Golf Rules Let You Play the Game

There are a few golf rules you need to know about, although the essence of the game is quite simple: knock a ball in the hole in as few strokes as possible.

Two organizations make up the game’s rules: the United States Golf Association (USGA) and The R&A (the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews). A booklet with all 34 rules is available at , but it’s a rather boring read.

Here is a quick rundown of the most important basic rules you should know as a beginning golfer. After all, you don’t want to add any penalty strokes to your score for breaking them! Obviously, this won’t be a big issue when you’re playing a friendly round with friends, but when you enter a tournament, you should be aware that the #1 of golf rules is: know the rules!

Rules to play the game

Rules about the type of game you are playing

  • Stroke play: whoever needs the fewest number of strokes to finish the entire round, wins.
  • Match play: is played hole by hole. The player who finishes a hole in the fewest amount of strokes, wins the hole. The player who wins the most holes, wins the match.

Rules about your equipment

  • You can have maximum 14 clubs in your bag.
  • If one of your clubs gets damaged during the “normal course of play”, you can fix it or replace it, but if you broke it because you threw it, you’re finishing the round without it!

Rules about your responsibilities as a player

  • Play with the correct handicap.
  • Be on time for your match, stay with your group and keep up the pace of play.
  • Record a correct score and sign your score card.
  • Don’t ask for or give advise to competitors (again, not so much an issue when playing a friendly round).

Rules about your ball

  • Hit the correct ball: yours!
  • Play your ball “as it lies”, without improving its position.
  • When your ball is lost or no longer fit to play, you can replace it with a new one; otherwise you have to finish the hole with the same ball.

Rules about the different parts of the course

  • On the tee box: tee up your ball between or behind the tee markers. If your ball falls or is knocked off the tee before you took a swing at it, you can re-tee it.
  • On the putting green: you can mark, pick up and clean your ball and repair pitch marks. When putting, your ball may not touch the flag stick, whether it’s still standing in the hole or laying down on the green.
  • In a hazard (water or sand trap): your club may not touch the ground before you actually hit the ball.

More on Golf Rules

Handicap, the Great Equalizer
How a handicap levels the playing field and why you should have one.

Golf score: Filling out your score card made easy
A simple method makes keeping your golf score a breeze. Works for all game formats.

Parts of the Golf Course
Hitting in the water will cost you a penalty, hitting out of a bunker is penalty enough in itself. Your guide to parts of the golf course and the rules that apply.

Order of Play
Is order of play a matter of rules or etiquette?

Practice Swing
Does hitting your ball during a practice swing count as a stroke?

Unfinished hole
You decided to pick up your ball instead of holing out. Which score are you supposed to put on your score card for handicapping purposes?

Return from Golf Rules to Golf Basics For Women