We’re always ready to make some birdies, play three-hour rounds, have a pint or two (or three) at the 19th hole and, oh yeah, navigate you through what are often confusing rules situations.

But before we do that, let’s give everybody the benefit of the doubt and appreciate you might be well versed in the Rules of Golf. (Apologies for any suggestion of condescension.) If you think you know the book well, however, let’s find out. Take this quiz and see if you know how to resolve some tricky rules situations (answers on the bottom):


1. You and your opponent are using the same type of ball in a match and inadvertently play each other’s ball into the green. You’re not sure who played a shot with the wrong ball first, so you finish out the hole as if nothing happened. Penalty or no penalty?

2. You hit a tee shot into a penalty area. Before leaving the tee, you announce a provisional ball and hit again. Penalty or no penalty?

3. Your opponent hits a ball into a dry creek bed marked as a penalty area. Because it rained the night before, his ball is sitting in a puddle. He takes relief from the temporary water before playing a shot out of the bed. Penalty or no penalty?

4. You’re playing foursomes (alternate shot) and you hit a terrible drive that might be lost. Your partner is a much better player, so you tell her to go ahead and hit the provisional to make sure you’ve got something in play. She goes ahead and puts one in the fairway. Penalty or no penalty?

5. Good news: after an impressive drive, your ball came to rest outside a pretty sizeable divot hole. Bad news: to hit the shot you want, you have to stand with one of your feet partially in the hole. You see its divot pelt nearby and decide to fix the hole with the divot before playing your shot. Penalty or no penalty?

Photo: Paul Lakatos/Asian Tour

6. Your opponent shows up with a long putter and hits his first putt of the day with the shaft away from his body but anchored against the inside of his upper arm. Penalty or no penalty?

7. You’re about to take a drop in a relief area but you notice there are some stones all around you that might interfere with your next shot. Before you drop, you sweep away as many as you can. You then drop and play your next shot. Penalty or no penalty?

8. To keep things interesting in a threesomes group, you decide to play individual matches against both players. On the first hole, one of your opponents concedes your two-foot putt and you pick up the ball without marking it. Your other opponent says he wanted you to putt that out. Penalty or no penalty?

9. Your opponent misses a critical putt and then slams her putter in anger, bending the shaft. She then straightens it back out and makes the ensuing putt. Penalty or no penalty?

10. You shank a shot that ricochets off your golf cart and hits your foot on the rebound. Penalty or no penalty?

Golf’s 10 most misunderstood rules


1. No penalty (Rule 6.3c(1)). If you knew who played first, that golfer would lose the hole. But if you’re not sure, you’re supposed to finish the hole with the wrong ball as if you were playing your own.

2. Penalty (Rule 18.3a). You can’t play a provisional ball if you’re certain your ball is in a penalty area. The second ball you struck (the one you said was the provisional) from the tee is actually now in play and the original ball must be abandoned. Also, you incur a one-stroke penalty as part of your options for proceeding when a ball is in a penalty area, so you’re now lying 3.

3. Penalty (Rule 17.3). You don’t get relief from any abnormal course conditions in a penalty area. That includes immovable obstructions, animal holes, ground under repair and temporary water. The general penalty (loss of hole in matchplay or two shots in strokeplay) would be assessed.

4. No penalty (Rule 22.3). When a side elects to play a provisional ball, it must be played by the partner whose turn it is to play the side’s next stroke.

5. Penalty (Rule 8.1a(3)). You could repair a divot hole if it didn’t improve conditions affecting your next stroke. But this clearly would help you as it improves your stance. The general penalty (loss of hole in matchplay or two shots in strokeplay) would be assessed.

Photo: PGA Tour

6. Penalty (Rule 10.1b). He can’t rest it against his upper arm. However, he could have rested the shaft against his forearm without being assessed the general penalty.

7. No penalty (Rule 15.1a/1). When a ball is to be dropped or placed, the ball is not being put back in a specific spot and therefore removing loose impediments before dropping or placing a ball is allowed.

8. Penalty (Rules 14.1 and 21.4/1). A concession in one match does not automatically mean a concession in the other match. You are penalised one stroke in the match where your putt was not conceded because you lifted your ball without marking it.

9. No penalty (Rule 4.1). She also could have used the putter with the bent shaft.

10. No penalty (Rule 11.1). Doesn’t matter who the ball hits. In most cases, you’ll now play the next shot as it lies.


I’m hitting a 6-iron on a par 3. Can I use my driver to measure the teeing area?

Here’s a crafty (but legal) way to take relief and get your ball into a much better lie

What’s it called now? A quick refresher in rules terminology

When taking relief, when do I drop the ball and when should I place it?

My opponent is acting like a tool. Do the rules say anything about unsportsmanlike conduct?

Can I clean mud off my ball while playing a hole?

My ball’s in the water, and it’s on the move! What are my options?

My opponent looks like he’s whipper-snippering as he searches for a lost ball. When is that a penalty?

My ball is in bounds but an OB stake is interfering with my shot. Can I move the stake?

Can I be penalised for delaying play if I stop to get a hotdog or a drink?

When am I allowed to substitute a golf ball on the course?

I stopped my swing before hitting the ball. Does that count as a stroke?

I hit myself with my own ball. Embarrassment aside, is that a penalty?

What happens in a match when no one knows how to apply a rule?

My opponent stopped my ball from rolling on purpose. Is that a penalty?

While waiting to play a shot, my opponent is killing time by chipping a ball. Is this allowed?

My ball is in a penalty area, so what are my options for taking a drop?

Can I be penalised if someone else improves my lie?

Can you repair divot holes or pitch marks in your line before hitting a shot?

I just played the wrong ball. What do I do now?

What do I do if my ball just hit another ball on the green?

What do you do when the tee markers aren’t lined up or are missing?

Somebody just picked up my golf ball! Now what?

Crazy things that only happen in matchplay

Can you hit a provisional ball after hitting a shot into a penalty area?

Your club breaks, what are your options?

My opponent took a generous drop after hitting into a penalty area. Can he be DQ’d for that?

Can I use a long putter when measuring my relief area?

Our practice putting green sucks. Can I hit a few putts on the course before my round?

I had an extra club in my bag and I just teed off. Now what?

Can I move a stone if it improves my lie?

Are you smart enough to ace this basic rules quiz?

Do I get relief from aeration holes?

What does ‘known or virtually certain’ really mean?

Do you have to use a putter on the green?

You’re playing a Srixon. Two holes later it’s a Callaway. Is switching golf balls mid-round allowed?

I hit a horrible shot. I’m waaaaaay better off if I don’t find the ball. Can I just declare it lost?

I’m on the green, my opponent is not. Who’s away?

Is sneaking a peek in another player’s bag considered getting advice?

What do I do if my golf ball is stuck in a tree?

I conceded a putt. My opponent putted anyway and missed. Is that a penalty?

What is casual water and how do I play around it?

I thought my ball was lost and put another in play then found my first ball… which ball counts?

What happens if I can’t tell my provisional ball from my original?

What exactly is an embedded ball?

How do I find my ‘nearest point of relief’?

How long can I take to hit a shot?

Does a ball have to be unplayable to declare it unplayable?