SWTGA has adopted the local rule allowing for an alternative to stroke and distance for ball lost or out of bounds Click Here for an explanation.

Click Here for 2019 Rules of Golf Fact Sheet

The SWTGA has updated their rules on electronic devices please click here for that update.

SWTGA Rules Advice   March 2017

New USGA Local Rule for 2017

We included this new option in our last event and will incorporate it into each of our local rules for our future tournaments. Please watch the linked video from the USGA to understand the rationale behind this change.

Video Link

And according to Jack Pultorak, Director of Rules & Competitions for the FSGA:
"The Local Rule applies when a ball or ball-marker is accidentally moved by you stepping on it, kicking it, touching it with a club either in addressing or making a practice swing, dropping a coin on the ball or vice versa, the flagstick being dropped on it or any other crazy way you might accidentally cause the ball to move.

It doesn’t matter who accidentally causes the ball to move either. It could be you kicking your partner’s ball, your caddie dropping a towel on your opponent’s ball, your partner’s hat being blown off by the wind and striking your ball; I think you get my drift. This new Local Rule allows a freebie for you being clumsy."

The wording for our events will be:

Accidental Movement of a Ball on a Putting Green

Rules 18-2, 18-3 and 20-1 are modified as follows:
When a player’s ball lies on the putting green, there is no penalty if the ball or ball-marker is accidentally moved by the player, his partner, his opponent, or any of their caddies or equipment.
The moved ball or ball-marker must be replaced as provided in Rules 18-2, 18-3 and 20-1.
This Local Rule applies only when the player’s ball or ball-marker lies on the putting green and any movement is accidental.
Note: If it is determined that a player’s ball on the putting green was moved as a result of wind, water or some other natural cause such as the effects of gravity, the ball must be played as it lies from its new location. A ball-marker moved in such circumstances is replaced.

SWTGA Rules Advice   November 2016

This month's column concerns Ball Unplayable.  Denise King, Rules Chair, has provided a link to this video that illustrates the choices you have when you have deemed your ball unplayable. Please watch!


Ball unplayable

SWTGA RULES ADVICE      October 15, 2016

This year, to make our Rules Column even more streamlined and visual, we will be linking to video on pertinent topics in rules. This month please check out the Rule on Immovable Obstructions.

SWTGA RULES ADVICE      April 18, 2016

For our last Rules’ Advice Column of the 2015-2016 season, I’ve reviewed Rule 18 Ball at Rest Moved.  When to replace, when to play it as it lies, and what are the penalties? Rule 18 is reviewed in detail including a change for 2016.  The wording below has been lifted verbatim from the Rules of Golf except for comments in [ ].




[To correctly understand this rule,  you must understand the following definitions:]

Outside Agency

In match play, an "outside agency" is any agency other than either the player's or opponent's side, any caddie of either side, any ball played by either side at the hole being played or any equipment of either side.  [So in match play, an outside agency excludes both sides’ players, caddies, balls and equipment.]

In stroke play, an outside agency is any agency other than the competitor's side, any caddie of the side, any ball played by the side at the hole being played or any equipment of the side. [In stroke play, an outside agency includes the fellow competitor, his caddie, ball or equipment.]

An outside agency includes a referee, a marker, an observer and a forecaddie. Neither wind nor water is an outside agency.  [Outside agencies include an animal, a spectator, a blowing tumbleweed!]



"Equipment" is anything used, worn, held or carried by the player or the player's caddie, except:

•any ball that the player has played at the hole being played, and

•any small object, such as a coin or a tee, when used to mark the position of the ball or the extent of an area in which a ball is to be dropped.

Note 1: A ball played at the hole being played is equipment when it has been lifted and not put back into play.

Note 2: Equipment includes objects placed on the course for the care of the course, such as rakes, while they are being held or carried.

Note 3: When equipment is shared by two or more players, the shared equipment is deemed to be the equipment of only one of the players sharing it.

If a shared golf cart is being moved by one of the players sharing it (or his partner or either of their caddies), the cart and everything in it are deemed to be that player's equipment. Otherwise, the cart and everything in it are deemed to be the equipment of the player sharing the cart whose ball (or whose partner's ball) is involved.

