Rules Guy: How long are you allowed to wait for others to move out of your way?

Is there a time limit on how long you can wait to hit a shot?

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The Rules of Golf are tricky! Thankfully, we’ve got the guru. Our Rules Guy knows the book front to back. Got a question? He’s got all the answers.

When teeing off and other players are standing directly behind you, is it okay to wait until they move? Is there a time limit to tee off? And is it bad etiquette for them to stand there?
—David Mooney, via email

David, as parents are wont to tell their frustrated toddlers, “Use your words.”

It’s fine to let playing partners know you don’t want them positioned where they could be in your line of sight — just do it politely. This way, you won’t have to wait and hope that they somehow intuit your feelings. (It’s only bad etiquette if they stand behind you knowing that you find it distracting, IMHO.)

Golfers looking for balls
Rules Guy: If you forget where you found your ball, do you get more time to find it again?
By: Rules Guy

Under Rule 1.2a, which covers expected conduct, players must show consideration for their fellow golfers, so ask and they shall move. As for time limits to play your shot, Rule 5.6a discusses unreasonable delays but, really, this situation should never, ever reach that threshold. Just please talk it through.

For more time-limit guidance from our guru, read on …

A guy in my group tells me he made a 10 on a par 5. A few holes later, he says that he made a mistake — it was a 9. How long can a change to a score be made? — Jeff Viking, via email

Apparently, this gentleman’s counting skills are right up there with his golfing skills. In stroke play, the scores just need to be correct when the scorecard is returned following the round. Until that point, such changes are a nonissue.

It’s a different situation in match play. Under Rule 3.2d(1), if the player giving the wrong score affected the result of the hole, i.e., he tied it rather than lost it, or won it rather than tied it, or won it instead of lost it (possible if he miscounted by, say, 2 strokes), he retroactively loses the hole. If his error didn’t affect the result — he lost the hole anyway (you made 8 or better), or he won it with the original 10 (to your 11 or higher) — the miscount is a moot point.

Got a question about the Rules? Ask the Rules Guy! Send your queries, confusions and comments to We promise he won’t throw the book at you.

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