Knowledge of the Rules of Golf can only be attained through study.

Many golfers become frustrated with the Rules because they only consult the Rule book when an issue arises on the course. In order to be able to use the Rule book efficiently on the course, players should spend some ‘off-course’ time with the Rules of Golf and Decisions on the Rules of Golf.

Page 1 of the Rule book (‘How to Use the Rules Book’) reminds us that the Rules are written in a precise and deliberate manner. This section emphasizes the importance of recognizing the difference between may (an option), should (a recommendation), and must (a requirement). Further, this section stresses the importance of knowing the Definitions and the facts of the situation when trying to find a ruling.

To understand the importance of the Definitions, one need look no farther than the Definition of “Abnormal Ground Condition” which contains four other defined terms. Knowing the meaning of each of those terms is required in order to understand what an abnormal ground condition is.

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.

Along with a thorough understanding of the Definitions, it is very helpful to memorize the titles of each of the 34 Rules. By merely knowing these titles, you will be more capable of finding an answer when a Rules issue arises.

Without knowing it, golfers make the task of using the Rules book more difficult through their use of incorrect terminology. A player seeking a ruling for a situation involving ‘the pin’ or a ‘sand
trap’ is going to have more trouble finding that ruling than the player who recognizes that the correct terms: ‘flagstick’ and ‘bunker’ are the ones used in the Rules book and its Contents and
Index sections.

After spending time learning the Definitions, the Rules titles, and familiarizing oneself with the Index, it is important to spend some time using the book to find answers to actual situations. Review the Rule book after your round to understand any situations that occurred during it. Additionally, let your mind wander to situations that could have occurred (i.e., What would the ruling have been if your ball played from the water hazard had come to rest out of bounds? What if your fellow-competitor had driven over his own ball while searching for it in the rough? etc.).

If your own play does not create enough situations, use your Rules book while watching televised golf. For example if you are playing at New Kuta Golf Club, when your favorite player’s ball comes to rest on a paved path, “help” him sort out his relief, in accordance with Rule 24-2, from the comfort of your living room.