8 Quirky Golf Rules Fans Don't Know About

Mike DudurichContributor ISeptember 21, 2012

Remember Dustin Johnson's dust-up with a quirky rule at the PGA Championship in 2011?
Remember Dustin Johnson's dust-up with a quirky rule at the PGA Championship in 2011?Scott Halleran/Getty Images

It is universally accepted that golf is governed by some of the most bizarre rules of any sport.

Professionals who play the game and depend on it for their livelihoods rarely know even half of the directives contained in the book.

Amateurs and recreational players generally have very little understanding of the rules or the various decisions that have been made that involved those rules.

There are probably many of golf’s standard rules that golfers aren’t aware of. But there are many more rules that fall into the quirky category, and those are widely unknown.

Check out this list of some of those quirky rules.

Searching for or Identifying Ball Covered by Loose Impediments in a Hazard

You hit your ball into a bunker but can’t find it immediately. You think it might be buried but can’t see it. You start moving sand around and finally unearth your ball, sweeping away some sand to identify it. Make sure you re-cover the ball with the sand, although you can leave a small part of the ball visible. If the ball moves, you can, at no penalty, replace it.

If you hit the ball without re-covering it, according to Rule 12-1b, it will cost you two strokes. That happened to Michael Hoey in the PGA Championship this year at Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course.

Ball Moving in Water

If you happen to hit your ball into a creek and the ball begins to move, you are permitted to make a stroke at that ball, according to Rule 14-6. What you’re not allowed to do is delay making your stroke to allow for the current to improve your ball position or lie. Bottom is hit it and get out or, maybe just a drop.

Touching a Loose Impediment in a Hazard

Your ball sails into a bunker. When you get to the bunker, you’re pleased to see that you have a good lie. As you reach for your sand wedge, a gust of wind kicks up and some pine cones get airborne from a nearby tree. When you look back, one of those cones has come to rest behind your ball.

If you opt to move the pine cone and play your shot, it will cost you two strokes, according to Rule 13-4/18.5. The rule says you have to play the ball (and the cone) as it lies.

Removing Morning Dew from Your Ball

If you are one of those golfers who loves to get out early, a.k.a., a "dewsweeper," your ball is almost always covered with that morning dew. If you are in the habit of wiping that dew off with your hands or a towel, you are in violation of Rule 13-2. Dew-wiping is a two-stroke offense. Dew, frost or water may be removed on the tee box before hitting the ball.

Flagstick Attended, Removed or Held Up

Good old Rule 17-1, Note 1 refers to something we all do without realizing that it’s against the rules.

You are chipping or putting from off the green, and someone is standing near the flagstick on the green. If that person is close enough to touch the stick, he is deemed to be attending it while a stroke is being made. So if your ball hits the flagstick, you are penalized two strokes, even though you were playing off the green.

A Bunker under Water

If you’re playing on a rainy day and insist on continuing even when the heavy stuff comes in, you may encounter the bunker that’s completely filled with water.

The only relief a player may take is to move the ball within the bunker to where there is less water.

The only way to drop the ball outside the bunker is to take a penalty stroke, keeping the point where the ball lay directly between the hole and where the ball is dropped.

Who’s Ball Is It?

You’ve played one of your favorite balls with a “1” on it and hit it into a greenside bunker. Your playing partner hits his ball to almost the identical spot, and when you get there, you discovered he was playing the same ball with a “1” as well.

Neither one of you put an identifying mark on the ball. What to do?

Rule 12-2 says that both balls are viewed as lost and both players are penalized a stroke and need to go back to play their previous shots.

Just a Bit Outside

If you happen to hit your opponent, who is standing out of the way and out of bounds, with your shot, and the ball comes to rest out of bounds, there is no penalty, and you can replay your shot. Don’t forget to apologize to the stricken opponent.


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