Abnormal Ground Condition

“Abnormal ground condition” are of 3 types:   

A.  Casual water    B.  Ground under repair (GUR)    C.  Hole, cast or runway on the course made by a burrowing animal, a reptile or a bird.

Addressing the Ball

A player has “addressed the ball” when he has grounded his club immediately in front of or immediately behind the ball, whether or not he has taken his stance.


“Advice’’ is any counsel or suggestion that could influence a player in determining his play, the choice of a club or the method of making a stroke. Information on the Rules, distance or matters of public information, such as the position of hazards or the flagstick on the putting green, is not advice.

Ball Deemed to Move

See “Move or Moved’’.

Ball Holed

See “Holed”.

Ball Lost

See “Lost Ball’’.

Ball in Play

A ball is “in play” as soon as the player has made a stroke on the teeing ground. It remains in play until it is holed, except when it is lost, out of bounds or lifted, or another ball has been substituted, whether or not the substitution is permitted; a ball so substituted becomes the ball in play. If a ball is played from outside the teeing ground when the player is starting play of a hole, or when attempting to correct this mistake, the ball is not in play and Rule 11-4 or 11-5 applies. Otherwise, ball in play includes a ball played from outside the teeing ground when the player elects or is required to play his next stroke from the teeing ground.

Exception in match play: Ball in play includes a ball played by the player from outside the teeing ground when starting play of a hole if the opponent does not require the stroke to be cancelled in accordance with Rule 11-4a.


A “bunker’’ is a hazard consisting of a prepared area of ground, often a hollow, from which turf or soil has been removed and replaced with sand or the like.

Grass-covered ground bordering or within a bunker, including a stacked turf face (whether grass-covered or earthen), is not part of the bunker. A wall or lip of the bunker not covered with grass is part of the bunker. The margin of a bunker extends vertically downwards, but not upwards.

A ball is in a bunker when it lies in or any part of it touches the bunker.

Burrowing Animal

A “burrowing animal” is an animal (other than a worm, insect or the like) that

makes a hole for habitation or shelter, such as a rabbit, mole, groundhog,

gopher or salamander.

Note: A hole made by a non-burrowing animal, such as a dog, is not an

abnormal ground condition unless marked or declared as ground under repair.


A “caddie” is one who assists the player in accordance with the Rules, which may include carrying or handling the player’s clubs during play.

When one caddie is employed by more than one player, he is always

deemed to be the caddie of the player sharing the caddie whose ball (or whose partner’s ball) is involved, and equipment carried by him is deemed to be that player’s equipment, except when the caddie acts upon specific directions of another player (or the partner of another player) sharing the caddie, in which case he is considered to be that other player’s caddie.

Casual Water (a type of 'abnormal ground condition')

“Casual water’’ is any temporary accumulation of water on the course that is not in a water hazard and is visible before or after the player takes his stance.

Relief from casual water is permitted if it interferes with the lie of the ball or the golfer's stance.

Snow and natural ice, other than frost, are either casual water or loose impediments, at the option of the player.

Manufactured ice is an obstruction. Dew and frost are not casual water.

A ball is in casual water when it lies in or any part of it touches the casual water.  A player's stance is in casual water if water is visible around the player's feet after taking his stance.


The “Committee’’ is the committee in charge of the competition or, if the matter does not arise in a competition, the committee in charge of the course.


“Equipment” is anything used, worn or carried by the player or anything carried for the player by his partner or either of their caddies, except any ball he has played at the hole being played and any small object, such as a coin or a tee, when used to mark the position of a ball or the extent of an area in which a ball is to be dropped. Equipment includes a golf cart, whether or not motorised.25

Note 1: A ball played at the hole being played is equipment when it has been lifted and not put back into play.

Note 2: When a golf cart is shared by two or more players, the cart and everything in it are deemed to be the equipment of only one player at a time. 

A.   If the cart is being moved, the cart and everything in it are deemed to be the equipment of the player moving the cart.

B.  If the cart is stationary, and one of the "cart-sharing" player's ball strikes the cart/equipment, the cart/equipment is deemed to belong to the player whose ball is involved.

Ground Under Repair (a type of 'abnormal ground condition')

“Ground under repair” is any part of the course so marked by order of the Committee or so declared by its authorised representative. All ground and any grass, bush, tree or other growing thing within the ground under repair are part of the ground under repair. Ground under repair includes material piled for removal and a hole made by a greenkeeper, even if not so marked. Grass cuttings and other material left on the course that have been abandoned and are not intended to be removed are not ground under repair unless so marked.

