Understanding the definitions is essential to learning the Rules of Golf.
Abnormal Course ConditionAny of these four defined conditions:
- Animal Hole,
- Ground Under Repair,
- Immovable Obstruction, or
- Temporary Water.
AdviceAny verbal comment or action (such as showing what club was just used to make a stroke) that is intended to influence a player in:
- Choosing a club,
- Making a stroke, or
- Deciding how to play during a hole or round.
- The location of things on the course such as the hole, the putting green, the fairway, penalty areas, bunkers, or another player's ball,
- The distance from one point to another, or
- The Rules.
- A player makes a statement regarding club selection that was intended to be overheard by another player who had a similar stroke.
- In individual stroke play, Player A, who has just holed out on the 7th hole, demonstrates to Player B, whose ball was just off the putting green, how to make the next stroke. Because Player B has not completed the hole, Player A gets the penalty on the 7th hole. But, if both Player A and Player B had completed the 7th hole, Player A gets the penalty on the 8th hole.
- A player's ball is lying badly and the player is deliberating what action to take. Another player comments, "You have no shot at all. If I were you, I would decide to take unplayable ball relief." This comment is advice because it could have influenced the player in deciding how to play during a hole.
- While a player is setting up to hit his or her shot over a large penalty area filled with water, another player in the group comments, "You know the wind is in your face and it's 250 yards to carry that water?"
- During play of the 6th hole, a player asks another player what club he or she used on the 4th hole that is a par-3 of similar length.
- A player makes a second stroke that lands on the putting green. Another player does likewise. The first player then asks the second player what club was used for the second stroke.
- After making a stroke, a player says, "I should have used a 5-iron" to another player in the group that has yet to play onto the green, but not intending to influence his or her play.
- A player looks into another player's bag to determine which club he or she used for the last stroke without touching or moving anything.
- While lining up a putt, a player mistakenly seeks advice from another player's caddie, believing that caddie to be the player's caddie. The player immediately realizes the mistake and tells the other caddie not to answer.
AnimalAny living member of the animal kingdom (other than humans), including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates (such as worms, insects, spiders and crustaceans).
Animal HoleAny hole dug in the ground by an animal, except for holes dug by animals that are also defined as loose impediments (such as worms or insects).
The term animal hole includes:
- The loose material the animal dug out of the hole,
- Any worn-down track or trail leading into the hole, and
- Any area on the ground pushed up or altered as a result of the animal digging the hole underground.
Areas of the CourseThe five defined areas that make up the course:
- The general area,
- The teeing area the player must play from in starting the hole he or she is playing,
- All penalty areas,
- All bunkers, and
- The putting green of the hole the player is playing.
Ball-MarkerAn artificial object when used to mark the spot of a ball to be lifted, such as a tee, a coin, an object made to be a ball-marker or another small piece of equipment.
When a Rule refers to a ball-marker being moved, this means a ball-marker in place on the course to mark the spot of a ball that has been lifted and not yet replaced.
Boundary ObjectArtificial objects defining or showing out of bounds, such as walls, fences, stakes and railings, from which free relief is not allowed.
This includes any base and post of a boundary fence, but does not include:
- Angled supports or guy wires that are attached to a wall or fence, or
- Any steps, bridge or similar construction used for getting over the wall or fence.
Boundary objects are not obstructions or integral objects.
An example of how a movable boundary object may come into play during a round includes when a boundary stake interferes with a player's stance so he or she pulls the stake out of the ground (a breach of Rule 8.1a), but part of it breaks during removal. If the player realizes the mistake before making the next stroke, he or she may restore the improved conditions by replacing enough of the broken boundary stake to restore the interference to what it was before the stake was removed.
But if the improvement cannot be eliminated (such as when a boundary object has been bent or broken in such a way that the improvement cannot be eliminated), the player cannot avoid penalty.
BunkerA specially prepared area of sand, which is often a hollow from which turf or soil was removed.
These are not part of a bunker:
- A lip, wall or face at the edge of a prepared area and consisting of soil, grass, stacked turf or artificial materials,
- Soil or any growing or attached natural object inside the edge of a prepared area (such as grass, bushes or trees),
- Sand that has spilled over or is outside the edge of a prepared area, and
- All other areas of sand on the course that are not inside the edge of a prepared area (such as deserts and other natural sand areas or areas sometimes referred to as waste areas).
A Committee may define a prepared area of sand as part of the general area (which means it is not a bunker) or may define a non-prepared area of sand as a bunker.
When a bunker is being repaired and the Committee defines the entire bunker as ground under repair, it is treated as part of the general area (which means it is not a bunker).
The word "sand" as used in this Definition and Rule 12 includes any material similar to sand that is used as bunker material (such as crushed shells), as well as any soil that is mixed in with the sand.
CaddieSomeone who helps a player during a round, including in these ways:
- Carrying, Transporting or Handling Clubs: A person who carries, transports (such as by cart or trolley) or handles a player's clubs during play is the player's caddie even if not named as a caddie by the player, except when done to move the player's clubs, bag or cart out of the way or as a courtesy (such as getting a club the player left behind).
