During this weekend’s Lawrence Amateur Golf Association two-day city tournament at Alvamar, scratch golfers and casual players alike will play 36 holes over roughly 10 hours and take somewhere between 140-220 shots apiece.
That offers plenty of time to mistakenly push the envelope on a few of golf’s most important rules.
In preparation for the weekend, Alvamar golf pro David Dunn offered the following refresher on some of the game’s most easily abused rules.
“All in all, it is an amateur golf event, but it is competitive and we want to make sure that people are both having fun and playing by the rules,” said Dunn, who, as a member of the tournament committee, could be called upon to interpret or enforce the rules this weekend. “All USGA governed rules and regulations will be used and enforced.”
There are plenty of players in the tournament field who know those by heart. There also are more than a few who might not. Before giving his insight on some of the more commonly broken rules, Dunn offered up one general tip for golfers of all skill levels.
“It’s always good to discuss stuff with your group,” he said.
In other words, if you don’t know, ask. If you don’t, you could cost yourself a stroke or two.
Here’s a look at Dunn’s do’s and don’ts:
• 14-club rule: Players are allowed to carry 14 clubs in their bags during a round of golf. Carrying more could result in penalties or disqualification.
“This is one of the more common ones that people don’t think about,” Dunn said.
One of the most common reasons this rule is broken relates to the intense focus of the players prior to their rounds.
“Golf is one of those sports where you can tinker with things a little bit,” Dunn said. “If you’re hitting one club better on the range, of course you’re going to want to use that one during your round. But if you forget to leave the other club in your car, it could cost you. I did have one guy ask me once to hang on to four clubs for him and he gave them to me just before he got to the first tee.”
• Know your stakes: White stakes, yellow stakes, red stakes, sirloin steaks. There seem to be so many different types of out-of-bounds markers out there that it can be difficult to remember what they all mean. Make sure you know, because playing it wrong could turn your par into a double bogey in a hurry.
White stakes — If your ball goes out of bounds in this area, you must re-tee or re-hit from the same spot.
Red stakes — This is what’s known as a lateral hazard and you are allowed to drop the ball at the point of entry, with a two-club-length range.
Yellow stakes — Same as the red stakes, but you can take your drop as far back as you want as long as it remains on the line the ball went OB and that line remains between your drop and the flag.
“When you’re in any one of these positions, your next move needs to be approved by the other competitors in your group,” Dunn said. “It’s not a decision you should make on your own.”
• Find a ball you like: During most tournaments you’re supposed to play the same ball throughout the round. If the one-ball rule is used this weekend, changing from a Titleist to a Nike ball could result in penalties. Obviously, balls get lost during a round of golf, so think of this more as playing the same brand of ball than actually playing the same ball from start to finish. If you can do that, more power to you, but if you lose one, just make sure you replace it with the same type of ball you started with.
In the same vein, clubs are not to be messed with during a round, either.
“No modifications can be made to any clubs at any time during the course of a round,” Dunn said. “These drivers that are so popular now days where you can change the head position or click this or turn that are great, but if you start messing with them during a round, you’re actually in violation of the rules.”
n Provisional provisions: If a tee shot appears to be out of bounds, players may hit a provisional tee shot that would take the place of the first shot if the ball is, in fact, out of bounds. However, Dunn said the most important thing to remember when hitting a provisional is that a player must declare it as such before swinging away. Failure to do so eliminates the first from play should you find it.
You’re losing a stroke and taking the penalty either way, but declaring your intentions at least gives you options.
• Finally, Dunn pointed to one of the game’s oldest rules, one that has inspired people for decades to refer to golf as “a gentlemen’s game.”
“Etiquette really comes into play with events like this,” Dunn said. “Just be aware of etiquette when you’re on the course — not walking through people’s lines or standing within someone’s vision on the tee box or on the green, and, obviously, no talking on cell phones when other players are trying to hit. It’s just common courtesy.”
Beyond that, Dunn said playing “ready golf” is something else that makes the tournament experience fun for everyone.
“That helps, especially in this heat,” he said. “When the shot from the guy before you lands, you should be ready to go. The main thing to remember, though, is that people should have fun and recognize what the game is all about. The spirit of competition in golf is not dead; it’s very much alive because people of all abilities can compete just like the pros.”