Sterling Farms Men’s Club Local Rules
and application notes
I. Summary of Local Rules
A. Permanent Local Rules
B. Temporary Local Rules
II. Ground Under Repair designations
III. Immovable Obstruction designations
IV. Full text of Local Rules
V. Hole-by-Hole comments
VI. General USGA Rules notes/OB notes
VII. Rules in Action
I. Summary of Local Rules
The Sterling Farms Men’s Club plays its events under the USGA’s Rules of Golf. It has adopted several of the USGA’s Model Local Rules for all play, and when conditions warrant may adopt other Model Local Rules on a temporary basis.
Following is a summary of the Club’s Local Rules. The full text from the Official Guide to the Rules of Golf is provided toward the end of these notes.
It should be noted that these Local Rules are consistent with the Local Rules and out of bounds indications noted on the current scorecard. Also note that Model Local Rule E-5 for balls believed to be lost or out of bounds is NOT sanctioned for any club events.
Unless noted otherwise, the General Penalty applies to breach of these Local Rules: Stroke Play = 2 strokes / breach – Match Play = Loss of hole.
A. Permanent Local Rules
1) USGA Model Local Rule E-1, providing for use of dropping zones, is in effect on two holes. These dropping zones are additional options to the normal relief options under Rule 17.1.
On hole #4, for balls hit in the red penalty area directly in front of the tee box, there is a dropping zone to the right of the water in front of the forward tee. For balls hit in the other red penalty area to the right of the fairway (the pond between the fourth and third fairways) there is a dropping zone to the left of the water.
On hole #11, for balls hit in the red penalty area along the left side of the fairway, there is a dropping zone near the fairway at the point where the fairway doglegs right. This dropping zone may only be used for balls which are in the penalty area and which last crossed the edge of the penalty area at a point at or closer to the hole than the beginning of the dropping zone. (See full text of this Local Rule and the note in Hole-by-Hole section describing the extended dropping zone areas for these three dropping zones.)
Note: in any case where the markings of any of these three dropping zones are rendered invisible due to lack of maintenance of the painted line, a player may estimate the normal position of the dropping zone and play accordingly.
2) USGA Model Local Rule B-3 allowing a provisional ball to be played for ball feared lost in a penalty area is in force for the yellow penalty area at end of the fairway on hole #2 (in front of the putting green), the red penalty area in front of the tee box on hole #4, and the red penalty area on left side of hole #14. Any penalty area relief procedure available for the penalty area the ball is feared lost in may be used for the provisional ball.
3) USGA Model Local Rule E-8.1 requiring mandatory relief from all flower beds, is in force.
4) USGA Model Local Rule A-4 deeming internal out of bounds stakes to be immovable obstructions during play of holes where the out of bounds indication is not applicable is in force.
5) USGA Model Local Rule E-12 generally allowing penalty-free play of a ball which bounces out of a relief area (no more than one club length from where it first hit the course) on a “back-on-the-line” drop is in force.
B. Temporary Local Rules
When conditions warrant, the Club may institute a Local Rule to address the course’s current condition. A Local Rule typically invoked on these occasions is the USGA’s Model Local Rule E-3 for Preferred Lies/Winter Rules. On occasions when this is in play, players whose ball rests on the hole they are playing in a closely mown area (fairway height or less – including any fringe around the green) are allowed to lift their ball, clean it, and place it within one club length of its original position no closer to the hole. Note that the ball must be placed in the general area, and therefore may not be placed on the putting green if it is off the green to begin with. Also note that the ball must be placed by hand and may not be rolled into position with a club.
II. Ground Under Repair designations
Unless a ball is on the putting green, a player may only obtain relief (nearest point of relief) from Ground Under Repair if the area interferes with lie, stance, or area of intended swing. When the ball is on the putting green, line of play relief is also provided.
