RULES AND ETIQUETTE

Below is a list of information you will find by scrolling through this page:

RULES OF GOLF:

  • General
  • Queries on the Rules of Golf
  • New Zealand Golf Rules Officials Pathway 
  • Rules publications
  • Guide to the making of local rules
  • A guide to the duties of a referee
  • FAQ's

 GOLF ETIQUETTE:
  • Spirit of the game
  • Safety
  • Consideration for others
  • Pace of play
  • Priority on the course
  • Care of the course
  • Conclusion: Penalties for breach 


RULES OF GOLF 

GENERAL

Golf is a self-regulating game and it is the responsibility of all golfers to know the Rules, or at least the basics. The Rules are not just there to penalise you when you do something wrong, they provide the framework for the game itself, and a sound knowledge of them may even save you a few strokes.

The basics, such as taking relief from a cart path and what to do when your ball is in a water hazard, out of bounds or lost, are not as hard as you may think. They are covered in A Quick Guide to the Rules of Golf and knowledge of them is enough to see most players around the golf course most of the time. This guide is available free from New Zealand Golf, courtesy of the R & A.

For those that want to know more than the basics, and for those that need to know more, e.g. referees, golf club officials and Committee members, there is no substitute for a thorough knowledge of the Rule book itself and Decisions on the Rules of Golf. The Rules and Decisions are at the core of the R & A’s Rules Explorer. We recommend the R & A website to keep up to date with rules stories and to test yourself using the Quiz section www.randa.org. 


QUERIES ON THE RULES OF GOLF

New Zealand Golf receives numerous letters and emails relating to specific Rules incidents that have occurred during a Club event. Although we attempt to assist with as many of these queries as possible and hence improve the understanding of players, New Zealand Golf will not provide individuals with Rulings relating to incidents that they have been involved with.
 
It is the duty of the Tournament Committee to provide solutions to Rules queries that arise during the event. Should a Committee be unsure of the correct procedure or if it believes that it may have acted incorrectly, a representative of the Committee should then contact New Zealand Golf for an opinion.
 
A number of queries are received from Clubs in overseas countries affiliated to the R & A.  Whereas this is perfectly in order under the Rules, R & A Rules Ltd would prefer that such queries be submitted direct to New Zealand Golf in the first instance, who would refer them to the R & A only in cases of doubt.  Queries received direct from Clubs in overseas countries will therefore be directed back to New Zealand Golf.
 
 


NEW ZEALAND GOLF RULES OFFICIALS PATHWAY

In keeping with our policy to create both a player and coach development pathway, New Zealand Golf have created a parallel pathway for the development of Rules Officials, providing them with the opportunity to continually up-skill themselves and hence strive to gain both the practical and theoretical knowledge required to officiate at the highest level.

Within this document you will find an explanation of the steps that candidates must take on the pathway from enrolling for a Rules Course through to officiating at the highest level here in New Zealand, or perhaps even being invited to an overseas event.

Click here to view the document.

 
RULES PUBLICATIONS

New Zealand Golf can provide:

The Rules of Golf:  
Every four years one copy per member is distributed to District Associations. Extra copies are available from New Zealand Golf.

A Quick Guide to the Rules of Golf:
This is available from New Zealand Golf and ideal for new members to your Golf Club.

Golf Basic Rules: 
A real beginners introduction to the Rules of Golf prepared by Auckland rules enthusiast Jan Beaumont. Thanks to the Lion Foundation, this is available free to Clubs.

Decisions on the Rules of Golf:
This can be purchased from New Zealand Golf for $40.

 

GUIDE TO THE MAKING OF LOCAL RULES

1.    GENERAL

Rule 33-8a provides in part, ‘The Committee may establish Local Rules for local abnormal conditions if they are consistent with the policy set forth in Appendix 1 … a Rule of Golf shall not be waived by a Local Rule’.

Generally, Local Rules are introduced to clarify the course marking (e.g. clarifying the bounds of the course) or to provide relief from local abnormal conditions that are not covered by the Rules themselves. Appendix 1 to the Rules of Golf suggests specific matters for which Local Rules may be advisable. In addition, the ‘Decisions on the Rules of Golf’ provides detailed information regarding acceptable and prohibited Local Rules under Rule 33-8.

