Introduction rules of golf

The Rules of Golf: Maximising Your Efficiency While on the Course

Success in golf involves patience, skill and a good deal of experience. While there is no doubt that this game can be a great deal of fun, we need to keep in mind the fact that (much like any other sport) there are certain regulations which need to be followed. However, online searches can sometimes result in rather spurious results.
For example, the question "what are the rules of golf card game?" will obviously produce different results when compared to what takes place on the physical course. Let's take a look at the basic rules of golf so that you can know what to expect in advance. If you have been frustrated by confusing or verbose articles in the past, the information below will come in quite handy.

An In-Depth Look at the Basic Rules of Golf

One of the best ways to appreciate the various rules when playing golf is to break this topic down into a handful of shorter sections. You can then refer back to each when needed. Without further ado, let's begin.

Equipment Regulations

It can be argued that one of the most important golf rules to know involves the type of equipment that you are allowed to carry. Regulations state that you are permitted to carry a total of 14 clubs at any given time. However, keep in mind that you can choose the exact type of club combinations (such as drivers, putters and wedges) depending upon the type of course that you will be playing. In the same respect, you are not allowed to change balls when playing a hole. The only exception in this case is that you are permitted to procure a new ball between holes. This is why the search term "golf rules can you change balls?" is one of the most common online queries.

Knowing the Parameters of the Tee

You might be surprised to learn that even some experts can sometimes violate a basic regulation when teeing off for their first shot. This is why it is important to be sure that you align yourself in between the markers and behind the tee. You should also try and remain within no more than two club lengths from the tee. Try to get into this habit from the very beginning, as you might otherwise become distracted and force an otherwise unnecessary penalty.

Remember to Play Your Own Ball

This might seem like common sense, but even professional players have accidentally used the ball of a competitor on occasion. This is why it is important that you mark your golf ball in between shots. The traditional technique is to place a a coin where the ball was found or to scribe some type of mark on the ball so that it can be recognised as your own. Keep in mind that making this mistake can cost you a two-stroke penalty if you are playing for strokes; a real problem if you hope to remain one step ahead of the competition.

Addressing Physical Issues with the Course

What are the rules of golf game in the event that you encounter a problem with the green? Common examples include spike and pitch marks. In the event that these imperfections might compromise a future shot, you are allowed to make any repairs as may be required. We should also mention that this includes any damage caused by other players. However, you cannot complain of a high handicap afterwards if repairs were not made before the shot took place. 

Dealing with a Bad Lie

There are naturally times when you find yourself in a particularly challenging lie. This is another instance when knowing the regulations can make all of the difference in the world. We should first note that you are not allowed to move any living objects such as branches or vegetation. This could result in a penalty. However, "impediments" that might be on the course such as loose stones or pebbles can be removed. In other words, any object that is fixed in place or growing out of the ground cannot be moved.

Declaring an Unplayable Lie

It only makes sense that the previous section is followed up by times when you might find a lue to be completely unplayable. In this instance, you have three options:

  • Return to the original area where the shot was taken from (in terms of stroke and distance)
  • Drop the ball two club lengths from where it landed (as long as this is no closer to the hole)
  • Place the ball further back while remaining aligned with its original position (line of sight) in relation to the flag
Although unplayable lies to not often occur, it is still important to know that you have options. The other option is to forfeit the shot in question. You might otherwise incur penalties or a much higher handicap than would have otherwise been necessary.

Balls in Hazards or Bunkers

Many of us have had the temptation to improve our position if we happen to have fallen within a bunker or hazard. However, this can cost you dearly. One of the most important points to mention here is that you can never touch nearby surfaces (such as the sand or the water) with either your hand or the club before you actually take the shot. If this happens to occur, expect to be penalised by two shots. 

Dealing with Other Players

Of course, it is rare that you will have the course to yourself. Whether playing for fun or in the heat of competition, a handful of additional set of interpersonal regulations are important to keep in mind. Some of these will include:

  • Never speak when someone is about to hit the ball.
  • Do not cross the putting line of another player.
  • Be sure to avoid taking a shot until any individuals or groups of people are well out of range.
  • Do not delay other competitors from playing via any type of distraction or nuisance.
  • It is forbidden (as well as common courtesy) to ask a player what club was used for a specific shot.
These are some examples of what not to do when competing with others while on the green. More comprehensive information can be found by typing in a search term such as "what are rules of golf when playing with others?". A bit of etiquette will go a long way towards and enjoyable match.

