Golf Rule 13, Ball Played as it Lies – Simplified Version
13-1. The ball must be played as it lies unless the rules for a particular situation say otherwise.
13-2. A player cannot improve: his lie by changing the ball’s position; the area of his stance or swing; his line of play; the area where he is taking a drop or placing his ball. These actions are prohibited: pressing the ground with a club; moving, bending or breaking a fixed or growing object (e.g., a tree branch); altering the ground’s surface; moving or pressing down soil or repaired divots; sweeping away dew or other moisture.
There are certain instances where the above actions are allowed without penalty: grounding the club lightly behind the ball; taking a stance in a normal manner; making a swing, provided the ball is hit; altering imperfections or removing moisture on the teeing ground; removing loose soil or repairing the putting green.
Exception: When the ball lies in a hazard (see rule 13-4).
Examples of actions prohibited by rule 13-2: Accidentally breaking a tree limb on a practice backswing, clearing the obstacle from the path of the swing; pulling up a tuft of grass from behind the ball to test the wind and removing a possible impediment to the club; when off the green, fixing a pitch mark on the fringe when the mark is on the intended line of a putt or running shot.
Examples of actions allowed by rule 13-2: Breaking a tree limb on a practice backswing, as long as the limb would not have interfered with the actual swing; pulling grass to test the wind away from the swing’s path; fixing a pitch mark on the line of a shot, with no intention of rolling the ball over the repaired area.
13-3. The player is allowed to take a firm stance, but may not build a stance (e.g., shuffle the ground under his feet to stabilize his position).
Examples of actions prohibited by rule 13-3: Bending a low-lying branch and standing on it while swinging; intentionally bending a branch with the stance when a reasonable stance could be taken with the branch in place.
Examples of actions allowed by rule 13-3: Backing into a bush if there’s no other way to stand and play the shot, even if part of the bush bends or breaks; bending a branch in order to access a ball and play a shot.
13-4. Before hitting a ball lying in a hazard (bunker or water), the player can’t touch or test the hazard’s surface with his club or hand, and may not touch or move a loose impediment in the hazard.
Exceptions: As long as the player doesn’t test the hazard’s condition or improve his lie, he isn’t penalized for: touching the surface or a loose impediment by falling or preventing a fall; removing an obstruction; marking his ball’s position or moving it in accordance with the rules; or placing his clubs in the hazard. Players are allowed to smooth sand or soil in a hazard if the sole purpose is course upkeep, and their lie or line isn’t improved in any way.
Penalties for violating Rule 13: Match play – loss of hole. Stroke play – two strokes.
The ball must be played as it lies, except as otherwise provided in the Rules.
(Ball at rest moved – see Rule 18)
13-2. Improving Lie, Area Of Intended Stance Or Swing, Or Line Of Play
A player must not improve or allow to be improved:
the position or lie of his ball,
the area of his intended Stance or swing,
his Line Of Play or a reasonable extension of that line beyond the Hole, or
the area in which he is to drop or place a ball,
13-3. Building Stance
A player is entitled to place his feet firmly in taking his stance, but he must not build a stance.
13-4. Ball In Hazard; Prohibited Actions
Except as provided in the Rules, before making a stroke at a ball that is in a hazard (whether a bunker or a water hazard) or that, having been lifted from a hazard, may be dropped or placed
(Searching for ball – see Rule 12-1)
(Relief for ball in water hazard – see Rule 26)