Golf Rules

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father and son golfing

Whether you're new to golf or a seasoned player, here are the changes to the rules of golf enacted in 2019. Special thanks to the Colorado Golf Association (CGA) for compiling this information.

Quick Links

On the Tee

I make a stroke (intent) on my tee shot, graze the ball and it falls off the tee but remains in the teeing ground. I pick it up and re-tee it. No penalty 

On the Green

  • I tap down a clear spike mark on my line of putt. No penalty
  • I strike the flagstick after a 3-foot putt and the ball goes in the hole. No penalty
  • I hit my putt too hard and it strikes the flagstick which has been removed from the hole and is laying on the green. (Unintentional) No penalty. Play it as it lies.
  • My caddie touches my line of putt to show me where to hit my putt. No penalty
  • While reading my putt I walk to the half-way point of my putt and lightly touch the green on my line of putt. No penalty
  • My caddie marks and lifts my ball (without my express authority). No penalty
  • While waiting my turn to putt, I mark and lift my ball while another ball is in motion rolling toward my ball. No penalty
  • I mistakenly mark and lift my opponent's ball on the putting green. No penalty
  • After marking and replacing my ball on the green, the ball moves ever so slightly due to gravity. No penalty. Replace.
  • After marking and replacing my ball on the green, the wind moves it. No penalty. Replace.

In a Bunker

  • I remove a loose impediment from a bunker in which my ball lies. No penalty
  • My ball is in a bunker. I touch the sand with my club several feet away from my ball and not in a manner that tests the condition of the bunker. No penalty
  • My ball comes to rest in a very bad lie in a bunker. I want to take the ball out of the bunker and drop behind the bunker for a 2-stroke penalty. Allowed

In a Water Hazard/Penalty Area

  • I ground my club in a water hazard/penalty area. No penalty
  • While playing out of the water hazard/penalty area on the 18th hole at Harbor Town, I touch a reed that is loose on my backswing. No penalty
  • During a round I play a practice stroke from a water hazard/penalty area. No penalty
  • My ball is in a lateral water hazard and I want to drop the ball on the opposite margin of where it last crossed the margin of the hazard. Not allowed unless local rule in effect.


  • In anger, I slam my putter against my foot bending the shaft slightly. I tap in a short putt with the damaged club and continue to use it. No penalty
  • I break my six iron on my follow through while playing a stroke. I cannot replace the club.
  • My partner and I share 14 clubs during a four-ball competition. Allowed
  • A fellow competitor throws a club in anger, striking my bag and breaking my wedge. I can replace the club.

Accidental Situations

  • After marking and replacing my ball on the green, I accidentally move it with the head of my putter. No penalty. Replace.
  • My ball in motion accidentally hits the foot of my caddie who is attending the flagstick. Stroke counts. No penalty. Play it as it lies.
  • I accidentally kick my ball during search. No penalty. Replace.
  • While playing a short shot out of the rough I accidentally strike the ball more than once. Stroke counts. No penalty. Play ball where it lies.


  • I drop my ball from knee height. Ball is in play.
  • I drop my ball within 1 club length of my nearest point of relief. The ball lands within the clublength but rolls out of the 1 club-length area but less than 2 club lengths, no closer to hole. Ball must be redropped.
  • I measure my dropping area with my long putter and drop my ball more than a driver's length from my nearest point of relief. General penalty
  • I drop my ball from shoulder height. Ball must be redropped.
  • After a drop and re-drop my ball rolls closer to the hole than my nearest point of relief. Place on spot it landed on 2nd drop.

Relief Situations

  • My ball comes to rest in a hole dug by a dog. Free relief
  • My ball comes to rest in casual water. The ball is visible and easily retrievable. I don't want to get my new shoes wet so I substitute a ball when taking relief. No penalty
  • My ball embeds in the rough. Free relief.  Can drop the ball within 1 club length.
  •  I mark and lift my ball for identification and don't announce my intent nor give my fellow competitors the opportunity to observe. No penalty
  • My ball comes to rest close to, but not on, a wrong putting green. In order to play my next stroke I will be standing on the wrong putting green. Free relief
  • My ball embeds in the earthen "lip" of a bunker.  Ball is NOT in the bunker. Free relief under embedded ball rule

Conduct of Competition

  • In stroke play, my group decides to play "ready golf" to catch up after a lost ball. Committee applauds!
  • The committee uses USGA Tournament Management Software (Golf Genius) as an electronic scorecard. The application allows players to sign and attest the card electronically. Permitted
  • A desert golf course marks the desert area surrounding every hole as a lateral hazard. Allowed. Penalty area
  • I use my distance measuring device in my club championships. No penalty unless local rule prohibits


  • I find my ball after 3 minutes but before 5 minute search. Ball is lost.
  • I play a stroke from off the putting green and my ball strikes my opponent or his/her equipment. No penalty. Play the ball as it lies.
  • My caddie stands behind me to line me up on a shot off of the green and moves before I play the stroke. General penalty.

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