- Giving Advice: A player's caddie is the only person (other than a partner or partner's caddie) a player may ask for advice.
Club-LengthThe length of the longest club of the 14 (or fewer) clubs the player has during the round (as allowed by Rule 4.1b(1)), other than a putter.
For example, if the longest club (other than a putter) a player has during a round is a 43-inch (109.22 cm) driver, a club-length is 43 inches for that player for that round.
Club-lengths are used in defining the player's teeing area on each hole and in determining the size of the player's relief area when taking relief under a Rule.
> > > > > See Clarification of Club-Length < < < < <
If the player starts a round with fewer than 14 clubs and decides to add another club that is longer than the clubs he or she started with, the added club is used for measuring so long as it is not a putter.
CommitteeThe person or group in charge of the competition or the course.
See Committee Procedures, Section 1 (explaining the role of the Committee).
Conditions Affecting the StrokeThe lie of the player's ball at rest, the area of intended stance, the area of intended swing, the line of play and the relief area where the player will drop or place a ball.
- The "area of intended stance" includes both where the player will place his or her feet and the entire area that might reasonably affect how and where the player's body is positioned in preparing for and making the intended stroke.
- The "area of intended swing" includes the entire area that might reasonably affect any part of the backswing, the downswing or the completion of the swing for the intended stroke.
- Each of the terms "lie," "line of play" and "relief area" has its own Definition.
CourseThe entire area of play within the edge of any boundaries set by the Committee:
- All areas inside the boundary edge are in bounds and part of the course.
- All areas outside the boundary edge are out of bounds and not part of the course.
- The boundary edge extends both up above the ground and down below the ground.
DropTo hold the ball and let go of it so that it falls through the air, with the intent for the ball to be in play.
If the player lets go of a ball without intending it to be in play, the ball has not been dropped and is not in play (see Rule 14.4).
Each relief Rule identifies a specific relief area where the ball must be dropped and come to rest.
In taking relief, the player must let go of the ball from a location at knee height so that the ball:
- Falls straight down, without the player throwing, spinning or rolling it or using any other motion that might affect where the ball will come to rest, and
- Does not touch any part of the player's body or equipment before it hits the ground (see Rule 14.3b).
EmbeddedWhen a player's ball is in its own pitch-mark made as a result of the player's previous stroke and where part of the ball is below the level of the ground. A ball does not necessarily have to touch soil to be embedded (for example, grass and loose impediments may be between the ball and the soil).
EquipmentAnything used, worn, held or carried by the player or the player's caddie.
Objects used for the care of the course, such as rakes, are equipment only while they are being held or carried by the player or caddie.
For example, if a player asks a spectator to carry his or her umbrella, the umbrella is an outside influence while in the spectator's possession.
However, if the spectator hands the umbrella to the player, it is now his or her equipment.
Equipment RulesThe specifications and other regulations for clubs, balls and other equipment that players are allowed to use during a round.
FlagstickA movable pole provided by the Committee that is placed in the hole to show players where the hole is. The flagstick includes the flag and any other material or objects attached to the pole.
The requirements for a flagstick are stated in the Equipment Rules.
For example, if the flagstick has been removed and a player wants the position of the hole indicated but does not want to waste time getting the flagstick, someone else may indicate the position of the hole with a club. But, for the purpose of applying the Rules, the club is treated as if it were the flagstick.
Four-BallA form of play where sides of two partners compete, with each player playing his or her own ball. A side's score for a hole is the lower score of the two partners on that hole.
Four-Ball may be played as a match-play competition between one side of two partners and another side of two partners or a stroke-play competition among multiple sides of two partners.
Foursomes (also known as "Alternate Shot")A form of play where two partners compete as a side by playing one ball in alternating order on each hole.
Foursomes may be played as a match-play competition between one side of two partners and another side of two partners or a stroke-play competition among multiple sides of two partners.
General AreaThe area of the course that covers all of the course except for the other four defined areas: (1) the teeing area the player must play from in starting the hole he or she is playing, (2) all penalty areas, (3) all bunkers, and (4) the putting green of the hole the player is playing.
The general area includes:
- All teeing locations on the course other than the teeing area, and
- All wrong greens.
General PenaltyLoss of hole in match play or two penalty strokes in stroke play.
Ground Under RepairAny part of the course the Committee defines to be ground under repair (whether by marking it or otherwise). Any defined ground under repair includes both:
- All ground inside the edge of the defined area, and
- Any grass, bush, tree or other growing or attached natural object rooted in the defined area, including any part of those objects that extends up above the ground outside the edge of the defined area, but not any part (such as a tree root) that is attached to or below the ground outside the edge of the defined area.
- Any hole made by the Committee or the maintenance staff in:
- Setting up the course (such as a hole where a stake has been removed or the hole on a double green being used for the play of another hole), or
- Maintaining the course (such as a hole made in removing turf or a tree stump or laying pipelines, but not including aeration holes).
