Nearly every golf course has unique features needing special governance, also known as Local Rules. When traveling, keep an eye out for Local Rules posted on bulletin boards, scorecards or signs. They could save you a stroke or two, or—like these odd ones we collected here—make you smile.
SHOT ON THE ROCKS
When shots miss the fairway and rough at Sky Mountain Golf Course in Hurricane, Utah, they often land on volcanic rock. A Local Rule allows golfers to carry and use a 15th club—a "rock club"—to avoid damaging their regular clubs.
ON COURSE BUT OUT-OF-BOUNDS
If a ball flies to the right of the O.B. stakes on the fourth hole at Hanover Country Club in Abbottstown, Pa., even if it comes back into play when landing, it's out. Winthrop (Minn.) Golf Club has a similar "internal aerial out-of-bounds" on its sixth hole. A ball that goes to the right of a flagpole 200 yards off the tee is O.B. (Both are protecting adjacent holes.)
WHAT THE ELK?!
In Alberta, animals run past golfers as if the course were a shooting arcade. Banff Springs' Local Rules state that "any shot striking an elk or other animal may be replayed without penalty." Jasper Park Lodge also extends the rule to all creatures: "Any shot striking wildlife may be replayed without penalty."
Alaskan animals seemingly take it to the next level. At North Star Golf Club in Fairbanks, America's northernmost golf course, a Local Rule states: "If a raven or fox steals the ball, take a free drop at the scene of the crime."
Space is in such short supply at nine-hole Bogalusa (La.) Country Club that the outline of a pretend water hazard is painted on the 455-yard dogleg first hole to challenge the second shot—and retain its integrity as a par 5.
NO SNAKE CHARMER
At Lake Powell National Golf Course in Page, Ariz., a "casual rattlesnake rule" is used if your ball is within the vicinity of a rattler. You can gather your ball, drop without penalty—then presumably swing fast and run like hell.
Think you should get relief in event of an elephant stampede? Not at Elephant Hills Golf Club near Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, where a Local Rule states that the golfer "shall be allowed to return to his ball, which shall be played as it lies, whether or not the animal had trodden thereon."
England's Royal North Devon is home to sheep and horses that roam where they will. This pastoral setting has its limits. A Local Rule details how to handle a specific type of sticky situation: "A ball which lies in or touches heaped or liquid manure may be lifted without penalty, cleaned and dropped." Tavistock Golf Club in southwestern England wants golfers to be clear that "relief from manure interfering with a player's stance is denied." In other words, you don't have to play out of crap, but you might have to step in it. Tavistock's Local Rule offers relief from other horse evidence on the green, including "a hoof mark, pony bite [or] urine burn."
WRONG KIND OF ACE
At Caverns Country Club in Luray, Va., the opening to a cave is located in the middle of the par-5 first hole. If your ball goes into the hole, you don't win a free round, but you do get to use a new ball—and take a free drop without penalty.
THE BETTER HALF At historic Oakhurst Links in West Virginia, where golfers play and dress as in the hickory-shaft era, a Local Rule covers what happens if your gutta-percha ball breaks apart during play: You must hole out using the largest piece.
BLAST FROM THE PAST Playing with half a ball might sound tough, but how about playing 18 holes with bombs going off around you? At Richmond Golf Club in Surrey, England, among seven rules in 1940 was this: "A player whose stroke is affected by the simultaneous explosion of a bomb may play another ball from the same place. Penalty: one stroke."
Note: Local Rules, including some of these, sometimes violate the Rules of Golf. Wondering if a Local Rule is legit? Email the details to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.