Basic Golf Rules for Beginners
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Do you know that the earliest known Rules of Golf date back to 276 years ago? It is said that they were first drafted in March 1744 in Edinburgh for the world’s first ever “open” golf competition by the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, which contained only 13 rules.
Today’s Rules of Golf are a standard set of rules jointly written and administered by the USGA (United States Golf Association) and the R&A (The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews), which applies to golfers all over the world. The latest edition was published in January 2019, which is the Rules currently used in the game world widely.
The Official Guide to the Rules of Golf, effective January 2019. Source: https://www.usgapublications.com/products/the-official-guide-to-the-rules-of-golf-effective-january-2019?variant=12624113696848
There are three central principles of the game listed at the beginning of the Rules under Fundamentals of the Game:
- Play the course as you find it and play the ball as it lies.
- Play by the Rules and in the spirit of the game.
- You are responsible for applying your own penalties if you breach a Rule, so that you cannot gain any potential advantage over your opponent in match play or other players in stroke play.
A fun fact about the Rules of Golf is that although they are used in the game universally, unlike many other sports games, the Rules are applied by the players themselves. That’s why every golf player should carry his or her own Rules of Golf, normally the Player’s Edition, which is free and can be found in most golf clubs.
The Player’s Edition of the Rules of Golf is designed for the golfers, which is a truncated version of the full Rules of Golf, including the rules that fit the needs of most commonly occurring situations on the course. Same as the full version, it contains 24 rules that are divided into 9 sections:
- Fundamentals of the Game (Rules 1-4)
Rule 1 – The Game, Player Conduct and the Rules
Rule 2 – The Course
Rule 3 – The Competition
Rule 4 – The Player’s Equipment
- Playing the Round and Hole (Rules 5-6)
Rule 5 – Playing the Round
Rule 6 – Playing a Hole
- Playing the Ball (Rules 7-11)
Rule 8 – Course Played as It Is Found
- Specific Rules for Bunkers and Putting Greens (Rules 12-13)
Rule 12 – Bunkers
Rule 13 – Putting Greens
- Lifting and Returning a Ball to Play (Rule 14)
- Free Relief (Rules 15-16)
- Penalty Relief (Rules 17-19)
Rule 17 – Penalty Areas
Rule 19 – Unplayable Ball
- Procedures for Players and Committee When Issues Arise in Applying the Rules (Rule 20)
- Other Forms of Play (Rules 21-24)
Rule 22 – Foursomes (Also Known as Alternate Shot)
Rule 23 – Four-Ball
Rule 24 – Team Competitions
Listed above is the outline of the Rules which is intended to give you a general idea of the Rules of Golf. To read the whole content, please visit the USGA or the R&A website. For golf players, the Player’s Edition is normally the one to read. It basically covers all the answers you need on the course, even for professional golfers. However, for those who administer the game or for referees, being familiar with the full Rules is required. There are also Rules for Players with Disabilities which are often referred to as Modified Rules. They allow a golf player with a disability to play the game on a fair basis with non-disabled players or players with different types or levels of disabilities.
Apart from the Rules of Golf, one should always be sure to check the local rules that apply to only the specific course the golfer is playing before the first tee.