the player wishes his ball to take after a stroke, plus a reasonable distance on either side of the intended direction. The line of play extends vertically upwards from the ground, but does not extend beyond the hole.

Line of Putt

The “line of putt’’ is the line that the player wishes his ball to take after a stroke on the putting green. Except with respect to Rule 16-1e, the line of putt includes a reasonable distance on either side of the intended line. The line of putt does not extend beyond the hole.

Loose Impediments

Loose impediments’’ are natural objects, including:

  • stones, leaves, twigs, branches and the like,
  • dung, and
  • worms, insects and the like, and the casts and heaps made by them,

provided they are not:

  • fixed or growing,
  • solidly embedded, or
  • adhering to the ball.

Sand and loose soil are loose impediments on the putting green, but not elsewhere.

Snow and natural ice, other than frost, are either casual water or loose impediments, at the option of the player.

Dew and frost are not loose impediments.

Lost Ball

A ball is deemed “lost” if:

a. It is not found or identified as his by the player within five minutes after the player’s side or his or their caddies have begun to search for it; or

b. The player has made a stroke at a provisional ball from the place where the original ball is likely to be or from a point nearer the hole than that place (see Rule 27-2b); or

c. The player has put another ball into play under penalty of stroke and distance under Rule 26-1a, 27-1 or 28a; or

d. The player has put another ball into play because it is known or virtually certain that the ball, which has not been found, has been moved by an outside agency (see Rule 18-1), is in an obstruction (see Rule 24-3), is in an abnormal ground condition (see Rule 25-1c) or is in a water hazard (see Rule 26-1b or c); or

e. The player has made a stroke at a substituted ball.

Time spent in playing a wrong ball is not counted in the five-minute period allowed for search.

Marker

A “marker’’ is one who is appointed by the Committee to record a competitor’s score in stroke play. He may be a fellow-competitor. He is not a referee.

Move or Moved

A ball is deemed to have “moved’’ if it leaves its position and comes to rest in any other place.

Nearest Point of Relief

The “nearest point of relief” is the reference point for taking relief without penalty from interference by an immovable obstruction (Rule 24-2), an abnormal ground condition (Rule 25-1) or a wrong putting green (Rule 25-3).

It is the point on the course nearest to where the ball lies:

(i) that is not nearer the hole, and

(ii) where, if the ball were so positioned, no interference by the condition from which relief is sought would exist for the stroke the player would have made from the original position if the condition were not there.

Note: In order to determine the nearest point of relief accurately, the player should use the club with which he would have made his next stroke if the condition were not there to simulate the address position, direction of play and swing for such a stroke.

Observer

An “observer’’ is one who is appointed by the Committee to assist a referee to decide questions of fact and to report to him any breach of a Rule. An observer should not attend the flagstick, stand at or mark the position of the hole, or lift the ball or mark its position.

Obstructions

An “obstruction’’ is anything artificial, including the artificial surfaces and sides of roads and paths and manufactured ice, except:

a. Objects defining out of bounds, such as walls, fences, stakes and railings;

b. Any part of an immovable artificial object that is out of bounds; and

c. Any construction declared by the Committee to be an integral part of the course.

An obstruction is a movable obstruction if it may be moved without unreasonable effort, without unduly delaying play and without causing damage. Otherwise, it is an immovable obstruction.

Note: The Committee may make a Local Rule declaring a movable obstruction to be an immovable obstruction.

Opponent

An “opponent” is a member of a side against whom the player’s side is competing in match play.

Out of Bounds

Out of bounds’’ is beyond the boundaries of the course or any part of the course so marked by the Committee.

When out of bounds is defined by reference to stakes or a fence or as being beyond stakes or a fence, the out of bounds line is determined by the nearest inside points at ground level of the stakes or fence posts (excluding angled supports). When both stakes and lines are used to indicate out of bounds, the stakes identify out of bounds and the lines define out of bounds. When out of bounds is defined by a line on the ground, the line itself is out of bounds. The out of bounds line extends vertically upwards and downwards.

A ball is out of bounds when all of it lies out of bounds. A player may stand out of bounds to play a ball lying within bounds.

Objects defining out of bounds such as walls, fences, stakes and railings are not obstructions and are deemed to be fixed. Stakes identifying out of bounds are not obstructions and are deemed to be fixed.

Note 1: Stakes or lines used to define out of bounds should be white.

Note 2: A Committee may make a Local Rule declaring stakes identifying but not defining out of bounds to be obstructions.

Outside Agency

In match play, an “outside agency” is any agency other than either the player’s or opponent’s side, any caddie of either side, any ball played by either side at the hole being played or any equipment of either side.