 When the margin of ground under repair is defined by stakes, the stakes are inside the ground under repair, and the margin of the ground under repair is defined by the nearest outside points of the stakes at ground level. When both stakes and lines are used to indicate ground under repair, the stakes identify the ground under repair and the lines define the margin of the ground under repair. When the margin of ground under repair is defined by a line on the ground, the line itself is in the ground under repair. The margin of ground under repair extends vertically downwards but not upwards.

 A ball is in ground under repair when it lies in or any part of it touches the ground under repair.

If the ball is not in the GUR, relief from GUR is permitted if the GUR interferes with stance or swing.

Stakes used to define the margin of or identify ground under repair are obstructions.

Note: The Committee may make a Local Rule prohibiting play from ground under repair or an environmentally-sensitive area defined as ground under repair.


A “hazard’’ is any bunker or water hazard.


The “hole’’ must be 4-1⁄4 inches (108 mm) in diameter and at least 4 inches (101.6 mm) deep. If a lining is used, it must be sunk at least 1 inch (25.4 mm) below the putting green surface, unless the nature of the soil makes it impracticable to do so; its outer diameter must not exceed 4-1⁄4 inches (108 mm).


A ball is “holed” when it is at rest within the circumference of the hole and all of it is below the level of the lip of the hole.

Lateral Water Hazard

See, Water Hazard

Line of Play

The “line of play’’ is the direction that the player wishes his ball to take after a stroke, plus a reasonable distance on either side of the intended direction. The line of play extends vertically upwards from the ground, but does not extend beyond the hole.

Line of Putt

The “line of putt’’ is the line that the player wishes his ball to take after a stroke on the putting green. Except with respect to Rule 16-1e, the line of putt includes a reasonable distance on either side of the intended line. The line of putt does not extend beyond the hole.

Loose Impediments

“Loose impediments’’ are natural objects, including:

A.  stones, leaves, twigs, branches and the like,    B.  dung,     C. worms, insects and the like, and the casts and heaps made by them,

provided they are not:

  + fixed or growing,  OR    + solidly embedded,  OR   + adhering to the ball.

 Sand and loose soil are loose impediments on the putting green, but not elsewhere.

Snow and natural ice, other than frost, are either casual water or loose impediments, at the option of the player.

Dew and frost are not loose impediments.

Lost Ball

A ball is deemed “lost” if:

a. It is not found or identified as his by the player within five minutes after the player’s side or his or their caddies have begun to search for it; or

b. The player has made a stroke at a provisional ball from the place where the original ball is likely to be or from a point nearer the hole than that place (see Rule 27-2b); or

c. The player has put another ball into play under penalty of stroke and distance under Rule 26-1a, 27-1 or 28a; or

d. The player has put another ball into play because it is known or virtually certain that the ball, which has not been found, has been moved by an outside agency (see Rule 18-1), is in an obstruction (see Rule 24-3), is in

an abnormal ground condition (see Rule 25-1c) or is in a water hazard (see Rule 26-1b or c); or

e. The player has made a stroke at a substituted ball.

Time spent in playing a wrong ball is not counted in the five-minute period allowed for search.


A “marker’’ is one who is appointed by the Committee to record a competitor’s score in stroke play. He may be a fellow-competitor. He is not a referee.

Move or Moved

A ball is deemed to have “moved’’ if it leaves its position and comes to rest in any other place.

Nearest Point of Relief

The “nearest point of relief” is the reference point for taking relief without penalty from interference by an immovable obstruction (Rule 24-2), an abnormal ground condition (Rule 25-1) or a wrong putting green (Rule 25-3).

The "nearest point of relief" is a hypothetical "ball position".  (It is not a "stance" position.
The "nearest point of relief" is the point nearest the original ball position which:
1.  is not nearer the hole
2.  Provides "complete relief" (lie, stance, and swing) from the original obstruction or condition.
(Generally, there exists only one "nearest point of relief" for any given situation, and that point MUST BE USED if taking relief.)
Obstructions are of 2 types:
A.  Immovable obstructions    B. Movable obstructions.

An “obstruction’’ is anything artificial, including the artificial surfaces and sides of roads and paths and manufactured ice, trash/bottles, human debris, or  or  except:

a. Objects defining out of bounds, such as walls, fences, stakes and railings;

b. Any part of an immovable artificial object that is out of bounds; and

c. Any construction declared by the Committee to be an integral part of the course.

An obstruction is a movable obstruction if it may be moved without unreasonable effort, without unduly delaying play and without causing damage. Otherwise, it is an immovable obstruction.

Note: The Committee may make a Local Rule declaring a movable obstruction to be an immovable obstruction.


An “opponent” is a member of a side against whom the player’s side is competing in match play.

