When a ball ends up pushed further into the ground as a result of a stroke

The winter rule that permits placing within 6 inches is for a ball at rest on the course. If a ball after a stroke is never airborne and is just pushed further into the ground it has to be played as it lies or dropped under penalty of one stroke under the unplayable ball rule. You cannot get free relief by digging the ball out and placing it within 6 inches under the local rule.

Winter Golf – Points to Remember

1.  You have 3 minutes to search for a ball so time the search from when you get to where you think your ball may be.  It can be difficult to find a ball in the soft ground after all the rain we have had.

2.  If a crow takes your ball replace it or another ball on the original spot, which if not known can be estimated. No penalty.   It must be known or virtually certain that the bird took the ball otherwise the ball is lost.

3.  When you place the ball during the preferred lie period you can play either the original ball or a substituted ball under the new rules.


You can go back and play a provisional ball during the 3 minute ball search

If a ball may be lost or out of bounds always play a provisional ball to save time.  Ideally you should play the provisional ball before going forward to search but you may also go back during the 3 minute search period and play a provisional ball while others keep searching for you.  If your original ball is found within the 3 minutes it is still your ball in play and a provisional ball played has to be abandoned.  If after 3 minutes your original ball is not found then continue playing with the provisional ball which is now the ball in play, under penalty.  It is important that someone in the group clocks the time that the player begins a ball search as 3 minutes goes by very quickly!  The search time starts when the player him or herself get to where the original ball is thought to be.

Quick Quiz on the new Rules – have a go!

Rules Quiz

Click on Rules Quiz and see how you get on.  Answers will be posted at the end of next week.

And another thing….a few points following the Bearna Rules Night

Thank you all for attending the Bearna Club Rules Presentation.  As many of the new rules as possible were covered and here are a few additional points:

  • No penalty if a ball strikes you, your partner, your caddie or equipment.  Play the ball as it lies.
  • No penalty for casually leaning on a club in a bunker as long as you are not intentionally testing the condition of the sand.
  • If your ball is still in the teeing area after a stroke – that is, it is at rest in the rectangular area between the tee markers and 2 club lengths behind them then the ball may be re-teed without penalty.  If it is mis-hit and comes to rest forward of the tee markers, play the ball as it lies as it is now in the general area or re-tee under penalty.
  • Free relief from any abnormal course condition is for interference to stance and area of intended swing as well as to the lie of the ball
  • In taking free relief from any abnormal course condition in a bunker or on the putting green you may take maximum available relief if you cannot find a spot that gives you full relief from the condition. 

In answer to a question from the floor, you are penalised one stroke if you move a loose impediment and the ball moves anywhere on the course except the putting green.  However if your ball is at rest in a penalty area, you have no intention of playing it and decide to take relief under penalty outside the penalty area then you may lift the ball and if you move loose impediments in lifting it there is no penalty as you are not playing the ball as it lies.  Had you decided to play in the penalty area and moved loose impediments around the ball then you would be penalised one stroke.

Download the 2019 Rules of Golf App to your phone for easy access to the rules while on the course.

Bunkers and the New Rules

Bunkers have a rule all to themselves in the 2019 Rules of Golf, Rule 12 and while the challenge of playing out of a bunker is the same the rules about playing from a bunker have changed

You may

  • Remove loose impediments from the bunker like leaves, twigs, stones or any natural object before you play from the bunker but be careful not to move the ball in the process – if you do the penalty is one stroke and replace the ball
  • As before remove any movable obstruction like a rake, litter or any other artificial object and if the ball moves in the process no penalty and replace the ball
  • To save time rake footprints before you play as long as it is for the sole purpose of caring for the course, is not testing the condition of the sand and is nowhere near your ball i.e. does not improve the lie or area of stance or swing of your ball
  • Use the new option under the unplayable rule of taking the ball out of the bunker altogether for 2 penalty strokes and dropping back on the line behind the bunker.  This option is in addition to the normal unplayable ball options of stroke and distance, back on the line in the bunker and within 2 club lengths in the bunker.
  • Lean on your club in the bunker without incurring a penalty

Note: stones in bunkers can no longer me treated as movable obstructions by local rule as they are loose impediments by definition and can be removed under the new rules so be careful not to move the ball if moving stones near it in the bunker.

Ball played from the red penalty area on the 4th comes to rest in the same penalty area…what are my options?

Your tee shot on the 4th ends up in the red penalty area on the right and you decide to play it but unfortunately it ends up still in the penalty area.  What are your options if you do not want to play the ball as it lies?  Under penalty of one stroke you can:

  • Take stroke and distance relief by playing from a relief area based on where the previous stroke was made in the penalty area, 4th shot
  • Take lateral relief, the reference point being where the ball last crossed the edge of the penalty area, 4th shot
  • Take back on the line relief by dropping a ball in a relief area based on a reference line going straight back from where it last crossed the edge of the penalty area and the hole (an unlikely option at the 4th in Bearna), 4th shot or
  • Play from the tee again, 4th shot

If you choose the first (stroke and distance) option, drop the ball and then decide NOT to play the dropped ball, for an additional penalty you may take lateral relief, back on the line relief or play again from the tee, 5th shot

All of these options are described in Rule 17-2, Options after Playing Ball from Penalty Area.  You cannot declare a ball unplayable in a penalty area, you can only proceed under the penalty area rule.

New Flagstick Rules

New Flagstick Rules

  • You can now leave the flagstick in the hole and if the ball strikes it, no penalty
  • You can have the flagstick attended as before or removed altogether
  • No penalty if the ball accidentally strikes the flagstick or the person attending it 
  • Make your intention clear whether you want the flagstick left in, out or attended
  • A penalty will apply only if the ball is deliberately deflected or stopped by the person attending the flagstick or the removed flagstick is deliberately left in a position that could strike the ball
  • If the ball is resting against the flagstick and any part of the ball is below the lip of the hole, the ball is considered holed and can be removed from the hole

Rule 12-2 The Flagstick

New Putting Green Rules


  • Any damage can be repaired such as ball marks, old hole plugs, shoe damage, animal tracks or hoof marks
  • Embedded objects like stones or acorns can be removed

However, damage does not include natural surface imperfections, natural wear of the hole or normal greenkeeping practices like aeration holes

  • Your caddie or partner can now touch the putting green with a hand, foot or anything held by them to indicate a line of play for you
  • There is no penalty for accidentally causing the ball or ball marker to move, replace the ball or ball marker on the original spot (which if not known must be estimated)
  • If the ball has been marked, lifted and replaced and is then moved by natural forces like the wind, replace the ball on its original spot (which if not known must be estimated)
  • If the ball was not already marked and was then moved by the wind, play from its new position
  • Always remove the ball marker before you take your putt.  If it is left in position while you putt you get one penalty stroke
  • You must always take free relief for a ball on a wrong green.  A wrong green is any green on the course other than the putting green of the hole being played plus any practice green.
  • A penalty still applies in stroke play if a player’s ball in motion from a stroke on the green hits another ball at rest on the green, however the rules now allow you to pick up the ball at rest to avoid it being struck!  No penalty in match play, replace the ball at rest that was moved and play the other ball as it lies.