In addition to Ground Under Repair areas marked with white lines, the following areas are deemed Ground Under Repair:
All flower gardens (which also require mandatory relief)
Newly planted (staked) trees
Three large holes containing exposed water drainage pipes: just short of the right side of the green on hole #1 (in the rough between hole #1 and hole #9), past the right side of the green across the cart path on hole #5 (on the downslope from the tee box on hole #6), and in the large open area of rough short of the maintenance barn on the right side of hole #10, between #10’s cart path and near the cart path going from 14 green to 15 tee.
III. Immovable Obstruction designations
Unless on the putting green, a player may only obtain relief (nearest point of relief) from Immovable Obstructions if the ball lies outside of a penalty area and the obstruction interferes with lie, stance, or area of intended swing. When the ball is on the putting green, line of play relief is also provided. Immovable Obstructions include:
Buildings (except buildings that define out of bounds)
Fences and stone walls (except border fences and walls that define out of bounds)
Stone walls that form tree wells or partial tree wells, such as those on the uphill side of a number of trees between the 11th and 12th holes (in the rough shared by those two holes half way between the greens and nearest the 12th fairway side)
Bridges (relief granted only if ball is outside of a penalty area)
Artificially-surfaced cart paths (relief granted only if ball is outside of a penalty area)
IV. Full text of Local Rules:
A. Model Local Rule E-1 Dropping Zones
If a ball is in the penalty area in front of the tee box or to the right of the fairway of hole #4, or in the penalty area on the left side of hole #11, including when it is known or virtually certain that a ball that has not been found came to rest in those penalty areas, the player has these relief options, each for one penalty stroke:
- Take relief under Rule 17.1, or
- As an extra option, drop the original ball or another ball in the dropping zone described for each of these areas. The dropping zone is a relief area under Rule 14.3. The dropping zone is a painted circle in front of and to the right of the forward tee box on hole #4, to the left of the pond on the right side of the fairway on hole #4 , and at the corner of where the fairway doglegs to the right on hole #11. On #11, the dropping zone may only be used when the ball last crossed the edge of the penalty area at a point at or closer to the hole than the dropping zone. The edge of each of the dropping zones is deemed to extend one club-length past the edge of the painted circles in any direction.
B. Model Local Rule B-3 Provisional Ball for Ball in Penalty Area
If a player does not know whether his or her ball is in the yellow penalty area in front of the green on hole #2, in the red penalty area immediately in front of the tee box on hole #4, or in the red penalty area on the left side of hole #14, the player may play a provisional ball under Rule 18.3, which is modified in this way:
In playing the provisional ball, the player may use the stroke-and-distance relief option (see Rule 17.1d(1)), the back-on-the-line relief option (see Rule 17.1d(2)) or, if it is a red penalty area, the lateral relief option (see Rule 17.1d(3)). If a dropping zone (see Model Local Rule E-1) is available for this penalty area, the player may also use that relief option.
- When Original Ball Is Found in Penalty Area Within Three-Minute Search Time. The player may choose either to:
- Continue to play the original ball as it lies in the penalty area, in which case the provisional ball must not be played. All strokes with that provisional ball before it was abandoned (including strokes made and any penalty strokes solely from playing that ball) do not count, or
- Continue to play the provisional ball in which case the original ball must not be played.
- When Original Ball Is Not Found Within Three-Minute Search Time or Is Known or Virtually Certain to Be in Penalty Area. The provisional ball becomes the player’s ball in play.
Penalty for Breach of Local Rule: General Penalty.
C. Model Local Rule E-8.1 Mandatory Relief from Flower Beds
All flower beds on the course, that is, all beds containing flowering plants whether or not the plants are currently in bloom, are no play zones that are to be treated as an abnormal course conditions. Free relief must be taken from interference by these no play zones under Rule 16.1f.
