Golf is a game rooted in polite behavior, but there are times when a disagreement over the rules creates an uncomfortable situation with an opponent or fellow-competitor. Unlike tour pros, you don’t have the luxury of being followed around the course by a rules official who can quickly resolve a dispute. So in those times when a violation might have occurred but no official is handy to render a judgment, follow this step-by-step procedure to keep things civil.
Decide if it’s worth it Although opponents can’t agree to waive a rule, you can disregard a potential rules breach by an opponent. An example: You can’t decide to ignore stroke-and-distance penalties for shots hit out-of-bounds. If you do, you’re both disqualified. But if you see your opponent take an improper drop after hitting a shot O.B., it’s your choice if you want to ignore the violation.
Make a claim if you’re troubled by something, let your opponent know you think a rules violation might have occurred as soon as you’re aware of it. That might be awkward, but it’s important. You must do it before anyone in the match tees off on the next hole, or before all players leave the putting green of the last hole. The only time you can make a claim after that is if the facts of the situation weren’t known at the time the hole was completed, and you had been given wrong information by your opponent.
Continue the match Whatever the claim is about, once you’ve said your piece, you have to move on and complete the match. You can resolve the matter and adjust the results of the match after the round by checking the Rules of Golf or talking to the Committee.
See something? say something It’s good sportsmanship to let a fellow-competitor know a violation might have occurred before he or she makes another stroke. If there is disagreement or uncertainty about how to proceed, that golfer can finish the hole with two balls using two procedures. However, once that golfer has taken further action with the original ball, such as making another stroke, playing a second ball is no longer an option.
Step aside After informing a fellow-competitor that you think a violation has occurred, that person has to decide how to proceed. Assuming no further action was taken with the original ball, he or she can announce the intention to finish the hole with two balls and choose which one should count if the rules permit. Or the golfer can continue play the original ball in the manner he or she thinks is best.
Finish the round The golfer who potentially committed the rules violation needs to alert the Committee of the dispute before turning in the scorecard or face disqualification. Regardless of whether two balls were played, a ruling needs to be made on what happened on that hole and which penalties might apply to that golfer’s score.