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Rules of the game of golf
Graham Lewis - photo by Photo provided.

Playing golf is fun, whether playing solo or with others. Having a basic understanding of the game’s rules makes it easier to enjoy the experience and improve your skills. In this periodic column, I will provide brief explanations of golf rules and answer commonly asked questions.

Ball falling off tee

If a ball, when not in play, falls off a tee or is knocked off a tee by the player in addressing it, the ball may be re-teed without penalty. However, if a stroke is made at the ball in this scenario, whether the ball is moving, the stroke counts, but there is no penalty. See USGA Rules of Golf 11-3.

Question: Bob and Martha are teeing off on the third hole. Bob tees his ball within the teeing ground and takes a swing, but misses the ball. He addresses the ball again and accidentally knocks if off the tee. Martha tells Bob that he must replace the ball on the tee and that he now lays 2. Bob says she is wrong because he did not attempt a swing. He argues he can replace the ball without penalty and that he only lays 1 due to his whiff on the first swing.

Answer: Martha is correct. Since Bob already made a stroke at the ball (whiffed), the ball is now in play and rule 11-3 no longer applies. When he knocked the ball off the tee accidentally, he incurred a penalty stroke for moving a ball at rest and he must replace the ball where it was (on the tee). Bob lays 2 on the tee.

The Sapelo Hammock Junior Golf Clinic runs June 21-24. Players ages 6 and older are welcome. For more information, call 832-GOLF. Remember, golf is meant to be fun so enjoy.


Lewis is a certified teaching professional at Sapelo Hammock Golf Course and a member of the United States Golf Teachers Federation. E-mail him at

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