The Golf “90-Degree” Rule, Explained
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To the outsiders, golf is seen as an “easy” sport because it doesn’t entail running or wrestling. But to insiders, it is a game that requires precision, walking, upper body strength, and adherence to rules. A lot of rules! So, what is the golf 90-degree rule, anyway?
The 90-degree rule refers to a conditional allowance of golf carts on the fairway as long as they are at a 90-degree angle from the cart path. To enter the greens from the cart path or the rough, the driver has to bring the cart perpendicular to the ball and turn it 90 degrees to face the ball.
In this article, you will learn more about this rule in detail so you can follow it, know when you have to adhere to it, and understand when it doesn’t apply. Additionally, we’ll take a look at some funny golf slang that you might encounter on the course.
You’ll also discover the best practices for using your cart on the fairway. But first, let’s get into the details of following this rule.
How to Follow the 90-Degree Rule?
To adhere to the 90-degree rule, you have to follow these steps:
- Drive on the cart path or the rough until the ball is strictly to your side.
- Turn the cart 90 degrees as you drive onto the fairway. The turn doesn’t need to be sharp.
- Drive the cart when the ball is right in front of it.
- Stop the cart as it is if you think you’ll need to keep driving further.
- Stop the cart after turning it 90 degrees once again if you think you’ll need to go back to the cart path.
- Drive back to the cart path or the rough after turning and facing the path head-on.
- Enter the cart path at 90 degrees.
Why Is the 90-Degree Rule in Place?
The 90-degree rule helps maintain a healthy turf by keeping the grass being pushed in various directions. The turf remains combed perpendicular to the cart path with this rule. As a result, the course doesn’t have brown patches showing courtesy of multi-direction driving.
It is important to note that the 90-degree rule is meant to maintain turf health because on courses where the turf is too fragile to remain in decent shape, even with a strictly policed 90-degree rule, you will be confined to the “cart path only” rule.
As this Oak Ridge Country Club rules and regulations page shows, the 90-degree rule can be applied conditionally as well.
The key lesson here is to know the rule but not assume it to be in effect everywhere.
Why Are There So Many Cart Rules?
The 90-degree rule is not the only cart rule in golf. Many courses implement a “cart path only” rule where the cart has to be confined to its path, and you need to walk on the fairway.
There is also a cart-rider policy that dictates the conditions under which both players can ride the same cart.
There are so many rules regarding golf carts because the carts impact so many aspects of the game. Overreliance on them saps the athletic spirit of the game while driving them in any direction affects the performing area.
In every other sport except vehicle racing, traveling it off-court. Golf is the only sport where one’s travel and transportation occurs in the actual playable area.
To make sure this doesn’t interfere with the game or the spirit of the game, different golf bodies and associations implement different rules.
When Do You Need to Drive Back to the Cart Path?
Usually, you must drive back to the cart path once you have made your shot, but if the ball is still in the fairway, you might continue driving at 90 degrees from the cart path until you are close enough to the ball.
There will be instances where the ball is close to another section of the cart path. In that case, you need to get back on the path and drive to that point. The advantage of driving forward is that you save a lot of time.
But if the rule is policed strictly, and someone notices you spending too much time on the grass, your membership might be at risk even if you’ve been on the turf because you have a high score.
The Best Strategy for Golf Cart Placement
You can follow the 90-degree rule on the turf, but there is still pressure to get off the trimmed greens. But when it comes to the roughs, there is little to no policing.
So the best hybrid between the fairway carting and exclusive cart path adherence is to park on the rough as often as you can. Making walking a part of your game is in the true spirit of golf.
Carts, according to the PGA, are against the spirit of golf. The association is so strict about the no carts policy that a disabled athlete had to sue the PGA to get the right to use a cart.
Given that the PGA does not dictate what’s okay for hobbyist golfers, it is okay to use carts wherever they are allowed. But you should not try to use your cart to eliminate walking altogether as it is a part of the game.
What Not to Do With Your Golf Cart?
If you are unsure about the specific rules of a club or course, it is best to avoid the following:
- Driving on the turf – If you’re not sure what the cart-on-turf rules are, assume that you’re not allowed to bring the golf cart on the fairway.
- Parking near the tees – Avoid driving up to and parking near the tees.
- Having more than two people on the cart – You and another golfer or you and your caddie can be on the cart at one time. You cannot let your caddies take a separate cart while you’re on your own cart with your golfing buddy.
The PGA-Cart Myth
Because the PGA prohibits professionals from using the golf cart, it is assumed by some beginners that using a cart is equivalent to cheating.
PGA allows cart usage in amateur championships, albeit with strict rules. Using a cart does not make you any less of a golfer. But relying on it too much can make you an unfair player, to an extent.
Final Thoughts on the Golf 90 Degree Rule
The 90-degree rule is not policed like the traffic rules in a metropolitan area. It is often self-enforced out of courtesy. Do your best to drive at 90 degrees from the cart path, and you should be fine.