I can’t tell you how much of an advantage it is to know the local rules for any course you might happen to play. Not only will it give you an advantage over your competition, but it can also save you valuable strokes. It’s been a rare occasion that I’ve played a course that doesn’t have at least one “local rule”. A local rule is a rule(s) designated specifically by a course or club for course conditions or situations that apply soley to that particular golf course and are not a part of official USAG or R&A rules.
For example, on the 13th hole of my home course, there are high power lines that cross the fairway approximately 60 yards from the green. The lines are fairly high, but can be hit with a high wedge or 9 iron approach. If a players ball strikes these lines, according to the local rules, you are required to replay the shot from the original position, without incurring penalty. That’s a nice perk now isn’t it? We also have a small drainage canal that crosses a fairway on the front 9. If you ball comes to rest in the ditch, you are allowed relief within 2 club lengths, no closer to the hole.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve played with guys who hit into the drain and were ready to slap themselves with a penalty stroke as if it was a hazard. This is where knowing the local rules can be an asset.
The USGA rule 33-8 states that “A Rule of Golf must not be waived by a Local Rule. However, if a Committee considers that local abnormal conditions interfere with the proper playing of the game to the extent that it is necessary to make a Local Rule that modifies the Rules of Golf, the Local Rule must be authorized by the USGA.” Generally courses are going to make sure that any local rules in place do not attempt to negate official USGA rules.
So how can you find out the local rules for a course you don’t play regularly? First off, you can ask the pro-shop…or better yet, ask the club pro. They’re going to be able to give you the best definitions of the local club rules if there are any that apply. Secondly, most score cards will list any local rules, generally on the back of the card.
So the next time you’re getting ready to tee off, take a peek at the back of your score card and see if there are any local rules that you might be able to take advantge of during your round.