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Water hazards lead to sticky situations
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 provide brief explanations of golf rules and answer commonly asked questions.

Question: While playing in a stroke-play event, Mary hits her ball into a water hazard. She decides that she can play the ball from the hazard. While preparing to hit her ball, Mary takes a practice swing from inside the hazard. In doing so, she moves some loose impediments and touches the ground in the hazard. Her playing partner, Gloria, says Mary incurred a two-stroke penalty for grounding her club in a hazard. Mary says she did nothing wrong. Who is correct?

Answer: Gloria is correct, but there is more to this violation than she thought. The single act of taking the practice swing resulted in two rules violations. Touching the ground in the hazard with your hand or club is a two-stroke penalty (rule 13-4b), and the act of removing loose impediments is also a two-stroke penalty (rule 13-4c). However, in fairness to the player, equity rule 1-4 says only one penalty of two strokes can be applied. Additionally, there are several exceptions to rule 13-4b that are too long to go into here.

As always, make it your goal to have fun when playing and practicing the game of golf.


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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