Golf Talk With Greg Holman – #99

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Check your scorecard. Not because you added wrong but because it might help you score better. Today’s blog is about penalties. It’s surprising how many golfers don’t know the penalty for going out of bounds, losing a ball, or hitting a ball in the water. So let’s go over those first then we’ll talk about the scorecard.

Stroke and distance. We’ve talked about that before. As long as we’re changing the rules, let’s change this one, it would speed up play. Let’s say you hit your drive out of bounds or OB, defined by white stakes. Tee another ball. You have to add one shot for the penalty of going astray plus one for hitting the second ball. So it’s basically a two stroke penalty because your second ball is your third shot. Got it?

Now let’s say you hit into an area defined by red stakes. That is a lateral water hazard, even if no water is present. So you slice your ball into the woods into a red-staked area. You are in luck. Drop a ball where you think the ball entered the woods no more than two club lengths away from the hazard with a one stroke penalty. By the way if you think your ball traveled out of bounds but you aren’t sure, hit a provisional ball so you don’t have to walk back to the tee. If you find your first ball in play there is no penalty. Just put the provisional ball back in your pocket. Remember you only have three minutes to look for a lost ball.

The third situation are yellow stakes… A regular water hazard. This hazard will run perpendicular to the fairway. For instance a ditch crossing the fairway would be a regular water hazard. You can always play the ball as it lies with no penalty. It’s not wise though if your ball is submerged, or you can take one penalty stroke and drop the ball back behind the hazard a maximum of two club lengths, or you can play stroke and distance. Now here’s where the scorecard comes into play.

Always check the scorecard before you play for local rules. For instance you might encounter the statement that says play winter rules. That means even in the summer, you can improve your lie in the fairway only unless the scorecard says fairway or rough, but not you position one club length no closer to the hole. So you can’t move the ball away from a tree if a club length would give you a clear shot, but if the ball is setting in a hole, you are allowed to nudge the ball up on a tuft of grass keeping the ball behind the tree. Improve your lie but not your position.

The scorecard might say something like free drop from young trees that are staked. Another way you can save yourself. Let’s say the course has planted a row of trees along the right side of the fairway. They don’t want you hitting the sapling so take a free drop which will give you a clear shot.

In addition to saving you shots the scorecard may include local rules which could keep you from being ejected like:

  • Keep carts on path or keep carts at least 30 feet away from greens and tees or 90-degree rule. (Drive your cart even with your ball then exit the cart path directly toward your ball and 90 degrees right back to the path)
  • Drive your cart in the rough
  • Keep your cart in the fairway. (Don’t drive in the rough because it may be soft or burned out.)
  • Each player must have his own clubs and bag. (No sharing)
  • Two riders per cart.
  • Must be at least 14 to operate a cart.
  • Must have a driver’s license to operate a cart.

The list goes on and on. So check the scorecard and use the local rules to your advantage. And here’s a big one: Let faster players play through.

Hit ’em straight!

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