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Common Penalties

Even though I tend to look for courses without water (ocean courses excepted), water has, on occasion, swallowed my ball. While this does not necessarily produce laughter from me, it does from my playing partners – especially my two sons (they act like they’ve never hit into water before but I’m here to tell you that they absolutely have!). So what happens next? Well for starters, I typically change clubs and setup my next shot about 45 degrees away from the water. I’m also hitting from the original spot with a 1 stroke penalty. Good bye to any possible birdie or par!

While hitting into water is probably the most common penalty here are a few more:

1. Out of bounds – If you hit your golf ball out of bounds you lose a stroke and distance. You must take a 1-stroke penalty and also go back and hit another ball from where you hit the original. On the other hand, if you think your ball may be out of bounds or it’s lost, you can hit a provisional before you begin looking for the original one. This helps speed up play.

2. Unplayable lie – If you find yourself facing an unplayable lie (say your ball is lying in duck crap under a tree), you are allowed to declare that. It’s a 1 stroke penalty but you can then drop your ball within 2 club lengths of the original, not closer to the hole.

3. Hitting out of turn – This applies to match play only. Your competitor has the option of making you re-hit your ball for not paying attention. There is no penalty in stroke play.

4. Too many clubs in your bag – This happened to Ian Woosnam at the British Open a few years ago – his caddy lost his job over it. You’re allowed 14 clubs in your bag. In stroke play, having too many clubs incurs a 2 shot penalty for each hole you play, up to a 4 stroke limit. In match play it’s a loss of hole up to a 2 hole limit.

5. Signing an incorrect scorecard – If you sign a card that has scores that were lower than you actually played, you’re disqualified! On the other hand, if it shows higher scores than you actually played then the scorecard stands as signed and you’re not disqualified.

6. Golf ball rolls after you address it – 1 stroke penalty and the ball has to be replaced where it originally was. TIP: Make sure your ball isn’t going to move before addressing and grounding your club. Jack Nicklaus has said he never grounded is club for just this reason.

7. Grounding your club in a hazard – You are not allowed to ground your club in any hazard or it’s a 2 stroke penalty. In match play it’s loss of hole. Dustin Johnson lost a chance at winning the PGA Championship at Whistling Staits in 2010 when he grounded his club in a hazard he thought was trampled grass. When you’re playing for that kinda dough, it’s always best to ask an official!