October 19, 2020

Rule of the Month: Model Local Rules


Golf is a sport that can be played in many different places and environments, and as such, each course has unique challenges and features. To accommodate that fact, the 2019 Rules of Golf were written to give the Committee flexibility to decide what is best for their course or competition. One of the ways that the Rules allow for this flexibility is with Model Local Rules.

Model Local Rules are simply templates that can be put into effect for general play on a golf course or for use in a specific competition that provide an alternative to the default position of the Rules. These templates may be used by the Committee exactly as written or may be used as an example of how to write a specific type of Local Rule. Local Rules are only authorized under the Rules if they are in accordance with the Model Local Rules found in the Committee Procedures section of the Official Guide to the Rules of Golf. When in effect, Local Rules have the same status as a Rule of Golf for that competition or course.

Local Rules will usually be printed on the scorecard or handed to players on a piece of paper prior to the start of a round. You may also see them posted somewhere in the golf shop, near the starter, or on the first tee. When in doubt, you should reach out to the Committee before your round to see what Local Rules are in effect.

Now that we’ve covered what Model Local Rules are and how they are used, let’s take a look at some of the ones that golfers frequently have questions about.

Model Local Rule F-5

It’s not uncommon to find your ball just off the putting green with a sprinkler head directly on your line to the hole. You might want to putt that ball but worry that it may hit the sprinkler head on the way to the hole, knocking it off your intended line. The Rules generally don’t provide relief for line of play interference only, but there is no need to fret! Many courses have adopted Model Local Rule F-5: Immovable Obstructions Close to Putting Greens. This Local Rule gives players an additional relief option under Rule 16.1 (Abnormal Course Conditions).

If this Local Rule is in effect, you are allowed to take free relief from immovable obstructions on your line of play when the obstruction is within two club-lengths of the putting green and also within two club-lengths of your ball. You may take relief by finding the nearest point of complete relief and measuring a one club-length relief area from that point, no nearer the hole and within the general area. Your ball must be dropped in and come to rest in that relief area.

This Local Rule is typically used on courses where the fringes or aprons of the putting greens are cut such that putting from off the green is likely. One well-known example of where this Local Rule might be used is on a course like Pinehurst No. 2.

Model Local Rule E-3

This Model Local Rule goes by a lot of different names: “preferred lies,” “winter Rules,” or “lift, “winter Rules,” or “lift, clean, and place” are all common monikers for this frequently used Rule.

When in effect, this Local Rule allows a player to take relief by lifting the ball and placing it on the ground in a specified relief area. Usually this is either within one club-length, 6 inches, or a scorecard-length of the original spot of the ball, but it is up to the Committee to specify the relief area. While the ball is lifted, the player may clean it before placing it on the ground, or the player may choose to use a different ball instead of the original ball. A player is only allowed to take relief in this way once, so after the player has placed their ball on the ground within the relief area, the relief procedure is complete and the player must not take relief under this Local Rule again for that stroke.

This Local Rule is to be used when prolonged conditions, such as heavy rains, spring thaws, and extreme heat cause widespread damage to the course or prevent the use of maintenance equipment. Implementing this Local Rule may make the course more fair for players, as well as protecting it from further damage. While this Local Rule is not used at USGA championships, it is a great option for competitions when the weather hasn’t been friendly to the course.

Model Local Rule G-4

This Local Rule leads to a common misconception among golfers: that you may only use one type of golf ball throughout a round. When this Local Rule is in effect, that is true and players must use only a single type of golf ball. This means the same brand and model ball that is on the List of Conforming Golf Balls. It is important to note that golf balls of different colors that are otherwise identical are considered different balls. This Local Rule is used on the PGA Tour, and as a result, many players believe that this is the default position of the Rules.

When this Local Rule is not in effect, players may use any golf ball on the List of Conforming Golf Balls, meaning that they may switch golf balls between holes or anytime the Rules allow the player to substitute a ball.

This Local Rule is recommended for use only in competitions limited to highly skilled players (that is professional competitions and elite amateur competitions), but it is always a good idea to check if this Local Rule is in effect prior to playing in a competition.


Model Local Rules are a wonderful tool for Committees to be able to make the game fair for players on their course or in their competitions, and knowing which Local Rules are in effect can help you as a player.

For more information on the myriad Model Local Rules that can be put into effect, take a look in the Committee Procedures Section of the Official Guide to the Rules of Golf.