- Grass cuttings, leaves and any other material piled for later removal. But:
- Any natural materials that are piled for removal are also loose impediments, and
- Any materials left on the course that are not intended to be removed are not ground under repair unless the Committee has defined them as such.
- Any animal habitat (such as a bird's nest) that is so near a player's ball that the player's stroke or stance might damage it, except when the habitat has been made by animals that are defined as loose impediments (such as worms or insects).
- Stakes: When defined by stakes, the edge of the ground under repair is defined by the line between the outside points of the stakes at ground level, and the stakes are inside the ground under repair.
- Lines: When defined by a painted line on the ground, the edge of the ground under repair is the outside edge of the line, and the line itself is in the ground under repair.
- Physical Features: When defined by physical features (such as a flower bed or a turf nursery), the Committee should say how the edge of the ground under repair is defined.
Examples of damage that is not ground under repair by default include:
- A rut made by a tractor (but the Committee is justified in declaring a deep rut to be ground under repair).
- An old hole plug that is sunk below the putting green surface, but see Rule 13.1c (Improvements Allowed on Putting Green).
If the player decides to take free relief under Rule 16.1 and the spot on the ground directly under where the ball lies in the tree is outside the ground under repair,
the reference point for determining the relief area and taking relief is that spot on the ground.
For example, a tree that has fallen in the general area and is still attached to the stump is not ground under repair. However, a player could request relief from the Committee and the Committee would be justified in declaring the area covered by the fallen tree to be ground under repair.
HoleThe finishing point on the putting green for the hole being played:
- The hole must be 4 1/4 inches (108 mm) in diameter and at least 4 inches (101.6 mm) deep.
- If a lining is used, its outer diameter must not exceed 4 1/4 inches (108 mm). The lining must be sunk at least 1 inch (25.4 mm) below the putting green surface, unless the nature of the soil requires that it be closer to the surface.
HoledWhen a ball is at rest in the hole after a stroke and the entire ball is below the surface of the putting green.
When the Rules refer to "holing out" or "hole out", it means when the player's ball is holed.
For the special case of a ball resting against the flagstick in the hole, see Rule 13.2c (ball is treated as holed if any part of the ball is below the surface of the putting green).
However, if a player removes a ball from the hole that is still moving (such as circling or bouncing in the bottom of the hole), it is considered holed despite the ball not having come to rest in the hole.
HonourThe right of a player to play first from the teeing area (see Rule 6.4).
Immovable ObstructionAny obstruction that:
- Cannot be moved without unreasonable effort or without damaging the obstruction or the course, and
- Otherwise does not meet the definition of a movable obstruction.
For example, a water pipe is partly underground and partly above ground. If the pipe that is underground causes the turf to be raised, the raised turf is not part of the immovable obstruction.
ImproveTo alter one or more of the conditions affecting the stroke or other physical conditions affecting play so that a player gains a potential advantage for a stroke.
In PlayThe status of a player's ball when it lies on the course and is being used in the play of a hole:
- A ball first becomes in play on a hole:
- When the player makes a stroke at it from inside the teeing area, or
- In match play, when the player makes a stroke at it from outside the teeing area and the opponent does not cancel the stroke under Rule 6.1b.
- That ball remains in play until it is holed, except that it is no longer in play:
- When it is lifted from the course,
- When it is lost (even if it is at rest on the course) or comes to rest out of bounds, or
- When another ball has been substituted for it, even if not allowed by a Rule.
The player cannot have more than one ball in play at any time. (See Rule 6.3d for the limited cases when a player may play more than one ball at the same time on a hole.)
When the Rules refer to a ball at rest or in motion, this means a ball that is in play.
When a ball-marker is in place to mark the spot of a ball in play:
- If the ball has not been lifted, it is still in play, and
- If the ball has been lifted and replaced, it is in play even if the ball-marker has not been removed.
Integral ObjectAn artificial object defined by the Committee as part of the challenge of playing the course from which free relief is not allowed.
Integral objects are treated as immovable (see Rule 8.1a). But if part of an integral object (such as a gate or door or part of an attached cable) meets the definition of movable obstruction, that part is treated as a movable obstruction.
Artificial objects defined by the Committee as integral objects are not obstructions or boundary objects.
Known or Virtually CertainThe standard for deciding what happened to a player's ball - for example, whether the ball came to rest in a penalty area, whether it moved or what caused it to move.
Known or virtually certain means more than just possible or probable. It means that either:
- There is conclusive evidence that the event in question happened to the player's ball, such as when the player or other witnesses saw it happen, or
- Although there is a very small degree of doubt, all reasonably available information shows that it is at least 95% likely that the event in question happened.
Depending on the circumstances, reasonably available information may include, but is not limited to:
- The effect of any actions taken near the ball (such as movement of loose impediments, practice swings, grounding club and taking a stance),
- Time elapsed between such actions and the movement of the ball,
- The lie of the ball before it moved (such as on a fairway, perched on longer grass, on a surface imperfection or on the putting green),
- The conditions of the ground near the ball (such as the degree of slope or presence of surface irregularities, etc.), and
- Wind speed and direction, rain and other weather conditions.