Committees are reminded that a penalty imposed by a Rule of Golf must not be waived by a Local Rule and that a modification of a Rule of Golf in a Local Rule is not allowed without the authorisation of New Zealand Golf. Such permission is only given in very special cases when local abnormal conditions interfere with the proper playing of the game.

It is the duty of Committees to interpret their own Local Rules and, if a doubt arises about the applicability or interpretation of a Local Rule, it is the responsibility of the Committee to give a decision. The New Zealand Golf Rules of Golf Committee, while giving advice on the drafting of Local Rules and considering cases where modification of a Rule of Golf is requested does not interpret Local Rules other than those covered in Appendix 1 in the Rules of Golf.

It is possible for a Committee wishing to adopt the recommended wording for a Local Rule provided in Appendix 1 to simply refer players to the Rule Book. For example, if the Committee is adopting the standard wording for a Local Rule for immovable obstructions close to the putting green, the Local Rule could read:

‘Immovable Obstructions Close to Putting Green

The specimen Local Rule in the Rules of Golf is in effect – see page 130.’

It is important to note that Local Rules may not be introduced or altered after a stroke play round has started. All competitors in a given round must play under uniform Rules. However, it is permissible to alter the Local Rules for different rounds in an event consisting of more than one round, although this should be avoided if at all possible.

2.    OUT OF BOUNDS

It may be necessary for a Committee to introduce a Local Rule clarifying the boundaries of a course and to highlight holes on which the method of defining the boundary differs from the rest of the course, for example:

Out of Bounds
1.    Beyond any fence or line of white stakes bounding the course.
2.    At the 18th hole, on or beyond the concrete path surrounding the Clubhouse.

Where there are out of bounds stakes between two holes that apply to only one of the holes, it should be made clear in the Local Rules to which of the holes the boundary applies. Furthermore, it is recommended that, by Local Rule, the stakes be deemed immovable obstructions during play of the hole for which the stakes do not constitute a boundary. (see Decision 24/5).  The wording for such a Local Rule may read as follows:

‘Out of Bounds
When playing the 6th hole only, a ball that lies beyond the line of white stakes to the left of the 6th hole is out of bounds.

Note: During play of any hole other than the 6th, the white stakes defining the boundary at the 6th hole are immovable obstructions.’

If there is a public road that defines out of bounds running through the course and the ball comes to rest beyond it, on the other part of the course, ordinarily under the Rules of Golf the ball is in bounds (see Decision 27/20). However, it is suggested that in such a case the following Local Rule be adopted:

‘A ball that crosses a public road defined as out of bounds and comes to rest beyond that road is out of bounds, even though it may lie on another part of the course.’

It is not permissible to make a Local Rule stating that a ball is out of bounds if it crosses a boundary, even if it re-crosses the boundary and comes to rest on the same part of the course. A ball is out of bounds only when all of it lies out of bounds and use of such a method to prevent players from cutting across a dog-leg would be an unacceptable modification of the Rules of Golf (see Decision 33-8/38).

3.    ROADS AND PATHS

The Definition of ‘Obstruction’ states that ‘An obstruction is anything artificial…except … Any construction declared by the Committee to be an integral part of the course.’

Accordingly, a Committee may declare an artificially-surfaced road or path to be an integral part of the course. This would normally only be recommended in a situation where providing free relief from the road or path would spoil an intrinsic feature of the hole. Perhaps the best example of this is the 17th hole at The Old Course, St Andrews known as the Road Hole, where the road behind the green is an integral part of the course.

Should the Committee wish to treat all artificially surfaced roads or paths as integral parts of the course, it must make a Local Rule to that effect, for example:

‘Roads and Paths
All roads and paths are integral parts of the course. The ball must be played as it lies or declared unplayable (Rule 28).’

It is important to note that if there are artificial sides or edgings to roads and paths, they would not be covered by the above Local Rule and would maintain their status as immovable obstructions. Specific reference would have to be made to the edgings in the Local Rule in order to make them integral parts of the course.