Other shared equipment is deemed to be the equipment of the player who last used, wore, held or carried it. It remains that player's equipment until it is used, worn, held or carried by the other player (or his partner or either of their caddies).


Rule 18-1              By Outside Agency

If a ball at rest is moved by an outside agency, there is no penalty and the ball must be replaced.


Decision 18-1/12 Ball Replaced and at Rest Is Thereafter Moved by Wind 

Q. A player replaces his ball on the putting green and the ball is at rest. Before the player addresses the ball, a sudden gust of wind blows the ball farther from the hole. The player plays the ball from its new position. Is that correct?

A. Yes. Wind is not an outside agency - see Definition of "Outside Agency." Accordingly, Rule 18-1 does not apply.  [No penalty.]


Rule 18-2              By Player, Partner, Caddie or Equipment [Match or Stroke Play]

Except as permitted by the Rules, when a player's ball is in play, if

(i)              the player, his partner or either of their caddies:

•lifts or moves the ball,

•touches it purposely (except with a club in the act of addressing the ball), or

•causes the ball to move, or

(ii)            the equipment of the player or his partner causes the ball to move,

the player incurs a penalty of one stroke.


If the ball is moved, it must be replaced, unless the movement of the ball occurs after the player has begun the stroke or the backward movement of the club for the stroke and the stroke is made.


[Rule 18-2b Ball Moving After Address has been withdrawn from the 2016 Rules of Golf.  Therefore, whether the player has addressed the ball (grounded his club) or not has no bearing on the ruling.  A penalty under 18-2 will be based purely on whether the player caused the ball to move.]


[From] Decision 18-2/0.5 (New 2016)

If the weight of evidence indicates that it is more likely than not that the player caused the ball to move, even though that conclusion is not free from doubt, the player incurs a one-stroke penalty under Rule 18-2 and the ball must be replaced. Otherwise, the player incurs no penalty and the ball is played as it lies unless some other Rule applies (e.g., Rule 18-1).


Decision 18-2/7 Ball Moved by Wind Replaced 

Q.  In stroke play, a competitor's ball was moved by wind. Since wind is not an outside agency (see Definition of "Outside Agency"), he should have played it from where it came to rest, but he replaced it. What is the ruling?

A.  The competitor incurred one penalty stroke under Rule 18-2, and, before playing his next stroke, he should have replaced the ball on the spot where it came to rest after being moved by the wind. If he did not do so, he incurred a total penalty of two strokes - see penalty statement under Rule 18.


18-3. By Opponent, Caddie or Equipment in Match Play

a. During Search--If, during search for a player's ball, an opponent, his caddie or his equipment, moves the ball, touches it or causes it to move, there is no penalty. If the ball is moved, it must be replaced.


b. Other Than During Search--If, other than during search for a player's ball, an opponent, his caddie or his equipment, moves the ball, touches it purposely or causes it to move, except as otherwise provided in the Rules, the opponent incurs a penalty of one stroke. If the ball is moved, it must be replaced.


18-4. By Fellow-Competitor, Caddie or Equipment in Stroke Play

If a fellow-competitor, his caddie or his equipment, moves the player's ball, touches it or causes it to move, there is no penalty. If the ball is moved, it must be replaced. [Just as in 18-1 Outside Agency]


18-5. By Another Ball

If a ball in play and at rest is moved by another ball in motion after a stroke, the moved ball must be replaced.


18-6. Ball Moved in Measuring

If a ball or ball-marker is moved in measuring while proceeding under or in determining the application of a Rule, the ball or ball-marker must be replaced. There is no penalty, provided the movement of the ball or ball-marker is directly attributable to the specific act of measuring. Otherwise, the provisions of Rule 18-2, 18-3b or 18-4 apply.


*Penalty for Breach of Rule:

Match play - Loss of hole; Stroke play - Two strokes.


*If a player who is required to replace a ball fails to do so, or if he makes a stroke at a ball substituted under Rule 18 when such substitution is not permitted, he incurs the general penalty for breach of Rule 18, but there is no additional penalty under this Rule.


Denise Ingalls King





Denise Ingalls King, Rules Chair                          Effective:  January 28, 2016           

There are 2 separate issues to be clarified by this policy: 

·       The first issue is the use of cell phones or other electronic devices (ie: phone calls, text, emails and internet access)  for personal reasons during the tournament.

