The 90 Degree Golf Rule: Explained

Golf isn’t just about swinging clubs and sinking putts; it’s embedded with traditions and rules that mold its identity. Among the many guidelines that have shaped the sport, the 90 degree rule has an understated but significant impact.

This rule about cart management is often met with resistance and even downright scowling. But those who understand its purpose know it’s a necessary evil. 

Let’s take a more insightful look at what the rule is and why it matters, we will cover:

  • Basics of The 90 Degree Rule
  • 4 Benefits of the 90 Degree Rule
  • 4 Exceptions to the Rule
  • Common Misconceptions Related to the 90 Degree Rule in Golf
  • Other Etiquettes and Unique Rules in Golf
90 degree rule in golf : explained

Let’s explore the basics first!

Basics of The 90 Degree Rule Golf

The 90 degree golf rule is a directive for golf cart usage. After your tee shot, you drive your cart only on the cart path. Once you’re in line with your ball, you make a sharp 90 degree turn onto the grass and head directly to it.

After playing your shot, you drive 90 degrees straight back to the cart path from where you left.

Nobody likes this rule, but It’s all about respecting the course. By driving in this manner, we distribute the wear and tear evenly, ensuring that no particular section of the fairway gets overly worn out. 

Over the years, I’ve seen firsthand how courses maintain their pristine conditions longer when this rule is adhered to diligently.

The beauty of the 90 degree rule lies in its dual purpose: it aids the golfer by allowing golf cart use while ensuring the longevity and quality of the course we love and respect. This can also significantly help with golf course management in the long run. 

golf carts lined up on the course

4 Benefits of the 90 Degree Rule Golf

When you hear about the 90 degree rule, it’s not just about driving golf carts. This rule brings real value to both the player and the golf course.

#1: Guarding the Greens: Those lush fairways are sensitive. Prolonged cart movement, especially across them, could rough them up. By directing carts to move strategically, we’re spreading the load and giving the fairways a break.

#2: Smooth Surfaces: Uneven patches can throw off even the best shots. Thanks to the 90 degree rule, the turf remains even, ensuring consistent play no matter the time of day or season.

golf cart at sunset

#3: Stay Safe Out There: This rule isn’t just about the grass. By encouraging a specific cart path, it minimizes aimless driving. This means fewer chances for mishaps and smoother rounds for all on the course.

#4: Keeping Courses Fresh: Think of a golf course as a prized piece of artwork. You want it to last and stay beautiful. Following the golf 90 degree rule plays a part in preserving its charm and reducing the frequency of touch-ups or overhauls.

4 Variations of the Rule

Every rule has its intricacies, and the 90 degree rule in golf is no different. Depending on the circumstances, there can be modifications or complete deviations from this regulation.

#1: Handling Wet Conditions: When the skies open up or the sprinklers have been busy, the course turns vulnerable. Waterlogged courses can’t bear the brunt of cart traffic. So, don’t be surprised if the club flags a “cart path only” directive. It’s a call to protect the turf.

#2: Course Design Matters: Golf courses come with their quirks. Some have treacherous terrains, while others flaunt water features or dense foliage. In places like these, the straight and narrow of the 90 degree rule might not cut it.

golf cart on the green

#3: Tournament Twists: If you’ve got a special event or tournament on the horizon, the rules might see a little shake-up. Depending on what’s in store, you might encounter a tighter leash or a little more freedom with the carts.

#4: Catering to All Golfers: Golf is an inclusive sport. So, if there’s a player with a physical limitation or injury, the rule book opens up a bit. The aim is to keep the greens accessible and the game enjoyable for everyone.

Common Misconceptions Related to the 90 Degree Rule Golf

Let’s take a look at some of the common misconceptions that golfers often assume related to the 90 degree rule.

All Carts and Players Should Follow It

Some golfers think the rule is a one-size-fits-all, applying it to every kind of cart, including manual push carts. Given their weight, motorized carts can significantly impact the turf, leading to wear patterns and soil compaction. 

golf cart on a hill

In contrast, the footfall of a player or the lightweight touch of a pushcart doesn’t exert the same pressure; hence, they’re less of a concern in this context.

