17 Golf Rules you Definitely need to know when Playing in a Tournament

By Joel Beall
Continued from August Rule Tip
  1.     Order of play

This mainly comes up in match play, but whoever is farthest away from the hole is up. And if someone breaks that order, a competitor is allowed to cancel the shot, forcing them to replay it.

But this comes with a caveat: Unless it’s an egregious offense, don’t call this on a competitor. Unless you want their putter tomahawked into your windshield after the round.

  1. One-ball condition

This is rare: You usually only see this in professional tournaments, most recently when Phil Mickelson was dinged for using two different types of makes at the Presidents Cup. That said, I’ve been in club championships before where this popped up, sending people scrambling to the pro shop.

  1. Sprinkler heads

This falls under the immovable object umbrella, but happens so often that it deserves its own section. Relief is granted from sprinkler heads only if your ball, intended stance, or swing is interfered with. Line of play isn’t covered, meaning if you’re putting from the fringe through a sprinkler towards the green, well, you might want to break out a wedge.

  1. Identifying your ball

Buried in the rough and can’t tell if it’s your ball? You are allowed to lift the ball for ID purposes. From the USGA: “The player must announce his intention to lift the ball to an opponent, fellow-competitor or marker, and mark the position of the ball. He may then lift the ball and identify it, provided that he gives his opponent, marker or fellow-competitor an opportunity to observe the lifting and replacement.”

  1. Flagstick

Your group has made it to the green; the hole is almost behind you. And, look at that, your ball has come to rest just inches from the pin. You’re so excited that you brush it in without thought, walking off the green thinking you just made birdie.

Except, the pin was in, and you hit it. That drops your score from a bird to a bogey and sinks your heart into your stomach.

Other violations include hitting a pin that has been taken out and lying past the hole, or if you purposefully leave the flag in while attending it to cause a penalty on your opponent.

Most tournaments have rules officials on site, and all golfers should have a copy of the USGA rules book in their bag for more intricate situations and rulings. But the aforementioned points serve as the foundation for the obstacles you’ll likely encounter during tournament play. Now you can put your rules apprehension to rest, knowing your equipped to handle whatever the course, and your competitors, throw at you.