The last 3 of the 5 most common Thailand golf rule errors are:
3. Nearest point of relief. (The so-called “free drop” rule). The USGA definition for this rule is so complex that might as well be written in Thai.
In simple terms, when you take relief from ground under repair, cart paths, staked trees, or an immovable object, there’s no penalty. You simply take a stance and place the club head (no closer to the hole) where you will strike the ball. Put a tee down where the club head is and you get one club length from there to drop your ball.
The problem area has to interfere with your stance or swing; a line-of-flight dilemma isn’t a justification for relief. Many golfers in Thailand modify this rule to suit their specific situation. They take relief whenever there is any obstacle in their line to the green. This condition is just bad luck and does not qualify for a “free drop”.
4. Unplayable lie. You can declare any ball from any lie unplayable and take a drop. It’s a one-stroke penalty. You have three options: (1) You can take the ball back to the location where you hit the previous shot. (2) You can drop your ball within two club lengths from the unplayable lie, no closer to the hole. (3) You can take your ball back as far as you want in the line of flight (that means keeping the spot where the unplayable lie is and the flag on the green in a straight line back to where you want to drop the ball).
You must find your ball – this is where Thailand golf caddies pay for themselves – because the penalty is only one stroke for an unplayable lie, but two-strokes for a lost ball. If two club lengths won’t give you relief and taking it back in line-of-flight just takes you further back in the trees or out of bounds, you have no other alternative but to go back to where you hit the previous shot. This rule is rarely followed in Thailand, and more times than not most Thai golfers simply drop a ball off to the side or wherever convenient and carry on with their round.
5. Hit the wrong ball. It is a costly mistake, not to mention embarrassing, when you hit someone else’s golf ball. The penalty is loss of the hole in match play and two strokes in medal play. In medal play, you have to go back and play your own ball and add two strokes to your final score on the hole. It’s an easy mistake to make and after the fact golfers in Thailand rarely go back to play the correct ball over again. They simply mark their score achieved with the wrong ball and give the ball back to the other player.
These are just a few of the rules that are often misunderstood by golfers here in Thailand. There are in total 34 rules of golf. You can order the official rules book from the USGA on line. Another great source is the “R & A Decisions on the Rules of Golf”. It’s fascinating, but mind-blowing!
I would like to hear from you if you have any opinions on whether when playing golf in Thailand, it is best to follow the rules or make up your own as you go along. You can post a comment here or drop me at my Golfasian and I will take care of the posting duties.