[PHOTO: Colin Anderson Productions]

A bunker is still a bunker and out-of-bounds is still, well, the place you don’t want to find your ball. But since the Rules of Golf have been greatly modified in the past five years, many terms we’ve all been accustomed to saying are technically no longer considered part of the game. (With some of the changes leaving traditionalists brooding.)

A quick example: don’t say “water hazard”. It is no longer recognised as an official golf term in the Rules of Golf. Splash one down inside the yellow or red stakes and the proper term is “penalty area”. A good number of the following terms were changed in 2019, but golfers are often late adapters to things (we’re just now coming to terms in a broad sense about playing music during a round).

With that said, here’s a handy guide to some of the most commonly mis-stated terms.

THEN: Casual water
NOW: Temporary water
Those puddles that collect on the course? Or accumulations of frost or snow? You still get free relief from them. But the old adjective didn’t quite capture the spirit of the condition.

THEN: All-square
NOW: Tied
This one has been a tough change for many to accept. The former term for a match that is dead even dates back to 1833 in golf and beyond when used in terms of a financial-debt obligation or otherwise. Its “stuffy” sound caused the powers that be to turn to a more sports-friendly moniker, but this one has old-school golfers fuming.

Rules Review: Are you smart enough to ace this basic rules quiz?

THEN: Teeing ground
NOW: Teeing area
The former term was in Rule 1 of the first formal rules of the game from 1744.

THEN: Burrowing animal hole
NOW: Animal hole
A dog doesn’t live underground, but they love to dig holes. You get relief from them, too.

THEN: Competitor or fellow competitor
NOW: Player
Strokeplay used to identify the men or women in your group in this manner but you can call someone a “player” in either stroke or matchplay now. Cologne optional.

THEN: Hazards
NOW: Either penalty area or a bunker
Water hazards and traps used to be lumped together, but they are now treated entirely separate in the rules book.

THEN: Line of putt
NOW: Line of play
Line of putt was used because you weren’t supposed to touch it before hitting your putt. Now you can.

THEN: Nearest point of relief
NOW: Nearest point of complete relief
It was added for emphasis, but we’ll let this one slide if you still say it the old way. We sometimes do, too.

THEN: Rub of the green
NOW: Rub of the green
This one was always cool to say, but back in the day, it had a specific meaning. If a ball was deflected or stopped by a spectator or some other “outside agency”, you played it as it lies. That term was eliminated from the book. So was “outside agency”, for that matter, which is now “outside influence”. However, “rub of the green” still has a c’est la vie quality, so we like to slip it in when things get a little weird out there. “You see Joe’s ball hit that turtle shell and stop by the pin? Talk about rub of the green.” That sorta thing.


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?