Out-of-Bounds Rules

The online search phrase "golf rules cant find ball" is quite common, and for good reason. Whether due to wind, fog or simply a poor shot, there are inevitably times when a golf ball will happen to fall out of bounds. Another regulation to note is that you are provided with five minutes to perform a search. If the ball cannot be recovered after this period of time, you are obliged to add one penalty stroke to your score card. If you believe that it will be nearly impossible to find the lost ball, you can choose for a "provisional ball" in order to avoid the dreaded walk of shame.

Appreciating the Order of Play

While this might not appear to be overly pertinent when playing for fun, knowing the order of competition is extremely pivotal if you plan to enter a tournament. As a general rule of thumb, players who are farthest from the hole will be given the first shot. In the event that this order is not recognised, another competitor is allowed to cancel the shot; forcing the player in error to take it once again.

Seasonal Concerns: What are Golf Winter Rules?

The main intention of golf winter rules is to address the chances that a course is soggy, difficult to play or otherwise more challenging than it would be during more amenable times of the year. So, it only makes sense that officials have provided you with slightly more leeway during such conditions. The main takeaway point from this section is that players are allowed to remove their ball if it has come to rest within an area that would be nearly impossible to address through a normal shot. You can clean the ball and then place it within six inches of where it initially landed. However, even this distance is not necessarily set in stone. In severe cases (such as if your ball has landed within a large puddle on the green), allowances of up to one club length can occur from time to time. While these rules are somewhat subjective, their main point is to provide players with an additional level of equity in the event that weather is not on their side.

Accurate Scoring

This topic is often overlooked and yet, it is one of the most pertinent golf rules for beginners. Be sure that you mark your score card correctly throughout the match. If in doubt, you can always compare your records with those that were entered by another player. In the event that both scores are correct, you and any other competitors will have to sign the card at the end of each hole. This is done to prevent discrepancies further down the line. Of course, such a method is extremely important during competition; a disqualification could otherwise occur as a result of a simple mistake that was not recognised early on. 

Nuances with "Striking the Ball"

This next observation might seem a bit trite, but it is just as important to appreciate if you hope to avoid a penalty. The term "striking the ball" is defined as making contact with the head (face) of the club. This can present an issue if you happen to find yourself within a difficult lie. The main takeaway point here is that players are prohibited from "spooning", flicking or otherwise hitting the ball in a manner that would not be defined as a traditional stroke. If this happens to take place during a singles match, you could very well lose the entire hole. In other words, pay attention to your technique at all times. 

What are New Rules of Golf in 2019?

What are new golf rules to take into account? This is also prudent to address, as 2019 has witnessed the introduction of several novel regulations. One interesting addendum involves the fact that you will not be penalised if you accidentally (note that we used the word "accidentally" here) move your ball while it is on the green. Thus, competition has become slightly more forgiving than in the past. Some other interesting modifications include:

  • Clubs which have become damaged for any reason can now be used at the discretion of the player.
  • In the past, a "double hit" would have incurred a penalty stroke. The new rules state that players will no longer be penalised for such an accidental infraction.
  • You will no longer be held accountable if you happen to hit a flag stick that remains in the hole. In the past, such a situation would have cost you a penalty.
The notion of traditional "water hazards" has also been replaced with the rather all-encompassing term "penalty area". This provides players with a good deal to breathing room when tackling difficult shots. These locations may now include (but are certainly not limited to) ravines, thick woods, swamps, or even large canyons. In the event that you happen to land in such locations, you can now take relief with a one-stroke penalty as opposed to battling your way through only to suffer as a result.

Professional Tips, Tricks and Useful Suggestions

The rules outlined above are by no means entirely comprehensive. They have merely been noted in order to outline some of the most important points that should be taken into account. Now that we have examined these stipulations, it is always a good idea to examine some top suggestions and recommendations from the experts so that you can improve your game along the way. 

9 or 18 Holes?

