Rules Column: Pat Campbell

Rules of the Game:

How many rules questions can you answer?

This will be the last of a series of True/False questions on the Rules of Golf. This month, we’ll run the quiz for Rules 17-24. Again, you just might pick up a tidbit of information that’s new to you, and just might have some fodder for a bar bet! The answers can be found below.


Rule 17 – True or False? You may take relief from both a Red Penalty Area and a Yellow Penalty Area laterally within a two club-length relief area, adding a one stroke penalty.

Rule 18 – True or False? A provisional ball may be played because you think your original ball has come to rest in a Penalty Area.

Rule 19 – True or False? You may play under stroke-and-distance if you decide that your ball is unplayable.

Rule 20 – True or False? A 72-hole stroke play event has been completed, and the competition is over. A few days later, it is discovered that a player used a non-conforming driver in the competition. The player was unaware that the driver was non-conforming. In these circumstances, the player will not be disqualified.

Rule 21 – True or False? In a Stableford competition, the player fails to hole out on the 6th hole, and then tees off on the 7th hole. The player is disqualified.

Rule 22 – True or False? In a Foursomes competition, Player A tees off on Hole #1.  Player B sinks the last putt for the team on the green of Hole #1. That means that Player A again tees off on Hole #2.

Rule 23 – True or False? In Four-Ball (commonly known as “best ball”), both partners must be present for the entire round.

Rule 24 – True or False? In a college team stroke play individual competition, if two players from the same team are playing in the same group, they may exchange advice with each other.

Let’s check your answers….

Rule 17. False. You have only two relief options from a Yellow Penalty Area: Either stroke-and-distance from where the last stroke was played, or you can take your ball back on a straight line extending from the hole through the spot where the ball last crossed the edge of the Yellow Penalty Area (also known as “Back-on-the-Line” relief). For a Red Penalty Area, in addition to those two relief options, you may drop a ball within two club-lengths of where the ball last crossed the edge of the Red Penalty Area, no nearer the hole. All of these options entail a one-stroke penalty.

Rule 18. False. You may only play a provisional ball if you think your ball may be Out of Bounds, or may be lost outside a Penalty Area. If you play a provisional ball in the sole belief that it may be in a Penalty Area, the provisional ball automatically becomes the ball in play under stroke-and-distance.

Rule 19. True. When you declare a ball to be unplayable, you may, for a one stroke penalty, either proceed Back-on-the-Line (similar to the procedure for a Penalty Area), drop a ball within two club-lengths of the ball that’s in an unplayable position, no nearer the hole, or proceed under stroke-and-distance from where the last stroke was played.

Rule 20. True. While the use of a non-conforming club results in a disqualification, the disqualification applies only before the competition is closed. The DQ may also apply after the competition is closed, but only if it can be proven (or the player admits) that the player knew that the club was non-conforming. Otherwise, the results of the competition stand as posted.

Rule 21. False.  In a Stableford competition (also known as “points”), the player merely receives 0 points for the hole if he/she “picks up” and doesn’t hole out. The disqualification for failure to hole out only applies in individual stroke play competitions.

Rule 22. False. In a Foursomes competition (also known as “alternate shot”), the partners take turns teeing off on alternate holes. For example, if one partner tees off on all the odd numbered holes, the other partner must tee off on all the even numbered holes. It doesn’t matter who was the last person to hole out on the previous hole.

Rule 23. False. Although a “best ball” is the better score of the two partners on each hole, it’s possible for only one player to play. It’s just that only that player’s scores count on each hole. ​

Rule 24. False. Even though players from the same team may be playing in a group in an individual stroke play competition, they may not give advice to each other. Only caddies, partners in foursomes or four-ball, and designated advice givers may give advice in a competition.

The USGA has published the 2023 Rules of Golf and the 2023 Official Guide to the Rules of Golf.  They can be found on-line at or can be bought from the United States Golf Association, so you can keep them with you when you need rules questions answered.

Rule 15 – True or False? If your ball lying on the fairway is interfering with another player’s next stroke, the other player must ask you to lift your ball. If you lift your ball without asking the other player, you incur a penalty.

Rule 16 – True or False? You make take free relief for your ball that is embedded in a Penalty Area as long as the Penalty Area is dry.

Lets check your answers…..

    Rule 9. True. However, if these actions happen when you’re searching for your ball or anybody else’s ball, there is no penalty and the ball must be replaced.

    Rule 10. False. The minute you lay a club on the ground for helping with your alignment, you incur a two-stroke penalty in stroke play and lose the hole in match play. The action can’t be undone.

    Rule 11. False. If you play a stroke from the putting green and the ball strikes a dog running across the green, you must cancel the stroke and replay it without penalty. But if you make a stroke from somewhere other than the putting green, and the ball strikes a dog running across the fairway, you play the ball from where it comes to rest. 

    Rule 12. False. Although it is a breach of etiquette, there is no problem if you slam your club in to the sand in anger either before or after you make your stroke. However, if such an action accidentally moves your ball, you have to replace your ball and you get a one-stroke penalty.

    Rule 13. True. Rule 13 allows you repair damage to the green caused by a player, an animal or maintenance equipment. Again, it’s a breach of etiquette, but the player incurs no penalty for their actions.

    Rule 14. False. If you drop a ball in a wrong way, i.e., other than from knee height, you incur a one-stroke penalty if you then play the ball. And that’s if the ball lands where it’s supposed to land. If it lands where it’s not supposed to land and you play it, you get a two-stroke penalty in stroke play, and you lose the hole in match play.

    Rule 15. True. Of course, if your ball is on the green, it’s irrelevant when you mark and lift it, because you’re always allowed to do that on the green. But if your ball interferes with another player’s ball other than on the green, you may only lift it if the other player asks you to.

    Rule 16. False. You only get free relief for an embedded ball if your ball is embedded in the General Area, i.e., not in a bunker or in a Penalty Area. If it’s embedded on the green, you can of course mark it, lift it, and repair the ball mark.

    The USGA has published the 2023 Rules of Golf and the 2023 Official Guide to the Rules of Golf. They can be found on-line at, or can be bought form the United States Golf Association.

The 2023 Rules of Golf went into effect on January 1, 2023.