4.    INTEGRAL PARTS OF THE COURSE

In addition to roads and paths, there may be other constructions that the Committee wishes to declare integral parts of the course.

A construction, such as a wall which does not define a boundary, may be a feature of a hole and to allow relief under Rule 24-2 for interference from the wall would weaken the hole. In such a situation, the Committee would be advised to declare it an integral part for the course, for example:

‘Walls
The stone walls at the 8th and 13th holes are integral parts of the course. The ball must be played as it lies or declared unplayable (Rule 28).’

Committees are reminded that all constructions are either ‘obstructions’ (relief is available under Rule 24) or ‘integral parts of the course’ (no relief except under penalty by declaring the ball unplayable). It is not permissible for a Local Rule either to attach a penalty to the relief obtainable under Rule 24 or to modify the penalty for proceeding under the unplayable ball Rule.

5.    YOUNG TREES

Many courses have newly planted trees that the Committee wishes to protect. If it is desired to protect young trees, they should be identified in some manner (e.g. a stake, tape etc.) and the Local Rule contained in Appendix 1 of the Rules of Golf is recommended.

It should be noted that when such a Local Rule is introduced, the tree is deemed an immovable obstruction and any branches or foliage are part of the obstruction.

In some instances, newly planted trees may be so close together that relief from one tree automatically results in interference from another tree. In this situation, it may be advisable to define the affected area as ‘ground under repair’ which will enable the player to take relief outside the area. It is not permissible for a Committee to state that relief must be taken on a particular side of a plantation (e.g. the fairway side of the hole being played as this would modify Rule 25-1b. However, if the Committee considers that it is not practicable to proceed in accordance with Rule 25-1b due to the fact that players may have to play through the trees thereby causing damage, it may introduce one or more drop zones (see 7 below).

6.    GROUND UNDER REPAIR

‘Ground under repair’ includes any part of the course so marked by order of the Committee (see Definition of ‘Ground Under Repair’). If such an area has been marked it should be identified in the Local Rules. However, as it is hoped that such marking will be of a temporary nature, no specific reference should be included on a Club’s score card but rather the Local Rule should be posted on a notice board.

Examples include:

‘Ground Under Repair
The re-turfed area to the left of the 8th hole defined by blue stakes is ground under repair (Rule 25-1b applies).’

Alternately, identification of ground under repair can be more general, for example:

‘Ground Under Repair
All areas encircled by white lines are ground under repair (Rule 25-1b applies).’

Where the Committee wishes to protect an area completely by not allowing any play whatsoever, it may declare the area to be ‘ground under repair; play prohibited.’ Consequently, a player must take relief if he has interference from the condition. An example of the recommended wording for such a Local Rule is:

‘Ground Under Repair; Play Prohibited
The turf nursery to the right of the 3rd hole defined by blue stakes is ground under repair from which play is prohibited. If a player’s ball lies in this area, or if the area interferes with the player’s stance or the area of his intended swing, the player must take relief under Rule 25-1.

PENALTY FOR BREACH OF LOCAL RULE:

Match Play-Loss of hole; Stroke Play-Two strokes.’

When ‘ground under repair’ is adjacent to an artificially-surfaced road or path (an obstruction), sometimes a player, after obtaining relief from one condition, is interfered with by the other condition. Thus, a drop under another Rule results. This can lead to complications. Accordingly it is suggested that the ‘ground under repair’ is tied into the road or path with a white line and the following Local Rule adopted:

‘Immovable Obstructions
White-lined areas tying into artificially-surfaced roads or paths are declared to have the same status as the roads or paths, i.e. they are obstructions, not ground under repair. Relief without penalty is provided under Rule 24-2b(i).’

Unusual damage may be caused to a course by machinery. Rule 25-1 does not provide relief from ruts made by tractor wheels. If relief from such conditions is considered equitable, it should be granted on the same terms as in Rule 25-1 and the Local Rule might read:

‘Tractor tyre marks are ground under repair (Rule 25-1 applies).’
If the damage, especially by machines, is restricted to certain areas, it is recommended that the application of the Local Rule be restricted to that locality, e.g. it might begin:

‘In the area between the 3rd and 16th holes, tractor tyre marks …..’