One of the points worth mentioning which has not been emphasised yet is that golf games can consist of either nine or 18 holes (depending upon the type of competition). While this might seem like a rather obvious rule, it is important that players pace themselves based upon the entire length of the match. Obviously, longer games are more likely to be associated with simple mistakes. This is why it is even more crucial to pay attention to the regulations mentioned above in the event that a match might last for hours at a time.

Do Not Look for the Ball (Unless it is Clearly Visible)

While we focused upon the problems associated with difficult lies earlier, we also stressed that players have no more than five minutes to search for a lost ball before they will incur a penalty. This is why some experts recommend that it is better to not search for the ball. When dealing with extremely difficult areas or when playing around heavily wooded areas, you could very well lose two or three balls on a single hole. So, it could be a good idea to simply take the one-off penalty in such situations. Let's also remember that looking for a lost ball will inevitably delay the entire match; potentially angering other competitors.

Dealing with Lateral Water Hazards

Lateral water hazards are another point to address. These hazards are marked by a series of red spikes around a lake or body of water. While the rules associated with normal hazards still apply, this video points out that you have an additional option. You can play the ball from the opposite side of the hazard in question. Of course, this will depend upon several variables such as the distance to the hole as well as the condition of the ground. Be sure to remember that you have this alternative when addressing a lateral water hazard.

Try and Pick up the Pace

Golf is an intense game which requires a fair level of concentration if you hope to avoid costly mistakes. This is why there is perhaps nothing worse than being forced to what seems to be an interminable match. As time drags on, the chances are high that you will forget one of the rules mentioned within this article increase. This is why professionals recommend that you should try and pick up your pace as much as possible. However, follow this suggestion within reason. It serves little purpose to speed up the competition only to see your handicap suffer as a result. Golf is never a race, but rather a game of finesse and efficiency.

Your Right to Choose to Play (or not to Play) an Unplayable Ball

Let's once again address a situation when your ball has fallen into the severe rough. We should point out that you have the sole responsibility to determine if the ball is able to be played. No one else has the right to contest your decision orto complain; regardless of the outcome. As arguments could otherwise occur, always be sure to keep this observation in mind.

Playing Golf in the Rain

Whether we like it or not, the chances are high that we will be forced to play a match during inclement weather from time to time. The rules provide a bit of leeway for this situation in regards to the clothing that you are allowed to wear. Keep in mind that golf is not a fashion contest. Always be sure to wear the proper rain gear so that you can stay dry. Keep a dry towel nearby. Use another towel to place atop your golf bag so that your other clubs are protected from any sudden deluges. It is much better to play comfortable than to become an unwitting victim of the elements. On a final note, NEVER play golf if a storm is approaching, as a human with a metallic club is a juicy temptation for any lightning that might happen to be lurking close by.

Adding Clubs During a Round

We have already made it clear that you are not allowed to have any more than 14 clubs during a game. However, what if we imagine a situation when you have only 13 clubs? What if you require an extra club to play a very difficult lie? An interesting point to highlight here is that you are allowed to add an extra club in this case. There are two caveats to keep in mind. First, this club cannot be borrowed from another player. Secondly, your selection of the club must not cause any significant delay in gameplay. Once again, keep in mind that exceeding the maximum number of 14 clubs will inevitably result in a penalty.

Mobile Phones

One of the issues often associated with basic golf etiquette is the fact that golfers cannot normally penalise other players with a stroke or two simply if they happen to be rude. Having said this, there are a handful of useful suggestions to keep in mind. Perhaps the most glaring is the fact that you should always turn off your smartphone while on the green. There is nothing worse than lining up for a pivotal shot and taking a backswing only to become suddenly interrupted by a loud ringtone. Be courteous to others and save your wireless conversations for another time.

Contesting the Ruling of an Official

Unlike baseball and football, we rarely witness a golfer vehemently arguing with a course official. As this video shows, you nonetheless have the right to dispute a ruling which you might consider to be unfair. It is critical to mention that this should be done in a tasteful and respectful fashion. Even if you happen to be overruled in the end, remain calm and continue to focus upon the game at hand. Most officials will be more than happy to hear what it is that you have to say.

Scroll to Top