Common Penalties Under the Rules of Golf

What's the Penalty? Here Are the Most Common Ones

Alex Noren points to where his ball is in the pond during the Aberdeen Asset Management Paul Lawrie Matchplay on the European Tour
It's never a good sign when a golfer is pointing into a hazard. Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Here's a quick reference for some of the most common infractions and their penalties under the Rules of Golf.

More Clubs in Bag than Allowed (Rule 4-4)

Fourteen clubs are the maximum allowed. Penalty for exceeding 14 in match play is loss of hole for each hole on which the breach occurred, up to a maximum of two holes. In stroke play, the penalty is two strokes for each hole on which the breach occurred, up to a maximum of four strokes.

Wrong Score Recorded on Scorecard (Rule 6-6d)

The penalty for signing scorecard that includes scores lower than actually recorded is a disqualification. There is no penalty for signing a scorecard that incorrectly inflates a player's score, but the higher score stands.

Playing out of Turn (Rule 10)

There is no penalty for playing out of turn. Other than the scorn of other members of your group. In match play, a competitor has the option of making you re-do your shot in the correct order of play.

Grounding the Club in a Hazard (Rule 13-4)

Grounding the club in a hazard is not allowed. Anyone who does it must assess themselves (or have assessed) a 2-stroke penalty (or loss of hole in match play).

Hitting an Unattended Flagstick With a Putt (Rule 17-3)

The flagstick is in the hole, unattended, and your putt strikes it. That's a 2-stroke penalty in stroke play (ball subsequently played as it lies) and loss of hole in match play.

Ball Moves After Address (Rule 18-2b)

If your ball moves once you've taken your address, it's a 1-stroke penalty. The ball is replaced on its original spot.

Ball Moves After Loose Impediment Is Removed (Rule 18-2c)

Players can remove loose impediments without penalty as long as the ball and the loose impediment are not both in a hazard. Through the green, if the ball moves when any loose impediment within one club length of the ball is removed, it's a 1-stroke penalty. The ball is replaced at the original spot.

Ball in Water Hazard (Rule 26-1)

If you find your ball in a water hazard, you can always try to play it without penalty. Otherwise, it's a stroke--distance penalty. Option 1: Take a 1-stroke penalty and return to the spot of the original shot to re-play. Option 2: Take a 1-stroke penalty and drop a ball behind the water hazard (going back as far as you want), keeping the point at which the original shot crossed into the hazard directly between your drop and the hole. For a lateral water hazard, drop within two club lengths of the spot where the ball crossed the margin of the hazard (no nearer the hole), or on the opposite side of the hazard at an equidistant spot.

Ball Lost or Out of Bounds (Rule 27-1)

Stroke distance. Take a 1-stroke penalty and return to the spot of the original shot to re-play. A provisional ball may be played before searching for the original ball begins.

Ball Unplayable (Rule 28)

You can declare a ball unplayable anywhere except in a water hazard, and you are the sole judge as to whether your ball is unplayable. Declaring a ball unplayable results in a 1-stroke penalty and a drop. Drop as close as possible to the spot of the unplayable lie; within two club lengths and not nearer the hole; or at any point behind the spot of the original lie, as long as that spot remains between the hole and the location of the dropped ball.

  • Golf Rules: What Makes a Ball Unplayable?

  • Man searching for golf ball lost in water hazard

    The Old Golf Rule Book: Here's What Rule 26 (Water Hazards) Said

  • A golfer tees up his ball

    Golf Rules in Plain English: Quick Introduction to What the Rules Say

  • Circa 1750, Eighteenth century golfers at Edinburgh

    The Original Rules of Golf Were Only 13 Sentences Long - Here They Are

  • A embedded golf ball in the fairway

    Here's What's Covered in Golf Rule 25 About Abnormal Ground Conditions

  • Golfer Rory McIlroy

    What Do Red Stakes or Red Lines Mean on a Golf Course?

  • Aerial view of the 18th hole at Pebble Beach Golf Links

    What You Need to Know About Lateral Water Hazards in Golf

  • Golfer Playing Golf, Near 14th Hole, Korschenbroich, Dusseldorf, Germany

    Etiquette for Your First Round of Golf

  • Colored stakes golf course

    What the Colored Stakes and Lines on a Golf Course Mean

  • Yellow stakes indicate that Adam Scott is inside the boundary of a water hazard

    Here's What Yellow Stakes (and Lines) on a Golf Course Mean

  • Golfer trying to hit golf ball that is stuck in a tree

    Here's What to Do When Your Golf Ball Is Stuck in a Tree

  • Renato Paratore takes a penalty drop during the 2016 Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship

    What You Need to Know About the New Golf Rules Coming in 2019

  • Golf course penalty areas are covered under Rule 17.

    Here's What Rule 17 Says About Penalty Areas in the Rules of Golf

  • Illustration of the nearest point of relief

    Sweet Relief! When and How to Find the Nearest Point of Relief in Golf

  • Andy Bean takes a drop after hitting out of bound at Crooked Stick Golf Club during a US Senior Open

    Golf's Rule 27 Covers Lost Balls and Out of Bounds, Plus Provisionals

  • Man walking up to golf ball

    Whoops, You Just Hit the Wrong Golf Ball. What's the Penalty?