Such Local Rules should be of a temporary nature and should not be included on a Club’s score card.

If the Committee considers the relief available under Rule 25-1 to be too generous in such situations, it may deny relief from interference with the player’s stance (see Note to Rule 25-1a). For example, in hot and dry conditions, the fairways of a course may suffer due to cracks in the ground. The lie of the ball could be seriously affected if it comes to rest in such a crack, but the player’s stance may not be hindered by the condition. In such circumstances, a Committee may wish to introduce the following Local Rule:

‘Cracks in Ground on Closely-Mown Areas

Cracks in the ground on closely-mown areas are ground under repair. If a player’s ball lies in such a condition, or if such a condition interferes with the area of a player’s intended swing, the player may take relief under Rule 25-1.

Note: Relief is not available for interference to a player’s stance by such a condition.’

Similarly, the Committee may wish to restrict relief from seams of new turf to the lie of the ball and the area of intended swing only by introducing the following Local Rule:

‘Ground Under Repair

Any seam of new turf through the green interference with the lie of the ball or the area of intended swing. All seams forming part of the condition are to be treated as the same seam for the purposes of Rule 20-2c (re-dropping).’

7.    DROPPING ZONES

As provided in Appendix 1 of the Rules of Golf, a Committee has the authority to establish special areas on which balls may be dropped when it is not feasible or practicable to proceed exactly in conformity with Rule 24-2b or 24-3 (Immovable Obstructions), Rule 25-1b or 1c (Abnormal Ground Conditions), Rule 25-3 (Wrong Putting Green), Rule 26-1 (Water Hazards and Lateral Water Hazards) or Rule 28 (Ball Unplayable).

For example, if there is a lateral water hazard behind a green and there are certain places where a ball may cross the margin at which there is no way of dropping the ball within two club-lengths not nearer the hole, the Committee may decide that it is impracticable for a player to proceed in accordance with Rule 26. In these circumstances, the Committee could establish a dropping zone and adopt the following Local Rule:

‘If a ball is in, or is lost in, the lateral water hazard behind the 13th green the player may:

(i)    proceed under Rule 26-1; or

(ii)   as an additional option, drop a ball, under penalty of one stroke, in the dropping zone (even though the dropping zone may be nearer the hole than where the original ball last crossed the margin of the hazard).’

Due to continuous wear and tear, dropping zones may not always provide the simple solution first envisaged and Committees should examine all possible alternatives before their establishment.

8.    STONES IN BUNKERS

Stones in bunkers are, by Definition, loose impediments and when a player’s ball is in a hazard, a stone lying in or touching the hazard must not be touched or moved (Rule 13-4). However, stones in bunkers may represent a danger to players (a player could be injured by a stone struck by the player’s club in an attempt to play the ball) and they may interfere with the proper playing of the game.

Where permission to lift a stone in a bunker may be warranted, the following Local Rule is recommended:

‘Stones in bunkers are moveable obstructions (Rule 24-1 applies).’

9.    IMMOVABLE OBSTRUCTIONS CLOSE TO PUTTING GREEN

Rule 24-2 provides relief without penalty from interference by an immovable obstruction but it also provides that, except on the putting green, intervention on the line of play is not of itself, interference under this Rule.

However, on some courses, the aprons of the putting greens are so closely mown that players may wish to putt from just off the green. In these conditions, immovable obstructions (such as fixed sprinkler heads) on the apron may interfere with the proper playing of the game and the introduction of a Local Rule providing additional relief without penalty from intervention by an immovable obstruction would be warranted. For suggested wording for such a Local Rule, see Appendix 1 in the Rules of Golf (page 130); see also 1. above.

10.  EMBEDDED BALL

Rule 25-2 gives relief for a ball embedded in its own pitch mark in a closely-mown area through the green. However, where the ground is unusually soft, the Committee may by temporary Local Rule, allow the lifting of an embedded ball anywhere ‘through the green’ if it is satisfied that the proper playing of the game would otherwise be prevented.

