When is practice on the course permitted?

I just missed a short putt and tap it in. I grab the ball out of the hole and drop it down to give it another go, this time making it. Is there a penalty?

Provided 1) there is no Local Rule in effect prohibiting practice on or near the putting green of the hole last completed and 2) you are not delaying play (someone waiting in the fairway to play) then you are OK.

All of this is covered under the Practice Rule (Rule 7). According to the Rules of Golf, it matters when and where you practice. Let’s take a closer look.

The Rule is divided into two parts; (1) Before or Between Rounds and (2) During the Round.

Before or Between Rounds, in match play, any player may practice anywhere on the competition course at any time. The idea being that each player has equal access to the course before their match. In stroke play however, it is different. Since some players may be starting early in the morning and some not until late afternoon, not everyone would have equal access to the course on that date. Thus, the players in stroke play are prohibited from practicing on the competition course before or between rounds.

Of course, there are some exceptions. The Committee has the latitude to override these provisions in some special situations.

This part of the Rule is a serious one. If you break it, you get golf’s equivalent of the death penalty: Disqualification.

During the Round, you cannot make a practice stroke during play of a hole. Practice swings are OK, but no dropping down a ball and hitting a second one from the fairway since you knew you could do better than your first.

Once again, there are exceptions. Between the play of two holes (you finished a hole and before hitting your next tee shot) you may practice putting or chipping on or near:

1)      the putting green of the hole last played. (The Committee may put in a Local Rule prohibiting practice putting on the hole last played to keep play moving if they wish), or,

2)      any practice putting green, or,

3)      the teeing ground of the next hole to be played in the round,

as long as it does not unduly delay the competition.

One more thing. You may not practice out of a bunker at any time during the round. That’s a no no and a breach of this Rule.

A breach of this part of the Rule is not quite as serious as the previous. Loss of hole in match play or two strokes in stroke play.

Remember, use the definitions, index or the table of contents to find the correct Rule that applies to the situation and follow the Rules of Golf to help enjoy the game of golf.

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