Rule of the Month: August Winter Chills—Never Too Soon to Think About Winter

By Senior Rules Officials, Pete Scholz and Terry McEvilly

August is National Golf Month as well as Family Fun Month.  You know what they say about families that golf together; actually, we have no idea what they say about families that golf together, but it sounds like a fun time.  On Friendship Day, August 6th, grab a family member and a friend and head to the golf course for some fun in the sun. 

August 6th is also International Forgiveness Day.  For those of you that thrive on hot summer days, we apologize if this Rule of the Month article gives you the shivers.  For those of you who could use a cooling off from the sizzling heat, grab a cold lemonade and chill out with the following questions associated with cooler temperatures on the course.

Questions: True / False

1) When playing on frigid days, a player may heat the ball they will play by holding it in front of their cart heater.

2) In order to make a stroke at their ball that lies under a bush in the general area, the player must kneel in a small patch of snow.  The player may not put a towel on the snow to kneel on or put on rain pants before making the stroke.

3) The player in question #2 is allowed to remove the snow before making a stroke.

4) If the player in question #2 doesn’t want to put on rain gear or remove the snow, they may take free relief by dropping a ball within one club-length of the nearest point of complete relief, no closer to the hole, from the snow. 

5) On a cold and rainy day, to prevent the club from slipping, a player may wrap a towel around the grip and make a stroke.

6) While playing in the Shivers and Giggles Golf Tournament, a player hits into deep rough and declares that they will play a provisional ball.  The player retrieves a ball from their cart that has been purposely warmed in a ball warmer and makes a stroke with it.  The original ball is found in bounds but the player is disqualified for making a stroke at a ball that the performance characteristics have been deliberately altered by heating it. 

7) After snow has melted off, a small area of fairway is soft and muddy, but water is not present on the surface.  The area is an abnormal ground condition and free relief is available.

8) Hail on the putting green may be removed on the line of play and left in place behind the hole to serve as a backstop for the putt.

9) After the player marked, lifted and replaced their ball on the putting green, a bone chilling gust of wind moves the ball further from the hole.  The player must accept the effects of natural forces moving his or her ball and must play the ball from its new location.

10) In stroke play, if a player reasonably believes that there is danger from lightning, they may stop play even if the other players in their group wish to continue play.  The player stopping play must report to the Committee as soon as possible.



1) False.  Rule 4.2a(2).  By heating the ball, the player has deliberately altered the performance characteristics of the ball and must not use that ball to make a stroke.  The penalty for doing so is disqualification for the round.  That would leave you a bit cold!

2) False.  Rule 8.1a and Clarification 8.1a/5.  It is true that the player may not put a towel on the snow to kneel on.  If the player did so, they would be building a stance in breach of the Rule.  However, there is no prohibition against putting on rain gear before making a stroke.

3) True.  Rule 15.1 and Definitions of Loose Impediments.  Snow and natural ice, by definition, are loose impediments and may be removed.  Caution should be exercised because if the ball moves when removing the snow, the player incurs a penalty. 

4) True.  Rule 16.1 and Definition of Temporary Water.  Because the player had to kneel in order to hit the ball, the stroke would be considered reasonable and the player has interference from temporary water.  Free relief is available since snow and natural ice are either a loose impediment or, when on the ground, temporary water at the option of the player.  As you can see, there are several options available when dealing with snow on the course and it should not leave you cold.

5) True.  Rule 4.3a(5).  While such an action is unusual, it is permitted and would not be considered throwing in the towel.  The player incurs no penalty.

6) False.  Rule 4.2a and Clarification 4.2a(1)/3.  Since the provisional ball must be abandoned due to the fact that the original ball was found in bounds, there is no penalty for playing a non-conforming ball.  Additionally, when a stroke with a non-conforming ball is cancelled, replayed or otherwise does not count in the player’s score, there is no penalty.

7) False.  Definition of Temporary Water.  Unless the Committee defines the area as ground under repair, there is no free relief.  In order for a player to treat the soft muddy area as temporary water, there must be an accumulation of water that must remain present either before or after the player takes his or her stance. 

8) True.  Rules 15.1a, 8.1 and Clarification 8.1d(1)/2.  Natural ice may be treated as a loose impediment and the player may remove it anywhere on the course.  The player is not required to remove loose impediments anywhere on the course.  Therefore, the player may leave the loose impediments behind the hole to serve as a backstop.

9) False.  Rule 9.3 Exception 1.  Generally, a player must accept the effects of natural forces moving the ball.  However, when the ball is on the putting green and has been lifted and replaced, if it moves for any reason, including natural forces, it must be replaced on its original spot. 

10) True.  Rule 5.7a.  There is no requirement in the Rules for the other players in the group to discontinue play if an individual player decides to discontinue due to the danger of lightning.  The player that has discontinued play must report to the Committee as soon as possible and the other players may continue the round provided everyone that is continuing has a marker to record their hole scores.