Rules Golfers Break Most Often (5 through10)

5. You replace your ball about an inch in front of the marker on the green.

The Rule: 16-1b: A ball on the putting green may be lifted and, if desired, cleaned. The position of the ball must be marked before it is lifted, and the ball must be replaced.

The Translation: In the Rules of Golf, replaced means to place it back as closely as possible to the position the ball was in before marked. Replace does not translate to, “casually move it up just a teensy weensy bit.”

The Penalty: Two strokes in stroke play and loss of hole in a match.

Ball goes wayward off the tee. You find it in-bounds based on the positions of the white stakes, but out-of-bounds by the white lines. Is it in or out?

Rule Breach No. 6

6. When taking an unplayable lie, you drop the ball two club lengths from the nearest point you think is playable.

The Rule: 28c: If the player deems [his/her] ball unplayable, [he/she] must, under penalty of one stroke, drop a ball within two club lengths of the spot where the ball lay; but not nearer the hole.

The Translation: You take relief where the ball lies, not from the nearest point you deem playable. If you take a drop under this provision, you must measure two club lengths from the ball’s location; even if it means dropping into more trouble.

The Penalty: Two strokes in stroke play and loss of hole in a match.

Grounding the Club in a Hazard (Rule 13-4)
Grounding the club in a hazard is illegal. Anyone who does it must assess themselves (or have assessed) a 2-stroke penalty
(or loss of hole in match play).

Rule Breach No. 7

  7. You take a practice stroke during a round.

The Rule: 7-2: A player must not make a practice stroke during a round. (Note: A practice stroke is not the same as a practice swing.)

The Translation: No matter how badly you chili-dip a pitch shot, you cannot drop another ball for practice in an effort to improve your wedge karma (nor can you hit an old ball into the ocean or a vacant lot while you wait in the fairway). The USGA does make exceptions for practice around the green after you’ve holed out.

The Penalty: Two strokes in stroke play and loss of hole in a match.

Rule Breach No. 8

8. You take a drop in the area near the stake where your ball went out-of-bounds.

The Rule: 27-1: If a ball is lost or out-of-bounds, a player must play a ball, under penalty of one stroke – as nearly as possible to the spot from which the original ball was last played.

The Translation: Stroke and distance. We cannot say it enough. You have to trek all the way back to play from your original spot if you are lost or out-of-bounds, even if the ball trickled out on the tail end of a 220-yard drive. So, in the interest of pace of play, always declare and hit a provisional when your ball could be lost outside a water hazard or out-of-bounds.

The Penalty: Two strokes in stroke play and loss of hole in a match. Note: This breach is almost always ruled “serious” by a Committee and warrants disqualification if the player does not go back and play from the original spot with a penalty before he/she tees off on the next hole.

Rule Breach No. 9

9. You take extreme measures to improve your stance or lie.

The Rule: 13-2: A player must not improve or allow to be improved the position or lie of [his/her] ball, the area of [his/her] intended stance or swing . . . by moving, bending or breaking anything growing or fixed.

The Translation: Leave the pruning shears at home. You can’t dig up plant life or tear down branches to give yourself a clear shot. Nor may you perform circus contortions to avoid unruly vines.

The Penalty: Two strokes in stroke play and loss of hole in a match.


Rule Breach No. 10

10. You carry more than 14 clubs.
The Rule: 4-4: The player must start a stipulated round with no more than 14 clubs. [He/she] is limited to the clubs thus selected for that round except that if [he/she] started with fewer than 14 clubs, [he/] may add any number provided his/her total number does not exceed 14.

The Translation: Most players know this rule, but break it unintentionally. Golfers are always adding new clubs for a round to “try them out.” Remember that if you have a few extras in the bag during a round, you won’t be able to submit your score to get your handicap secured before the member guest.

The Penalty: Two strokes for each hole you played with more than 14 clubs, with a maximum penalty of four strokes in stroke play. Deduct one hole for each hole played with more than 14 clubs, with a maximum of two holes in a match.