Golf Rules FAQ: Questions and Answers About Tricky Rulings

A golf ball is stuck on a tree during the second round of the Open Cala Millor Mallorca in Spain
That's a bad lie. What's the ruling?. Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

This Golf Rules FAQ covers golf rules codified by the USGA and the R&A. The Rules of Golf can be found on those governing bodies' Web sites, or by clicking over to our Golf Rules section.

The questions posed below cover situations both common and uncommon, but tricky spots that can arise while playing golf. Click on the title of an FAQ to read the answer.

What's the Ruling?

  • What does the ban on anchoring permit and prohibit in grips and strokes?
  • My ball landed in a divot hole in the fairway; do I get free relief?
  • What is the 'nearest point of relief' and how do I find it?
  • My ball hit an overhead power line - do I get to replay the shot?
  • My ball is stuck in a tree - what are my options?
  • Should rakes be left inside or outside of bunkers?
  • Ball markers: Do the rules say what should - or shouldn't - be used?
  • What do red, yellow and white stakes or lines mean on a golf course?
  • Do golfers playing as singles have any standing on the course?
  • What does "keeping that point between you and the hole" mean?
  • I found the ball my opponent is searching for - do I have to tell him?
  • I thought my ball was lost and put a second ball into play, then discovered my first ball in the hole. Which ball counts?
  • Can I place a golf club on the ground to help line me up for a stroke?
  • What types of advice are and are not allowed under the rules?
  • Must a ball be literally "unplayable" in order to be declared unplayable under the rules?
  • Are X-Out golf balls "legal" for play?
  • What are "winter rules" or "preferred lies"?
  • How many clubs are allowed in my golf bag?
  • Ball in motion strikes ball at rest
  • When were the first golf rules written, and what were they?
  • Do I get to move my ball if, when putting from just off the green, I would have to putt across a sprinkler head?
  • What's the ruling if I accidentally hit the ball with a practice swing?
  • Does a "whiff" count as a stroke?
  • If the wind moves my ball after I'm at address, do I have to take a penalty?
  • If a club breaks during a round, can it be replaced?
  • What is the penalty for playing out of order?
  • What is the ruling if the ball gets pinned between the flagstick and the cup?
  • Does it count as a stroke if I accidentally bump the ball off the tee?
  • Is there a time limit for playing a shot or a round of golf?
  • What is the penalty for playing the wrong ball?
  • How long am I allowed to search for a wayward ball?
  • Does a golfer off the green always play before those who are on the green?
  • Is it legal to use a club other than the putter on the putting green?
  • My ball is in a bunker completely filled with water - do I get to drop outside the bunker?
  • I hit a great provisional shot, then found my first ball - can I keep playing my provisional?
  • Are 'gimmies' allowed under the Rules of Golf?
  • What is considered casual water?
  • Is it OK to draw lines on the golf ball to help with alignment?
  • I like to take the rake into bunkers with me for convenience - is this legal?
  • Do the rules prohibit changing golf balls during a round? (One Ball Condition)
  • I conceded a putt to my opponent, he putted anyway and missed - what's the score?

And More Rules FAQs

Is Practicing In-Between Holes Allowed?
Once play a hole is over, is it "legal" under the rules to practice a few putts before leaving the green? Or, on the next tee box, to practice chipping? Yes. In fact, some courses have practice putting and chipping areas built into their tee boxes behind the championship tees for exactly this purpose.

It's even OK to practice putting and chipping on Hole 8, for example, while waiting to play Hole 9 (just make sure nobody is trying to play up to Hole 8!). You can also putt and chip balls on any tee box.

You may not practice bunker shots or shots from any other hazards. And of course, you are never allowed to play practice strokes during the play of a hole, or to hit 3-irons, for example, while waiting between holes.

Even putting and chipping are prohibited when practicing those shots would delay play (but, then, good etiquette should keep you from doing that anyway).

But: You just knew there'd be a but, didn't you? A note to Rule 7-2 states that a committee can institute a condition of competition that prohibits practicing between holes. The PGA Tour, for example, uses this condition of competition, so that practice between holes isn't allowed at PGA Tour events. If you are playing in a tournament, you need to know whether this condition of competition is in effect. The Rules of Golf themselves, however, do not prohibit practice between holes in the ways described above.

Do I get relief from aeration holes on the putting green?
The short answer is no, as stated by the USGA and R&A in Decision 25/15 - unless the Committee has adopted a Specimen Local Rule. Read more.

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