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Curious Golf Rules

September 8, 2016

Loony laws even make it into the world of golf. Here are some official—but odd—rules of the game.
Looney Golf Rules

  • Other than glasses or contact lenses, you’re not allowed to enhance your vision or estimate distance from the hole through the use of binoculars, a range finder, sextant, or global positioning system.
  • The dress code of the PGA Tour dictates players wear long pants. In 1992 Mark Wiebe showed up at the Anheuser-Busch Classic in shorts—to deal with the 102-degree temperature—and was fined $500.
  • If an opponent asks how many strokes you’ve taken on a hole, you must tell the truth.
  • When you hit a ball out of play, you must take a “drop” by holding a ball out at arm’s length, shoulder high, and letting it go. You must then play it from that spot. At one time, however, the rule was that you dropped the ball over your shoulder. Result: the ball would often bounce off the player’s body and roll away, so the rule was changed.
  • If a ball comes to rest near a bird’s nest, the player may take a drop without penalty, provided that playing through would damage the nest.
  • A free drop is also permitted for directly dangerous situations, such as if the ball lands near, on top of, or inside an alligator, rattlesnake, or bees’ nest.
  • Drops are not allowed in plant-related dangerous situations. If the ball falls into a patch of poison ivy or poison oak, for example, golfers must play it where it lies.
  • The PGA assesses a two-stroke penalty for accidentally hitting your partner with a ball…but no penalty for hitting anybody else.
  • In years past, golfers couldn’t legally replace balls on the green with markers because maneuvering around other players’ balls while putting was considered part of the game. The rules were changed in the 1950s after several pro tournaments were decided by players intentionally hitting their opponents’ balls to move them farther from the hole.
  • It’s possible to become an amateur again after going pro, but you have to do it within five years of becoming a pro.
  • In PGA tournaments, once a player gets to the ball, he is penalized a stroke for taking longer than 45 seconds to hit it.
  • It’s against the rules to ask for advice from anyone but your caddie or partner. You also can’t give advice, solicited or not.
  • Straddling the ball and putting it croquet-style was banned in 1968. The USGA banned the use of pool cues for putting in 1895.
  • If a ball is hit off the course, onto the parking lot, and comes to rest underneath a parked car, the ball must remain in place. The car should immediately be moved and the ball played where it lies.
  • Ant hills are considered “movable obstructions” and may be moved if they get in the way of playing a ball.
  • A golfer may move another player’s ball, but only under one of two conditions: 1) an opponent’s ball may be lifted and replaced with a marker if it is physically in the way of one’s shot; 2) an opponent’s ball may be moved if the golfer feels the other person’s ball is mentally interfering with his play.

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