Following are terms used throughout the Official Rules of Golf written by the USGA and R&A, January 1, 2012 ©USGA, used with permission.
Rules of Golf
Abnormal Ground Conditions:An“abnormal ground condition” is any casual water, ground under repair or hole, cast or runway on the course made by a burrowing animal, a reptile or a bird.
Addressing the Ball: A player has "addressed the ball" when he has taken his stance and has also grounded his club, except that in a hazard a player has addressed the ball when he has taken his stance.
Advice: "Advice" is any counsel or suggestion that could influence a player in determining his play, the choice of a club or the method of making a stroke.
Ball Deemed to Move: A ball is deemed to have "moved" if it leaves its position and comes to rest in any other place.
Ball Holed: A ball is "holed" when it is at rest within the circumference of the hole and all of it is below the level of the lip of the hole.
Ball Lost: A ball is deemed "lost" if it is not found or identified as his by the player within five minutes after the player’s side or his or their caddies have begun to search for it.
Ball in Play: A ball is "in play" as soon as the player has made a stroke on the teeing ground. It remains in play until it is holed, except when it is lost, out of bounds or lifted, or another ball has been substituted whether or not the substitution is permitted; a ball so substituted becomes the ball in play.
Best Ball: A match in which one player plays against the better ball of two other players or the best ball of three other players.
Bunker: A "bunker" is a hazard consisting of a prepared area of ground, often a hollow, from which turf or soil has been removed and replaced with sand or the like.
Burrowing Animal: A "burrowing animal" is an animal (other than a worm, insect or the like) that makes a hole for habitation or shelter, such as a rabbit, mole, groundhog, gopher or salamander.
Note: A hole made by a non-burrowing animal, such as a dog, is not an abnormal ground condition unless marked or declared as ground under repair.
Caddie: A "caddie" is one who assists the player in accordance with the Rules, which may include carrying or handling the player’s clubs during play.
When one golf caddie is employed by more than one player, he is always deemed to be the caddie of the player sharing the caddy whose ball (or whose partner’s ball) is involved, and equipment carried by him is deemed to be that player’s equipment, except when the caddie acts upon specific directions of another player (or the partner of another player) sharing the caddie, in which case he is considered to be that other player’s caddy.
Casual Water: "Casual water" is any temporary accumulation of water on the course that is not in a water hazard and is visible before or after the player takes his stance. Snow and natural ice, other than frost, are either casual water or loose impediments, at the option of the player. Manufactured ice is an obstruction. Dew and frost are not casual water.
The "Committee" is the
committee in charge of the competition or, if the matter does not arise in a
competition, the committee in charge of the course.
Competitor: A "competitor" is a player in a stroke play competition. A "fellow-competitor" is any person with whom the competitor plays. Neither is partner of the other.
Course: The "course" is the whole area within any boundaries established by the Committee (see Basic Golf Rules 33-2.)
Equipment: "Equipment" is anything used, worn or carried by the player or anything carried for the player by his partner or either of their caddies, except any ball he has played at the hole being played and any small object, such as a coin or a Golf Tee, when used to mark the position of a ball or the extent of an area in which a ball is to be dropped. Equipment includes a golf cart, whether or not motorized.
Note 1: A ball played at the hole being played is “equipment” when it has been lifted and not put back into play.
Note 2: When a golfcart is shared by two or more players, the cart and everything in it are deemed to be the equipment of one of the players sharing the cart.
Fellow-Competitor: A "fellow-competitor" is any person with whom the competitor plays. Neither is partner of the other.
The "flagstick" is a
movable straight indicator, with or without bunting or other material attached,
centered in the hole to show its position. It must be circular in
cross-section. Padding or shock absorbent material that might unduly influence
the movement of the ball is prohibited.
Forecaddie: A “forecaddie” is one who is employed by the Committee to indicate to players the position of balls during play. He is an outside agency.
Forms of Match Play:
Forms of Stroke Play:
Note: For bogey, par and Stableford competitions, see Rules of Golf 32-1.
Four-Ball: See Rules of Golf “Forms of Match Play” and “Forms of Stroke Play.”
Foursome: See Rules of Golf “Forms of Match Play” and “Forms of Stroke Play.”
Ground under Repair: "Ground under repair" is any part of the course so marked by order of the Committee or so declared by its authorized representative. All ground and any grass, bush, tree or other growing thing within the ground under repair are part of the ground under repair.
Ground under repair includes material piled for removal and a hole made by a greens-keeper, even if not so marked. Grass cuttings and other material left on the course that have been abandoned and are not intended to be removed are not ground under repair unless so marked.
When the margin of ground under repair is defined by stakes, the stakes are inside the ground under repair, and the margin of the ground under repair is defined by the nearest outside points of the stakes at ground level. When both stakes and lines are used to indicate ground under repair, the stakes identify the ground under repair and the lines define the margin of the ground under repair.
When the margin of ground under repair is defined by a line on the ground, the line itself is in the ground under repair. The margin of ground under repair extends vertically downward but not upwards.
