Rules Review

Rules of Golf Review: While waiting to play a shot, my opponent is killing time by chipping a ball. Is that allowed?

November 29, 2023

Mats Silvan

We’ve got an assignment for you: Check out these rules scenarios involving practice during a round. Can you identify which are penalties under the Rules of Golf—specifically Rule 5.5—and which are permissible?

1. Your opponent in a match is across the fairway waiting to play his next shot. While the group in front of you clears, he gets out a foam golf ball from his bag and starts hitting chips back and forth.

2. As the players in your foursome clear the tee and start toward their balls, one of the players in the group stops and starts to bang practice balls back onto the adjacent driving range. He's doing it in a very rapid manner, one after the other.

3. After failing to get up-and-down and losing a hole, your opponent goes to the spot just off the green where he flubbed a chip and tries it again.

4. While waiting to play, a person in your group starts hitting acorns with his 7-iron, making full swings each time as if he's working on a shot shape.

5. A player in your group has to play a provisional ball, but then finds his original and asks you to pick up the provisional. Instead of handing it back to the player in your group, you get out your wedge and pitch it over to him.

So of the five scenarios above, which are penalties?

According to Rule 5.5, the only definite penalty would be in scenario No. 1, although No. 2 and No. 5 fall into a gray area, and that's the key to applying this rule.

First, No. 1 is a violation because Rule 5.5a(1) says it's considered practicing during a round if you hit a golf ball or any ball similar in size. A foam practice ball is considered similar. Penalty: Loss of hole in match play or two shots in stroke play. Note: If the penalty happened between two holes, it would be applied to the next hole.

So what's gray about scenarios No. 2 and No. 5? For either to be a penalty, you have to consider intent. Was the player in your group in No. 2, or you in No. 5, simply transporting a ball or were you also trying to get a little work in on a facet of the game? If you or that player were hoping to get the best of both worlds out of this action, well, then it's a penalty for practicing during a round.

If you weren't trying to practice, there is no penalty and here's why: In No. 2, the rapid-fire shots of practice balls back on the range suggests the player is tidying the course and not engaging in a form of practice.

In No. 3, your opponent or playing partner (stroke play) is allowed to practice chipping or putting on a hole just completed (or any practice green) or around the teeing area of the next hole. That means if you're waiting to hit on a tee box, you can work on your short game there to kill time.


Portland Press Herald

In No. 4, the player hitting acorns is clearly practicing during a round in the general sense of the term. However, striking a natural object with your club, regardless of intent, is not a practice stroke that would be deemed a violation of the rules.