Why You Must Know the Definitions in the Rules of Golf

Jeanne Myers is Assistant Tournament Director, Golf Association of Michigan.

In order to apply the Rules of Golf, or even to find the answer to a Rules problem in the Rules of Golf, you have to know the definitions. There are only fifty-one of them, but there is a huge amount of information in them.

More than one golfer has given himself a stroke penalty for causing his ball to oscillate. The Rules savvy golfer, however, knows that oscillating, according to the USGA, is not moving. For a ball to have “moved” it has to leave its position and come to rest in another spot. So, even if you accidentally nudge a ball forward, as long as it returns to its original position, you are safe from penalty – because it hasn’t come to rest in another spot.

Under the definition of “equipment” you will find that when you are sharing a golf cart, when your ball is involved, that cart and everything in it belongs to you – unless the cart is being driven by the other person. And, that “everything in it” includes the other person when the cart is stationary. Therefore, assume another player in your group who is sharing a cart with you, drives the cart and parks it near the green and stays in the cart. You then proceed to play, and your shot hits the person sitting in the stationary cart. You have hit your equipment and will get a one stroke penalty. Hopefully, he will only get a sore arm.

A “stroke” is the forward movement of the club with the intention of hitting the ball. So, if you check your downswing voluntarily or alter your swing path so that you intentionally miss the ball, you have not made a stroke. But, don’t use this to try to disguise a “whiff.” We all know what a “whiff” looks like.

“Through the green” is the whole area of the golf course except the teeing ground and putting green of the hole you are playing and all hazards. Therefore, through the green includes fairways and rough. When you look up relief options, you will need to know that term.

A “rub of the green” is not bad luck. It is when your ball in motion is accidentally stopped or deflected by any outside agency. Therefore, it is a rub of the green if your shot is deflected out of bounds by a piece of mowing equipment, but it is also a rub of the green if it is deflected into the hole by that equipment.

There are no sand traps or pins on golf courses, so you’ll have trouble looking up a Rule involving either. Instead, there are “bunkers” and “flagsticks,” and you will have no problem finding the proper entries in the Index to the Rules of Golf to find the answer you need using those terms.

An “obstruction” is anything artificial except 1) objects defining out of bounds, such as walls, fences and stakes, 2) immovable artificial objects located out of bounds, and 3) integral parts of the course. If you know this definition, you will know that if retaining walls in a water hazard have been declared to be integral parts of the course, you will not get free relief from them even if your ball lies outside the hazard.

A “provisional ball” is one played for an original ball that may be out of bounds or may be lost outside of a water hazard.

The rest of those definitions are up to you!

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