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Oh, those Rules of Golf: Separating myth and fact

Kelly KlecknerBy Kelly Kleckner,
Class A LPGA Teaching Professional

The Rules of Golf are some of the most intimidating rules of any game to remember. There are over 30 rules, and each one has specific rules within itself - making them often confusing. I would like to clarify some of the most-asked-about rules such as teeing ground, loose impediments, water hazards, and lost balls.

As hard as it may be to remember these rules, we must. Golf is a game based on specific rules that should not be "bent" or disregarded especially in tournament situations.

Myth or Fact: If my ball falls off the tee, I can automatically re-tee and will be hitting 3. To answer this often stated statement let's understand all of "Teeing Ground" or Rule 11. This ground is where we begin playing the hole. It encompasses a rectangular area two club-lengths in depth and the front and sides are defined by the outside of two tee markers.

A ball is outside the teeing ground when all of it lies outside the teeing ground. A player may stand outside the teeing ground to play a ball within it. *Myth is the answer to the above statement - here's why: If a ball when not in play falls off a tee or is knocked off a tee by the player addressing it, it may be re-teed without penalty. However, if a stroke is made at the ball in this circumstance(you began your downswing), whether the ball is moving or not the stroke counts but there is no penalty.

Myth or Fact: Loose impediments are natural objects that are not fixed or growing, are not solidly embedded and do not stick to the ball. This is the fun of Rule 23 - "Loose Impediments." The above is Fact and include such items as stones, leaves, twigs, branches, dung, worms and insects. Sand and loose soil are loose impediments - only on the putting green! Snow and natural ice can be considered a loose impediment or casual water - it's up to you.

Relief: A loose impediment may be removed without penalty as long as it and the ball do not lie in a hazard. Penalty for breach of rule is two strokes. Sand traps or bunkers are considered hazards; therefore, if your ball lands here you may not remove an impediment from the hazard-even if your ball rests on it!

Myth or Fact: The margin of a water hazard extends downwards and the stakes and lines marking the hazard are outside of the hazard. This is Rule 26 - "Water Hazards." The above statement, however, is a Myth.

Too often I see people misjudging stakes and not knowing how to go about the penalty. Here's how it works: A water hazard is considered any sea, lake, pond, river, ditch, or other open water course. All ground or water within the margin of a water hazard is part of the hazard. The margin of the hazard extends up and down, and the stakes and lines defining it are in the hazard.

Lateral hazard: Defined by red stakes or lines and is situated so that it is not possible to drop a ball behind the hazard.

Options: There are five options when a ball lies within a lateral hazard: 1. Play it as it lies. 2. Drop behind the hazard on a line formed by the hole and the point (A) where the ball entered the hazard-one stroke penalty. 3. You may return to the tee or the last spot from which you played the ball - again penalty of "in on 1, out on 2, hitting 3." 4. You may drop within two club-lengths of the point of entry (A) - no nearer the hole. 5. You may drop on the opposite side of the hazard making sure it is the same distance from the hole as A. Lots to remember!

Water hazard: Defined by yellow stakes or lines and it is possible to drop directly behind the hazard.

Options: You have three choices in a water hazard: 1. If the ball is playable you may play it without penalty. 2. If it's not playable, imagine a line running from the point where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard. You may drop any place on the course on an extension of that line for a one stroke penalty. 3. You may return to the tee where your next stroke would be your third(if that was your tee shot).

Myth or Fact: I can take as long as I feel it necessary to try and find a ball I think is lost as long as I'm not holding people up. This will be explained as part of Rule 27 - "Ball lost or Out of Bounds; Provisional Ball." The above statement is definitely a myth!

You have certain conditions to meet to have your ball qualify as lost-let's look at them: 1. It is lost if it is not found or identified as his by the player within 5 minutes after the search has begun for it. 2. It is lost if a player has put another ball into play under the Rules-even if you haven't searched for the original. 3. It is considered lost if the player has played any stroke with a provisional ball from the place where the original is likely to be or nearer the hole; this means the provisional ball becomes the ball in play!

Time spent playing a wrong ball is not counted in the five minutes allowed to search for the ball.

Hopefully this clears up any confusion or "myths" you may have heard regarding the above rules! Golf is an etiquette/rules game, so make sure you are knowledgeable when you go out on the course!

Golf Tip of the Month:

To improve your game set short-term goals for yourself-here are some suggestions for your next ten rounds:

Putting: Try to keep your putts under 36 for 18 holes, and under 18 for nine holes.

Fairways: hit seventy percent of the fairways or about 10 of 14 on a regulation course.

Bunkers: get the ball out on the first attempt!

Chipping: get "up and down" in three or fewer shots (up on the green and in the hole).

Thinking of these four items should help to lower your score. However, if you feel overwhelmed concentrate on one of these at a time!

LPGA Professional Kelly Kleckner teaches at Cherokee Ridge Golf Course in Colorado Springs, Colo. She played collegiate golf for Colorado State University, and is the founder and director of the LPGA Girls Golf Club for the area. She coaches and teaches private and semi-private lessons all year. For more information call 719-576-9176.

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