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 index to the full Rules of Golf, from which you can explore the official rules; along with a summary of the rules in plain English, the original rules from the 18th century, and a few more features relating to the rules that govern our game.

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 went into effect. The index with links to those rules appears below. The governing bodies have also released various explainers to help golfers take in the changes. Here are links to some of those items (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.

Rules Editions Plus Interpretations

The 2019 edition of the Rules of Golf is available in full from the USGA and R&A, the governing bodies of golf who collaborate to write and interpret the rules. The current rules are issued in two editions: the "Player's Rules," a somewhat plainer version, slightly condensed, designed to be carried by golfers on the course; and the "Full Rules," exactly what it sounds like. In addition, the governing bodies provide on their websites the "Interpretations" section, which is what used to be called the Decisions on the Rules of Golf.

What follows is the index to the 2019 edition of the rule book, with links to the player's rules, full rules and interpretations of each, individual rule on the respective governing bodies' websites.

Rule 1 — The Game, Player Conduct and the Rules

Rule 2 — The Course

Rule 3 — The Competition

Rule 4 — The Player's Equipment

Rule 5 — Playing the Round

Rule 6 — Playing a Hole

Rule 7 — Ball Search: Finding and Identifying Ball

Rule 8 — Course Played as It Is Found

Rule 9 — Ball Played as It Lies; Ball at Rest Lifted or Moved

Rule 10 — Preparing for and Making a Stroke; Advice and Help; Caddies

Rule 11 — Ball in Motion Accidentally Hits Person, Animal or Object; Deliberate Actions to Affect Ball in Motion

Rule 12 — Bunkers

Rule 13 — Putting Greens

Rule 14 — Procedures for Ball: Marking, Lifting and Cleaning; Replacing on Spot; Dropping in Relief Area; Playing from Wrong Place

Rule 15 — Relief from Loose Impediments and Movable Obstructions (including Ball or Ball-Marker Helping or Interfering with Play)

Rule 16 — Relief from Abnormal Course Conditions (Including Immovable Obstructions), Dangerous Animal Condition, Embedded Ball

Rule 17 — Penalty Areas

Rule 18 — Stroke-and-Distance Relief; Ball Lost or Out of Bounds; Provisional Ball

Rule 19 — Unplayable Ball

Rule 20 — Resolving Rules Issues During Round; Rulings by Referee and Committee

Rule 21 — Other Forms of Individual Stroke Play and Match Play

Rule 22 — Foursomes (Also Known as Alternate Shot)

Rule 23 — Four-Ball

Rule 24 — Team Competitions

Golfers should also take at look at the Definitions section. Those involved in golf club administration, tournament administration, decision-making within a club should check out the Committee Procedures section.

More Golf Rules Resources

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.