Question: You hit a ball off the tee, but when you get to the spot where it should be, you hunt around and can't find it. You didn't hit a provisional so you decide to return to the tee to hit another ball. As you are halfway back, one of your playing partners shouts that the ball has been found. Can you return to play it, or must you continue your walk back and play three off the tee?
Answer: The only relevant consideration here is the amount of time that has elapsed. You are allowed five minutes to find the ball, so if less than five minutes has elapsed since you first began looking, then it doesn't matter that you are halfway to the tee - you can go back and play your ball. If, however, you have already spent five minutes searching and it is now, say, six minutes since you first started to look, then you will have to play three off the tee. In other words, the act of going back to the tee does not, in itself, prevent you from returning to play the ball, providing the ball has been found within five minutes. Relevant rule: 27-1c
Question: What do I do if a dog or other animal picks up my ball when it is in play?
Answer: If the ball was picked up while the ball was still in motion, then it must be played as it lies from where it is released. If the ball had already come to rest before it was picked up, then once retrieved it should be replaced as near as possible to the original spot and played from there. In both circumstances there is no penalty. However, if the ball is picked up on the putting green, then regardless of whether it was in motion or not, it should be replaced as near as possible to the same spot and played from there with no penalty. Note that it must be 'known' or 'virtually certain' that an outside agency has moved the ball - it's not enough just to assume that this is what has happened. If there is no certainty then the ball must be played as it lies. Relevant rules: 18-1 and 19-1
Question: Do I get a free drop off the cart tracks to the side of the 12th green?
Answer: No, you must play the ball as it lies.
Question: Do I get a free drop off the path that cuts across the first part of the 11th hole?
Answer: Yes. Although it is debatable whether it actually 'crosses' the hole, the intention is that you should get a free drop from this path. Always consult the scorecard for details of which paths can be dropped from.
Question: Do I actually have to mark the ball when I pick and place under winter rules?
Answer: Yes you do. In a competition, if you fail to first mark your ball before cleaning and replacing it, then you will incur a one shot penalty (matchplay or strokeplay). Although it's fairly common practice to be more casual and not mark your ball in knockabout matches, you are well advised to get into the habit of marking properly at all times, otherwise you are likely to forget when it comes to a competition. By the way, you only have one go at marking, wiping and replacing your ball. If you've picked and placed, you can't then decide to do it all over again on the same spot because you didn't quite get the lie you wanted or because the ball is still muddy. So try to get it right first time. Relevant rule: 20-1
Question: If my ball is damaged badly after a shot, can I replace it there and then, or do I have to wait until I have finished the hole?
Answer: You can replace it as soon as you spot the problem, providing you let your fellow competitor(s) know that you are going to do so. A ball is unfit for play if it is visibly cut, cracked or out of shape. It is not unfit for play solely because its surface is scratched or scraped, or its paint is damaged or discoloured. If your ball actually splits in two when you play a shot, you must replay the shot with a replacement ball - without penalty - as near to the spot where you made the original shot.
Relevant rule: 5-3
Question: Can I practice chips and putts during a round?
Answer: Yes, but only once play on a hole has finished, and definitely only putting and chipping. If you do have a practice chip or putt, then it must be on or near the green of the last hole, on or near the next teeing ground, or on any practice putting green that happens to be nearby. You cannot practice in a hazard, eg a sand bunker. You can practice in this wayin either matchplay or strokeplay, but the rules (and common sense) stipulate that you must only do so if it does not cause undue delay to play.
By the way, you can also practice putting or chipping on or near the first teeing ground before starting a round.
Relevant rule: 7-2
Question: What happens if I play out of turn in a matchplay competition?
Answer: There is no penalty, but your opponent can require you to cancel the stroke, bring the ball back, and play the stroke again from the spot where it was originally played. Of course, if you shanked the original into the bushes, or your opponent is a kindly soul, then he or she may decide to let things stand. Incidentally, you cannot just 'finish off' a putt in matchplay without permission from your opponent. If you do so, then the same rule applies.
Relevant rule: 10-1
Question: What happens if I play out of turn in a strokeplay competition?
Answer: Again there is no penalty, only this time your shot will stand and no-one can make you play it again. However, if it comes to the attention of the committee that competitors have played out of turn to give one another an advantage, eg to show the line of a putt, then they will both be disqualified.
Relevant rule: 10-2
Question: Will I be disqualified if I leave the course at any stage of a round, say to get a soft drink from the Wimbledon Common clubhouse?
Answer: No. The Rules of Golf specifically state that leaving the course 'does not of itself constitute discontinuance of play'. However, if you choose to do so, then you must not unduly delay either your own play or that of any opponent or fellow competitor. If you do cause undue delay, then the penalty in matchplay is loss of the hole you are about to play. In strokeplay it is two strokes, and in a stableford competition the player must deduct one point from the total scored during the round.
Relevant rule: 6-7
Question: What happens if I accidentally move the ball while taking a practice stroke?
Answer: This depends on whether the ball is 'in play'. If you do so on the tee, then there is no penalty, as the ball is not 'in play'. But once you have hit a shot on a hole, ie the ball is 'in play', if you later accidentally move the ball while taking a practice swing then it's a one-stroke penalty. You must also replace the ball to its original position.
Failing to replay the ball from its original position results in a total penalty of two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in matchplay.
Relevant rule: 6-7
Question: Do I incur a penalty if the wind moves my ball at address?
Answer: Not any more. As of 1 January 2012, that controversial rule has been ditched.
Relevant rule: 18-2b
Question: Can I brush leaves and other loose impediments from the green with my hand or my putter?
Answer: Yes, you can - providing you don't press anything down on the green.
Relevant rule: 16-1a
Question: I am on the putting green and the person I have asked to attend the flagstick fails to take it out quickly enough. The ball hits the flagstick - what happens now?
Answer: In a strokeplay competition you incur a two-stroke penalty and will have to play the ball as it lies. In matchplay you lose the hole. This sounds harsh - and it probably is - but the rules of golf stipulate that when you ask someone to attend the flag for you, whether competitor or friend, then you assume full responsibility for their actions. If you don't trust them, best to take the flag out.
Relevant rule: 17-3
Question: What happens if I forget to mark my ball before picking and placing it under winter rules?
Answer: You incur a penalty shot both in strokeplay and matchplay competitions. Remember also that you only get one go at picking and placing, so if you pick the ball up again and replace it, then you will incur a penalty shot for that too.
Relevant rule: 18-2