The Leaf Rule: You chuckle, but…


It’s almost October and the leaves aren’t getting any greener. So? Have you heard the words yet? Have you said them? I’m referring to the inevitable declaration: Leaf Rule!

I can’t believe there are many amateur golfers out there who haven’t heard or possibly even used the term themselves. But for those of you whose ears are still virgin to the term, let me explain.

Beginning now and sometimes well into summer many golfers play under what’s commonly and affectionately referred to as the Leaf Rule.  Mind you this isn’t actually a real rule, but an allowance that amateur golfers make while playing during the fall months.

The so-called rule comes into play when a ball is hit and determined lost due to the simple fact it’s hidden from view because it’s obstructed by the quantity of leaves on the ground. This is usually followed by some rationalizing comments like “It should be right here.”  Or “There’s no way that ball is lost!”

In any event, once a ball is determined to fall under the Leaf Rule, another ball is dropped, usually with encouragement to “give yourself a good shot.” Not only that, but the rule comes without the penalty of a stroke. Frankly, the end result is often way better than the original shot ever dreamed to be.

I’ve written all that to ask this: Where do you stand on the Leaf Rule?  Because I’m going to just put it out there – I’m not a believer. It’s a flimsy excuse to avoid poorly struck shots. Sure there are some good aspects like speeding up play, but in the end it’s a cheat.

The truth is the Leaf Rule gets the rake under USGA Rule 13-1. This generally says the ball must be played as it lies. And before you say “but” let me add that 13-1 can quickly be followed by USGA Rule 27, which addresses the rules surrounding a lost ball and the penalties associated with it.

So I close with this – the Leaf Rule, I get it. I understand why we do it and I’ve even played it, though primarily while playing client golf with my boss, but I get it. I’m just saying let’s try to stop it. Or at the very least, let’s not go about boasting how we shot 78 when actually it was closer to 86 with Leaf Rules galore. Deal? And one more thing: Why not eliminate the Leaf Rule all together by picking up a copy of Golf With A Purpose?  Because I’ve noticed one thing – rarely has a Leaf Rule been declared when the ball is on the fairway or green.

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