Beginner's Luck – No. 10
Rules rule! – or, ‘So, you’re telling me I can’t tee it up in the fairway?’

We are four women who are new to the game of golf. We connected through the game, and have become friends because of it. We love the game, and want to share our experiences in finding our way, and encourage and empower other beginners to take it on and seize every opportunity for joy in it.

Rules, rules, rules! Yes, there are a lot of rules in golf. In the beginner’s game, rules can be intimidating, but most people are helpful and understand we’re still learning. For a game with a lot of variables, the Rules are in place to create a fair and even playing field, so it pays to know some of the fundamentals.  When in doubt, ask your playing partner or better yet use the USGA Rules of Golf smartphone app. There is also interactive information on the Rules on the WA Golf website that is so helpful. Hopefully, understanding the rules makes the game all the more enjoyable to be part of.

Kristina (@k_love_90 on TikTok): For me, knowing the Rules helps me save strokes and speed up play when there is doubt about what to do when a ball goes in the water or is lost in the forest. Here’s the thing: use the Rules to your advantage whenever you can. I recently found myself in a situation where my ball landed in the base of a tree. This isn’t the same as near the trees – no, the ball was literally resting in the nook of a tree! I couldn’t get a swing on it and didn’t want to damage my club or myself trying so I took an “unplayable” ball (Rule 19) relief. This allowed me to get out of a difficult situation with one penalty stroke – if I had to swing to get the ball out of the tree nook, I’m pretty sure I would have used several strokes to get it in play. You also have several options in the Rules for relief if your ball comes to rest on a cart path or sprinkler head. There are seasonal Rules, so in autumn a player can replace a ball lost in the leaves (if everyone in the group agrees). There are local Rules too, like relief from an elk fence and “casual rattlesnake rules” (yikes!). You can always ask for advice on Rules, and I often do, even if just to test my understanding before I take the next swing. And if no one knows what to do, make a note of it, use your best judgement and get guidance after the round.

Playable, but not awesome.

Stephanie (@coldinseattle on TikTok): I played all of my first year in a more casual 9-hole group getting the hang of playing the game. Of course I knew basic rules but every round I would learn something new. Everyone wants to support the beginner in our ladies group and they were all so friendly and helpful. Now that I just joined the 18-hole group it got real – real fast. Yes they are all so friendly, but I got the sense that I should have known all the Rules by now. As I started, they would correct me as we played along. This was great because last year all my friends and I were so new we did not know all the Rules. Some of the Rules seemed so basic, but no one ever pointed out some of my errors. For instance, I was marking my ball incorrectly on the green for a year. Once it was pointed out to me, I felt so dumb but the girls explained to me that now that I am in the 18-hole group, I can go to more tournaments, and represent my Club, so they want to make sure I know all the Rules. Another rule my beginner friends and I do is compare what club we are hitting. In a friendly way, someone will hit and I’ll ask her, “What did you use?” Well, we found out that we can’t ask that. Who knew? This is all good, and I learn a new rule or etiquette every time I go out and play. This is the nice thing about being a part of a Club. Everyone there wants to help you get better and have fun.

Unplayable, with the ball not in a penalty area. Okay to move it, with a one-stroke penalty.

Macarena: As for the Rules of Golf, I still am learning them! For a game that is supposed to be fun there seem to be many, many rules. There are books you can purchase if you feel so inclined, but I try to learn from my fellow players as they often have interesting stories to go with a particular rule. I do keep a brief summary of Rules in my bag, but lately have used my phone to Google queries (e.g. if a ball is wedged in the trunk of a tree, what do you do and what is the penalty).

A couple other examples I found interesting:

Does a golfer count a stroke if they “whiff” at a ball? If you are playing in a competition and you want to be a rule follower it is important to know that under the Rules of Golf any stroke in which you intend to hit the ball counts. As a beginner, everyone will encourage you, and if you miss the ball they’ll tell you “That was a practice shot; don’t worry, we won’t count it.” But once you start playing in competitions, if you swing and miss, and you were trying to hit the ball, then it counts as a stroke. If you take another swing at it, then you are counting your next stroke after the whiff. So be prepared. The first time I was told this, during my first-ever competition, I was gutted! So much so that I then proceeded to take another “whiff.” I was just a beginner, but at some point you have to be a grown-up and accept the Rules.


As a beginner I enjoy playing with a variety of players, some are beginners like me, and others who have been playing for years; some who have single-digit handicaps and some who are just very consistent players. As I love to learn from others, when someone ahead of me has played a great shot onto the green I have been known to ask which club they have hit with (as I am still trying to figure out clubs and distances). Well, that is a BIG mistake when playing in a competition, and carries a penalty. You are allowed to ask how far away the hole is, but not which club to use, nor which one they have used. Once again this is good to know so you don’t put your playing partner in a difficult position, as I did – consider my playing partner very rude for not sharing advice with a beginner!


We all hope to avoid those lovely hazards called bunkers, but inevitably we will end up in a few! Unlike other places on the course you must not ground your club or touch the sand with your club before hitting your shot (which can be very unnerving to a beginner), so if you are ever at a course where they have practice bunkers, it is definitely worth practicing. You are allowed to balance out your feet before hitting the ball, but just make sure you don’t affect the lie of your ball in the bunker. Once again, if you are prepared for this rule, you won’t be called out by your opponent just before you are about to hit it out of the sand (yes, unfortunately this did happen to me!).

Johanna: I learned another rule about golf just a couple weeks ago. We were all on the green lining up our putts when I noticed the grass fringe sticking out inside the cup. Thinking I was helping (and seeing many do this before), I went over and gently pressed the grass to make it level around the cup. I’m pretty sure I even said, “Here, let me fix this for you.” One of the women kindly told me that you are not supposed to do that. You get a penalty as you should not repair natural wear of the hole. That’s a rule I never even heard before! Overall, the wonderful ladies I golf with are so kind and helpful! I am very thankful to be blessed with such a great league!

Who We Are

Johanna MacMichael

Johanna MacMichael: Prior to March 2021, I’d only played golf a few times with my husband in “scramble” games. During COVID, a neighbor friend recommended a women’s golf league and I started playing on a regular basis. I love this game! My handicap is 38.6.

Macarena Dearie

Macarena Dearie: I was born in the UK, with the past many years living in various countries around the globe. I made a promise to my husband over 30 years ago that I would learn to play his beloved golf game if he learned to ski. And so here I am. My handicap is 40.0.

Stephanie Standifer

Stephanie Standifer: At 55 years old I started taking golf lessons during the COVID pandemic. My instructors encouraged me to play more regularly, so I joined my first 9-hole women’s league in the spring of 2021. My handicap is 26.4.

Kristina Laidler

Kristina Laidler: I retired during the pandemic, so I’m returning to golf after years commuting and sitting behind a computer keyboard. I always wanted to play more, and better, golf but did not have the time until now. My handicap is 26.3.