Below is a summary detailing the most ‘unintentionally broken’ rules on the golf course and what you should do in these situations.
Penalty & Free Drops
When dropping a ball a free drop is one club length and a penalty drop is two club lengths.
You must drop the ball at the nearest point of relief not nearer to the hole.
If your ball is in a bush you get a penalty drop of two club lengths from where your ball lies, if that still puts you into the bush then you take one of the other two options available to you. You can go back in line with your ball and the flag as far as you like (One penalty stroke). Or you can go back and play from where you played your last shot. (One penalty stroke).
If your ball lands on a bridge over a hazard you do not get a free drop unless it is a local rule of that course,you must play the ball as it lies or take a penalty drop.
If you cannot find your ball, you cannot go back and play a provisional ball whilst your playing partners carry on looking for your original ball. You cannot play a provisional ball once you have left the last place you played your shot. If you do go back and play a second ball that is the ball in play even if you or your playing partners find your original ball, once you play that second ball that is the ball you complete the hole with. With a penalty of one stroke.
Tree basins are not a free drop, unless it is on the scorecard under local rules.
The following details the difference in the colour of the stakes and what they mean.
White stakes means out of bounds and you have to go back to where you last played your ball and play another stroke (one penalty stroke).
Yellow stakes means a hazard across the playing area, you have three options:
1. Play the ball as it lies, do not ground your club or touch or clear away any debris i.e. stones twigs etc
2. Take a line from point of entry and the flag and drop as far back as you like.
3. Go back to where you last played your shot.
Options 2 & 3 will cost you a penalty stroke.
Red stakes means a lateral “water” hazard (not necessarily with water) you have five options to choose from.
1. Play the ball as it lies, do not ground your club or touch or clear away any debris i.e. stones twigs etc.
2. Drop a ball at the point of entry into the hazard (two club lengths) no nearer to the hole.
3. Drop a ball on the other side of the hazard equidistant from the hole.
4. Take a line from point of entry and the flag and drop as far back as you like.
5. Go back to where you last played your shot.
Options 2, 3,4 & 5 will cost you a penalty stroke.
If your ball is in a sand bunker and it is in a machine made mark or a footprint, you do not get a free drop. The bunker is a hazard and the rules are the same as a staked hazard, the only one exception is if the ball is in casual water in a bunker then you get a free drop but it must be dropped in the bunker not nearer to the hole.
A ball may be lifted and cleaned on the putting green providing the position of the ball is marked before it is lifted.
If you or your caddie marks the ball on the green in the wrong position, i.e. not directly behind the ball, you will incur a two stroke penalty
You can repair hole plugs and damage made by the impact of a ball on the putting green, whether or not your ball is on the green. Any other damage may not be repaired as it might assist you in subsequent play.
Not knowing the rules of golf is no excuse, if you break the rules then you have to give yourself the necessary penalty strokes. If you are in doubt about what to do, whilst playing in a competition, you can play a second ball and put down two scores and the rules committee of the day will make a judgment