Out of Bounds

“Out of bounds’’ is beyond the boundaries of the course or any part of the course so marked by the Committee.1

When out of bounds is defined by reference to stakes or a fence or as being beyond stakes or a fence, the out of bounds line is determined by the nearest inside points at ground level of the stakes or fence posts (excluding angled supports). When both stakes and lines are used to indicate out of bounds, the stakes identify out of bounds and the lines define out of bounds. When out of bounds is defined by a line on the ground, the line itself is out of bounds. The out of bounds line extends vertically upwards and downwards.

A ball is out of bounds when all of it lies out of bounds. A player may stand out of bounds to play a ball lying within bounds.

Objects defining out of bounds such as walls, fences, stakes and railings are not obstructions and are deemed to be fixed. Stakes identifying out of bounds are not obstructions and are deemed to be fixed.

Note 1: Stakes or lines used to define out of bounds should be white.

Note 2: A Committee may make a Local Rule declaring stakes identifying but not defining out of bounds to be obstructions.

Outside Agency

In match play, an “outside agency” is any agency other than either the player’s or opponent’s side, any caddie of either side, any ball played by either side at the hole being played or any equipment of either side.

In stroke play, an outside agency is any agency other than the competitor’s side, any caddie of the side, any ball played by the side at the hole being played or any equipment of the side.

An outside agency includes a referee, a marker, an observer and a forecaddie. Neither wind nor water is an outside agency.


A “partner’’ is a player associated with another player on the same side. In threesome, foursome, best-ball or four-ball play, where the context so admits, the word “player” includes his partner or partners.

Penalty Stroke

A “penalty stroke’’ is one added to the score of a player or side under certain Rules. In a threesome or foursome, penalty strokes do not affect the order of play.

Provisional Ball

A “provisional ball’’ is a ball played under Rule 27-2 for a ball that may be lost outside a water hazard or may be out of bounds.

Putting Green

The “putting green’’ is all ground of the hole being played that is specially prepared for putting or otherwise defined as such by the Committee. A ball is on the putting green when any part of it touches the putting green.

Rule or Rules

The term “Rule’’ includes:

a. The Rules of Golf and their interpretations as contained in “Decisions on the Rules of Golf”;

b. Any Conditions of Competition established by the Committee under Rule 33-1 and Appendix I;

c. Any Local Rules established by the Committee under Rule 33-8a and Appendix I; and

d. The specifications on:

(i) clubs and the ball in Appendices II and III and their interpretations as contained in “A Guide to the Rules on Clubs and Balls”; and

(ii) devices and other equipment in Appendix IV.


Taking the “stance’’ consists in a player placing his feet in position for and preparatory to making a stroke.

Stipulated Round

The “stipulated round’’ consists of playing the holes of the course in their correct sequence, unless otherwise authorised by the Committee. The number of holes in a stipulated round is 18 unless a smaller number is authorised by the Committee. As to extension of stipulated round in match play, see Rule 2-3.


A “stroke’’ is the forward movement of the club made with the intention of striking at and moving the ball, but if a player checks or diverts his downswing voluntarily before the clubhead reaches the ball he has not made a stroke.

Substituted Ball

A “substituted ball” is a ball put into play for the original ball that was either in play, lost, out of bounds or lifted.

Teeing Ground

The “teeing ground’’ is the starting place for the hole to be played. It is a rectangular area two club-lengths in depth, the front and the sides of which are defined by the outside limits of two tee-markers. A ball is outside the teeing ground when all of it lies outside the teeing ground..

Through the Green

“Through the green’’ is the whole area of the course except:

a. The teeing ground and putting green of the hole being played; and

b. All hazards on the course.

Water Hazard and Lateral Water Hazard

  The general classification of “Water Hazard’’ is any sea, lake, pond, river, ditch, surface drainage ditch or other open water course (whether or not containing water) and anything of a similar nature on the course. All ground and water within the margin of a water hazard are part of the water hazard.  A Lateral Water Hazard is a specific type of Water Hazard.

Water Hazards are of two types:

1.  Water Hazard defined by yellow stakes and/or lines.

2.  Lateral Water Hazard defined by red stakes and/or lines.

When the margin of a water hazard is defined by stakes, the stakes are inside the water hazard, and the margin of the hazard is defined by the nearest outside points of the stakes at ground level. When both stakes and lines are used to indicate a water hazard, the stakes identify the hazard and the lines define the hazard margin. When the margin of a water hazard is defined by a line on the ground, the line itself is in the water hazard. The margin of a water hazard extends vertically upwards and downwards.

A ball is in a water hazard when it lies in or any part of it touches the water hazard.

Stakes used to define the margin of or identify a water hazard are obstructions.

Wrong Ball

A “wrong ball’’ is any ball other than the player’s ball in play;  OR provisional ball; OR  second ball played under Rule 3-3 or Rule 20-7c in stroke play;


Back to Index