5 Rules for the Green You Might Not Know 

The Rules of Golf on the Green

Golfers often make the mistake of thinking the rules of golf are there to penalize them. However, that is not what the rules of golf are for. They are to help, assist, and make the game fair. Knowing the rules and ensuring you follow them can make all the difference when it comes to scoring. There are some tricky rules in golf that often get golfers confused; here are our top 5 rules for the green you might not know. 

Accidental Movement of the Ball 

Accidental movement of the golf ball is covered as part of Rule 13.1d in the USGA rules of golf. 

The good news is this rule has changed recently, and there is no penalty if the player, opponent, or another player accidentally moves the ball or the ball marker. 

So if you put your ball marker down and as you stand up, you accidentally slide it with your hand, you can simply put it back as close to possible to the original location. 

The only time you have to be careful with the accidental movement of the ball on the putting green is when you are taking a stroke. The ball must be played as it lies, don’t hit it unintentionally as part of your stroke.  

Removal of Loose Impediments

Rule 13.1 also covers the removal of loose impediments. Yes, you are allowed to move that sand out of your line of play. For a long time, golfers were confused about this at it seemed to be considered a way to test the green, but it is not. 

You can remove things like sand and loose soil and repair the damage you find on the putting green. During this time, go ahead and mark and clean your ball, as that is always allowed as long as your ball is on the green. 

Sand will absolutely impact the way your ball travels on the putting green, so make sure to get it out of the way. 

You Cannot Test the Greens During a Round 

Do not test the greens during play. This even counts if you use a different green than the one you are playing on. Some golf holes have two greens near each other; you can’t test the green on either one. 

You are not allowed to rub the surface of the green or roll a ball on the surface to see what it does. 

Basically, leave the green alone until you finish out the hole. 

When you are between two holes, you can roll a ball or rub the surface of the putting green you just finished under the rules of golf. However, many golf courses and country clubs adopt a local rule that does not allow this. 

You often see this rule come into play with a member guest tournament or stroke play event, so it’s a reason to check your rules sheet the next time you play in a tournament. 

Learn what you can about the putt you hit while you are playing and just move to the next hole. 

Relief Must Be Taken From the Wrong Green 

Book cover image for the Official Guide to the Rules of Golf. Dated February 2023.Have you ever hit a shot that ended up on the wrong green? Don’t feel too bad if you have it’s common at some courses that have narrow fairways that run parallel to each other. 

If you hit a shot onto the wrong green, you have no choice but to take relief. Your relief must be to the nearest point and no closer to the hole. 

Even if your stance is on the wrong green, you must take relief. 

The good news here is that the relief is free and won’t cost you a penalty stroke. When you take the relief, make sure that it is a complete relief, and you don’t have to drop it again. 

This rule is designed to help facilitate play, but let’s face it, it’s also not really fair to the superintendent for you to take out your lob wedge and create a massive divot on the putting green. 

Chances are the shot you hit into the hole was not your best if it’s on the wrong green and you don’t deserve that clean of a lie! 

Player Moving or Removing Flagstick in Hole While Ball Is In Motion 

If you have played golf for a long time, you know that the flagstick rule was a big change. For so many years, we were afraid of flagsticks, and then all of a sudden, we could keep it in the hole while we made putts. 

It was a game-changer. 

Whether you like the flagstick in or out, there is an important rule that you must know about removing the flagstick while the ball is in motion. 

After a player makes a stroke, they cannot themselves or have their caddie remove the flagstick while the ball is in motion. This removal of the flagstick or even putting the flagstick back in could be considered an advantage determined after the stroke. 

Before you putt, you must decide if you want the flag in or out; then, it has to stay there until the ball has stopped moving. 

Here’s another little caveat to understand. If you have decided to keep the flagstick in the hole and another player or their caddie removes the flag to affect where your golf ball comes to rest, they will get the penalty. 

If this is done and your ball is nowhere near the hole, or they had no idea you were playing, it’s not a penalty, only if it’s done deliberately. 

Hopefully, this is not something you encounter with your normal group, but it’s still good to know. Once you or any player decide on the flag position, just let it be. 

Knowing the Rules is Key to Being a Better Player

Remember, learning the rules surrounding the putting green will only help you play better golf. The game of golf is very unpredictable, and even though some rules may seem a little obscure or rare, they do come up if you play enough golf. Knowing the rules for a tournament is essential, but even having a good idea for your next round of friendly golf will make you a more respected and better overall player. 

Written by Brittany Olizarowicz, Golf Teaching Professional


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