Local Rules

What are they and why are they necessary?

Before you play a round on a new course it is important to be aware of the local rules that are in play on the day – and of course equally important to know and understand those on your home course. The Local Rules are often printed on the scorecard, but they may be supplemented or modified by further information on a Local Rules Noticeboard – for example to define “Winter Rules” when they are in play. So, Local Rules can vary from day to day and from competition to competition and a breach of these local rules will usually incurr the general penalty.

A word of warning – some local rules are so common that many people think they are part of the rules on all course – be careful as it is so easy to trangress if you haven’t taken the time to familiarise yourself before play. Examples of these are:

  • Staked trees – is relief mandatory or an option? Are young trees marked by a stake or in some other way?
  • Relief from a sprinkler head on your line of play close to the putting green.
  • Relief from tractor ruts
  • “Winter Rules” – but what does this mean and where are they defined?
  • All these are only available if they are published as local rules on the day of play.

Golf is played worldwide and in hugely varying conditions from desert to swamp, tropical heat to arctic cold, city centres to deserts, and sea sides to mountain tops. Golfers are also incredibly inventive in creating a golfing experience when there isn’t access to a “proper” golf course – when my Dad was stationed at RAF Mauripur in Pakistan in the 1950’s he created a course to be played with the available equipment – hockey sticks and tennis balls!

The 24 rules in the rule book do a great job at catering for these diverse conditions, but every course needs to add a few items to clarify situations or make special provision for an unusual circumstance. Most of these “Local Rules” will be based on the Model Local Rules in the Committee Procedures section of the Interpretations (and if you are on a golfing committee these procedures are well worth a read), and to simplify things most tours, country and county associations will have a “Hard Card” of standard local rules for all competitions that they run – however these are likely to be supplemented by “Additional Local Rules” tailored for each venue or competition.

At Brokenhurst we have just undertaken a review and updated some of our local rules. The followiong videos were produced to help inform the membership of the changes and hopefully avoid any inadvertent breaches and any associated penalties. As such, the detail won’t be applicable anywhere else, but I hope that they will give you a flavour of what is important – and if your are a Brokenhurst member, or going to be playing the course soon please keep an ear on the detail!

Firstly, local rules are needed to define the boundaries of the course, and particularly if there are any internal out of bounds which are only in play on specific holes.

Secondly, they can clarify the status of some objects and areas. For example an articially surfaced roadway might always have been an integral part of the course and so free relief is not available (e.g. Grannie Clark’s Wynd – the road accross the 18th on the Old Course at St Andrews). Also environmentally sensitive areas and other No Play Zones need to be defined.

Thirdly, they will need to clarify how penalty areas are defined.

3 thoughts on “Local Rules

    1. Good morning Adrian. Good to hear from you too. I hope we will see you competing at Brokenhurst again this summer (especially now you have an inside track on the revised local rules!). Kind regards Stuart


  1. So refreshing to see a local rules board such as the one you pictured, where the committee have the rules knowledge or have taken the necessary advice. 9 out of 10 boards I see have incorrectly worded Local rules or unauthorised Local Rules. I have quite a collection of the most ridiculous efforts. Committees need to understand Local Rules are not free reign to change whatever rule they want.


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