While we’re at it, we’ve also got a way for you to increase your golf cart speeds.

Every Golf Course Uses It

It’s easy to assume that a rule so prevalent would be standardized across all golf courses. However, each course has unique terrain and challenges. 

Some might adopt the 90 degree rule strictly, while others, perhaps with tougher terrains or less cart traffic, might opt for different strategies. Recognizing this variability ensures players adapt to local norms, making the game enjoyable for everyone.

No Big Deal to Occasionally Deviate

Occasionally, golfers might think deviating from the rule won’t harm, especially if it’s just once. The issue arises when this sentiment becomes widespread. 

If multiple players act on this assumption during a busy day, the combined effect can lead to noticeable wear on specific sections of the course. Consistent deviation could also attract penalties in stricter clubs, emphasizing the importance of adhering to local guidelines.

golf cart parked next to the fairway

Other Etiquettes and Rules in Golf for Beginners

In the world of golf, the 90 degree rule is just one of many etiquettes and guidelines designed to preserve the integrity and flow of the game. Let’s explore a few more essential etiquettes that every golfer, novice, or experienced should be aware of.

The Out-of-Bounds Rule in Golf

Every golfer dreads the phrase “out of bounds” (OB). If a ball lands in this zone, the player incurs a two-stroke penalty and must play from the spot of the previous shot. White stakes or lines mark these regions. This rule makes golfers think twice before taking risky shots.

golfer posing next to golf cart, near the green. He is observing the 90 degree rule

The Provisional Ball Rule in Golf

We’ve all had those shots that seem to vanish on the course. Enter the provisional ball rule. If a player believes their original ball might be lost or out of bounds, they can play a second shot that may or may not be used based on the result of their first shot. 

This ensures the game moves smoothly without retracing steps. If the original ball is found in play, it’s used; if not, the provisional ball is played with a one-stroke penalty.

The Unplayable Lie Rule in Golf

In golf, sometimes your ball lands in a tricky spot, making it nearly impossible to play. That’s where the unplayable lie rule comes in. 

Players can declare their ball “unplayable” anywhere on the course except in a hazard and then follow specific procedures for relief, usually with a one-stroke penalty. It’s a lifeline when you’re in a bind!

golfer in golf cart speeding down the fairway

Free Relief

Free relief refers to instances where a golfer can drop their ball without incurring a penalty, such as when the ball lands on a cart path, in casual water, or near dangerous animals. 

While specific scenarios allow for a free drop, players must ensure they follow the correct process, such as dropping the ball from knee height and ensuring it doesn’t land closer to the hole than its original position.

Also, check out What To Do If You End Up Playing The Wrong Ball.

Key Takeaways

Among the many rules of golf that have been shaped over the years, the 90 degree rule of golf stands out. It guides how we drive our carts on the course, but in essence, it really is about respecting the course.

It’s about ensuring a smooth game for everyone on a pristine golf course. The deeper you get into golf, the more details and little rules you’ll find. These little touches make every round special. They turn an ordinary game into an experience to remember.

Next Up: Rules Of Golf: 8 Strange Golf Rules You Need To Know

Photo of author
After graduating from the Professional Golf Management program in Palm Springs, CA, I moved back to Toronto, Canada, turned pro and became a Class 'A' member of the PGA of Canada. I then began working at some of the city's most prominent country clubs. While this was exciting, it wasn't as fulfilling as teaching, and I made the change from a pro shop professional to a teaching professional. Within two years, I was the Lead Teaching Professional at one of Toronto's busiest golf instruction facilities. Since then, I've stepped back from the stress of running a successful golf academy to focus on helping golfers in a different way. Knowledge is key so improving a players golf IQ is crucial when choosing things like the right equipment or how to cure a slice. As a writer I can help a wide range of people while still having a little time to golf myself!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.