A ball is in ground under repair when it lies in or any part of it touches the ground under repair. Stakes used to define the margin of or identify ground under repair are obstructions.
Note: The Committee may make Local Golfing Rules prohibiting play from ground under repair or an environmentally-sensitive area defined as ground under repair.
or an environmentally-sensitive area defined as ground under repair.
Hazards: A "hazard" is any bunker or water hazard.
Hole: The "hole" must be 4 1/4 inches (108 mm) in diameter and at least 4 inches (101.6 mm) deep. If a lining is used, it must be sunk at least 1 inch (25.4 mm) below the putting green surface unless the nature of the soil makes it impracticable to do so; its outer diameter must not exceed 4 1/4 inches (108 mm).
Holed: A ball is "holed" when it is at rest within the circumference of the hole and all of it is below the level of the lip of the hole.
Honor: The player who is to play first from the teeing ground is said to have the "honor."
Lateral Water Hazard: A "lateral water hazard" is a water hazard or that part of a water hazard so situated that it is not possible or is deemed by the Committee to be impracticable to drop a ball behind the water hazard in accordance with Rules of Golf 26-1b. All ground and water within the margin of a lateral water hazard are part of the lateral water hazard.
· When the margin of a lateral water hazard is defined by stakes, the stakes are inside the lateral water hazard, and the margin of the hazard is defined by the nearest outside points of the stakes at ground level. When both stake and lines are used to indicate a lateral water hazard, the stakes identify the hazard and the lines define the hazard margin.
Note 1: That part of a water hazard to be played as a lateral water hazard must be distinctively marked. Stakes or lines used to define the margin of or identify a lateral water hazard must be red.
Note 2: The Committee may make Rules of Golf prohibiting play from an environmentally-sensitive area defined as a lateral water hazard.
Note 3: The Committee may define a lateral water hazard as a water hazard.
Line of Play: The "line of play" is the direction that the player wishes his ball to take after a stroke, plus a reasonable distance on either side of the intended direction. The line of play extends vertically upward from the ground, but does not extend beyond the hole.
Line of Putt: The "line of putt" is the line that the player wishes his ball to
take after a stroke on the putting green. Except with respect to Rules of Golf 16-1e, the line of putt includes a reasonable
distance on either side of the intended line. The line of putt does not extend
beyond the hole.
Loose Impediments: "Loose impediments" are natural objects including:
leaves, twigs, branches and the like
• Worms, insects and the like, and the casts and heaps made by them.
they are not:
• Fixed or growing,
• Solidly embedded, or
• Adhering to the ball.
Sand and loose soils are loose impediments on the putting green, but not elsewhere.
Snow and natural ice, other than frost, are either casual water or loose impediments, at the option of the player.
Dew and frost are not loose impediments.
Lost Ball: A ball is deemed "lost" if:
a. It is not found or identified as his by the player within five minutes after the player’s side or his or their caddies have begun to search for it; or
b. The player has made a stroke at a provisional ball from the place where the original ball is likely to be or from a point nearer the hole than that place (see Rules of Golf 27-2b); or
c. The player has put another ball into play under penalty of stroke and distance (see Rules of Golf 27-1a);or
d. Golf Players have put another ball into play because it is known or virtually certain that the ball, which has not been found, has been moved by an outside agency (see Rules of Golf 18-1), is in an obstruction (see Rules of Golf 24-3), is in an abnormal ground condition (see Rules of Golf 25-1c) or is in a water hazard (see Rules of Golf 26-1); or
e. The player has made a stroke at a substituted ball.
Time spent in playing a wrong ball is not counted in the five-minute period allowed for search.
Marker: A "marker" is one who is appointed by the Committee to record a competitor’s score in stroke play. He may be a fellow-competitor. He is not a referee.
Move or Moved: A ball is deemed to have "moved" if it leaves its position and comes to rest in any other place.
Nearest Point of Relief: The "nearest point of relief" is the reference point for taking relief without penalty from interference by an immovable obstruction (Rules of Golf 24-2), an abnormal ground condition (Rules of Golf 25-1) or a wrong putting green (Rules of Golf 25-3).
It is the point on the course nearest to where the ball lies:
(a) that is not nearer the hole, and
(b) where, if the ball were so positioned, no interference by the condition from which relief is sought would exist for the stroke the player would have made from the original position if the condition were not there.
Note: In order to determine the nearest point of relief accurately, the player should use the club with which he would have made his next stroke if the condition were not there to simulate the address position, direction of play and swing for such a stroke.
Observer: An "observer" is one who is appointed by the Committee to assist a referee to decide questions of fact and to report to him any breach of the USGA Rules of Golf. An observer should not attend the Golf Flagstick, stand at or mark the position of the hole, or lift the ball or mark its position.
Obstructions: An "obstruction" is anything artificial, including the artificial surfaces and sides of roads and paths and manufactured ice, except:
a. Objects defining
out of bounds, such as walls, fences, stakes and railings;
b. Any part of an immovable artificial object that is out of bounds; and
c. Any construction declared by the Committee to be an integral part of the course.
