Most of you know that you don’t get free relief if your ball ends up in a divot (Rule 13-2). But can you rub your hand on the putting green before you putt? Or can you clip the tops of fescue grass while making practice swings in a water hazard? Here are 11 turf-related rules situations to mow through before your next round.
1. Your club is grounded when the grass beneath it is compressed enough to support the club’s weight. If the ball moves after that, it’s a one-stroke penalty, and the ball must be replaced (Rule 18-2b). Note: You can also be penalised before you ground the club if you cause the ball to move.
2. If your ball is perched on top of some grass and descends into the blades when you address it, it’s a one-stroke penalty, and the ball must be replaced. (Rule 18-2, Decision 18/1)
3. If you step on your ball in the rough while searching for it, it’s a one-stroke penalty. Replace the ball. (Rule 18-2)
4. To take free relief for a ball embedded in the turf, it has to be in its pitch mark and at least partially below ground level. It also has to be embedded in an area of the course where the grass is cut to fairway height or less. This includes paths in the rough. (Rule 25-2, Decision 25-2/0.5)
5. If grass clippings are piled for removal, you may treat the area as ground under repair and take free relief. But that relief doesn’t apply to loose grass clippings or piles that aren’t intended to be removed. (Decision 25/11)
6. You can make practice swings in a water hazard that clip the tops of reeds, plants or grass. Just don’t ground your club. (Note to Rule 13-4)
7. You may ground your club before playing from a grass-covered area within a bunker. (Definitions)
8. Don’t remove sand or loose turf from the area in which you intend to drop. (Rule 13-2)
9. If any portion of your golf ball is touching the green, it can be marked and cleaned. (Definitions)
10. During play of a hole, you can’t rough up or scrape the surface of a green to test the speed or break of a putt. (Rule 16-1d)
11. You can pull strands of grass from the ground to check wind direction provided it doesn’t improve your lie, line of play or area of intended stance or swing. (Decision 13-2/0.5)
Q: Provided the ball’s position on the green doesn’t change, can you rotate your ball for alignment purposes without marking it first?
A: No. You must first mark the ball’s location before rotating it to aim any logo for alignment. Penalty for violating Rule 18-2a is one stroke. To save time, you can use the toe of your putter to mark the ball’s position. Beats fishing for a coin.
Do I have to putt over dead grass?
On the green? Maybe. Check with the course to see if you get free relief from the burnt-out area. If so, lift the ball and place it at the nearest point that provides complete relief (or the maximum available relief) so the grass is no longer on your line. That point cannot be in a hazard or closer to the hole and might be off the green. Otherwise, play it as it lies.