You don’t have to know all the rules, but there are a few that come up so often that should know them. After all, golf is your game, and you should know how it’s played.
If you’re playing by yourself, and absolutely nothing ever goes wrong (you hit every fairway, every green, and putt out), you still need to know these rules:
Equipment (rule 4-4a). You may play with a maximum of fourteen clubs.
Stroke (Rule 14-1). The ball must be fairly struck at with the head of the club and and may not be pushed, scraped, or spooned.
Artificial aids (Rule 14-3). An artificial aid that assists you in making a stroke may not be used.
The tee shot (Rule 11). Defines the area in which you can tee up your ball.
Play the ball as it lies (Rule 13). Prohibits moving the ball, or anything in your line of play or swing; prohibits removing, bending, or breaking any growing thing except in fairly taking your stance or swing.
The putting green (Rule 16, 17). You may mark, lift, and clean your ball. A putted ball may not strike the flagstick.
Holing out (Rule 3-2). You must hole out the ball or you are disqualified.
Impediments (Rule 23) and movable obstructions (Rule 24-1). You may move a loose impediment or movable obstruction without penalty. If the ball moves while moving a loose impediment, there is a one-stroke penalty and the ball must be replaced; if moving a movable obstruction, the ball must be replaced, but there is no penalty.
Abnormal ground condition (Rule 25-1). You may lift the ball and drop it within one club-length of the nearest point of relief without penalty.
When other players are along, and when things do start to go wrong, a host of other rules come into play. I won’t go into them, because that book has already been written. However, you should know what to do in these cases:
– the ball goes out of bounds or you think it might not be found,
– the ball goes into a water hazard,
– the ball goes into a bunker,
– the ball is unplayable were it lies,
– the ball is embedded,
– your ball was at rest, but you (not while making a stroke at it) or someone or something else moved it,
– your ball was in motion but it was deflected or stopped by somebody or their equipment,
– another ball interferes with playing your own,
– you play the wrong ball or someone else plays yours,
– your stroke is interfered with by an immovable obstruction (this includes cart paths),
– you have found a ball, but cannot identify it as yours as it lays.
You need to know how to properly lift and drop a ball, identify the nearest point of relief, and how to mark off a club length. In every case, if you get relief without penalty, you may drop one club-length from the nearest point of relief; if being penalized, two club-lengths.
Last summer I posted a series of detailed descriptions of all this stuff. Search the blog on the “rules” label to find the posts, or better yet, get a rule book and read it.
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