The Coomer Corner - I'd Pay Good Money To Hit A Fairway!

I’d Pay Good Money To Hit A Fairway!

(Rules for the Game of Golf)

“Golf is the closest game to the game we call life. You get bad breaks from good shots, good breaks from bad shots – but you have to play where it lies.” — Bobby Jones

If anyone ever knew more about the game of golf than Bobby Jones, that list is extremely short. An incredible amateur competitor throughout his teens and twenties until retiring from competitive golf at the age of 28, Jones’ actual occupation was that as a lawyer in Atlanta. But that did not stop him from teaching the game and designing golf equipment. Of course, another factor of his influence in golf was helping design Augusta National and co-founding the Masters Championship. Although never winning the championship he helped create, his 13 major victories propelled him into worldwide fame and into numerous Halls of Fame around the world. He captured 6 Opens, either in the U.K. or the U.S. and added another 7 Amateurs during his dominant years. His contributions also included numerous books he either wrote or were written about him along with various films and short documentaries centered around the game. Even some of Hollywood’s stars were involved with many of these short films about golf instruction, including Jimmy Cagney and Edward G. Robinson.

Jones is quoted above comparing the game of life to the game of golf. If he were around now, he might be surprised how his statement still rings true as one of the central principles of the game. But he would also be surprised how the game has changed since he strolled down the fairways.

“Play the ball as it lies” is stated as the purpose for Rule 9, along with a Ball at Rest Lifted or Moved. When a ball is at rest, it is ready to be put back in play with a stroke by the player. But then there are the exceptions, of course, where there are restrictions not to play the ball as it lies. For example, when the ball is at rest on a Wrong Green or in a No Play Zone, the rules don’t allow you to play the ball. You must take relief from these wrong places and find somewhere else to play from. Confused yet?

OK, what if the ball moves during your backswing or the forward movement of the stroke? It sort of doesn’t matter. You continue the swing until you complete the stroke. But, if you actually cause the ball to move, there may be a penalty involved.

Let us say the ball moves and we need to know what made it move to decide if it is a penalty. There are only four possible causes to consider:

  1. Natural forces, such as wind or water

  2. The player’s action or the player’s caddie

  3. The opponent’s actions in match play

  4. Outside influences, such as an animal, artificially propelled air or water, another ball in motion or another person

The only one of these causes that will result in a rules violation for the player is the action of the player themselves. In all other cases, the ball will either be played from where it comes to rest or must be replaced before the next stroke is made.

Accidental movement of the ball has taken on a whole new meaning in the modernization of the rules. Prior to 2019, the rules were very strict about the movement of the ball when caused by such events as searching for your ball, dropping a club or marker that causes the ball to move or even accidentally kicking the ball at rest on a putting green. Now, if the player does any of these things that moves the ball, there is no penalty, and the ball is simply replaced before the next stroke.

If you have ever studied the Rules of Golf, you are like the vast majority of us that think there are some quirky decisions and guidelines. For instance, there is a definition assigned to Ball-Marker that states the object must be artificial. I am sure you have all used a leaf or a twig at some time to mark your ball before lifting it. As of 2023, the rules restrict the use of these natural items. Your local golf pro will be happy to provide you with as many artificial markers as you want.


There are some examples of players deliberately touching their ball in play without marking it that would seem innocent enough but with all these actions, a penalty would be accessed. These include rotating the ball on its spot to line up the trademark with the hole, to rotate the ball for identification purposes, touching the ball with a club (deliberately) in preparing for a stroke, or holding the ball steady with their hand or by other means (like a pine cone or stick), to prevent the ball from moving, without first placing a marker behind the ball.

I wonder if Bobby Jones would have ever imagined that he could take advantage of so many ways to not play the ball as it lies. Perhaps he didn’t need any help from the rules and just kept the ball out of trouble with every shot. Whichever it is, you can take advantage of the rules by understanding the second principle and play your ball as it lies or take the big breaks that are available.

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About Golf House Kentucky

Golf House Kentucky is the umbrella organization for Kentucky’s Family of Golf Organizations: Kentucky Golf Association, Kentucky PGA and Kentucky Golf Foundation. The vision of Kentucky’s golf leaders, Golf House Kentucky was founded in 1978, and is headquartered in a picturesque country setting in Louisville, Kentucky. Golf House Kentucky conducts competitions for golfers of all ages, gender and skill levels (amateur, professional and junior), and provides valuable services to Kentucky PGA professionals and member golf facilities. Working in partnership with the USGA, Golf House Kentucky provides individual golfers and member golf facilities with a wide range of services: Handicapping, USGA Course and Slope Rating, award programs, club consulting and golf management software. The family’s philanthropic affiliate, Kentucky Golf Foundation promotes the Kentucky Golf Hall of Fame, Kentucky golf museum and provides grant and scholarship programs for youth in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

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