Rule of the Month: To Speak or Not to Speak? That is the Question | Oregon Golf Association

Rule of the Month: To Speak or Not to Speak? That is the Question

By OGA Senior Rules Officials: Pete Scholz and Terry McEvilly
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What to say, when to say it or does anything need to be said?  These are questions we have all asked ourselves in the midst of life’s situations and now every golfer must ask themselves the same questions when applying the Rules.  A few Rules require a golfer to have a verbal conversation with either his or her opponent, a marker, a fellow-competitor or the Committee.  Still other Rules prohibit having certain conversations with any of the above.  This month we look at the Rules that require a golfer to either hold his tongue or verbally announce his intentions or actions.

Questions:  True/False

  1. A player may ask a spectator for a club suggestion but must not ask another golfer playing in the same competition.
  2. Prior to declaring a ball unplayable and lifting it, a player must announce their intentions to another golfer playing in the same group.
  3. In match play, if a player incurs a one stroke penalty for relief from a water hazard, he or she is not required to inform the opponent of the penalty if the opponent observed the procedure.
  4. After hitting a ball towards an out of bounds fence, a player intends to play a provisional ball but doesn’t announce it as a provisional ball before making a stroke.  The original ball is now out of play and must not be played even if found on the course.
  5. In a competition where the “one ball” condition is in effect, players must announce or at the very least show their fellow players what ball they are playing and any markings prior to teeing off on the first hole. 
  6. In stroke play, a player unsure of a procedure may complete the hole with two balls.  If the player fails to announce which ball he or she wishes to have count before taking further action, the Rule will determine which ball the player must count. 
  7. A player in match play may ask their opponent during play of a hole how many strokes the opponent has taken on the hole. 
  8. In match play, when asked by an opponent how many strokes he or she has taken on a hole, the player must answer before any player makes another stroke.
  9. Before putting, a player sees a fellow-competitor attending the flagstick.  The player putted without ever verbally requesting that the flagstick be attended.  As the player has not verbally authorized that the flagstick be attended, the fellow-competitor is in breach of Rule 17-2 for unauthorized attendance.
  10. A player who is uncertain of how to proceed plays two balls scoring the same with both balls.  Because the score was the same, the player isn’t required to report the procedure to the Committee.


  1. False.  Rule 8-1 restricts a player from asking advice from anyone other than his or her partner or either of their caddies.  Therefore, asking advice from a spectator is a breach of the Rules and would result in a loss of hole penalty in match play or two strokes in stroke play.
  2.  False.  When a player declares their ball unplayable under Rule 28, or decides to take relief from a water hazard under Rule 26, they may do so without any announcements.  However, see question #3 for a small caveat in match play.
  3. True.  Rule 9-2 requires a player in a match to inform their opponent when they have incurred a penalty but only if the opponent did not witness the situation.  Failure to inform the opponent of a penalty as soon as practicable results in a loss of hole penalty.
  4.  True.  Under Rule 27-2, intention of the player is not sufficient for the play of a provisional ball.  An announcement must precede the stroke at the provisional ball.  The announcement must include the word “provisional” or make it very clear that the player is proceeding under Rule 27-2.  Making a stroke at the second ball, without announcing it as a provisional ball, renders the original ball lost and the second ball is in play under stroke and distance.
  5. False.  The “one ball” condition of competition (See Appendix) requires a player to use the same brand and model of golf ball throughout the round but there is no requirement that the player announce which brand or any markings placed on the ball. 
  6. True.  Most players know that when in doubt of a procedure they may complete the hole with two balls in stroke play.  However, the majority of golfers fail to announce which ball they want to have counted in their score.  This results in the Rule deciding their score and often producing an undesirable score.  Rule 3-3 doesn’t require an announcement, but makes it a suggestion and would be generally advantageous for the player to do so. 
  7. True.  Under Rule 9-2 a player has the right to know the status of the hole being played as it might influence decisions regarding his or her own play.  See question # 8 for further clarification.
  8. False.  The player may withhold the information requested if it is the player’s turn to play.  He or she must give the answer before the opponent makes their next stroke.  See Decision 9-2/4.
  9. False.  Although no authorization was made, Rule 17-1 Note 2 states that if the flagstick is attended with the player’s knowledge, he or she is deemed to have authorized it.
  10. False.  Failure to inform the Committee of playing two balls results in disqualification of the player regardless of the recorded score.  Anytime a player plays two balls under Rule 3-3 (Doubt as to Procedure) or Rule 20-7 (Correction of a serious breach of playing from wrong place) the player is required to inform the Committee of the procedure. 

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