D. Model Local Rule A-4 Internal Out of Bounds
During play of holes 4, 10, 13 and 16, the stakes defining out of bounds on the hole being played are treated as boundary objects and no free relief is granted from them while playing that hole. When playing all other holes, these stakes have no significance and are deemed immovable obstructions from which free relief may be taken. (Note that free relief is never granted from the Out of Bounds stakes specifically defining the grave yard itself on 16, as the grave yard itself remains Out of Bounds when playing all holes.)
E. Model Local Rule E-3 for Preferred Lies/Winter Rules
When a player’s ball lies in a part of the general area of the hole being played which is cut to fairway height or less, the player may take free relief once by placing the original ball or another ball in and playing it from this relief area:
- Reference Point: Spot of the original ball.
- Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: One club-length from the reference point, but with these limits:
- Limits on Location of Relief Area:
F. Model Local Rule E-12 for “back-on-the-line” drops into relief areas
When taking Back-On-the-Line relief, there is no additional penalty if a player plays a ball that was dropped in the relief area required by the relevant Rule (Rule 16.1c(2), 17.1d(2), 19.2b or 19.3b) but came to rest outside the relief area, so long as the ball, when played, is within one club-length of where it first touched the ground when dropped.
This exemption from penalty applies even if the ball is played from nearer the hole than the reference point (but not if played from nearer the hole than the spot of the original ball or the estimated point where the ball last crossed the edge of the penalty area).
This Local Rule does not change the procedure for taking Back-On-the-Line relief under a relevant Rule. This means that the reference point and relief area are not changed by this Local Rule and that Rule 14.3c(2) can be applied by a player who drops a ball in the right way and it comes to rest outside the relief area, whether this occurs on the first or second drop.
V. Hole-By-Hole Comments
Hole 1: Ditch on left after fairway bunker is a red penalty area. For penalty area relief, it must be known or virtually certain that ball remained in the penalty area and is not lost or out of bounds left. Note that exposed drainage pipe just short of this penalty area is an Immovable Obstruction. The exposed drainage pipe and hole surrounding it short and right of green in rough between 1st and 9th fairway is Ground Under Repair.
Hole 2: Ditch on left is a red penalty area. For penalty area relief, it must be known or virtually certain that ball remained in the penalty area and is not lost or out of bounds left. No free relief from swale in rough short of fairway. Note that provisional ball may be played for ball feared lost in yellow penalty area crossing fairway in front of green – see Local Rule.
Hole 3: Pond on right is a red penalty area. Fence over green identifies out of bounds, and is therefore not an Immovable Obstruction.
Hole 4: Internal out of bounds left of pond in front of tee box and as defined by white stakes, white-tipped red stakes, white markings on trees, and white paint on cart path left of green. (This internal out of bounds is only applicable to play of hole #4.) There are two penalty area dropping zones, one for the pond in front of the tee and one for the pond right of the fairway. Special note for dropping zones: As these areas are sometimes riddled with divot holes, to provide additional dropping zone area (potentially free of divot holes) the dropping area is deemed to extend within one club-length of the painted circles in any direction – effectively making a larger circumference in which you may drop (even the part closer to the hole). Note that provisional ball may be played for ball feared lost in red penalty area in front of tee box – see Local Rule. If either dropping zone can not be seen due to lack of maintenance of the white line, estimate its position and play accordingly.
Hole 5: Pond on left and behind green is a red penalty area. Note that exposed drainage pipe and hole surrounding it right of cart path past green (and on downslope from 6th tee) is deemed Ground Under Repair.
Hole 7: Ditch on right, left and behind green is a red penalty area.
Hole 8: Ditch on left is a red penalty area. For penalty area relief, it must be known or virtually certain that ball remained in the penalty area and is not lost or out of bounds left.
Hole 9: Driving Range is out of bounds. If no white line is present the poles holding up the fence and at its base define OB at their inside (fairway side) points at ground level, and there is no free relief from either the fence, the poles holding up the fence or the horizontal poles on the ground at the base of the fence. Free relief is granted only for the angled lines supporting the fence. Additional out of bounds includes anywhere in parking lot and as defined by stakes or lines, when present, behind the green. Note that exposed drainage pipe and hole surrounding it just past the red tee box in the right rough between the 9th and 1st holes is Ground Under Repair.
