Latest Articles





We have asked the question “What is the worst rule in golf” in our “Topics” section and a few of our readers and contributors have emailed us their thoughts. I still want to hear from many others on this subject so let us know your opinions. Knowing and understanding the rules of golf might be the most difficult part of golf to learn. Hitting balls, taking lessons, practicing your putting is really fun, but, sitting and reading about the rules is something most golfers just don't find time to do. I think the TV networks have done a pretty good job helping to explain rules and the decisions on rules in their short segments during tournament telecasts and many golfers will find themselves playing from time to time with a stickler on the rules. This is how I learned the rules, from a stickler. So let's examine the input from our three email participants.

Al Tompkins of Taylors , South Carolina , a contributor (see his article, “A Game of Civility”) has considerable experience with the game of golf as an active participant and formerly as a PGA tournament coordinator. Just recently he had a particular on course experience for the first time. He had previously seen the touring pros encounter this situation and he obviously got a little warm under the collar when it happened to him. Al offered the following:

I knew the rule was there. I even read it several times while really looking for another rule. I've imagined touring pros thinking nasty thoughts while looking down and contemplating their situation. I've even lip read a few. But, I never thought too much of it. Why… simply because in my 40+ years of playing golf my ball had never landed in a fairway divot…until last week.


I hit a drive of about 230 yards to the left center of the fairway, just where I aimed it (I love target golf). When I arrived at my ball, I not only saw that it had found a divot, but it was also sitting on top of a one-inch pile of sand that had been left there by a earlier player with an over exuberant sand can. Or maybe it was a member of the grounds crew, who knows.


I had hit, what was for me a perfect drive, in my own fairway, and now I had to hit my second shot, out of a mini-bunker. Not fair! Yeah, I know about the rub of the green and all that, but a divot, filled or not, is not fairway, it's really ground under repair . When there is regulated ground under repair, it is so designated, and you can drop one club length, no nearer the hole. You can do it around a burrowing animal hole (as an aside I used to play with friends, when I lived in Virginia, who found burrowing animals everywhere…you would have thought it was an epidemic or an invasion of furry rodents).


In my opinion, if your ball lands, in your own fairway (not “through the green”) and it lands in a divot, filled with sand or au natural, the rules should treat it as ground under repair. Drop within one club length or one score card length or directly adjacent to the divot, whatever, no nearer the hole .

I am a believer in the rules of golf and try to play by them (I even called a double hit on myself last week which no one saw). But in the future, if I land in a divot in my own fairway, I may claim a very local rule, D.U.R. (Divot Under Repair).


Well done, Al, I agree 100%. I have read or seen tips about how to play such a shot. Probably the best advice I can remember is to play the ball back in your stance and hit down and through the ball. Hit the ball first, then turf. If the ball is sitting on sand, toe the club in toward the target line and put a hook swing on the ball. This will create a more sweeping type swing which will help pick the ball off the top of the sand. On this shot you'll need to play the ball to go right to left. Lastly, play winter rules so you can move your ball. This is not the purist approach but most clubs have a local rule that allows for moving your ball one club length in your own fairway when the turf is dormant.

Now let's see what Fred Kitchens from Galax, Virginia had to offer:

Reading your article, “The Rules of Golf, It's Time for a Dose of Medicine” just recently, I was reminded of just how unfair the rule is that prevents the removal of loose impediments from bunkers. What in the world is wrong with removing a half eater pear that sits behind your ball in a bunker? Apparently the rules allow for the removal of a man made, manufactured item such as a candy wrapper or a crumpled pack of cigarettes. This is one case where the Royal and Ancient might have a better grip on the rules if they permit the removal of such items. The biggest problem with this rule is not really with the half eaten pear or apple but with a stone, a stick or pine cone. These items being part of nature and very prevalent on a golf course do come into play. What can be wrong with removing a stick that has fallen from a tree and sits behind your ball?


Thanks Fred, and again, I am in agreement. In fact, this is one change in Rule 23 that I believe should be made by the USGA and some day it will be changed. Our other input came from Jack Cobb of Columbus , Ohio . He wrote the following:

Something I never have really understood is why a restroom on our course near a green is considered an integral part of the course and line of play relief is not allowed. The building does come into play as wayward shots on a usual long approach do end up on the opposite side from the hole. Now I do understand that one gets relief if the facility interferes with your stance or swing but why not when the ball is behind it and you can't see the green?


As I understand this situation, Jack, a local rule determined by the “committee” defines the restroom facility as an integral part of the course or not. If deemed an integral part of the course you would not get a line of sight or line of play relief. The committee could allow for a line of play relief if it felt that to be a more fair and equitable application of the rule (see rule 24, “Obstructions”). A former home course of mine had these large, electric power transmission towers that ran through the edge of the course. Our committee deemed that line of play relief was a reasonable solution for one who found a tower in his way. By the way I have hit many a high, lofted wedge shot over restrooms, trees or anything else (except power poles) that was between me and where I needed to go and I'm sure you have too. With enough clearance it can be done. Finally, ask your head professional about this. He is probably the “committee” at your club.

My biggest problem with this rule is the lack of any relief from a stake or fence designating out of bounds. How many times have I found myself up against an OB fence without a swing, without relief except by penalty? Please, golf gods, give us relief from these OB markers.

Thanks, fellow golfers, for participating.

Tom Finley

January 31, 2005



Click here to contact us!