Golf : Where was it ? Part 19: Understanding basic golf words

HARARE - Before anyone can claim to know the rules of golf, knowledge of some words is necessary to enable the correct interpretation of the incidents which any golfer is subjected to on the golf course.

I will emphasise five words which may seen to be simple and not deserving prominence. The words are: may; should; must; a ball and the ball.

They are the gateway to the proper understanding of golf rules.

The words may seem simple, but the truth is they merit special attention.

There is a great difference, for example between a ball, and the ball as is illustrated below. In the rules of golf, the part which deals with how to use the rule book is quite important.

These particular five words’ meanings are summed up as: May= optional. This means that a player has an option for example Rule 6-4 states “the player may be assisted by a caddie”.

The player in this case can ask his caddie to assist him with the line on the putting green, the club to use during a round or anything else he likes.

Some players do not want their caddies’ to advise them on anything.

The caddies in this instance would among other things just carry the golf bag, look for the ball, and rack the bunkers.

On the other hand some players cannot do without caddies.

Should — recommendation. It is a recommendation for example under Rule 6-6a “after each hole the marker should check the score with the competitor and record it”. It is recommended that this be done but if the marker fails to do so there is no penalty.

That is why you find the competitor being penalized to the extent of even being disqualified in some instances where the marker may have put a wrong score and did not check the score with the competitor.
Must — instruction (and penalty if not carried out).

As an example Rule 6-3b states ‘in stroke play, the competitor must remain throughout the round in the group arranged by the committee unless the committee authorises or ratifies a change”.

The penalty for breach of this Rule is disqualification.

If a draw has been made and players are going to play as four balls; if two players do not turn up  the two present must go as a two ball followed by a four ball, the four ball cannot decide that one player goes to join the two ball in front without the committee’s approval.

A player who leaves the players he was drawn with and joins another group gets disqualified unless the committee authorizes or ratifies it.

A ball — you may substitute another ball. A ball in this instance means any ball, for example, “drop a ball behind the water hazard”.

If a player’s ball is lost in the water hazard he can take any ball out of his bag and drop in accordance with the rules. He can substitute another ball.

The ball — you must not substitute another ball. In this case the same ball has to be played.

For example, if relief is sought under Rule 25-1b (Abnormal ground conditions) through the green, it states” if the ball lies through the green, the player must lift the ball and drop…..”. The ball the player is dropping is the same ball he lifted.

He cannot drop another ball (a substituted ball) unless there is a rule that specifically allows that, for example Rule 5-3.

A good understanding of these words will enhance your knowledge and interpretations of the Rules. It will help too in understanding the decisions on the Rules of Golf.  Enjoy the game. Master these and you will never regret.

*For any feedback/ comments and any assistance you may need please contact the writer, Tavenganiswa Mabikacheche at The Centre for Training and Research Services on email: or mobile no. +263712200922 /+263772319612

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