A guide to nurturing your friends on golf rules

Guidance Guru Gail Rogers reveals the answer to the touchy question, “Tell your friends about golf rules, or not?”

Image of two friends playing golf

Dear GGG: A friend of mine has taken up golf and she has finally moved from the range to the course. I’ve noticed, though, that she seems a bit self-conscious about not observing golf rules as I and my more experienced friends try to do. How can we help her learn the rules as her game progresses? What are the most important points to learning?

A: Before your friend plays her first round with your group in a tournament you might consider playing a friendly round, including having breakfast and discussing three important areas before you tee off.

THOUGHT 1: Let’s start each hole out correctly.

Explain that many players like to tee up their ball as closely as possible to the front of the teeing ground, which is the front of the tee markers.

She needs to make sure that some of her ball is behind that invisible line that connects the front of the markers. While she can be up to two club lengths behind the markers, and yes that measurement can be with any club in her bag, if all of her ball is in front of the markers she would be making a stroke from outside the teeing ground. It is a two-stroke penalty after her first stroke in stroke play. Not a fun way to start the day. Now she must play another ball from within that magical two club-length area of the teeing ground.

HINT: BE A FRIEND TO ALL IN YOUR GROUP. Stop another player from making this simple error by asking her to, “Please check your ball position,” before she hits the ball. If you want to know more about the teeing ground you can read Rule 11.

THOUGHT 2: Do not reach down and pick up a ball on the course to see if it is your ball.

There is a simple procedure to follow when trying to determine if a ball you see on the course is your ball.

  1. Tell another player in your group that you need to see if this is your ball.
  2. Put a tee in the ground next to the ball to mark its position when you lift it.
  3. Let your fellow golfer watch the procedure if she wishes, and then…
  4. Lift the ball.

If it is your golf ball, replace it, remove the tee and play on. If it is not your ball, keep searching.

Tell your friend that even some longtime players have this bad habit of touching the ball without following the procedure for identification. Perhaps this is the year your club can resolve to stop this incorrect procedure of touching, lifting or rolling a ball lying on the course without following the proper procedure. It is a one-stroke penalty each time a player does this during a round. Read Rule 12-2 Searching for and identifying ball if you want a review.

HINT: ANOTHER WAY TO BE ABLE TO EASILY IDENTIFY YOUR BALL IS TO PUT A MARK ON IT THAT IS EASY TO SEE EVEN IN THE ROUGH. I have a friend who uses large stars on her ball. You could use a permanent marker and put a colorful line around your ball or draw a flower, heart or symbol that makes you happy.

THOUGHT 3: When your ball is on the putting green, lifting your ball is allowed.

Once your ball lies on the putting green, you can use a coin, decorative ball marker, or other small object placed immediately behind your ball to mark its position. You can then lift your ball and clean it if you wish. When it is your turn to play carefully replace the ball on the same spot from which you lifted it.

HINT: REMEMBER, YOU CAN ONLY TOUCH THE BALL WHEN THE MARKER IS IN PLACE. Once you remove the marker, it’s hands off! If you rotate or touch the ball, even if the ball stays in contact with the grass the entire time, you receive a one-stroke penalty just like you did when trying to find out if the ball on the course was your ball.


Go out and enjoy a round of golf with your friend. Do not discuss the rules unless asked. Let her get to know members of your group in a happy setting. At lunch you might say, “I observed a couple of things you did on the course that do not follow the rules. If you are interested, we can discuss them.” This allows her to be in charge of her learning and lets you see her commitment to the game. If she is eager to talk explain one or two rules breaches, then tell her that on the course it is good etiquette to stop another player from making a mistake and she should expect others to do that for her. You might also talk about the need to have the proper score in each box on the scorecard. Explain that no one wants to get disqualified and that is why we discuss a rules breach so the score is correct.

–Gail Rogers

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