An obstruction is a movable obstruction if it may be moved without unreasonable effort, without unduly delaying play and without causing damage. Otherwise it is an immovable obstruction.
Note: The Committee may make Local Golfing Rules declaring a movable obstruction to be an immovable obstruction.
Out of Bounds: "Out of bounds" is beyond the boundaries of the Course or any part of the course so marked by the Committee.
Note 1: Stakes or lines used to define out of bounds should be white.
Note 2: A Committee may make Local Golfing Rules declaring stakes identifying but not defining out of bounds to be movable obstructions.
Outside Agency: An "outside agency" is any agency other than either the player’s or opponent’s side, any caddie of either side, any ball played by either side at the hole being played or any equipment of either side.
In stroke play, an outside agency is any agency other than the competitor’s side, any caddie of the side, any ball played by the side at the hole being played or any equipment of the side.
An outside agency includes a referee, a marker, an observer and a forecaddie. Neither wind nor water is an outside agency.
Partner: A "partner" is a player associated with another player on the same side.
In threesome, foursome, best-ball or four-ball play, where the context so admits, the word "player" includes his partner or partners.
Penalty Stroke: A "penalty stroke" is one added to the score of a player or side
under certain Rules. In a threesome or foursome, penalty strokes do not affect
the order of play.
Provisional Ball: A "provisional ball" is a ball played under Rules of Golf 27-2 for a ball that may be lost outside a water hazard or may be out of bounds.
Putting Green: The "putting green" is all ground of the hole being played that is specially prepared for putting or otherwise defined as such by the Committee. A ball is on the putting green when any part of it touches the putting green.
The “R&A” means R&A Rules Limited.
Referee: A "referee" is one who is appointed by the Committee to accompany players to decide questions of fact and apply the Basic Golf Rules. He must act on any breach of a Rule that he observes or is reported to him.
A referee should not attend the flagstick, stand at or mark the position of the hole, or lift the ball or mark its position.
Rub of the Green: A "rub of the green" occurs when a ball in motion is accidentally deflected or stopped by any outside agency (see Rules of Golf 19-1).
Rule (or Rules): The term "Rule" includes:
a. The Rules of Golf and their interpretations as contained in "Decisions on the Rules of Golf"
b. Any Conditions of Competition established by the Committee under Rule 33-1 and Appendix I
c. Any Local Rules established by the Committee under Rule 33-8a and Appendix I
d. The specifications on clubs and the ball in Appendices II and III and their interpretations as contained in “A guide to the Rules on Clubs and Golfballs.”
Side: A "side" is a player, or two or more players who are partners.
Single: See “Forms of Match Play” and “Forms of Stroke Play.”
Stance: Taking the "stance"
consists in a player placing his feet in position for and preparatory to making
Stipulated Round: The "stipulated round" consists of playing the holes of the course in their correct sequence unless otherwise authorized by the Committee. The number of holes in a stipulated round is 18 unless a smaller number is authorized by the Committee.
As to extension of stipulated round in match play, see Rules of Golf 2-3.
Stroke: A "stroke" is the forward movement of
the club made with the intention of striking at and moving the ball, but if a
player checks his downswing voluntarily before the clubhead reaches the ball he
has not made a stroke.
Substituted Ball: A "substituted ball" is a ball put into play for the original ball that was either in play, lost, out of bounds or lifted.
Tee: A "tee" is a device designed to raise the ball off the ground. It
must not be longer than 4 inches (101.6 mm), and it must not be designed or
manufactured in such a way that it could indicate the line of play or influence
the movement of the ball.
Teeing Ground: The "teeing ground" is the starting place for the hole to be played. It is a rectangular area two club-lengths in depth, the front and the sides of which are defined by the outside limits of two tee-markers. A ball is outside the teeing ground when all of it lies outside the teeing ground.
Three-Ball: See “Forms of Match Play”
Threesome: See “Forms of Match Play”
Through the Green: "Through the green" is the whole area of the course except:
a. The teeing ground and putting green of the hole being played
b. All hazards on the course.
Water Hazard: A "water hazard" is any sea, lake, pond, river, ditch, surface drainage ditch or other open water course (whether or not containing water) and anything of a similar nature on the course. All ground or water within the margin of a water hazard is part of the water hazard.
Note 1: Stakes or lines used to define a water hazard must be yellow.
Note 2: The Committee may make a Local Rule prohibiting play from an environmentally-sensitive area defined as a water hazard.
Wrong Ball: A "wrong ball" is any ball other than the player's:
Note: Ball in play includes a ball substituted for the ball in play, whether or not the substitution is permitted.
Wrong Putting Green: A "wrong putting green" is any putting green other than that of the hole being played. Unless otherwise prescribed by the Committee, this term includes a practice putting green or pitching green on the course.
We hope this collection of USGA Golf Term definitions on the Rules of Golf has been helpful in better understanding the Official Rules of Golf!
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