In stroke play, an outside agency is any agency other than the competitor’s side, any caddie of the side, any ball played by the side at the hole being played or any equipment of the side.

An outside agency includes a referee, a marker, an observer and a forecaddie. Neither wind nor water is an outside agency.

Partner

A “partner’’ is a player associated with another player on the same side.

In threesome, foursome, best-ball or four-ball play, where the context so admits, the word “player” includes his partner or partners.

Penalty Stroke

A “penalty stroke’’ is one added to the score of a player or side under certain Rules. In a threesome or foursome, penalty strokes do not affect the order of play.

Provisional Ball

A “provisional ball’’ is a ball played under Rule 27-2 for a ball that may be lost outside a water hazard or may be out of bounds.

Putting Green

The “putting green’ is all ground of the hole being played that is specially prepared for putting or otherwise defined as such by the Committee. A ball is on the putting green when any part of it touches the putting green.

Referee

A “referee’’ is one who is appointed by the Committee to decide questions of fact and apply the Rules. He must act on any breach of a Rule that he observes or is reported to him.

A referee should not attend the flagstick, stand at or mark the position of the hole, or lift the ball or mark its position.

Exception in match play: Unless a referee is assigned to accompany the players throughout a match, he has no authority to intervene in a match other than in relation to Rule 1-3, 6-7 or 33-7.

Rub of the Green

A “rub of the green’’ occurs when a ball in motion is accidentally deflected or stopped by any outside agency (see Rule 19-1).

Rule or Rules

The term “Rule’’ includes:

a. The Rules of Golf and their interpretations as contained in “Decisions on the Rules of Golf”;

b. Any Conditions of Competition established by the Committee under Rule 33-1 and Appendix I;

c. Any Local Rules established by the Committee under Rule 33-8a and Appendix I; and

d. The specifications on:

(i) clubs and the ball in Appendices II and III and their interpretations as contained in “A Guide to the Rules on Clubs and Balls”; and

(ii) devices and other equipment in Appendix IV.

Side

A “side” is a player, or two or more players who are partners. In match play, each member of the opposing side is an opponent. In stroke play, members of all sides are competitors and members of different sides playing together are fellow-competitors.

Single

See “Forms of Match Play” and “Forms of Stroke Play.”

Stance

Taking the “stance’’ consists in a player placing his feet in position for and preparatory to making a stroke.

Stipulated Round

The “stipulated round’’ consists of playing the holes of the course in their correct sequence, unless otherwise authorized by the Committee. The number of holes in a stipulated round is 18 unless a smaller number is authorized by the Committee. As to extension of stipulated round in match play, see Rule 2-3.

Stroke

A “stroke’’ is the forward movement of the club made with the intention of striking at and moving the ball, but if a player checks his downswing voluntarily before the clubhead reaches the ball he has not made a stroke.

Substituted Ball

A “substituted ball” is a ball put into play for the original ball that was either in play, lost, out of bounds or lifted.

Teeing Ground

The “teeing ground’’ is the starting place for the hole to be played. It is a rectangular area two club-lengths in depth, the front and the sides of which are defined by the outside limits of two tee-markers. A ball is outside the teeing ground when all of it lies outside the teeing ground.

Three-Ball

See “Forms of Match Play.”

Threesome

See “Forms of Match Play.”

Through the Green

Through the green’’ is the whole area of the course except:

a. The teeing ground and putting green of the hole being played; and

b. All hazards on the course.

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 on the course. All ground and water within the margin of a water hazard are part of the water hazard.

When the margin of a water hazard is defined by stakes, the stakes are inside the water hazard, and the margin of the hazard is defined by the nearest outside points of the stakes at ground level. When both stakes and lines are used to indicate a water hazard, the stakes identify the hazard and the lines define the hazard margin. When the margin of a water hazard is defined by a line on the ground, the line itself is in the water hazard. The margin of a water hazard extends vertically upwards and downwards.

A ball is in a water hazard when it lies in or any part of it touches the water hazard.

Stakes used to define the margin of or identify a water hazard are obstructions.

Note 1: Stakes or lines used to define the margin of or identify a water hazard must be yellow.

Note 2: The Committee may make a Local Rule prohibiting play from an environmentally-sensitive area defined as a water hazard.

Wrong Ball

A “wrong ball’’ is any ball other than the player’s:

and includes:

  • another player’s ball;
  • an abandoned ball; and
  • the player’s original ball when it is no longer in play.

Note: Ball in play includes a ball substituted for the ball in play, whether or not the substitution is permitted.

Wrong Putting Green

A “wrong putting green” is any putting green other than that of the hole being played. Unless otherwise prescribed by the Committee, this term includes a practice putting green or pitching green on the course.

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