·       The second issue is the use of electronic devices for tournament related reasons (ie: to measure distance, to access “advice”, or to obtain clarification of a USGA Rule of Golf). 



To insure that players demonstrate consideration for others and maintain pace of play, the use of cell phones or other electronic devices (phone calls, texts, emails, or internet access) during the stipulated tournamentis NOT ALLOWED, except:

•           in emergency situations (ex: acute medical illness or safety issues) or

•           as a conforming multi-function distance measuring device (DMD). 

This policy exceeds the restrictions in the Rules of Golf but is within the jurisdiction of the SWTGA’s authority as the “Committee” and is in effect regardless of the host club’s policy.  It is the responsibility of all players to monitor compliance with this policy and report serious infractions.  The penalty for a serious breach of this etiquette policy may be disqualification (Rule 33-7). 




For SWTGA events,  the USGA’s rules, decisions, and penalties will be followed.  A local rule will allow players to use distance measuring devices, whether dedicated or multi-functional, provided they access only distance measurements.   If multi-functional (cellphones, tablets), the device’s usage is to be restricted to DMD (conforming) purposes only with the exception of making phone calls in emergency situations or accessing applications specifically allowed by the USGA (Rules of Golf, weather or compass information). 

The changes to Rule 14-3 (Artificial Devices and Unusual Equipment) that are effective January 1, 2016 are two-fold.  First, the penalty for breach is being reduced for the first offense from disqualification to two strokes in stroke play (loss of hole in match play).  For subsequent breaches, the penalty remains disqualification.  The second change is that the mere existence of non-conforming features on a multi-functional device will no longer warrant a penalty as long as they are not used.

For more detailed information, see the following:


In 2016, there is no change to the prohibition of distance measuring devices (DMD) in the Rules of Golf.  There must be a local rule in effect that allows such usage and all SWTGA tournaments will continue to have such a rule in place (Rule 14-3 and Appendix I, Part A, Section 7).  The Local Rule Sample for 2016 will be:

In this competition, a player may obtain distance information by use of a distance-measuring device. If, during a stipulated round, a player uses a distance-measuring device to gauge or measure other conditions that might affect his play (e.g., elevation changes, wind speed, etc.), the player is in breach of Rule 14-3.

The Rules still restrict conforming DMD’s to the measurement of distance only but the interpretation has become more complex as there are two categories of devices.  Some devices are dedicated DMD’s such as laser rangefinders or GPS devices.  However, multi-functional devices (cell phones, tablets) may have distance measuring applications, as well as non-conforming applications (see Appendix IV 5 below).  There are additional reference materials available on the USGA website (www.usga.org/DMD) though some need to be updated with the 2016 changes.  However, briefly, you may use a multi-functional DMD that has a compass feature (Decision 14-3/4), a weather application (Decision 14-3/18 below), and to access the USGA Rules of Golf application.

Excerpts from THE RULES OF GOLF 2016           


Consideration for Other PlayersPlayers should ensure that any electronic device taken onto the course does not distract other players.

Pace of Play  Players should be ready to play as soon as it is their turn to play.

Appendix IV 5. Distance-Measuring Devices (Rule 14-3)

During a stipulated round, the use of any distance-measuring device is not permitted unless the Committee has introduced a Local Rule to that effect (see Note to Rule 14-3 and Appendix I; Part A; Section 7).

Even when the Local Rule is in effect, the device must not be used for any purposes that are prohibited by Rule 14-3, including but not limited to:

• the gauging or measuring of slope;

• the gauging or measuring of other conditions that might affect play (e.g., wind speed or direction);

• recommendations that might assist the player in making a stroke or in his play (e.g., club selection, type of shot to be played, green reading or any other advice related matter); or

• calculating the effective distance between two points based on elevation changes or other conditions affecting shot distance.

A multi-functional device, such as a smartphone or PDA, may be used as a distance-measuring device, but it must not be used to gauge or measure other conditions where doing so would be a breach of Rule 14-3.