Examples of when the player's later findings are irrelevant include when:
- A player's tee shot comes to rest in an area containing heavy rough and a large animal hole. After a three-minute search, it is determined that it is not known or virtually certain that the ball is in the animal hole. As the player returns to the teeing area, the ball is found in the animal hole.
Even though the player has not yet put another ball in play, the player must take stroke-and-distance relief for a lost ball (Rule 18.2b - What to Do When Ball is Lost or Out of Bounds) since it was not known or virtually certain that the ball was in the animal hole, when the search time expired.
- A player cannot find his or her ball and believes it may have been picked up by a spectator (outside influence), but there is not enough evidence to be virtually certain of this. A short time after the three-minute search time expires, a spectator is found to have the player's ball.
The player must take stroke-and-distance relief for a lost ball (Rule 18.2b) since the movement by the outside influence only became known after the search time expired.
For example, in stroke play, Player A and Player B hit their tee shots into the same general location. Player A finds a ball and plays it. Player B goes forward to look for his or her ball and cannot find it. After three minutes, Player B starts back to the tee to play another ball. On the way, Player B finds Player A's ball and knows then that Player A has played his or her ball in error.
Player A gets the general penalty for playing a wrong ball and must then play his or her own ball (Rule 6.3c). Player A's ball was not lost even though both players searched for more than three minutes because Player A did not start searching for his or her ball; the searching was for Player B's ball. Regarding Player B's ball, Player B's original ball was lost and he or she must put another ball in play under penalty of stroke and distance (Rule 18.2b), because it was not known or virtually certain when the three-minute search time expired that the ball had been played by another player.
LieThe spot on which a ball is at rest and any growing or attached natural object, immovable obstruction, integral object, or boundary object touching the ball or right next to it.
Loose impediments and movable obstructions are not part of the lie of a ball.
Line of PlayThe line where the player intends his or her ball to go after a stroke, including the area on that line that is a reasonable distance up above the ground and on either side of that line.
The line of play is not necessarily a straight line between two points (for example, it may be a curved line based on where the player intends the ball to go).
Loose ImpedimentAny unattached natural object such as:
- Stones, loose grass, leaves, branches and sticks,
- Dead animals and animal waste,
- Worms, insects and similar animals that can be removed easily, and the mounds or webs they build (such as worm casts and ant hills), and
- Clumps of compacted soil (including aeration plugs).
- Attached or growing,
- Solidly embedded in the ground (that is, cannot be picked out easily), or
- Sticking to the ball.
- Sand and Loose Soil are not loose impediments.
- Dew, Frost and Water are not loose impediments.
- Snow and Natural Ice (other than frost) are either loose impediments or, when on the ground, temporary water, at the player's option.
- Spider Webs are loose impediments even though they are attached to another object.
For example, fruit that has been partially eaten or cut into pieces, and the skin that has been peeled from a piece of fruit are loose impediments. But, when being carried by a player, it is his or her equipment.
For example, a log (loose impediment) that has been split and had legs attached has been changed by construction into a bench (obstruction).
In such a situation, the player may:
- Play the ball as it lies on the obstruction and remove gravel (loose impediment) from the road (Rule 15.1a).
- Take relief without penalty from the abnormal course condition (immovable obstruction) (Rule 16.1b).
LostThe status of a ball that is not found in three minutes after the player or his or her caddie (or the player's partner or partner's caddie) begins to search for it.
If the search begins and is then temporarily interrupted for a good reason (such as when the player stops searching when play is suspended or needs to stand aside to wait for another player to play) or when the player has mistakenly identified a wrong ball:
- The time between the interruption and when the search resumes does not count, and
- The time allowed for search is three minutes in total, counting the search time both before the interruption and after the search resumes.
For example, a player searches for his or her ball for two minutes, declares it lost and walks back to play another ball. Before the player puts another ball in play, the original ball is found within the three-minute search time. Since the player may not declare his or her ball lost, the original ball remains in play.
For example, if a player is walking towards his or her ball and spectators are already looking for the ball, the player cannot deliberately delay getting to the area to keep the three-minute search time from starting. In such circumstances, the search time starts when the player would have been in a position to search had he or she not deliberately delayed getting to the area.
If the balls are in the same area where they can be searched for at the same time, the player is allowed only three minutes to search for both balls. However, if the balls are in different areas (such as opposite sides of the fairway) the player is allowed a three-minute search time for each ball.
MarkTo show the spot where a ball is at rest by either:
- Placing a ball-marker right behind or right next to the ball, or
- Holding a club on the ground right behind or right next to the ball.
MarkerIn stroke play, the person responsible for entering a player's score on the player's scorecard and for certifying that scorecard. The marker may be another player, but not a partner.
The Committee may identify who will be the player's marker or tell the players how they may choose a marker.
Match PlayA form of play where a player or side plays directly against an opponent or opposing side in a head-to-head match of one or more rounds:
- A player or side wins a hole in the match by completing the hole in fewer strokes (including strokes made and penalty strokes), and
- The match is won when a player or side leads the opponent or opposing side by more holes than remain to be played.