Hole 10: Out of bounds on left as defined by white stakes, walls of buildings, and white markings on trees fences left of green. Green fences left of fairway and green are out of bounds. Out of bounds line extends to end of white line on cart path just past end of driving range fence. The last white building in the row of buildings on left (building labeled #7) has a small attached alcove which juts in bounds – this alcove is deemed an Integral Part of the Course from which, like the buildings which are entirely out of bounds, no free relief is granted. Note that exposed drainage pipe and hole surrounding it in large area of rough short of maintenance barn on right and between the cart path for hole 10 and nearest the cart path between 14th green and 15th tee is Ground Under Repair.
Hole 11: Left side is a red penalty area defined by red stakes and lines painted on cart path. Drop is permitted two club-lengths to the right side of the cart path or red line. Dropping zone option is present for balls which last crossed the edge of the penalty area closer to the hole than the dropping zone (near the point where the fairway doglegs right). For penalty area relief, it must be known or virtually certain that ball remained in the penalty area and is not lost or out of bounds over chain link fence left of and deep into penalty area. Special note for dropping zone: As the drop zone is sometimes riddled with divot holes, to provide additional drop area (potentially free of divot holes) the dropping zone is deemed to extend within one club length of the painted line in any direction – effectively making a larger area in which you may drop (even the part closer to the hole). If the dropping zone can not be seen due to lack of maintenance of the white line, estimate its position and play accordingly.
Ditch in front of green is a yellow penalty area defined by yellow stakes and lines. No free relief from swales in fairway. Chain link fence over green defines out of bounds, and is therefore not an Immovable Obstruction. Note that a number of trees between the 11th and 12th holes (nearest the 12th fairway) in the rough have artificially-placed semicircular stone wall tree wells which are Immovable Obstructions.
Hole 12: Left side is a red penalty area defined by red stakes and lines painted on cart path. Note that almost the entire cart path has red lines painted on its right edge, indicating that this entire long, painted section of the cart path both defines and is within the margin of the hazard. No free relief from the cart path if your ball is within the penalty area — play it as it lies or take penalty area relief. (Free relief from cart path may only be taken if ball is outside of penalty area and path interferes with stance or swing.)
Hole 13: Left side is a red penalty area defined by red stakes and lines. Note that part of the cart path near large boulders has red lines painted on its right edge, indicating that this entire painted section of the cart path both defines and is within the margin of the hazard. No free relief from the cart path if your ball is within the penalty area — play it as it lies or take penalty area relief. (Free relief from cart path may only be taken if ball is outside of penalty area and path interferes with stance or swing.) Internal out of bounds right of pond to the right of tee box, and further on all along the right side as defined by white stakes and white paint on the cart path. Out of bounds on right side ends at the point of the last white paint mark on cart path at the end of the 14th tee box, and moves perpendicular to the cart path and away from the hole from that point. This internal out of bounds is only applicable when playing the 13th hole. Close to green there is also out of bounds left, near the red penalty area. For penalty area relief, it must be known or virtually certain that ball remained in the penalty area and is not lost or out of bounds left.
Hole 14: No out of bounds. Out of bounds stakes on right apply to 13th hole only, and are deemed immovable obstructions. Note that provisional ball may be played for ball feared lost in penalty area on left side of hole – see Local Rule. Flower garden behind and left of green is deemed Ground Under Repair/no play zone. Small stone wall surrounding garden is an Immovable Obstruction.
Hole 15: Flower garden behind green is deemed Ground Under Repair/no play zone. Small stone wall surrounding garden is an Immovable Obstruction.
