Golf Rules Tips

By: SF Handicap Chair, Stacey Baba

Cleaning the Ball

This information may have been more appropriate during our rainy season, but for those who are playing during these summer days you may encounter places on the course where there is overwatering or sloppy conditions.

The question then arises when I am allowed to clean my ball? The information is coverer in Rule 14.1c, Cleaning Ball First answer and the simplest, if you lift your ball from the putting green, you may always clean it.

Second answer, a ball lifted from anywhere else may always be cleaned EXCEPT when it is lifted:
a.  To See If It Is Cracked or Cut, cleaning is NOT allowed.
b.  To Identify It. Cleaning is allowed ONLY AS NEEDED to identify it.
c.  Because It Interferes with Play. Cleaning is NOT allowed. (often you are told to hold ball as if it were ‘dirty socks” so there is no appearance of cleaning.)
d. To See if it Lies in Condition Where Relief is Allowed. Cleaning is NOT allowed unless the player takes relief under a Rule.

In the “big picture” if the ball is in your hand, you CAN clean it, unless it is under the situations listed above.
Common examples might be:
  • Your ball is in a bunker next to a rake. When you move the rake, your ball moves.
  • You need to replace the ball. At that point, you are allowed to clean it.
  • You are taking cart path relief. You can clean your ball prior to dropping in the relief area.
  • You retrieve your ball from the penalty area. It is muddy and before taking penalty relief, you can clean your ball prior to dropping it.
Searching for your ball in tall grass, you accidentally kick it. Before replacing it, you can clean your ball.

As you can see, cleaning your ball is allowed in most cases with only the 4 exceptions.


If you have any questions about the rules of golf, please feel free to contact me,

Stacey Baba, sbjvfoundation1@comcast.net. I look forward to answering your


Some Quick Handicap FAQs

The golf handicap system is a great way to monitor your game improvement by creating a metric that can be used across all rated golf courses. It also allows you to compare your game against other golfers despite different skill levels. Its purpose is to enhance your enjoyment of the game.

Scores should be recorded for every hole played. But what happens if you cannot complete the

hole or in some cases the round?

Scores for Holes Not Played

If you are only playing 9 holes, you need to play at least 8 holes to post a score. If for some
reason you don’t play the 9th hole, you would record Par + any handicap strokes you would have gotten on this hole.

Example, I would have received 1 handicap stroke on every hole. I played 8 holes, but I can’t play the 9 th hole. The 9 th hole is par 3. My score for the 9 th hole would be 3 (par) + 1 (my handicap stroke) or a 4.

If you play an 18-hole course, you need to play at least 14 holes to post a score. If for some
reason you don’t finish the round if you have played 14 holes you can still post. The scores for

the holes I didn’t play would be Par + handicap stroke.

Example, my course handicap is 20. I would have received a stroke on every hole and on hole
17, I would have received 2 strokes. It gets dark and I can only play holes 1-16. What is the
score that I would record for 17 and 18, the holes I did not play? Hole 17 is a par 5 and hole 18
is a par 4. Since I did not play those holes, for hole 17, I would record a 5(par) + 2 (handicap) or
a 7 and on hole 18, I would record a 4(par) +1 or a 5.


If for some reason you only play 13 holes, you could still post the holes you played as a 9-hole round and don’t add in the 10th , 11th ,12th and 13th hole scores.

Scores for Holes Started but Not Completed

If you have started playing a hole but for some reason you do not complete it (hole out), you should record a score of “what you most likely would have scored”. Example I am playing a Par 4 hole. I hit a poor tee shot into a bad lie and after my 4th stroke I am near the green but in heavy rough. After taking 3 more strokes, I am now on the green but about 20 feet away from the hole on an undulating green. I make the decision to pick up (exhausted and worried about pace of play). At this point, I am lying 7 on the green. I can estimate that it would probably take me 3 more putts to finish the hole, so I would record a 10 for the hole.

Note that in many formats, the player is required to hole out and is not allowed to pick up.

For any questions about Rules of Golf or Handicapping, contact Stacey Baba,



Pace of Play


With golf being very popular and tee sheets full, it is rare to get out without groups in front of you when you are playing. No one enjoys a marathon round no matter how beautiful the weather or how pleasant the company. Pace of play is an individual responsibility. You need to keep up with the group in front of you. Note that this has NOTHING to do with the group BEHIND you.

Your position on the course is measured by the group in front.

Many tournaments offer guidelines of “being in position”. You could be considered out of position if:
For a par-3 hole the preceding group has cleared the next tee,
For a par-4 hole the putting green is clear
For a par-5 hole the preceding group is on the putting green.
Rule 5.6b covers Prompt Pace of Play. This rule offers suggestions on how to play at a prompt pace. It is also noted that when it is your turn to play, that you do so within 40 seconds. The player should usually be able to play more quickly and is encouraged to do so. If you are reading this article, you may want to look at your watch and let 40 seconds go by. It may surprise you.


A player must not unreasonably delay play, either when playing a hole or between two holes. The player should play at a prompt pace throughout the round, including the time taken to: Prepare for and make each stroke, Move from one place to another between strokes, and Move to the next teeing area after completing a hole.

A player should prepare in advance for the next stroke and be ready to play when it is his or her turn. 


In match play, the players may agree that one of them will play out of turn to save time (see Rule 6.4a). In stroke play, players may play “ready golf” in a safe and responsible manner way (see Rule 6.4b Exception).

Also note, that being a high handicap golfer doesn’t necessarily make you a slow golfer. I recently officiated in a tournament where the single digit golfer took 60 seconds for each shot (painful). She played better golf after I put her group on the clock. It may be because she didn’t agonize over every shot and just played with a better rhythm.

If you have any questions about the rules of golf, please feel free to contact me, Stacey Baba, sbjvfoundation1@comcast.net.

I look forward to answering your questions. Hope to see you on course.