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Davie Grant is stymied on the 17th green at North Berwick, Scotland, and is attempting to chip his own ball over the ball that is blocking the hole (c. 1888).

A stymie is an archaic rule in the game of golf for a situation or problem presenting such difficulties as to discourage or defeat any attempt to deal with or resolve it.

Various changes to the stymie rule were enacted in 1938 and 1941. Finally, in 1952, the stymie rule was totally removed from the rules of golf when the USGA and R&A established a joint set of rules.

Rule history[edit]

Stymie, an 1882 watercolor by Thomas Hodge. Note the ball blocking the hole.

In singles match play when one player's ball blocked the path of another player's ball on the green, but were not within six inches of each other, the obstructing player's ball was not lifted.

Instead the player who was further away from the hole had to attempt to slice or draw his putt around the obstacle ball. Sometimes a player would even attempt to chip his ball over the opponent's ball into the cup.[1]

If the player failed, even hitting their opponent's ball, his next shot would have to be played from where his ball now lay. If contact happened, the player's opponent, when it was his turn to play, had the choice to take his putt from his ball's original position or its new lie.

Likewise if the player's ball knocked the obstructing ball into the cup, his opponent was considered to have holed out on the previous shot. For example, a ball lying 3 on the green is knocked into the hole by another ball—in this instance the score for the player whose ball was knocked into the hole would be 3.

Rule modifications[edit]

In 1920, the United States Golf Association tested a modified stymie rule for one year, allowing a stymied player to concede the opponent's next putt. The next change to the stymie rule came in 1938, when the USGA began a two-year trial in which an obstructing ball within 6 inches (15 cm) of the hole could be moved regardless of the distance between the balls. The USGA made this rule permanent in 1941. However, during this time, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews never modified the stymie rule.[1]

Rule abolished[edit]

The stymie was finally removed from the rules effective in 1952,[1] when the USGA and R&A established a joint set of rules.


  1. ^ a b c Myers, Alex. "The 9 Most Notable Rule Changes". Retrieved 18 July 2015.