By Mark Harman, USGTF Course Director

I once heard someone claim that his dad, a rules guru, claimed that everyone violated a rule of golf on “every” hole. This is a wild exaggeration, of course, but rules violations are common in our game. Here are what I believe are the most violated rules, one in the professional ranks and one at the amateur club level.


Waiting too long for a ball on the lip of the hole to drop – It seems this one is violated at least once a year by some touring professional. You would think they would know by now that you only have 10 seconds once you reach the hole to see if the ball fall into it, and if it doesn’t, you need to tap it in. Yet somehow, pros are still under the mistaken impression that if they “see” the ball moving microscopically, the ball is still moving and they cannot hit it. The rules are clear on this: If the ball hasn’t fallen into the hole within 10 seconds, it is deemed at rest even if somehow it is still moving microscopically.

Amateur Club Level

Playing the ball from a different spot than where it came to rest – We could spend all day on this as amateurs violate many rules, but by far the most common is playing “winter rules.” Most courses nowadays are in such good condition that it is pointless to move the ball into a better lie. On the course I grew up, Woodbury Golf Course in Plymouth, Indiana (then known as Fountain Head GC), there was no sprinkling system and the fairways were, to say the least, not the best. My dad always played winter rules, but while in high school I read an article somewhere that by playing the ball down on poor fairways, you would become a better ballstriker. From that moment on I have always played the ball down unless winter rules (lift, clean and place) are officially in effect.

Most people aren’t real handy with the rules, but they can be interesting. If you haven’t done this, make it a point to attend a USGA rules seminar this winter.
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