Ever found yourself wondering what a Local Rule is all about? Our Rules of Golf expert has a simple explanation for you

If you’ve played any sort of golf, you will have come across a Local Rule. Often printed on the back of a scorecard, or placed on a noticeboard in the locker room, they can cover everything from abnormal course conditions to internal out of bounds and even the type of ball or club you can use in a particular event.

But if this concept has passed you by, or you’ve never paid enough attention to what’s on your club’s website, let’s take a deeper look at them and what they mean to your game….

What is a Local Rule?

It’s a modification of a Rule of Golf, or an additional rule that a committee – whether that’s at the highest level on tour or at your golf club – adopts for general play or a particular competition.

When a Local Rule is brought in, it has the same status as a Rule of Golf for that competition or golf course. So, if you break one, you’re going to receive a penalty.

There are a whole host of guidelines a Local Rule needs to be consistent with and are found in the Committee Procedures in the Official Guide to the Rules of Golf.

If not, a round played with such a rule in effect isn’t considered to have been played to the Rules of Golf, and handicapping authorities can even decide it isn’t an acceptable score.

local rule

What are some of the guidelines for bringing in a Local Rule?

There’s a whole host of them going from a to i, with some sub-sections in between, in the committee procedures. You can find them all here, but some of the more interesting include:

– Unless it’s set out differently, the sanction for breaching a Local Rule is usually the general penalty (two shots or loss of hole in match play).

– A committee “must not use a Local Rule to waive or modify a Rule of Golf simply because it might prefer a Rule to be different”. An example given is extending the search time for a ball from three to five minutes.

– A committee can’t use a Local Rule to change the penalty for a breach.

– If a Local Rule is brought in because of a temporary situation – such as animal damage – it should be removed as “soon as the situation no longer requires the use of the Local Rule”.

What is a Model Local Rule?

You’ll often hear this when referees discuss rulings, or when governing bodies announce changes to, or introduce new, Rules of Golf.

In the committee procedures, there are nearly 90 Model Local Rules that set out common situations and issues which come up frequently enough to “justify having a model form”.

Not only do they explain the purpose to any committee that may be thinking about implementing them, they also produce language clubs can use when constructing their own Local Rules.

What are some of the more unusual rules?

Model Local Rule F-12 deals with animal dung on the course if there are concerns about its effect on fair play, G-7 prohibits the use of certain types of shoes (think spikes), and G-10 stops players from using clubs that are longer than 46 inches.

What is the strangest Local Rule you’ve ever come across? Let me know with a tweet.

Have a question for our Rules of Golf expert?

Despite the simplification of the Rules of Golf, there are still some that leave us scratching our heads. And as I’ve passed the R&A’s Level 3 rules exam with distinction, I’ll try to help by featuring the best in this column.

You can read all of Steve’s Rules of Golf explained columns here.

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 23 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former captain and committee member, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the national Tournament Administrators and Referee's Seminar. He has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying and the PGA Fourball Championship. A member of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap.

Handicap: 10.9

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