Date: July 27, 2016
Author: David Greenhill, Golf Vic

How to proceed through “local rules”

Rule 33-8a of the Rules of Golf enables Club Committees to “make and publish Local Rules for abnormal conditions”. Accordingly, Local Rules are introduced by a Club Committee for specific course conditions, not covered by the Rules of Golf.

Rule 33-2a requires Committees to “define accurately: (i) the course and out of bounds; (ii) the margins of water hazards and lateral water hazards; (iii) ground under repair and; (iv) obstructions and integral parts of the course.”  Therefore, Local Rules also define areas that are located on the course and specify how a player is to proceed in such areas. Appendix 1 in the Rules of Golf outlines the various areas where local rules and definitions are required: –

  • -Course Boundaries
  • -Water Hazards/Lateral Water Hazards
  • -Areas of the Course Requiring Preservation
    • *Turf Nurseries
    • *Young Tree Plantations
    • *Garden Beds
  • -Obstructions
    •  *Young Trees
    •  *Fixed Sprinkler Heads
    •  *Roads and Paths
    •  *Stones in Bunkers
    •  *Power Lines
  • -Environmentally-Sensitive Areas

A club’s Local Rules are usually printed on the back of the Club score card, thus making it easy for players to locate and refer to the Local Rules as required during play on the course. In addition, Committees sometimes need to introduce Temporary Local Rules for situations which occur and are temporarily present on the golf course such as: –

  • -Ground Under Repair
  • -Areas of Course Maintenance Works
  • -Fallen Trees
  • -Burst Pipe
  • -Damage to the Course
  • -Wheel Marks made by Course Equipment
  • -Aeration Holes
  • -Embedded Ball Through the Green
  • -Preferred Lies or Tee-Up due to extremely wet/muddy conditions
  • -Temporary Obstructions

Temporary Local Rules are usually displayed on major noticeboards in men’s and women’s locker rooms, adjacent to the 1st tee and near professional shops (where applicable). In major open or club events, it is recommended that copies of Temporary Local Rules be provided to all competing players to fully inform of all conditions which exist on the course.

Penalties imposed by a Rule of Golf can not be waived by a Local Rule. The modification of a Rule of Golf in a Local Rule is not allowed without the permission of the The R&A (but contact your State Association in the first instance) and such permission is only given in very special cases. Local Rules are also not intended to cater for conditions that are covered by the Rules of Golf. Consequently, Local Rules are not required on the following issues as the Rules of Golf answer them directly: –

  • -Cleaning of a Ball on the Putting Green (Rule 16-1b)
  • -Repair of Old Hole Plugs and Ball Marks on the Putting Green (Rule 16-1c)
  • -Immovable Obstruction on the Putting Green intervening on the Line of Putt (Rule 24-2a)
  • -Artificially Surfaced Roads and Paths (Rule 24-2)
  • -Rabbit Scrapes (Rule 25-1)
  • -Embedded ball in any closely mown area through the green (Rule 25-2)

Printing extracts from or rewording the Rules of Golf within Local Rules is undesirable due to potential amendments to a Rule and subsequent confusion experienced by players. There are a number of Resource Items and services available to assist clubs in the development of Local Rules and Temporary Local Rules as follows: –

  • -The Rules of Golf Book – specifically Appendix I (Parts A & B);
  • -The R&A publication – “Guidance on Running a Competition”
  • -The R&A publication – “Decisions on the Rules of Golf” whereby approximately 100 Decisions and related references are listed under the Local Rules index heading including 48 Decisions found under Rule 33-8;
  • -State Golf bodies offer a free consultation service to clubs to both review existing club Local Rules and assist in developing Temporary Local Rules as required.

All clubs are encouraged to conduct regular course inspections and liaison with the Course Superintendent in order to create/review Temporary Local Rules as required. Prior to the reprint of club score cards, clubs should conduct a meeting of the Club’s Match Committee and Course Superintendent to review the Local Rules as printed on the back of the score card. It must be remembered that the Local Rules as printed must be followed even if they are not technically correct.

Outlined on the following page is a standard example of a club’s Local Rules. Should your club’s Local Rules differ significantly from the information presented below, it is recommended that contact be made with Golf Australia or your State Golf body.

Useful links

By David Greenhill, Chief Operating Officer – Golf Victoria & Golf Australia National Referee