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The Rules of Golf

First known Rules of Golf

The earliest known Rules of Golf were drafted by the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers in March 1744, which consisted of only 13 rules as follows:

1. You must Tee your Ball within a Club's length of the Hole.
2. Your Tee must be upon the Ground.
3. You are not to change the Ball which you Strike off the Tee.
4. You are not to remove Stones, Bones or any Break Club, for the sake of playing your Ball, except upon the fair Green within a Club's length of your Ball.
5. If your Ball comes among watter, or any wattery filth, you are at liberty to take out your Ball & bringing it behind the hazard and Teeing it, you may play it with any Club and allow your Adversary a Stroke for so getting out your Ball.
6. If your Balls be found any where touching one another, You are to lift the first Ball, till you play the last.
7. At Holling, you are to play your Ball honestly for the Hole, and not to play upon your Adversary’s Ball, not lying in your way to the Hole.
8. If you should lose your Ball, by its being taken up, or any other way, you are to go back to the Spot, where you struck last, & drop another Ball, And allow your adversary a Stroke for the misfortune.
9. No man at Holling his Ball, is to be allowed, to mark his way to the Hole with his Club, or anything else.
10. If a Ball be stopp’d by any Person, Horse, Dog or anything else, The Ball so stop’d must be play’d where it lyes.
11. If you draw your Club in Order to Strike, & proceed so far in the Stroke as to be bringing down your Club; If then, your Club shall break, in any way, it is to be Accounted a Stroke.
12. He whose Ball lyes farthest from the Hole is obliged to play first.
13. Neither Trench, Ditch or Dyke, made for the preservation of the Links, nor the Scholar's Holes, or the Soldier's Lines, Shall be accounted a Hazard; But the Ball is to be taken outand play’d with any Iron Club.

Today’s Rules of Golf

For many years, there were two sets of rules, codifed by the USGA and the R&A. Beginning in 1952 the two groups standardized the rules, publishing a new set every two years, usually with some minor changes. However, it was not until 1990 that the two sets of Rules truly became one, as both groups settled upon a standard set for the game. The biggest difference for many years was that the R&A allowed play with a 1.62 inch diameter ball, while the USGA ball was standardized at 1.68 inches.

There are three basic premises governing the Rules of Golf: 1) play the ball as it lies, 2) play the course as you find it, and 3) if unable to do either 1) or 2), do what is fair. There are currently 34 rules, with many sub-rules, and sub-sub-rules. In addition, the USGA and R&A publish a book called Decisions on the Rules of Golf, which are specialized rulings that have been standardized over the years, based on questions that have come up in competitive play.

View the R&A or the USGA website  for more information about the Rules of Golf.

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