Maximum ScoreA form of stroke play where a player's or side's score for a hole is capped at a maximum number of strokes (including strokes made and any penalty strokes) set by the Committee, such as two times par, a fixed number or net double bogey.
Movable ObstructionAn obstruction that can be moved with reasonable effort and without damaging the obstruction or the course.
If part of an immovable obstruction or integral object (such as a gate or door or part of an attached cable) meets these two standards, that part is treated as a movable obstruction.
But this does not apply if the movable part of an immovable obstruction or integral object is not meant to be moved (such as a loose stone that is part of a stone wall).
Even when an obstruction is movable, the Committee may define it to be an immovable obstruction.
MovedWhen a ball at rest has left its original spot and come to rest on any other spot, and this can be seen by the naked eye (whether or not anyone actually sees it do so).
This applies whether the ball has gone up, down or horizontally in any direction away from its original spot.
If the ball only wobbles (sometimes referred to as oscillating) and stays on or returns to its original spot, the ball has not moved.
An example of when a ball has not moved includes when:
- A ball is resting in the fork of a tree branch and the tree branch moves, but the ball's spot in the branch does not change.
- A ball is resting in a stationary plastic cup and the cup itself moves in relation to the ground because it is being blown by the wind.
- A ball is resting in or on a stationary motorized cart that starts to move.
On the other hand, if the Committee determines, based on all of the evidence it has available, that the ball changed its position by an amount that was reasonably discernible to the naked eye at the time, the ball will be determined to have moved even though no-one actually saw it move.
Natural ForcesThe effects of nature such as wind, water or when something happens for no apparent reason because of the effects of gravity.
Nearest Point of Complete ReliefThe reference point for taking free relief from an abnormal course condition (Rule 16.1), dangerous animal condition (Rule 16.2), wrong green (Rule 13.1f) or no play zone (Rules 16.1f and 17.1e), or in taking relief under certain Local Rules.
It is the estimated point where the ball would lie that is:
- Nearest to the ball's original spot, but not nearer the hole than that spot,
- In the required area of the course, and
- Where the condition does not interfere with the stroke the player would have made from the original spot if the condition was not there.
The player does not need to simulate that stroke by taking an actual stance and swinging with the chosen club (but it is recommended that the player normally do this to help in making an accurate estimate).
The nearest point of complete relief relates solely to the particular condition from which relief is being taken and may be in a location where there is interference by something else:
- If the player takes relief and then has interference by another condition from which relief is allowed, the player may take relief again by determining a new nearest point of complete relief from the new condition.
- Relief must be taken separately for each condition, except that the player may take relief from both conditions at the same time (based on determining the nearest point of complete relief from both) when, having already taken relief separately from each condition, it becomes reasonable to conclude that continuing to do so will result in continued interference by one or the other.
The nearest point of complete relief must be strictly interpreted. A player is not allowed to choose on which side of the ground under repair the ball will be dropped, unless there are two equidistant nearest points of complete relief. Even if one side of the ground under repair is fairway and the other is bushes, if the nearest point of complete relief is in the bushes, then that is the player's nearest point of complete relief.
For example, the player's ball lies in heavy rough in the general area approximately 230 yards from the green. The player selects a wedge to make the next stroke and finds that his or her stance touches a line defining an area of ground under repair.
The player determines the nearest point of complete relief and drops a ball in the prescribed relief area according to Rule 14.3b(3) (Ball Must Be Dropped in Relief Area) and Rule 16.1 (Relief from Abnormal Course Conditions).
The ball rolls into a good lie within the relief area from where the player believes that the next stroke could be played with a 3-wood. If the player used a wedge for the next stroke there would be no interference from the ground under repair. However, using the 3-wood, the player again touches the line defining the ground under repair with his or her foot. This is a new situation and the player may play the ball as it lies or take relief for the new situation.
For example, if a player is unable to make a stroke from what appears to be the required relief area as measured from the nearest point of complete relief because either the direction of play is blocked by a tree, or the player is unable to take the backswing for the intended stroke due to a bush, this does not change the fact that the identified point is the nearest point of complete relief.
After the ball is in play, the player must then decide what type of stroke he or she will make. This stroke, which includes the choice of club, may be different than the one that would have been made from the ball's original spot had the condition not been there.
If it is not physically possible to drop the ball in any part of the identified relief area, the player is not allowed relief from the condition.
For example, in taking relief under Rule 16.1, a player is physically unable to determine the nearest point of complete relief because that point is within the trunk of a tree or a boundary fence prevents the player from adopting the required stance.
The player must estimate the nearest point of complete relief and drop a ball in the identified relief area.
If it is not physically possible to drop the ball in the identified relief area, the player is not allowed relief under Rule 16.1.
No Play ZoneA part of the course where the Committee has prohibited play. A no play zone must be defined as part of either an abnormal course condition or a penalty area.
