Rule of the Week

Despite more than 20 local rules and the entire USGA rulebook, each week there are situations that come up on the golf course that involves interpretation of a rule or rules. Hang around the clubhouse after your round and you’re likely to hear various SBIC members express their opinion about a rule or its interpretation. This space will be used to make public these questions on rules that come up, as they are likely to come up one day in your foursome.

This week’s rule deals with 2-man teams and putts. It is commonly thought that – if in a 2-man competition – you can stand behind your partner and watch him/her putt to see the line. Alas, that is false:

Rule 14-2b: Positioning of caddie or partner behind the ball.
A player must not make a stroke with his caddie, his/her partner or his/hers partner’s caddie positioned on or close to an extension of the line of play or line of putt behind the ball.
Exception: There is no penalty if the players caddie, his partner or his partners caddie is inadvertently located on or close to an extension of the line of play or line of putt behind the ball.

What it means: Simply, you are not allowed to stand directly behind your partner and watch the putt. Off to the side? Fine. Not your partner? OK to stand directly behind. HOWEVER, this is a breach of etiquette. A fairly big breach. Please don’t do it.

Penalty for breach of rule 14-1 or 14-2:
Match play =loss of hole
Stroke play=Two strokes


In bounds, out of bounds, water hazards, lateral hazards, environmental areas – these areas are marked by the course Superintendent. The SBIC works with the Super to understand the intent of the Super when defining these areas; in some cases, the SBIC decides to create a local rule to help navigate the course. Two areas on the course were the subject of discussion this week:

Left side of hole 11: UPDATE: This area has been re-marked with additional white stakes.

Right side of hole 18: There is an area between holes 18 and 11 that is overgrown, but is not marked with stakes as a hazard area. If the ball cannot be found, it is a lost ball and the player must go back to the tee and hit another tee shot. If it is found, the options are to play it as it lies, or declare an unplayable lie and continue under the USGA unplayable lie rule (this may mean dropping a ball on the 11th-hole side of the area!):

Rule 28 – Ball Unplayable
The player may deem his ball unplayable at any place on the course, except when the ball is in a water hazard. The player is the sole judge as to whether his ball is unplayable.

If the player deems his ball to be unplayable, he must, under penalty of one stroke:

a. Proceed under the stroke and distance provision of Rule 27-1 by playing a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played (see Rule 20-5); or

b. Drop a ball behind the point where the ball lay, keeping that point directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind that point the ball may be dropped; or

c. Drop a ball within two club-lengths of the spot where the ball lay, but not nearer the hole.

If the unplayable ball is in a bunker, the player may proceed under Clause a, b or c. If he elects to proceed under Clause b or c, a ball must be dropped in the bunker.

When proceeding under this Rule, the player may lift and clean his ball or substitute a ball.

Penalty for Breach of Rule:

Match play – Loss of hole; Stroke play – Two strokes.


The Club Championships begin this weekend. Saturday is the Qualifying Round, and the format is medal, or stroke, play for all flights. The top 8 in each flight will play Sunday in match play, again across all flights. Here are some of important rules to keep in mind:

  • 6-5. BallThe responsibility for playing the proper ball rests with the player. Each player should put an identification mark on his ball. SBIC note: MARK YOUR BALL!!
  • 15-1. General: A player must hole out with the ball played from the teeing ground, unless the ball is lost or out of bounds or the player substitutes another ball, whether or not substitution is permitted (see Rule 15-2). If a player plays a wrong ball, see Rule 15-3.
  • 15-3b. Wrong Ball: Stroke PlayIf a competitor makes a stroke or strokes at a wrong ball, he incurs a penalty of two strokes.The competitor must correct his mistake by playing the correct ball or by proceeding under the Rules. If he fails to correct his mistake before making a stroke on the next teeing ground or, in the case of the last hole of the round, fails to declare his intention to correct his mistake before leaving the putting green, he is disqualified. Strokes made by a competitor with a wrong ball do not count in his score. If the wrong ball belongs to another competitor, its owner must place a ball on the spot from which the wrong ball was first played.
  • Rule 7-2: Practice Between HolesQ. During the stipulated round, is it permissible to practice putting or chipping between the play of two holes? A. Yes. Between the play of two holes, the player may practice putting or chipping on or near the putting green of the hole last played, any practice putting green or the teeing ground of the next hole to be played in the round, provided such practice is not from a hazard (water hazard or bunker) and does not unduly delay play.