When it comes to the Rules of Golf, there always seems to be an emphasis on the things you can't do.
But what about the things you didn't know you can do?
Believe it or not, there are quite a few of those things too.
Here's a look at nine of them.
Have you ever hit a shot and you know with 100 percent certainty that it went into a bunker, but once you arrive there, you can't find it? What gives?
Maybe it's buried in the bunker and you can't see it. You are within your rights to move sand around to unearth and identify your golf ball. Once you've identified it, however, be sure to re-cover it. You can leave a small part of the ball visible so you can see what you're swinging at. And if the ball moves in that process, you can replace it without penalty.
Be sure to re-cover it with the sand though. If you don't, it's a two-stroke penalty.
Let's say you're in a match play situation. Your opponent has moved out of your way so you can play your shot -- he or she is standing out of bounds. You hit the shot and the ball goes way off line toward the opponent. You yell "Fore!" but they can't get out of the way in time.
The ball hits your opponent and the ball goes out of bounds.
But guess what? There's no penalty for you there. It's actually quite the opposite. You can replay your shot from the same spot without penalty.
For the opponent, that's probably just adding insult to injury, but hey, the rules are the rules.
Virtually every course you play has some kind of water hazard running through it, right?
Here's a hypothetical situation... You hit your tee shot -- or any shot -- into a brook, stream, or river on the course. You arrive at the spot where your ball went in and you locate it.
But, something weird is going on. The ball is moving with the current of the water and hasn't come to rest yet.
Rather than take a penalty stroke for hitting that ball in the hazard, you can -- without penalty -- hit that ball in the water while it's in motion. That's right -- this is a rare instance where you can hit a ball while it's still moving.
But there's one catch to Rule 14-6, "the player may, without penalty, make a stroke, but he must not delay making his stroke in order to allow the wind or current to improve the position of the ball."
Perhaps this isn't the most prudent play in a stroke-play situation, but it's certainly something to remember in a match-play situation.
6. Rule 14-3: Artificial Devices and Unusual Equipment; Abnormal Use of Equipment
So, you already knew that you can pick grass out of the ground and toss it into the air to test wind direction. But did you also know you could use handkerchief, or the smoke from a cigar or cigarette for the same purpose?
You couldn't, however, use a "wind sock." Why? Because the wind sock is used for the sole purpose of testing the wind, which is a big no-no and the penalty is disqualification.
Grass, smoke and a handkerchief, on the other hand, serve purposes other than specifically testing the wind.
This one is different from match play to stroke play and really puts a damper -- at least in match play -- on the whole "play ready golf" idea.
Here's the situation: You're in a match-play scenario and your opponent is further from the hole. It should be his or her turn to hit first. But, they're taking too long (perhaps looking for a ball, etc.) and you decide to go ahead and hit without first asking permission to play out of turn.
There's no penalty in match play for playing out of turn, but, if your opponent so chooses since you played out of turn without asking permission, they can require you to immediately cancel the last stroke and replay your shot from the same spot.
In stroke play, meanwhile, there is no penalty and the ball is played as it lies. If, however, "the Committee determines that competitors have agreed to play out of turn to give one of them an advantage, they are disqualified."
This one is very strange, but it happens. As you take your backswing, your clubhead snaps off, coming off the shaft. Since things are moving so quickly, you complete your swing -- and since there's no clubhead -- you whiff and miss the ball.
Embarrassing? Maybe. Expensive? Indeed... you're going to by a new club.
But a penalty?
No. A stroke is defined as the "forward movement of the club to the ball." According to the rules, a shaft itself is not a club. Replay the shot -- with a new club -- and no penalty.
So, you're out on the course and you need to take a drop within a club length or two.
You know that your opponent carries a club longer than anything in your bag. Maybe it's a longer driver, or a long putter, and you think, "I wish I could use his club."
Well, you're in luck. You can use your opponents club to take your relief. You just have to use the same club for all measuring in the given situation. For instance, you couldn't take one club length with his driver and then use your putter for the second club length.
The bad news: You've absolutely air-mailed a shot over the green and, somehow, the ball ends up in the clubhouse.
The good news: Said clubhouse is not defined as "out of bounds."
While not advisable, you would be within the rules to hit your next shot -- without penalty -- through the doors of the clubhouse or through a window you're allowed to open.
In this case, the clubhouse is considered an "immovable obstruction," but any part of it designed to be movable, such as a window or door, may be moved to any position if this can be done without undue delay.
The same applies to any maintenance barn your ball may find on the course, provided the barn is considered in bounds.
It's happened to all of us. You put the tee in the ground, place the ball atop it, address the ball, and it falls off the tee. Heck, maybe you even tapped it with a waggle, but not an intended stroke.
Inevitably, there's that one wise guy in the group who always feels the need to laughingly yell out, "1!"
Well, guess what, buddy? There is no penalty -- or stroke incurred -- for a ball falling off a tee on its own or falling off as caused by the player (a waggle), provided there was no intended stroke.
Next time this happens, tell your friend to get some new material.
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