The Committee may use no play zones for any reason, such as:
- Protecting wildlife, animal habitats, and environmentally sensitive areas,
- Preventing damage to young trees, flower beds, turf nurseries, re-turfed areas or other planted areas,
- Protecting players from danger, and
- Preserving sites of historical or cultural interest.
For example, if a no play zone has been defined as a penalty area (where the edges extend above and below the ground), any part of a growing object that extends beyond the edges of the no play zone is not part of the no play zone. However, if a no play zone has been defined as ground under repair (which includes all ground inside the defined area and anything growing that extends above the ground and outside the edges), anything overhanging the edge is part of the no play zone.
ObstructionAny artificial object except for integral objects and boundary objects.
Examples of obstructions:
- Artificially surfaced roads and paths, including their artificial borders.
- Buildings and rain shelters.
- Sprinkler heads, drains and irrigation or control boxes.
- Stakes, walls, railings and fences (but not when they are boundary objects that define or show the boundary edge of the course).
- Golf carts, mowers, cars and other vehicles.
- Waste containers, signposts and benches.
- Player equipment, flagsticks and rakes.
See Committee Procedures, Section 8; Model Local Rule F-23 (Committee may adopt a Local Rule defining certain obstructions as temporary immovable obstructions for which special relief procedures apply).
Sometimes paint dots and lines are used for purposes other than course marking (such as indicating the front and back of putting greens). Such dots and lines are not an abnormal course condition unless the Committee declares them to be ground under repair (see Committee Procedures; Model Local Rule F-21).
OpponentThe person a player competes against in a match. The term opponent applies only in match play.
Outside InfluenceAny of these people or things that can affect what happens to a player's ball or equipment or to the course:
- Any person (including another player), except the player or his or her caddie or the player's partner or opponent or any of their caddies,
- Any animal, and
- Any natural or artificial object or anything else (including another ball in motion), except for natural forces.
- If a ball at rest on the putting green has not been lifted and replaced and is moved by air from a greenside fan, the ball must be replaced (Rule 9.6 and Rule 14.2).
- If a ball at rest is moved by water coming from an irrigation system, the ball must be replaced (Rule 9.6 and Rule 14.2).
Out of BoundsAll areas outside the boundary edge of the course as defined by the Committee. All areas inside that edge are in bounds.
The boundary edge of the course extends both up above the ground and down below the ground:
- This means that all ground and anything else (such as any natural or artificial object) inside the boundary edge is in bounds, whether on, above or below the surface of the ground.
- If an object is both inside and outside the boundary edge (such as steps attached to a boundary fence, or a tree rooted outside the edge with branches extending inside the edge or vice versa), only the part of the object that is outside the edge is out of bounds.
- Boundary objects: When defined by stakes or a fence, the boundary edge is defined by the line between the course-side points of the stakes or fence posts at ground level (excluding angled supports), and those stakes or fence posts are out of bounds.
When defined by other objects such as a wall or when the Committee wishes to treat a boundary fence in a different way, the Committee should define the boundary edge.
- Lines: When defined by a painted line on the ground, the boundary edge is the course-side edge of the line, and the line itself is out of bounds.
When a line on the ground defines the boundary edge, stakes may be used to show where the boundary edge is, but they have no other meaning.
Par/BogeyA form of stroke play that uses scoring as in match play where:
- A player or side wins or loses a hole by completing the hole in fewer strokes or more strokes (including strokes made and any penalty strokes) than a fixed target score for that hole set by the Committee, and
- The competition is won by the player or side with the highest total of holes won versus holes lost (that is, adding up the holes won and subtracting the holes lost).
PartnerA player who competes together with another player as a side, in either match play or stroke play.
Penalty AreaAn area from which relief with a one-stroke penalty is allowed if the player's ball comes to rest there.
A penalty area is:
- Any body of water on the course (whether or not marked by the Committee), including a sea, lake, pond, river, ditch, surface drainage ditch or other open watercourse (even if not containing water), and
- Any other part of the course the Committee defines as a penalty area.
- Yellow penalty areas (marked with yellow lines or yellow stakes) give the player two relief options (Rules 17.1d(1) and (2)).
- Red penalty areas (marked with red lines or red stakes) give the player an extra lateral relief option (Rule 17.1d(3)), in addition to the two relief options available for yellow penalty areas.
- This means that all ground and anything else (such as any natural or artificial object) inside the edge is part of the penalty area, whether on, above or below the surface of the ground.
- If an object is both inside and outside the edge (such as a bridge over the penalty area, or a tree rooted inside the edge with branches extending outside the edge or vice versa), only the part of the object that is inside the edge is part of the penalty area.
- Stakes: When defined by stakes, the edge of the penalty area is defined by the line between the outside points of the stakes at ground level, and the stakes are inside the penalty area.
- Lines: When defined by a painted line on the ground, the edge of the penalty area is the outside edge of the line, and the line itself is in the penalty area.
- Physical Features: When defined by physical features (such as a beach or desert area or a retaining wall), the Committee should say how the edge of the penalty area is defined.
