The difference between a leisurely round of golf and tournament play is stark; at times, it feels like it’s an entirely different game. The pins aren’t accessible. Those tee boxes that seem miles back? That’s where you’ll be teeing off from. Instead of jokes and breezy conversation, the mood is tense. Oh, and a tap-in putt seems a hell of a lot father than two feet.
And then there are the rules.
Most players abide by a reasonable — some would say liberal — interpretation of golf’s laws. Every hazard is treated as a lateral, rocks are thrown out of bunkers, and gimme putts. SO many gimme putts. In short, a “winter rules” approach for the entire year.
Unfortunately, those rebellious ways don’t fly in competition. The USGA rule book is the law for tournament play; it is absolute, without discussion. If it’s your first time entering in an event, from as comfortable as a club championship to U.S. Open qualifying, you need to be well-versed on golf’s legislation. And because there are so many golf rules, one could feel overwhelmed. Fear not: Here are the 17 golf rules you definitely need to know when playing in a tournament:
17 Golf Rules You Should Definitely Know
Count your clubs
Oh come on. No one would ever have more than 14 sticks in the bag, right?
Avoid the two-stroke penalty by double-checking your bag before teeing off.
Ball falls off tee
There’s a shocking amount of players that aren’t 100 percent sure what to do when this happens. Simple: You get to re-tee without penalty. (Exception: You’ve already whiffed on the first shot. If the ball then falls off, you have to play it as it lies.)
On the bright side, since things are a tad more serious in tournament play, you won’t have the jamoke who chirps “One!” when your ball falls off the tee. I hate that guy.
On the weekend, you may ask your friend what iron they just hit, or, while on the green, point to a spot and say, “I think this is the line.” While such behavior is standard in a normal round, it’s deemed illegal in competitive play. The penalty is two strokes. (Exception: In a team match, you and your partner, as well as respective caddies, can discuss strategy.)