9 Golf Rules That Make Absolutely No Sense

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“There’s a lot of stupid rules in golf and this is one of them.” – Rory McIlroy, after officials assessed him with a two shot penalty for an incorrect drop at last year’s HSBC Champions.

Preach Rory, preach!

Perhaps no sport has more rules than golf (the Rules Of Golf booklet is almost 200 pages). So it stands to reason that golf has the most dumb rules of any sport. And if you don’t know the rules, odds are you’re going to run into trouble.

Most players don’t know every single rule. Even the pros don’t, which is why officials are present on every hole during tournament play. What makes golf an honorable game is that if you don’t know a rule, you admit you don’t know, and then ask for help.

So with that being said, here’s a list of 9 rules that make absolutely no sense, at least to us.


According to Rule 1-1, players are not permitted to use “gimmies.” The rule states the Game of Golf consists in playing a ball from the teeing ground into the hole by a stroke or successive strokes in accordance with the Rules. Additionally, in stroke play, if a player fails to hole out and does not correct the error prior to playing a stroke from the next teeing ground, he shall be disqualified (see Rule 3-2).

The silly part of this rule isn’t the ban on gimmies, but the punishment. Seriously, disqualified? Why not just a one stroke penalty? Or what happens if there’s a giant alligator on the green, like the one recently spotted on a course down in Florida? Give it a rest – everyone uses gimmies now and again.

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2. Players Agree To Repair Spike Marks

Did you know you’re not allowed to repair the spike marks as you line up a putt? Yup, that’s the rule, according to Rule 1-3. You’ll be disqualified again if you “agree to waive the rules” that say play the course as you find it. But rule 16-1c permits repair of old hole plugs and ball marks. Why the distinction? Well, old hole plugs and ball marks are easily identifiable as such, whereas it is impossible to differentiate between spike damage and other irregularities of surface on the putting green (scratches head).

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3. Broken Clubs

Here’s a fun one. If you intentionally break your club in anger during a round, you are not allowed to replace it. BUT – if your club is broken when using it as a cane or due to leaning on it while waiting to play, that club may be replaced. Since the club was damaged during the ‘normal’ course of play, it may be replaced (Rule 4-3).

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4. Ball Unfit for Play

If a player has reason to believe his ball has become unfit for play during play of the hole being played, he may lift the ball, without penalty, to determine whether it is unfit. If the ball is cracked or broken, it can be replaced. However, if the ball is covered in mud, it cannot be cleaned. So lesson learned – you’re rewarded if your ball gets damaged by slamming the cart path, but penalized for landing in mud. Got it (Rule 5-3).

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5. Identifying Ball Covered by Sand

From the “how the heck am I supposed to do that” department comes Rule 12-1a. If the player’s ball lying anywhere on the course is believed to be covered by sand, to the extent that he cannot find or identify it, he may, without penalty, touch or move the sand in order to find or identify the ball. If the ball is found, and identified as his, the player must re-create the lie as nearly as possible by replacing the sand. Seriously, how is one supposed to go about replacing the sand? Maybe we should pack an hourglass in our golf bag.

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6. Rule: Ball In A Fairway Divot

Congratulations on hitting an amazing shot right down the middle of the fairway. Except you landed in a divot. Guess what? – you can’t move it! That’s right. You can get a free drop from ground under repair, a drain, a staked tree, a man-made obstruction, a fence, a dancing gopher, but you can’t get a free drop from some guy who hacks up the entire course every time he swings. Makes sense, right?

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7. Rule: Signing For A Higher Score

This one is pretty hilarious, and should be renamed the Roberto De Vicenzo rule for his blunder at the 1968 Masters. You sign for a higher score, you get that score.

On the par-4 17th hole, De Vicenzo made a birdie, but playing partner Tommy Aaron inadvertently entered a 4 instead of 3 on the scorecard. De Vicenzo did not check the scorecard for the error before signing it. If not for this mistake, De Vicenzo would have tied for first place with Bob Goalby, and the two would have met in an 18-hole playoff the next day. De Vicenzo said the next day, “What a stupid I am!”

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8. Rule: Signing The Scorecard

If you don’t sign your scorecard in time, too bad, you’re getting disqualified. You have five minutes to find a lost ball, but if you leave “the scoring area” you are in deep, deep trouble. That’s what happened a few years back to Michelle Wie at the State Farm tournament. She forgot to sign it until she’d left “the scoring area.” Somebody chased her down to tell her and she hurried back to sign it. Too late. She’d already been disqualified. All you can do is roll your eyes…

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9. Rule: Grounding Your Club In A Bunker

Poor Dustin Johnson. This rule cost him the 2010 PGA Championship, when it was deemed DJ had grounded his club in a bunker, and was later assessed a two stroke penalty. The reason you can’t ground your club in a bunker is that you might (a) be able to move enough sand to improve your lie and (b) you might be able to “test the surface,” i.e. figure out if there’s a lot of sand under your ball, not much sand, soft sand, hard sand, rocks, etc.

But what happened to Johnson wasn’t that simple. The bunker was in absolute shambles, thanks to thousands of fans trampling through it for four days. At this point, it wasn’t a bunker, it was a patch of dirt.

“It’s a bit farcical,” said Craig Connelly, the caddy for Martin Kaymer who went on to win. “You can’t have bunkers that people are walking through and grass is growing out of. It is a pathetic ruling to say that was a bunker.”

We concur.

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Which golf rule makes you absolutely cringe? Let us know which rule(s) are on your bad side by leaving a comment below or uploading a video with your countdown.

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