When the edge of a body of water is not defined by the Committee, the edge of that penalty area is defined by its natural boundaries (that is, where the ground slopes down to form the depression that can hold the water).
If an open watercourse usually does not contain water (such as a drainage ditch or run-off area that is dry except during a rainy season), the Committee may define that area as part of the general area (which means it is not a penalty area).
Point of Maximum Available ReliefThe reference point for taking free relief from an abnormal course condition in a bunker (Rule 16.1c) or on the putting green (Rule 16.1d) when there is no nearest point of complete relief.
It is the estimated point where the ball would lie that is:
- Nearest to the ball's original spot, but not nearer the hole than that spot,
- In the required area of the course, and
- Where that abnormal course condition least interferes with the stroke the player would have made from the original spot if the condition was not there.
The player does not need to simulate that stroke by taking an actual stance and swinging with the chosen club (but it is recommended that the player normally do this to help in making an accurate estimate).
The point of maximum available relief is found by comparing the relative amount of interference with the lie of the ball and the player's area of intended stance and swing and, on the putting green only, the line of play. For example, when taking relief from temporary water:
- The point of maximum available relief may be where the ball will be in shallower water than where the player will stand (affecting the stance more than the lie and swing), or where the ball is in deeper water than where the player will stand (affecting the lie and swing more than the stance).
- On the putting green, the point of maximum available relief may be based on the line of play where the ball will need to go through the shallowest or shortest stretch of temporary water.
Provisional BallAnother ball played in case the ball just played by the player may be:
- Out of bounds, or
- Lost outside a penalty area.
Putting GreenThe area on the hole the player is playing that:
- Is specially prepared for putting, or
- The Committee has defined as the putting green (such as when a temporary green is used).
The putting green is one of the five defined areas of the course. The putting greens for all other holes (which the player is not playing at the time) are wrong greens and part of the general area.
The edge of a putting green is defined by where it can be seen that the specially prepared area starts (such as where the grass has been distinctly cut to show the edge), unless the Committee defines the edge in a different way (such as by using a line or dots).
If a double green is used for two different holes:
- The entire prepared area containing both holes is treated as the putting green when playing each hole.
- But the Committee may define an edge that divides the double green into two different putting greens, so that when a player is playing one of the holes, the part of the double green for the other hole is a wrong green.
RefereeAn official named by the Committee to decide questions of fact and apply the Rules.
See Committee Procedures, Section 6C (explaining the responsibilities and authority of a referee).
Relief AreaThe area where a player must drop a ball when taking relief under a Rule. Each relief Rule requires the player to use a specific relief area whose size and location are based on these three factors:
- Reference Point: The point from which the size of relief area is measured.
- Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: The relief area is either one or two club-lengths from the reference point, but with certain limits:
- Limits on Location of Relief Area: The location of the relief area may be limited in one or more ways so that, for example:
- It is only in certain defined areas of the course, such as only in the general area, or not in a bunker or a penalty area,
- It is not nearer the hole than the reference point or must be outside a penalty area or a bunker from which relief is being taken, or
- It is where there is no interference (as defined in the particular Rule) from the condition from which relief is being taken.
See Committee Procedures, Section 2I (Committee may choose to allow or require the player to use a dropping zone as a relief area when taking certain relief).
> > > > > See Clarification of Relief Area < < < < <
ReplaceTo place a ball by setting it down and letting it go, with the intent for it to be in play.
If the player sets a ball down without intending it to be in play, the ball has not been replaced and is not in play (see Rule 14.4).
Whenever a Rule requires a ball to be replaced, the Rule identifies a specific spot where the ball must be replaced.
For example, if a player lifts his or her ball from the putting green and sets it aside, the player must not replace the ball by rolling it to the required spot with a club. If he or she does so, the ball is not replaced in the right way and the player gets one penalty stroke under Rule 14.2b(2) (How Ball Must Be Replaced) if the mistake is not corrected before the stroke is made.
Round18 or fewer holes played in the order set by the Committee.
ScorecardThe document where a player's score for each hole is entered in stroke play.
The scorecard may be in any paper or electronic form approved by the Committee that allows:
- The player's score to be entered for each hole,
- The player's handicap to be entered, if it is a handicap competition, and
- The marker and the player to certify the scores, and the player to certify his or her handicap in a handicap competition, either by physical signature or by a method of electronic certification approved by the Committee.
Serious BreachIn stroke play, when playing from a wrong place could give the player a significant advantage compared to the stroke to be made from the right place.
In making this comparison to decide if there was a serious breach, the factors to be taken into account include:
- The difficulty of the stroke,
- The distance of the ball from the hole,
- The effect of obstacles on the line of play, and
- The conditions affecting the stroke.
SideTwo or more partners competing as a single unit in a round in match play or stroke play.
Each set of partners is a side, whether each partner plays his or her own ball (Four-Ball) or the partners play one ball (Foursomes).
A side is not the same as a team. In a team competition, each team consists of players competing as individuals or as sides.
