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Posted: March 26, 2010
Article of the Week
The Rules of Golf - Definitions

Contrary to what the USGA would like to hear, golf is generally not played by the rules. 
There is a simple reason.  Most golfers have never read the Rules of Golf.  It is not possible to play by the rules if you first don’t know them.


Go buy a rule book.  You can get it directly from the USGA just by becoming a member. (Click here to join)  Or you can find one at most pro shops.


Section One of the Rules of Golf is on etiquette.  Once you get through that the fun begins.  Section Two is Definitions.  Terms you may be familiar with (addressing the ball) have a very specific definition and are essential to the proper application of the rules.  There you will also find terms you have never heard.  Do you know what an “outside agency” is?  Do you know how the definition is different for match play as opposed to stroke play?  Does any of this matter to you?


Clearly the definitions are the basis for understanding the Rules of Golf.  As a professional I am often asked for rulings for unusual situations that occur on the golf course.  The first question is always where the situation occurred.  There are four places defined by the Rules of Golf. 


The teeing ground – Simply, the starting place for the hole to be played.  (If you are on the teeing ground for another hole it is not the teeing ground of the hole to be played and therefore the application of the rules may differ.)


The putting green – Once again this refers to the area around the hole being played especially prepared for putting.  No other green on the golf course is “the putting green.”


Hazards - Any bunker or water hazard.  These each has its’ own definition.  And a water hazard can be classified as a lateral water hazard and has special rules that apply.


Through the green - This is all other parts of the golf course not defined by the other three.


Depending on where the situation occurred the rules will apply differently.  This is merely the start of a rules decision.  Who was involved?  What was the form of play?  Exactly what happened?  Until these questions are very specifically answered and agreed upon by all involved, the decision making process cannot begin.  Further, these questions must be answered using very specific language as defined by the rule book.

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