Before a standard set of rules was formulated, the rules of golf varied from one club to another. While they are almost the same, there were little differences, such as the removal of loose impediments. 

It was drawn up in Edinburgh where the first open golf tournament happened.

For many centuries, historians thought they’ve lost these records but in 1937, they were rediscovered. The last two pages of the Honorable Company’s Minute Book contained the original 13 articles written by the 1744-1747 golf champion, John Rattray.

In 1754, the golfers at St. Andrews which became the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews (R&A) adopted these rules. Different clubs in various countries continued to go by their own rules of golf. It was only in 1897 that the R&A was given full control over the rules.

In 1894, the US Golfing Association (USGA) adapted the R&A’s set of rules. Both associations worked separately until the year 1952. They have been working on setting and updating a universal code for the world of golf.

Some rules of golf

Below are some of the basic dos and don’ts of golf. The complete guide is published in the USGA and R&A Rules of Golf.

Two general areas of golf

Teeing ground- this is where the golf ball is struck by a club, across the fairway, to the second area.

Putting green- this is the second area where the hole is found.

Before the game starts, the player needs to:

  • Read the local rules written on the scorecard.
  • Put an identification mark on his ball.
  • Have a maximum of 14 clubs.

Playing the ball

  • The ball needs to be fairly used. Pushing or spooning it is not allowed.
  • Play the ball as it lies.
  • If the ball hits the bunker or water hazard, the player isn’t allowed to touch the ground in the water hazard or in the bunker.
  • If the ball is at rest and the player moved it, he’s given a penalty and the ball’s replaced.
  • The player can move his ball to assist the other player.

On loose impediments

  • The player can move loose impediments if it’s directly interfering with the ball. If the player ends up moving loose impediments one-club length and it caused the ball to move, a penalty stroke is called.

Matchplay and strike play

There are two ways you can win in golf: through match play or stroke play. Matchplay refers to the scoring system wherein the total number of holes is counted. Whoever has the most “a hole in one” wins. Strike play, on the other hand, accounts for the number of strokes made by the players. Whoever has the least number of strokes wins.

Golf etiquette

The rules of golf also include the sport’s etiquette. These guidelines are made for three reasons: to keep the player’s safety, to maintain the pace of the play, and to respect the quality of the sport. Below is some golf etiquette both players and audience should keep in mind once in the field.

For everyone’s safety

  • Before you swing your club, make sure everyone’s at a safe distance.
  • When swinging, make sure other players aren’t too close because flying twigs and grass can injure them.
  • If your ball looks like it’s heading straight to other players, shout “Fore!”
  • Never use your golf clubs out of spite or anger.

 For the pace of the play

  • Always quickly leave the putting green once your group is done putting.
  • Bring two clubs with you if you’re coming from the cart. This saves the time and effort of going back.
  • If it’s your turn to swing, be prepared. No one likes the feeling of waiting.
  • Five minutes are allotted to look for a lost ball. Don’t spend too much time on it though, as players are waiting for their turn.

 For the golf course

  • Ride your golf carts only around the allowed areas.
  • Keep carts away from green areas.
  • Repair ball marks on the green

For the attire

  • Men are not allowed to wear shirts without collars or sleeves.
  • Women are not allowed to wear skirt or shorts more than 5 inches above the knee.
  • Clothes with objectionable logos or design are not allowed
  • Shoes with metal studs are not allowed.

For the audience and players

  • Players and the audience are not supposed to shout during or after a swing,
  • Be wary of your shadow casting and obstructing other people’s putting.
  • Don’t block any swings of other players.

 Famous rule invocations

Like any other game, the rules of golf aren’t always perfectly followed. There are times when penalties are deliberately called for and at times, even overlooked. Below are some of the world’s most popular rule invocations in golf.


Bobby Jones, 1925 U.S Open

Jones’s ball moved slightly before any impact. It is stated in the rules that if a ball moves apart from how it should be moved (swinging), a penalty should be called. No one else saw the ball moved except Jones. He then called a 1-stroke penalty on himself and lost the tournament.

Craig Stadler, 1987 Andy Williams Open

It was a wet match for Stadler. In a kneeling position to play his shot, he placed a towel underneath his knees to keep his pants from getting wet. He continued on playing to the last four rounds of the tournament until he was disqualified. He was penalized for building his own stance, which isn’t allowed.

Tiger Woods, 1999 Phoenix Open

Woods had made a swing that caused his ball to end up behind a big boulder. He had gallery members move to the large boulder to give him a clearer shot. As it was stated in the rules of golf, any spectator, caddie, or other players can assist in moving a loose impediment. He went on to win third in the tournament.

Over the years, the rules of golf have evolved from a mere 13 original articles to a complete guide. In fact, a new set of rules is meant for publishing in 2012 and to last until 2015. Whether or not people would be more receptive to the updated rules, the love for the sport will surely continue.

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