Golf Rules (At a Glance and In-Depth)

Golf rules books are issued every four years
The Official Rules of Golf are published in booklet format every four years by the R&A and USGA. Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

This Golf Rules section includes the full Rules of Golf, which you'll find below, along with FAQs about frequently misunderstood rulings, the rules in plain English, plus more info about the guidelines for playing golf.

The Official Rules of Golf are kept, updated and published jointly by the United States Golf Association (USGA) and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews (R&A).

Original Rules of Golf from 1744
The first written rules of golf appeared in 1744, and there were 13 of them. Here's what the original golf rules said.

New Golf Rules in 2019

One Jan. 1, 2019, a new set of rules written by the USGA and R&A with the intention of simplifying golfers' understanding of the golf rules, will go into effect. The governing bodies have released the full text of the new rules in .pdf form, so you can already read the 2019 rules.

The governing bodies have also released various explainers to help golfers take it all in. Here are links to some of those items; we strongly recommend you spend some time on the R&A or USGA websites exploring the 2019 Rules. (Note: The following links go to the USGA website but all these articles can also be found on the R&A site.)

The Current Rules of Golf

Golf Rules at a Glance
Here we offer a quick introduction to the Official Rules of Golf, breaking down each rule into a few key points, written in plain English. If you're new to golf, you can get a quick grasp of the important concepts in the rules; if you're a veteran golfer, this feature is a good refresher.

Following is the index of the full, current (in effect until Jan. 1, 2019) Rules of Golf:

The Game
Rule 1: The Game
Rule 2: Match Play
Rule 3: Stroke Play

Clubs and the Ball
Rule 4: Clubs
Rule 5: The Ball

Players Responsibilities
Rule 6: The Player
Rule 7: Practice
Rule 8: Advice; Indicating Line of Play: View on USGA.org | View on RandA.org
Rule 9: Information as to Strokes Taken

Order of Play
Rule 10: Order of Play: View on USGA.org | View on RandA.org

Teeing Ground
Rule 11: Teeing Ground: View on USGA.org | View on RandA.org

Playing the Ball
Rule 12: Searching for and Identifying Ball
Rule 13: Ball Played as It Lies
Rule 14: Striking the Ball
Rule 15: Wrong Ball; Substituted Ball: View on USGA.org | View on RandA.org

The Putting Green
Rule 16: The Putting Green: View on USGA.org | View on RandA.org
Rule 17: The Flagstick

Ball Moved, Deflected or Stopped
Rule 18: Ball at Rest Moved
Rule 19: Ball in Motion, Deflected or Stopped

Administration
Rule 33: The Committee
Rule 34: Disputes and Decisions: View on USGA.org | View on RandA.org

Note: For the Appendices from the Official Rules of Golf, please visit the USGA Web site or the R&A Web site and navigate to the Rules section.

More Golf Rules Resources

Rules FAQ: What's the Ruling?
Golfers often encounter sticky situations in which the proper way to proceed under the rules isn't always clear. These FAQs take a look at such situations and explain the rulings. A few examples:

Check out the full Golf Rules FAQ for many, many more.

12 of the Weirdest Penalties in Golf History
One Hall of Famer fined for ... farting? A major champion literally carried off the course by cops for slow play? Penalized for going to the restroom? Those oddball penalties and more.

Golf Cheating: Lowdown on the Game's Lowlifes
Better hope you're not on this list! Here are the most common types of golf cheats we encounter on the course. Alas, they are all too familiar.

Golf Etiquette
This primer on golf etiquette covers the basics on the proper way to conduct onself on a golf course. And it's not just about manners, good golf etiquette helps promote a good pace of place as well as safety on the golf course.

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