Hole 16: Cemetery and walls of cemetery are out of bounds. White stakes on right and white paint on trees and cart path near the green define internal out of bounds. Out of bounds ends at last white paint mark on cart path past green near forward tee box for 17th hole, and moves perpendicular to the cart path and away from the hole from there. Note that the cemetery itself is out of bounds when playing any hole, but the other internal out of bounds only applies when playing the 16th hole. Flower garden near forward tee box is deemed Ground Under Repair/no play zone. Small stone wall surrounding garden is an Immovable Obstruction.
Hole 17: Chain link fence over green and to the left of the rough area identifies out of bounds, and is therefore not an Immovable Obstruction.
Hole 18: Left fence and stone wall left of hole and behind green indicate course boundary line and are not Immovable Obstructions. Ball must be over stone wall to be considered out of bounds in that area, a ball resting on stone wall is still in bounds. The gate going through the fence on the left of 18 about 200 yards out opens to a small, aged, gravel-surfaced patch of road. This road may be played from, and the gravel pieces considered loose impediments and therefore movable, or the player may play the entire artificially surfaced area as an Immovable Obstruction. With the exception of the cemetery itself near hole #16, there is no out of bounds on the right side of hole #18 and stakes other than those surrounding cemetery are deemed immovable obstructions.
VI. General USGA Rules Notes/OB notes
USGA rules govern all play except as modified by these local rules.
When in doubt about a rule in stroke play only, a second ball may be played. You should state your interest in playing a second ball and state which of the two balls you would prefer to count for your score. Finish the hole with both balls and consult the Committee. See Rule 20.1c (3) for details.
Yellow Penalty areas offer two relief options under Rule 17.1d (1) and (2).
Red Penalty Areas offer one additional relief option under Rule 17.1d (3)
Out of Bounds – As defined by white stakes, white markings on fences, trees and cart paths, and the interior margin of fences and rock walls defining property boundaries. Parking lot and driving range are out of bounds. Special note for white markings on trees: Unless there is also a while line painted on the ground, the point at ground level directly under the innermost aspect of the painted line on the tree defines the edge of the OB line – the trunk of the tree and the roots of the tree are irrelevant.
Internal Out of Bounds Stakes – When playing a hole with internal Out of Bounds (left of 4, left of 10, right of 13, right of 16) the stakes used to define the boundary are not Obstructions, and therefore like typical Out of Bounds stakes they may not be moved nor is free relief available. However, when playing an adjacent hole for which these stakes have no significance, the stakes are deemed to be Immovable Obstructions from which a free drop is available. Note that free relief is never granted from the Out of Bounds stakes specifically defining the grave yard itself on 16, as the grave yard itself remains Out of Bounds when playing any hole. Please see Hole-by-Hole Comments for more details.
VII. Rules in Action
Player A launched a wild shot off the 16th tee. The ball ended up near the practice green to the left of the 15th. Player A had a clear shot to the green except for one thing-about ten yards in front of him stood a chain link fence surrounding some meteorological equipment. Player A yelled to some friends on the 15th tee, who said that he could take relief, since the chain link fence interfered with his line to the green. Player A then moved the ball to a position clear of the fence, made sure that he was no closer to the hole and took a drop. Was he within the rules?
No. Since the fence was ten yards in front of him, there was no interference to his swing or stance and, hence, no relief. Further, since the fence is a permanent fixture on the course and not a Temporary Immovable Obstruction (like a scoreboard or bleachers meant to be removed after a tournament) the player could not claim relief under the Temporary Immovable Obstruction Local Rule.
Player A hooked a tee shot into the fence separating the driving range from the ninth hole. The ball dropped straight down and came to rest between the fence and an out of bounds line painted on the ground. In fact, the ball actually grazed the line. Unable to make a swing and uncertain if his ball was in bounds or out, Player A played two balls. With the first, he took an unplayable lie, dropped within two club lengths, knocked the ball onto the green and made a two-putt bogey. With the second, he went back to the tee, launched one into the bunker, jacked his fourth onto the green and made a two-putt double. Which ball counted?