14-3/16            Use of Electronic Devices

As provided in the Etiquette Section, players should ensure that any electronic device taken onto the course does not distract other players.  The use of an electronic device such as a mobile phone, hand-held computer, calculator, television or radio is not of itself a breach of Rule 14-3.  For example, the following uses of an electronic device during a stipulated round are not a breach of the Rules:

• Using the device for matters unrelated to golf (e.g. to call home);

• Using the device to access information on advice-related matters that was produced prior to the start of the player’s round (e.g. an electronic yardage book, swing tips);

• Using the device to access (but not interpret or process) playing information from previous rounds (e.g. driving distances, individual club yardages, etc.); or

• Using the device to obtain information related to the competition being played (e.g. the leader board or projected “cut”).

However, the following are examples of uses of an electronic device during a stipulated round that might assist the player in his play and therefore are in breach of Rule 14-3:

• Using the device (e.g. a television or radio) to watch or listen to a broadcast of the competition being played;

• Using the device to ask for or give advice in breach of Rule 8-1 (e.g. calling a swing coach);

• Using the device to access information on advice-related matters that was not produced prior to the start of his round (e.g. analysis of strokes made during that round); or

• Using the device to interpret or process any playing information obtained from current or previous rounds (e.g. driving distances, individual club yardages, etc.) or to assist in calculating the effective distance between two points (i.e. distance after considering elevation changes, wind speed and/or direction or other environmental factors). (Revised)

14-3/18 Weather Information Accessed on Multi-Functional Device

Q. During a stipulated round, may a player access local weather information through an application or internet browser on a multi-functional device?

A. Yes. The prohibition in Rule 14-3 is only applicable to the specific act of gauging or measuring conditions that might affect a player’s play (e.g. through use of a wind speed gauge). When accessing weather reports provided by a weather station through an application or internet browser, the player is not actively measuring or gauging the conditions. (Revised)

Dear Ladies:

Since we’re back in our “season”, I’m getting back to my planned monthly Rules Advice Column.  This month I’m sharing an article that appeared on the USGA Website earlier this year.  I hope it helps you understand the handicap system better & encourage compliance with posting every score.  If you have questions, feel free to email or call me.

Denise Ingalls King




Did I Play to My Handicap?                                                                 

To acquire a better understanding of the USGA Handicap System™, wouldn't it be nice to know what "Playing to Your Handicap" means and whether you should do this every time? The system is built around the concept of Course Rating™, which impacts us all even though its definition ties to a "scratch" golfer. When you are given handicap strokes, you receive the number of strokes necessary to play to the level of a scratch golfer. If the scratch golfer is supposed to shoot the Course Rating, then those handicap strokes relate to the Course rating as well.

We use the phrase "target score" regarding playing to your Handicap. How is a target score determined? First, go through the normal process of converting a Handicap Index to a Course Handicap. Then add that Course Handicap to the Course Rating. For example, a player with a USGA Handicap Index of 16.3 decides to play a course with a USGA Course Rating of 68.9 and a Slope Rating of 129. That player converts the 16.3 to a Course Handicap of 19 (using Course Handicap Tables or "Conversion Charts"), then adds 19 to 68.9, for a total of 88 (rounded). If the player shoots 88, that player has played to his or her Handicap.

So playing to your handicap is not exclusively a matter of whether you have hit the ball well or the number of putts you had, but a measurable number. It is NOT how your net score relates to par.

How often should a player do this? Recognize that your worst scores are not truly utilized in the calculation of a Handicap Index; only the best 10 scores are utilized and the worst 10 are disregarded, then the best 10 are averaged. This ratio tells us playing to a handicap happens less than half of the time. Including all of the handicap formula, the resulting probability is that playing to your handicap happens only once out of four to five rounds. The USGA isn't out to discourage you, but in order to maintain a semblance of equitable competition for players with differing skills in varying formats, we have determined this probability as the best choice for our formula. If we used all scores, those players with higher handicaps would see their values increase significantly, while those with lower values would not increase as much. This would tip the balance of the system heavily toward higher handicap players. We believe there should be an incentive toward improving one's game.

We can't all be scratch golfers, but we can set a target to strive for to play to our handicap - and we can determine what that means. And don't get discouraged if you only play to your handicap 20-25 percent of the time.

