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It's Time to Get Rid of These Bonkers Golf Rules

By: | Mon 22 Apr 2024

In theory, golf is a pretty simple game. You put a ball on a tee, hit it and chase it around until you stroke the ball (hopefully the one you started with) into the hole at the 18th.

But of course the game is not that simple. Have you ever tried to explain the rules to an absolute beginner? Would you want to?

I tend to suffer in silence when it comes to the rules that drive me to the edge of distraction but enough is enough. 

These are the rules that drive me nuts - and should be tossed into the nearest water hazard, without penalty.

Red & Yellow Stakes

Golf Rules

(Image Credit: Kevin Diss Photography)

Why do we have red stakes and yellow stakes? In what world does that make sense?

A yellow hazard is a "regular" water hazard which gives you two options, while a red hazard is a "lateral" water hazard and comes with four options.

Regular Water Hazard (Yellow)

  1. Play again from the previous spot.
  2. Drop the ball behind the hazard, in a straight line provided the spot at which their ball last crossed the hazard remains directly between the dropping point and the hole.

Lateral Water Hazard (Red)

  1. Play your ball from the previous spot
  2. Drop the ball behind the hazard in straight line from path of ball.
  3. Drop the ball two club lengths from the ball’s entry point to the hazard, not nearer the hole.
  4. Drop the ball two club lengths from the opposite side of the hazard and no closer to the hole.

I defy anybody to attempt to explain the logic behind this one to a beginner. Why can’t we simply have the same options for ALL water hazards?


Many times I have hit perfect drives only to find my golf ball in a divot hole. I am expected to play the ball as it lies. Nobody will ever convince me that this is a fair and equitable solution. I want to see a new rule introduced that allows golfers a free drop from fairway divot holes.

Bunker Footprints

If you hit your ball into a bunker and find that your ball is lying in a footprint because somebody before you has not raked the sand you are expected to play the ball as it lies. Why? In my world, you would be able to lift your ball with no penalty, rake the sand and then drop the ball.

In The Sand

I am a traditionalist. I was always taught that you cannot ground your club in a bunker and I believe that is fair enough because if you do then the chances are that you are doing it to improve your lie - and that is cheating. However, when they changed some rules in 2019, the R&A and USGA decided in their infinite wisdom that you can now lean on your club in a bunker. Why? In my eyes, that would allow you to get a feel for the sand. As far as I am concerned, that is still grounding the club and there will be some unscrupulous golfers who will use it to their advantage. Scrap this one!


On most golf courses if your ball ends up on a clearly-defined pathway you are able to take a free drop. However, some clubs specify that pathways are an integral part of the course and that if you find yourself on one then you have to play the ball as it lies. Let’s kick this one into touch once and for all.


Hitting a provisional ball is allowed in the interest of saving time when you believe your original might be out of bounds or lost outside a penalty area. However, did you know that you are not allowed to hit a provisional if you believe a ball is lost inside a penalty area. This is because if the ball is in the penalty area, you have multiple relief options. Oh for goodness sake! Don’t we just all want to get on with it?

One Club Length Or Two

Do NOT get me started on this one. I said…. I have no intention of listing the differences because there are too many. So is it any wonder that this is an area that causes huge debate and massive confusion? Let’s simplify things by allowing two club lengths in every relief situation. Sounds straightforward doesn’t it? That’s because it is!

Fruit & Nuts

You will love this one. If your golf ball comes to rest next to a half-eaten piece of fruit you can obviously remove said item without penalty. BUT, if you should be unlucky enough to find your ball embedded in a piece of discarded fruit you have to play the ball as it lies. Trust me, I am NOT making this up! 

Similarly, if you hit the ball into the rough and it comes to rest next to a dead snake, you are allowed to discard said snake. But if you discover your ball lying next to a live snake you have two choices - play it as it lies or run for your life!

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