"In Play" - Rules Q & A

The Sacramento EWGA Education golf question and answer column, "In Play" provides tips and advice on etiquette and rules situations.  "In Play" will help you develop as a player and make the game more fun.  

John Nakamura, past NCGA President and Tournament Official will be available to answer your tough questions.  Kris Corbridge our handicap committee chair will field questions about handicapping systems.  The column also shares advice and information from other sources and experts. 

October 2017 Question

Q:  With the temperatures and leaves falling, it does pose a problem with playing fall golf. Many golfers invoke “The Leaf Rule” but does it really exist?

A:  Many golfers in the fall invoke “The Leaf Rule” even though there is no such approved rule in the Rules of Golf.  In the interest of pace of play, some courses will institute a local rule in the fall allowing the natural accumulation of leaves area to be treated as Ground Under repair. 

If you or your partners are positive your ball is lost under the leaves, you may determine the Nearest Point of Relief where the ball may have crossed the outermost margin of this area. You can drop the ball, without penalty, within one-club length of this point, no closer to the hole (Rule 25-1, Decision 33-8/31). If the Nearest Point of Relief cannot be precisely determined, it may be estimated. If it is not known or virtually certain the ball is in this area, the ball must be treated as a lost ball and the player must proceed under Rule 27-1.

If you are playing a course that hasn’t allowed such a local rule, those pesky leaves are loose impediments and may be removed without penalty.  Be extremely careful when looking for your ball so that it doesn’t move while you are searching in the leaves.  If you move your ball when removing the leaves, you will incur a one-stroke penalty and you must replace your ball (Rule 23-1, and Rule 18-2).

  • Leaves Piled for Removal: If you find your ball in leaves piled for removal, you can drop it, without penalty, within one club-length of the nearest point of relief, no closer to the hole (Rule 25-1b).


  • Leaves In a Bunker: If the player's ball is believed to be covered by Loose Impediments (leaves) to the extent it cannot be found or identified, the player may, without penalty, touch or move loose impediments in order to find or identify the ball (Rule 12-1b). If the ball is found or identified as hers, the player must replace the loose impediments to the extent that only a small part of the ball is visible. Do not move the ball while searching as the player will incur a one stroke penalty and the ball must be replaced (Rule 18-2a). If the ball is moved during the replacement of the loose impediments, no penalty and the ball must be replaced.


Sources: Le Ann Finger, The EWGA Forecaddie and John Nakamura, Past NCGA President and USGA Rules Official


2016 Questions

September 2016 Question

Q:  If I hit a ball into a water hazard, can I hit a provisional ball before going to search for the original?

A:  CLICK here for ANSWER.

August 2016 Question

Q:  Is it always true that a golfer who is off the green must play a shot before a golfer who is on the green?

A.  CLICK here for ANSWER 

April 2016 Question

QBefore playing from the teeing ground, a player took a practice swing, in the course of which he accidentally struck and moved the teed ball with his club.  Did the player play a stroke or incur a penalty? 


 February 2016 Question 

Q:  EWGA, NCGA, PWGA… Which one or ones should I use to get handicap?
A:  Click here for ANSWER

January 2016 Question

Q:  I found my "lost ball" in the hole - but after hitting second ball; which counts?  
A:  Click here for ANSWER

2016 Rule Changes

Q: The “Rules of Golf and the Rules of Amateur Status 2016” will go into effect. There are also some new USGA Handicap System provisions.   What are the major changes?
A: Click here for ANSWER

October 2015 Question

Q: Fall is here and many golfers invoke “The Leaf Rule” but does it really exist?
A: Click here for ANSWER


January - December 2014

Obstruction Interferes with Abnormal Stroke; Abnormal Stroke Reasonable in Circumstance

Q: A right-handed player's ball is so close to a boundary fence on the left of a hole that the player, in order to play towards the hole, must play left-handed. In playing a left-handed stroke, the player's backswing would be interfered with by an immovable obstruction. Is the player entitled to relief from the obstruction? (Rule 24-2b/17)

A: Click here for ANSWER

Interference by Dead Squirrel

Q: What do you do when your ball comes to rest against a dead squirrel? (yuck!)
A: Click here for ANSWER

Announcement of Provisional Ball

Q: A player hits his ball into an area where it may be lost outside a water hazard or out of bounds. The player then drops another ball and plays it. The player intends the dropped ball to be a provisional ball, but he does not inform his opponent, marker or fellow-competitor that he is "playing a provisional ball." In such a situation, can a player's actions constitute announcement that he is playing a provisional ball? (Rule 27-2a/1)

A: Click here for ANSWER  

Player Deems Ball Unplayable in Bunker, Announces His Intention to Proceed Under Rule 28a Outside Bunker and Then Rakes Bunker on New Line of Play

Q: A player's tee shot comes to rest in a bunker in front of the putting green. He lifts the ball after deeming it unplayable and announces his intention to proceed under Rule 28a. Before walking back to play from the teeing ground again, the player smoothes his footprints in the bunker, which are on his line of play from the teeing ground. He then plays from the teeing ground. What is the ruling? (Rule 13-4/35.8)

A.  Click here for ANSWER