Click here for February's Rules Column


January 1, 2015

In an effort to help our membership maintain accurate handicaps, I would like to review aspects of the procedures to be followed.  Having a handicap established in the GHIN (computer) system requires adhering to the rules established by the GHIN system and the USGA.  Keep in mind, it is expected that you will shoot your handicap only once in every 4-5 rounds.  Posting guidelines in European countries are different but USGA guidelines apply here.  All players should post scores from SWTGA events.

Post all scores:

·       Where the majority of holes are played according to the Rules of Golf

·       If a player is disqualified from a competition but has an acceptable score, post the ESC score

·       Regardless of team, match  or stroke formats, as long as you play your own ball

·       If ≥ 13 holes are played, post an 18 hole score

·       If 7-12 holes are played, post a 9 hole score

·       As a Tournament (T) score only when directed by the Committee

One confusing aspect about posting is what to do with:

·       holes that are started but not finished (incomplete) or

·       holes that are not played at all or not played according to “The Rules of Golf”.

These two categories are handled differently but both are the player’s responsibility to adjust the scores.


A player records his/her “most likely score” which may not exceed his/her Equitable Stroke Control (ESC) limit.  This is the number of strokes taken thus far plus the number of strokes estimated to be needed to finish the hole more than half the time.   Precede the score with an “X”. There is no limit to the number of holes that can be adjusted in this manner.  In match play, for example, if your opponent concedes the hole because you’re on the green in 3 and he/she’s still in a greenside bunker lying 5,  you would post X-4 (if you’d make that 1 putt more than 50% of the time) or an X-5 (if you think it would take you 2 putts more than 50% of the time).  Your opponent, would post an X-8 if he/she thinks he would complete the hole 50% of the time in 3 more strokes (1 out of the bunker and 2 putts) or his/her ESC is 8 (handicap of 20-29). 


If a player has to stop play after the 13th hole due to inclement weather, he/she still posts an 18 hole score.  Likewise if an event allows 1 “Mulligan” per nine holes, any hole on which a mulligan is used is not played according to the rules, so that hole’s score is adjusted.  In both scenarios, the score entered for the holes not played is par plus any handicap strokes to which the player is entitled, based on Course Handicap.  Again, the score is preceded by an “X” to indicate the score has been adjusted. 

Denise Ingalls King




Dec 4, 2014

As the new Rules Chair, I see my role primarily as an educator.  My goal is to help our members better understand the complex rules of golf so that all may enjoy our competitions in a stress-free manner.  I will share a monthly “Rules Advice Column” that will highlight commonly asked questions.  For this first column, I have three basics and one important rule to review.

It’s important for you to understand how you as an individual player fit into the total picture.  Since our golf is played without an external referee, each player helps maintain the integrity of the game.  Please carry a rule book in your golf bag for reference.

1.  Each player is responsible for monitoring the play of their group.  In stroke play, it’s the only way to protect the field.  While it may seem severe, if you “allow” another player to break a rule without the correct penalty, you are guilty of “agreeing to waive the rules of golf” (Rule 1-3) and your penalty is disqualification.

2.  Always read the entire printed rules sheet BEFORE you begin to play.  You may incur a penalty that could have been avoided.  For example, this week’s event did NOT allow drop areas.  The penalty was disqualification for that player on that hole.

3.  Stroke Play--Playing out of Turn (Rule 10-2c)  “If a competitor plays out of turn, there is no penalty and the ball is played as it lies.”  This rule allows players to consistently  play “ready golf” without penalty.  Remember, this is the rule for STROKE play, only.  For our Four-Ball Stroke Play event this week, there is a related rule (31-4) which states “balls belonging to the same side (team) may be played in the order the side considers best”.

4.  Stroke Play--Doubt as to Procedure (Rule 3-3)  This allows a player to play 2 balls (not a provisional ball) when she is unsure of her rights. However, the competitor:

·       must announce to her fellow-competitors (BEFORE TAKING ANY ACTION) her intention to play 2 balls & WHICH BALL SHE WANTS TO COUNT IF PERMITTED.  Upon failure to do so, the score that counts will be the one played in accordance with the rules, in this order : 

o   original ball 

o   first ball put into play (if the original ball is not one of the balls being played) 

o   the other ball put into play

·       must report to the Committee the facts of the situation BEFORE RETURNING HER SCORECARD (failure to do so requires disqualification).

Denise Ingalls King