Carved in stone

June 23, 2008

With a new golf season comes the inevitable rules dilemmas with your playing partners. This year, be prepared. Memorize these 10 commandment musts, and you can avoid most confusion and debate over the rules.

1. Advice

You may ask another player to show you the line of play on a hole, but you can't ask how to play the next shot or what club to use.

2. Who's away?

The player farthest from the hole has the right to play first -- even if that player is on the green and someone else is off the green.

3. Hitting a provisional

You have to say, "I'm hitting a provisional ball" to someone in your group. And you have to make the decision to play a provisional ball before you walk forward from the spot of your original shot.

4. Drops

In most cases, a drop may not end up closer to the hole than where the original ball was.

5. Unplayable lie

You can call for an unplayable lie (and take a stroke penalty) anywhere except in a water hazard. Drop within two club-lengths, no nearer the hole.

6. Ball in a water hazard?

If you think your ball is lost in a water hazard, you can't play a provisional ball. If you hit another from the original spot, you just abandoned your original ball and added a penalty stroke to your score.

7. Drop outside a water hazard

Red stakes mean you may drop laterally within two club-lengths of where the ball entered the hazard. Yellow stakes mean you can drop only on the side of the hazard that is farthest from the hole, and anywhere on a line from the cup through the point where the ball entered the hazard.

8. Your ball is plugged

If the ball plugs in its pitch mark on the fairway, it may be lifted, cleaned and dropped by the mark. But don't lift a plugged ball from the rough or a hazard.

9. Playing a wrong ball

There's no penalty for hitting a wrong ball in a hazard (replay the shot hitting the correct ball). Elsewhere, add two to your score in stroke play, and correct the error before starting another hole or you're DQ'd. Loss of hole in match play.

10. Boundaries

If any part of your ball touches a hazard line, it's in the hazard. Same goes for the putting green and teeing area. Conversely, a ball must be completely out-of-bounds or it's still in bounds.