Unfortunately, the second ball. When a line is painted on the ground to mark out of bounds, the line itself is out of bounds. So a ball that’s on the line, if no portion of the ball is overhanging in bounds, is out of bounds. Had Player A submitted the five, he would have been DQed, so playing the second ball and submitting the six was a good idea.
Player A duffed his tee shot off the second tee. The ball went dead straight and died somewhere on the hillside below the red tee-box. Surprisingly, Player A was unable to find the ball. He knew that it wasn’t in the creek on the left or trees on the right and didn’t believe that he should be forced to take a lost ball penalty. After a few minutes of searching, he told his playing companion that the ball had to be under one of the many leaves in the area and that he was taking a free drop under the “Leaf Rule” provision. His playing companion objected, claiming that there’s no such thing as the “Leaf Rule.” Who was right?
In this instance, neither player was entirely right, but Player A was at least partially right. There is such a thing as the “Leaf Rule.” (See Model Local Rule F-14, which allows the Committee to establish a local rule for a ball lost in an accumulation of leaves.) But the Committee must state that the “Leaf Rule” is in effect and must specify where exactly the abnormal conditions exist — for instance, on a certain hole, fairways only, or anywhere in the general area. Since Player A had no idea if the “Leaf Rule” was in effect or where it might be in effect, he was invoking a privilege that may or may not have existed. Fortunately for him, as the players were discussing this matter, the wind blew and uncovered the ball from beneath a leaf, allowing him to play on.
A player hit left of the 9th green, and his ball came to rest in bounds just three inches inside the parking lot’s macadam berm (which at Sterling Farms represents an OB line). A car parked in the lot interfered with the player’s backswing, so he found the nearest point of relief from the car that was no closer to the hole and took free relief by dropping within one club length of that point. Did he do the right thing?
He may have proceeded correctly, but it depends. If the owner of the car happened to be there and able to move the car, the car was a Movable Obstruction and the correct thing to do would be to move the car instead of the ball. If the owner wasn’t there, and if all of the car was out of bounds, the car was not an Immovable Obstruction as defined by the Rules but simply an immovable artificial object off the course from which no free relief is granted. Lastly, if part of the car was intruding on the course by overhanging the berm, that part of the car that was in bounds and (only that part) was an Immovable Obstruction. In this case the player was entitled to free relief, and he proceeded correctly.
In a match, Player A’s third shot overshot the 6th green. His ball bounced on the cart path behind the green and came to rest in the plants in the prepared bed between the 6th green and the 1st green. Player B, his opponent, hit his third shot which hit the cart path to the left of the 6th green and came to rest in the plants in another prepared bed between the 6th green and the 7th tee. Both players found the nearest point of relief from their prepared areas of plantings, and dropped within one club length no closer to the hole. They both got up and down and claimed to have scored pars. Player A nevertheless insisted that he won the hole. Was he correct?
Player A did in fact win the hole. Sterling Farms employs a Local Rule defining flower beds as Ground Under Repair. The prepared area between the 6th and 1st greens that Player A’s ball ended up in contains flowers, and this entire prepared area qualifies as a flower bed — and therefore Ground Under Repair. So Player A’s free drop was appropriate. On the other hand, the plantings in the prepared bed between the 6th green and 7th tee in which Player B’s ball ended up contains only bushes but no flowering plants. In addition, there are no artificial materials used in the construction of the area. So Player B had no right to take a free drop from his location, and consequently he lost the hole. (Just because a part of the course is specially prepared as a “bed” doesn’t mean that it qualifies for free relief. In addition, wood chips or mulch spread around a hollowed out area at the base of a tree do not qualify for a free drop. You may move the chips (they are loose impediments) — as long as you are careful not to move your ball — but you otherwise must play the ball as it lies or take an unplayable lie penalty. These “tree basins” don’t qualify for free relief unless there is some artificial construction there which is an Immovable Obstruction and which grants free relief on that basis.