Rules of Golf

Rules of Golf Review: What's it called now? A quick refresher in rules terminology


Colin Anderson Productions pty ltd

A bunker is still a bunker and out of bounds is still, well, the place you don't want to find your ball. But since the Rules of Golf have been greatly modified in the past five years, many terms we've all been accustomed to saying are technically no longer considered part of the game (with some of the changes leaving traditionalists brooding).

A quick example: Don't say "water hazard." It's no longer recognized as an official term in the Rules of Golf. Splash one down inside the yellow or red stakes and the proper term is "penalty area." A good number of the following things were changed back in 2019, but golfers are often late adapaters to things—we're just now coming to accept in a broad sense playing music during a round—so here's a handy guide to some of the most commonly mistated terms.

THEN: Casual water
NOW: Temporary water
Those puddles that collect on the course? Or accumulations of snow or natural ice? You still get free relief from them. But the old adjective didn't quite capture the spirit of the condition.

THEN: All square
NOW: Tied
This one has been a tough change for many to accept. The former term for a match that is even dates back to 1833 in golf and even farther back when used in terms of settling a financial-debt obligation. Its "stuffy" sound prompted rules makers to go with a more sports-friendly moniker, but this another one that has old-school golfers rolling their eyes.

THEN: Teeing ground
NOW: Teeing area
The former term was mentioned in Rule 1 of the first formal rules of the game from 1744.

THEN: Burrowing animal hole
NOW: Animal hole
A dog doesn't live underground, but they love to dig holes. You get relief from their handiwork, too.

THEN: Competitor or fellow competitor
NOW: Player
Stroke play used to identify the men or women in your group in this manner, but you can call someone a "player" in either stroke or match play now (cheap cologne optional).

THEN: Hazards
NOW: Either penalty area or a bunker
Water hazards and bunkers used to be lumped together, but they are now treated entirely separate in the rules book.

THEN: Line of putt
NOW: Line of play
Line of putt was formely used because you weren't supposed to touch it before hitting your putt. Now you can.

THEN: Nearest point of relief
NOW: Nearest point of complete relief
Complete was added for emphasis, but we'll let this one slide if you still say it the old way (we sometimes do, too).

THEN: Rub of the green
NOW: Rub of the green
This one was always cool to say, but back in the day, it had a specific meaning. If a ball was deflected or stopped by a spectator or some other "outside agency, you played it as it lies. A so-called "rub of the green." But that term has been eliminated from the book. So was "outside agency," for that matter, which is now "outside influence." However, "rub of the green" still has a c'est la vie quality, so we like to slip it in when things get a little weird out there. "You see Joe's ball hit that turtle shell and stop by the pin? Talk about rub of the green." That sorta thing.