StablefordA form of stroke play where:
- A player's or side's score for a hole is based on points awarded by comparing the player's or side's number of strokes on the hole (including strokes made and any penalty strokes) to a fixed target score for the hole set by the Committee, and
- The competition is won by the player or side who completes all rounds with the most points.
StanceThe position of a player's feet and body in preparing for and making a stroke.
StrokeThe forward movement of the club made to strike the ball.
But a stroke has not been made if the player:
- Decides during the downswing not to strike the ball and avoids doing so by deliberately stopping the clubhead before it reaches the ball or, if unable to stop, by deliberately missing the ball.
- Accidentally strikes the ball when making a practice swing or while preparing to make a stroke.
The player's score for a hole or a round is described as a number of "strokes" or "strokes taken," which means both all strokes made and any penalty strokes (see Rule 3.1c).
- The clubhead is deflected or stopped by an outside influence (such as the branch of a tree) whether or not the ball is struck.
- The clubhead separates from the shaft during the downswing and the player continues the downswing with the shaft alone, whether or not the ball is struck with the shaft.
- The clubhead separates from the shaft during the downswing and the player continues the downswing with the shaft alone, with the clubhead falling and striking the ball. The player's action does not count as a stroke in each of following situations:
- During the downswing, a player's clubhead separates from the shaft. The player stops the downswing short of the ball, but the clubhead falls and strikes and moves the ball.
- During the backswing, a player's clubhead separates from the shaft. The player completes the downswing with the shaft but does not strike the ball.
- A ball is lodged in a tree branch beyond the reach of a club. If the player moves the ball by striking a lower part of the branch instead of the ball, Rule 9.4 (Ball Lifted or Moved by Player) applies.
Stroke and DistanceThe procedure and penalty when a player takes relief under Rules 17, 18 or 19 by playing a ball from where the previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6).
The term stroke and distance means that the player both:
- Gets one penalty stroke, and
- Loses the benefit of any gain of distance towards the hole from the spot where the previous stroke was made.
Stroke PlayA form of play where a player or side competes against all other players or sides in the competition.
In the regular form of stroke play (see Rule 3.3):
- A player's or side's score for a round is the total number of strokes (including strokes made and any penalty strokes) to hole out on each hole, and
- The winner is the player or side who completes all rounds in the fewest total strokes.
All forms of stroke play can be played either in individual competitions (each player competing on his or her own) or in competitions involving sides of partners (Foursomes or Four-Ball).
SubstituteTo change the ball the player is using to play a hole by having another ball become the ball in play.
The player has substituted another ball when he or she puts that ball in play in any way (see Rule 14.4) instead of the player's original ball, whether the original ball was:
- In play, or
- No longer in play because it had been lifted from the course or was lost or out of bounds.
- It was replaced, dropped or placed in a wrong way or wrong place, or
- The player was required under the Rules to put the original ball back in play rather than to substitute another ball.
TeeAn object used to raise a ball above the ground to play it from the teeing area. It must be no longer than four inches (101.6 mm) and conform with the Equipment Rules.
Teeing AreaThe area the player must play from in starting the hole he or she is playing.
The teeing area is a rectangle that is two club-lengths deep where:
- The front edge is defined by the line between the forward-most points of two tee-markers set by the Committee, and
- The side edges are defined by the lines back from the outside points of the tee-markers.
All other teeing locations on the course (whether on the same hole or any other hole) are part of the general area.
Temporary WaterAny temporary accumulation of water on the surface of the ground (such as puddles from rain or irrigation or an overflow from a body of water) that:
- Is not in a penalty area, and
- Can be seen before or after the player takes a stance (without pressing down excessively with his or her feet).
- Dew and Frost are not temporary water.
- Snow and Natural Ice (other than frost), are either loose impediments or, when on the ground, temporary water, at the player's option.
- Manufactured Ice is an obstruction.
Three-BallA form of match play where:
- Each of three players plays an individual match against the other two players at the same time, and
- Each player plays one ball that is used in both of his or her matches.
Wrong BallAny ball other than the player's:
- Ball in play (whether the original ball or a substituted ball),
- Provisional ball (before it is abandoned under Rule 18.3c), or
- Second ball in stroke play played under Rules 14.7b or 20.1c.
- Another player's ball in play.
- A stray ball.
- The player's own ball that is out of bounds, has become lost or has been lifted and not yet put back in play.
Wrong GreenAny green on the course other than the putting green for the hole the player is playing. Wrong greens include:
- The putting greens for all other holes that the player is not playing at the time,
- The normal putting green for a hole where a temporary green is being used, and
- All practice greens for putting, chipping or pitching, unless the Committee excludes them by Local Rule.
Wrong PlaceAny place on the course other than where the player is required or allowed to play his or her ball under the Rules.
Examples of playing from a wrong place are:
- Playing a ball after replacing it on the wrong spot or without replacing it when required by the Rules.
- Playing a dropped ball from outside the required relief area.
- Taking relief under a wrong Rule, so that the ball is dropped in and played from a place not allowed under the Rules.
- Playing a ball from a no play zone or when a no play zone interferes with the player's area of intended stance or swing.