By Brent Davies, USGTF Member, Clarkston, Michigan

We all took and passed our rules test during our certification course, and for a lot of us, it was many years ago, So, can we remember all  the different rules and recent changes to several rules of play? The answer is obvious: no, we can’t.

With many of us teaching golf for a living, we absolutely need to know the basic rules without having to refer to a rules book in front of a  student. With input from other USGTF teaching professionals across the country, I have put together a short list of some basic rules questions that students tend to ask.

How many clubs can I carry in my bag? Answer: 14 (Rule 4.1). Many of us get this question all the time from both adults and juniors.  Remember when Ian Woosnam, who was tied for the lead, had that extra driver in his bag on the last day of the 2001 British open? On the  second-hole tee box, he realized he had 15 clubs in the bag. Ouch! He had to take a twostroke penalty and ended up tied for third.

Playing ball from teeing area, Rule 6.2. You probably see this a lot when players tee the ball up either outside or ahead of the tee markers. (Many people think, well if my feet are within the tee markers, I am okay.) Of course, the rule states the ball needs to be teed up inside the parameters of the markers (your feet can be outside the markers, but not the ball). You can go up to two club-lengths straight back of the  markers, but never in front of the markers. It’s a two-stroke penalty for a violation of this rule.

When can I take a drop without having to take a penalty stroke? For example, when I am on a cart path, what do I do? This has been an often-asked question for many of us. The answer lies in Rule 16-1 (relief allowed for abnormal course condition). It allows a player to take  relief without penalty for man-made obstructions like cart paths, drainage, sprinklers, etc. With the cart path drop, players tend to struggle with nearest point of relief. The rule states the player must take a drop on the correct side of the path – nearest point of relief – with stance,  within a club length and no closer to the hole. In response to this reoccurring question, many of us demonstrate the correct drop in our teaching.

Taking relief. Keeping in line with dropping the golf ball, I find that people still want to drop a ball from shoulder height instead of from  he knee, since the rule is still fairly new (it took effect in 2019). This is something to keep your students aware of.

The time for a ball search (before the ball becomes lost), Rule 18.2. The time to search for a ball was reduced from five minutes to three minutes in 2019 to speed up play. On a personal note, this rule almost got me during the last day of the 2019 Central Region Championship  when, on the 10th hole, I hit a wayward tee shot. As the three minutes were just about to expire, Mark Harman, playing in our group, found  my ball, saving me from going back to the tee and avoiding a stroke-and-distance penalty. I went on to shoot a 1-under 71 and a 4th-place finish (thank you, Mr. Mark).

Standards of player conduct (Rule 1.2), also known as proper etiquette. Many of us work with players that are on local high school and  college golf teams. Complaints from our students range from other players not counting penalty strokes in their score to that player walked in my line, and talking while I was hitting my shot to not fixing ball marks and divots. We all need to be aware of these ongoing etiquette issues  and continue to teach the do’s and don’ts for the integrity of the game and the health of our golf courses.
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