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Most Commonly Broken Golf Rules

More often than not, golfers end up flouting certain rules, and here are the ones most commonly broken. Do you remember breaking one or more of them, ever?
Commonly broken golf rule
Are You One of Them?
According to a recent survey, only 27% golfers in the United States follow the USGA and R&A golf rules completely!
Golf is a fairly simple game, but the same cannot be said about some of its rules, which are difficult to comprehend. The result is that some golfers end up breaking the rules unintentionally, while others choose to give them a miss for the sake of convenience. There are 34 rules in all, each one with its own set of clauses and sub-clauses.

The rules that govern the sport are put forth by the United States Golf Association (USGA) and the Royal and the Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, Scotland. If you're a regular golfer, then you've probably broken a few rules here and there, at least once in a while. Interestingly, there are a handful of rules that get broken more frequently than the rest, and this Buzzle article enlists 10 such rules for you.

Asking for advice and indicating line of play. (Rules 8-1 and 8-2)
It is against the rules of play to ask an opponent what club they've used. A player is also prohibited to tell an opponent how to execute a swing. Also, touching the putting surface with the purpose of indicating the line of play is prohibited. However, you can point to a part of the green. Breaking this rule can lead to a loss of hole in match play or a 2 shot penalty in stroke play.

Dropping from a cart path. (Rule 24-2)
The rules require a player to drop within 1 club-length from the nearest point of relief, but on the same side of the path. A player cannot drop from a spot on the other side of the path, even if that means he has no choice but to drop into an unplayable lie, such as a bush or hedge. However, he can always play the ball from off the path itself.

Tapping down the line of putt. (Rule 16)
The rule states that a player is not permitted to wipe out, remove, or repair spike marks from the line of putt, which is the line between the ball and the hole. However, the rule permits you to remove foreign objects, such as pebbles, lying on this line, using your hand or the club. The penalty is a loss of hole in match play or a 2 shot penalty in stroke play.

Procedure for a lost ball. (Rule 27-1)
The rule states that a player shall not spend more than 5 minutes looking for a ball. However, here's a catch―the timing begins the moment he starts looking for the ball, and not after he has hit the shot. At the end of the said 5 minutes, the player is expected to return to the spot where he had hit the prior shot, and a penalty stroke is added to his score. Most of the time, players spend more than the stipulated time in looking for the ball, causing unnecessary delay.

Playing a provisional ball. (Rule 27-2)
A player is allowed to play a provisional ball only when the ball has been hit out-of-bounds or lost. However, the player should first look for the ball. A player can only play a provisional ball once he has made his intentions clear to the opponents. Also, the player should wait for the opponent to play his shot. Most of the time, players don't make their intentions clear to their opponents before playing a provisional ball.

Undue Delay; Slow Play (Rule 6-7)
The rules state that the player must play without any undue delay, and stick to the pace of play as established by the committee in charge of the competition or the course. He is not supposed to delay play between completion of a hole and playing from the next teeing ground.

Procedure for an unplayable lie. (Rule 28)
If the ball comes to rest at a point from where it is impossible to take a shot, a player can declare the ball as unplayable, and suffer a one stroke penalty. However, on doing so, he can either move 2 club lengths from the ball, or use the stroke-and-distance option and go back to the spot from where he had taken the previous shot. In a casual game of golf, a penalty is not added to the score of the player.

Improving your lie or the position of your ball by moving or bending anything growing. (Rule 13)
The rule prohibits players from moving or bending anything growing or fixed, and also from pressing anything down with the club, with the objective of improving the lie or position of the ball, the line of play, or the intended area of swing. However, this rule does not apply when the player is fairly taking his stance or actually taking a stroke. Also, the rule does not permit a player to step behind the ball to improve his lie, anywhere other than on the teeing ground.

Taking a ball out of a water hazard and dropping it along the 'line of the flight'. (Rule 26)
There is no such term as 'line of flight' in the rule book. However, this does not deter golfers from dropping the ball along this line after the ball has been hit into a water hazard. Going by the rules, a player has the following three options when he hits the ball into a water hazard, and suffers a one stroke penalty.
  • Play the next stroke from the spot where he played his last stroke
  • Drop a ball behind the water hazard, keeping the point at which the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard between himself and the hole
  • If it's a lateral water hazard (water hazard alongside the line of play), he may drop a ball within two club lengths of the point where the ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard.
Note that the player is not allowed to play a provisional ball when the ball is lost after it has been hit into a water hazard, but many golfers are glad to break this rule.

Taking relief from immovable obstruction and ground under repair. (Rule 24 and 25)
In such cases, the player is allowed to drop the ball within 1 club-length from the nearest point of relief once the nearest point of relief has been determined. However, players tend to drop the ball to suit their convenience.

There are many other rules that are broken in an informal game of golf, and the mulligan is a good example. A mulligan is nothing but a free shot that a player takes if the previous shot was not well taken. Also, not many golfers follow the rule that prohibits a player to carry more than 14 clubs in his bag.
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Published: September 23, 2013
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