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The Rules of Golf have been simplified and seen some welcome changes with more common sense for recreational golfers. But they are still occasionally broken so we’ve put together some of the most common mistakes that we unwittingly make and how to avoid them in the future.

1) You cannot declare a ball lost

A ball is only lost when it is not found in three minutes after a player, or their caddie begins to search for it. A player cannot declare their ball simply ‘lost’. If a ball is found within the three-minute search time it must be identified by the player, even if a provisional ball has been played. If the original ball is correctly identified the provisional ball is a wrong ball and can no longer be played.

2) You must announce that you are going to play a provisional ball

Before making a stroke, the player must announce to someone that they are going to play a provisional ball. The player must use the word ‘provisional’ – it is not enough to say they are playing again.

3) Nearest and NOT nicest point of complete relief

Play the ball as it lies is one of the central principles of the game but there are certain situations where the Rules permit a player to take free relief and play from a different location. There are, however, set procedures in place to manage this process which will always ensure a player is playing from the nearest location to the original ball where they no longer have interference from the issue, they sought relief from. You cannot choose the nicest point to take relief, it must be the closest point, in some situations where you are required to drop could be worse than where your original ball is!

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4) Need to identify your ball? You must first mark the spot

During a round, needing to identify your ball is a likely situation. You cannot simply pick your ball up and check it is yours.

Before picking up the ball the spot must first be marked, you can use tee for this, if you fail to do this you will incur a one penalty stroke!

5) You cannot play a provisional ball if you know your original ball is in a Penalty Area

If your original ball is known or virtually certain to be in a penalty area you are not allowed to play a provisional ball. If the original ball is found within the penalty area the ball can be played as it lies, if this isn’t possible or the preferred action then penalty relief under Rule 17 is required. This is the same for when the original ball has not been found. Rule 17 provides the player with two relief options for a ball in a yellow penalty area and three options for a red penalty area.

6) What is advice?

Advice is any verbal comment or action that is intended to influence a player in choosing a club, making a stroke, or deciding how to play during a hole or round. Advice does not include public information such as the location of things on the course such as bunkers or wind direction or distances from one point to another. You cannot say to another player “You know the wind is in your face and it’s 250 yards to carry that water?” as that would be influencing a player’s decision on choosing a club, making a stroke and how to play the hole.

Want to learn more? Check out our full Golf Glossary