Whether you’re a seasoned golfer or a beginner, knowing the rules of the game is an essential part of playing golf. Without the rules, the game would be a bit chaotic. Golf handicaps would not count for much and it would be impossible for people to play the game competitively with any sense of reality. So golf rules are important. But how strict are they? Can you bend the rules of golf?
Yesterday I was playing a round of golf with two women from my club, Olde Barnstable on Cape Cod. We were on the fifth hole — a par 4 that has a slight dogleg right, leading up to an elevated green. I hit my drive left cutting through the line of trees that divided the fifth fairway from the sixth fairway that runs parallel to the hole we were playing. I landed in the deep rough. Rats!
When I finally found my ball and stood over it, I was faced with a couple of options. I could play it safe, punch my second shot out of the rough and back onto the fifth fairway, or I could send caution to the wind and try and go for the green. I had a clear shot at it, but would have to clear three fairway bunkers to succeed. Of course, I went for the green, landed on the edge of the far bunker, finally chipped onto the green and putted in for a 7 or 8 or something equally horrible.
What I didn’t consider was a third and far smarter option.
Here’s a look at the course layout of holes 5 and 6. That red “X” marks my ball… and you can see options 1, 2 and 3!
Our group was the first out that morning. There was no one ahead of us waiting on the next tee box or in the fairway. There was no chance of hitting anyone if I chose to play my ball straight back down the sixth fairway and then, on my third shot, cut back through the trees to the fifth green below, thus avoiding all those sand bunkers. Was it a legal option? Would it be breaking the rules of golf to play my ball in the wrong direction down a neighboring fairway? No one of the three of us was sure but when we got to the turn after the ninth hole we asked the golf pro, Merry Holway.
Guess what? Playing backwards down a neighboring fairway is perfectly legal!!! Who knew! And as I am likely to hook left when I play that hole again, I’m going to keep this strategy in my back pocket for future use!
So what do you think? Would you have known it was ok to play your ball backwards? Any other obscure rules you know we can bend?