11.  PREFERRED LIES AND WINTER RULES

For information on Local Rules for ‘preferred lies’ or ‘winter rules’ see Appendix 1 of the Rules of Golf (page 121)

 

A GUIDE TO THE DUTIES OF A REFEREE          
(Issued by The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews)

GENERAL

Golf, for the most part, is played without a Rules Official being present.  However, the Committee in charge of a competition may appoint a Referee and perhaps an Observer to accompany play or it may assign Committee members to particular parts of the course to assist with the Rules.  It should go without saying that a Rules official must have a good knowledge of the Rules.  This is considered to be more than just a playing knowledge.

A Rules official may spend all day on the course without being called upon to make a ruling.  However, he must remain alert and be wary against becoming a ‘spectator’ as a question may arise when least expected.

Therefore, a Rules official requires not only a good knowledge of the rules, but an awareness of his duties and responsibilities and an appreciation of how best to handle various rules situations.

 

RULES OF GOLF: PRINCIPLE CHANGES 2012 – 2015

DEFINITIONS

Addressing the Ball:

The Definition is amended so that a player has addressed the ball simply by grounding his club immediately in front of or behind the ball, regardless of whether or not he has taken his stance. Therefore, the Rules generally no longer provide for a player addressing the ball in a hazard. (See also related change to Rule 18-2b)


RULES

Rule 1-2. Exerting Influence on Movement of Ball or Altering Physical Conditions

The Rule is amended to establish more clearly that, if a player intentionally takes an action to influence the movement of a ball or to alter physical conditions affecting the playing of a hole in a way that is not permitted by the Rules, Rule 1-2 applies only when the action is not already covered in another Rule. For example, a player improving the lie of his ball is in breach of Rule 13-2 and therefore that Rule would apply, whereas a player intentionally improving the lie of a fellow-competitor’s ball is not a situation covered by Rule 13-2 and, therefore, is governed by Rule 1-2.

Rule 6-3a. Time of Starting

Rule 6-3a is amended to provide that the penalty for starting late, but within five minutes of the starting time, is reduced from disqualification to loss of the first hole in match play or two strokes at the first hole in stroke play. Previously this penalty reduction could be introduced as a condition of competition.

Rule 12-1. Seeing Ball; Searching for Ball

Rule 12-1 is reformatted for clarity. In addition, it is amended to (i) permit a player to search for his ball anywhere on the course when it may be covered by sand and to clarify that there is no penalty if the ball is moved in these circumstances, and (ii) apply a penalty of one stroke under Rule 18-2a if a player moves his ball in a hazard when searching for it when it is believed to be covered by loose impediments.

Rule 13-4. Ball in Hazard; Prohibited Actions

Exception 2 to Rule 13-4 is amended to permit a player to smooth sand or soil in a hazard at any time, including before playing from that hazard, provided it is for the sole purpose of caring for the course and Rule 13-2 is not breached.

18-2b. Ball Moving After Address

A new Exception is added that exonerates the player from penalty if his ball moves after it has been addressed when it is known or virtually certain that he did not cause the ball to move. For example, if it is a gust of wind that moves the ball after it has been addressed, there is no penalty and the ball is played from its new position.

Rule 19-1. Ball in Motion Deflected or Stopped; By Outside Agency

The note is expanded to prescribe the various outcomes when a ball in motion has been deliberately deflected or stopped by an outside agency.

Rule 20-7c. Playing from Wrong Place; Stroke Play

Note 3 is amended so that if a player is to be penalised for playing from a wrong place, in most cases the penalty will be limited to two strokes, even if another Rule has been breached prior to his making the stroke.

Appendix IV

A new Appendix is added to prescribe general regulations for the design of devices and other equipment, such as tees, gloves and distance measuring devices.


 
GOLF ETIQUETTE

THE SPIRIT OF THE GAME

Golf is played, for the most part, without the supervision of a referee or umpire. The game relies on the integrity of the individual to show consideration for other players and to abide by the Rules. All players should conduct themselves in a disciplined manner, demonstrating courtesy and sportsmanship at all times, irrespective of how competitive they may be. This is the spirit of the game of golf.

SAFETY

Players should ensure that no one is standing close by or in a position to be hit by the club, the ball or any stones, pebbles, twigs or the like when they make a stroke or practice swing.

Players should not play until the players in front are out of range. Players should always alert green staff nearby or ahead when they are about to make a stroke that might endanger them.

If a player plays a ball in a direction where there is a danger of hitting someone, he should immediately shout a warning. The traditional word of warning in such situations is “fore”.


CONSIDERATION FOR OTHERS

Disturbance or distraction:

Players should always show consideration for other players on the course and should not disturb their play by moving, talking or making unnecessary noise.

Players should ensure that any electronic device taken onto the course does not distract other players.

On the teeing ground:

A player should not tee his ball until it is his turn to play.

Players should not stand close to or directly behind the ball, or directly behind the hole, when a player is about to play.

On the putting green:

On the putting green, players should not stand on another player’s line of putt or, when he is making a stroke, cast a shadow over his line of putt.

Players should remain on or close to the putting green until all other players in the group have holed out.

Scoring:

In stroke play, a player who is acting as a marker should, if necessary, on the way to the next tee, check the score with the player concerned and record it.

 

PACE OF PLAY

Play at good pace and keep up:

Players should play at a good pace. The Committee may establish pace of play guidelines that all players should follow.

It is a group’s responsibility to keep up with the group in front. If it loses a clear hole and it is delaying the group behind, it should invite the group behind to play through, irrespective of the number of players in that group. Where a group has not lost a clear hole, but it is apparent that the group behind can play faster, it should invite the faster moving group to play through.

Be ready to play:

Players should be ready to play as soon as it is their turn to play. When playing on or near the putting green, they should leave their bags or carts in such a position as will enable quick movement off the green and towards the next tee. When the play of a hole has been completed, players should immediately leave the putting green.

Lost ball:

If a player believes his ball may be lost outside a water hazard or is out of bounds, to save time, he should play a provisional ball.

Players searching for a ball should signal the players in the group behind them to play through as soon as it becomes apparent that the ball will not easily be found. They should not search for five minutes before doing so. Having allowed the group behind to play through, they should not continue play until that group has passed and is out of range.

PRIORITY ON THE COURSE

Unless otherwise determined by the Committee, priority on the course is determined by a group’s pace of play. Any group playing a whole round is entitled to pass a group playing a shorter round. The term “group” includes a single player.

CARE OF THE COURSE

Bunkers:

Before leaving a bunker, players should carefully fill up and smooth over all holes and footprints made by them and any nearby made by others. If a rake is within reasonable proximity of the bunker, the rake should be used for this purpose.

Repair of divots, ball-marks and damage by shoes:

Players should carefully repair any divot holes made by them and any damage to the putting green made by the impact of a ball (whether or not made by the player himself). On completion of the hole by all players in the group, damage to the putting green caused by golf shoes should be repaired.

Preventing unnecessary damage:

Players should avoid causing damage to the course by removing divots when taking practice swings or by hitting the head of a club into the ground, whether in anger or for any other reason.

Players should ensure that no damage is done to the putting green when putting down bags or the flagstick.

In order to avoid damaging the hole, players and caddies should not stand too close to the hole and should take care during the handling of the flagstick and the removal of a ball from the hole. The head of a club should not be used to remove a ball from the hole.

Players should not lean on their clubs when on the putting green, particularly when removing the ball from the hole.

The flagstick should be properly replaced in the hole before the players leave the putting green.

Local notices regulating the movement of golf carts should be strictly observed.


CONCLUSION; PENALTIES FOR BREACH

If players follow the guidelines in this section, it will make the game more enjoyable for everyone.

If a player consistently disregards these guidelines during a round or over a period of time to the detriment of others, it is recommended that the Committee considers taking appropriate disciplinary action against the offending player. Such action may, for example, include prohibiting play for a limited time on the course or in a certain number of competitions.This is considered to be justifiable in terms of protecting the interests of the majority of golfers who wish to play in accordance with these guidelines.

In the case of a serious breach of etiquette, the Committee may disqualify a player under Rule 33-7.