RULES COMMONLY MISINTERPRETED
Last Updated: 05/11/15
Water Hazard
How to take a drop from a water hazard is one of the most misunderstood rules in golf, often leading to heated discussion during play. Ultimately, these discussions cause undue delay in play, as well as prevent a full enjoyment of the round. Use these links for fast clarification from the USGA of water hazard rules.

Illustration of drop options:

USGA Rules and Decisions
Read Rule 26

Loose Impediments in a Bunker
Don't move that leaf in the bunker, unless you want to add two strokes to your score!
Read Rule 23
Exception: Local Rule which allows removing a rock that is next to your ball. 

Ball Unplayable

El Cariso Experience
Read Rule 28
Ball in tree?

Out of Bounds
Your ball has come to rest near a perimeter fence. Do you know how to determine if it is OB or not?
El Cariso Experience 
Read Rule 27
Read Rule 27 Questions and Answers

Embedded Ball
You're not on the fairway and your ball is embedded in the ground in it's own pitch mark. Do you know what you can do?
Read Rule 25-2

Declaring a Ball Lost 
Steve's ball played from the teeing ground comes to rest in waist-high grass. Since he believes that his ball could be lost outside of a water hazard, Steve declares that he will play a provisional ball, which he hits 250 yards down the middle. Rather than look for his original ball, he declares his original ball lost and proceeds to his provisional ball.

Q. Is Steve's original ball lost since he has declared it lost?

A. No. According to the Definition of "Lost Ball", there are only three actions Steve may take to render his original ball lost. Simply declaring the ball lost is not one of them.

Steve's original ball would be lost if:

  1. he had immediately played another ball (i.e. substituted ball) from the teeing ground under Rule 27-1, without declaring it a provisional ball,
  2. it was not found or identified as his within five minutes after his side began searching for it. While Steve is not required to search for his original ball, his opponent in match play or fellow-competitor in stroke play may search for Steve's original ball. If a ball is found within five minutes, Steve must examine the found ball to determine if it is his original ball. If it is his original ball, he must abandon the provisional ball and continue play of the hole with the original ball, or
  3. he played a stroke with the provisional ball from the area where the original ball was likely to be or from a point nearer the hole than that place.


Player Plays Provisional Ball After Going Forward to Search for Original Ball

David's ball played from the teeing ground comes to rest in a wooded area. David drives his cart to the area to search for his ball. After searching two minutes for his ball, he asks his fellow-competitors to continue the search, while he returns to play a provisional ball. He drives back to the teeing ground and plays another ball which comes to rest in the fairway. Within four minutes after beginning the search, the original ball is found.

Q. Was David permitted to play a provisional ball after going forward to search for his original ball?

A. No. Rule 27-2a states that if a player elects to play a provisional ball, he must play the provisional ball before he or his partner goes forward to search for the original ball. In this case, since David went forward to search for his original ball, he is no longer entitled to playing a provisional ball. When he returned to the teeing ground, the second ball became the ball in play under Rule 27-1, and the original ball was, by Definition, lost. Therefore, he must complete play of the hole with the second ball. Any further strokes with the original ball would trigger a penalty under Rule 15-3 for playing a wrong ball.