Skip to content

These are the top five most-searched Rules of Golf on Google in 2023

The Rules of Golf can trip up players at every level due to their complexity and the potential for misinterpretation.

Even the pros can make mistakes when it comes to applying the rules correctly. Under pressure or in high-stakes situations, a player may misunderstand or forget a specific procedure, leading to a costly mistake.

There are 25 rules in the US Golf Association’s official Rules of Golf. Within each of the rules, there are further explanations for specific situations. There are also 70 defined terms, such as “abnormal course condition” or “teeing area.”

Golfers tend to know some rules in general but probably not all of them.

USGA: Get your copy of the Rules of Golf

As part of a series of stories on the USGA and the rules, this list has been compiled to highlight the most-searched rules in 2023. As a disclaimer, when Golfweek did this search of “golf rules,” a few of the top ones had to do with the proposals on the golf ball or the 90-degree rule, which is really just course etiquette.

Ron Gaines, Golfweek’s Director of Rules & Competition, contributed to this article.

Out of bounds

Rule 18 is for stroke-and-distance relief, ball lost or out of bounds, provisional ball. A player has a few options when a ball goes OB. Click here for more.

USGA out of bounds

USGA out of bounds

There is also an option for players to drop in the fairway after hitting a ball out of bounds, with a two-stroke penalty. This local rule must be implemented by the course or tournament committee. Click here for an explanation.

Lost ball

Rule 18 is for stroke-and-distance relief, ball lost or out of bounds, and a provisional ball. Click here for more.

USGA shock ball

USGA shock ball

When a hole starts

A hole starts when a player makes a stroke to begin the hole. Click here for more.

USGA starting a hole

USGA starting a hole


unplayable lie

unplayable lie

The USGA says “Rule 19 covers the player’s several relief options for an unplayable ball.” This applies only to balls not in a penalty area or bunker. There are three options if a player decides the ball is unplayable, and these options have been updated in 2023:

From the USGA:

When you decide that your ball is unplayable, you have three relief options, all for one penalty stroke. Your first option is to go back to the spot of your previous stroke and play again (stroke and distance relief). Your second option is to go back as far as you’d like and drop on the line from the hole through the spot where the ball lies (back-on-the-line relief). Your third option is to drop anywhere within two club-lengths of where your ball lies, no closer to the hole (lateral relief).

Click here for more.

Embedded ball

Rule 16 – Relief from abnormal course conditions (including immovable obstructions), dangerous animal condition, embedded ball.

USGA embedded ball

USGA embedded ball

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek