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

The Golf Rules section on includes the full Rules of Golf, which you'll find below, along with FAQs about frequently misunderstood rulings, a rules forum where you can post questions to experts, 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).

Major Changes Coming in 2019
On March 1, 2017, the USGA and R&A announced major changes coming to the Rules of Golf in 2019, one that eliminates some penalties; focuses on making the rules easier to understand and abide by, and on improving pace of play; and changes some of the common procedures such as dropping a ball to put it back in play. Check out a summary of the new golf rules plus links to in-depth explanations and videos.

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.

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.

The Full Rules of Golf

The Official Rules of Golf appear here courtesy of the USGA. These golf rules are used with permission of the USGA, and may not be duplicated or reprinted without the express permission of the USGA. On to the rulebook:

Etiquette - Behavior on the Course

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
Rule 9: Information as to Strokes Taken

Order of Play
Rule 10: Order of Play

Teeing Ground
Rule 11: Teeing Ground

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

The Putting Green
Rule 16: The Putting Green
Rule 17: The Flagstick

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

Relief Situations and Procedures
Rule 20: Lifting, Dropping and Placing; Playing from Wrong Place
Rule 21: Cleaning Ball
Rule 22: Ball Interfering with or Assisting Play
Rule 23: Loose Impediments
Rule 24: Obstructions
Rule 25: Abnormal Ground Conditions, Embedded Ball and Wrong Putting Green
Rule 26: Water Hazards (Including Lateral Water Hazards)
Rule 27: Ball Lost or Out of Bounds; Provisional Ball
Rule 28: Ball Unplayable

Other Forms of Play
Rule 29: Threesomes and Foursomes
Rule 30: Three-Ball, Best Ball and Four-Ball Match Play
Rule 31: Four-Ball Stroke Play
Rule 32: Bogey, Par and Stableford Competitions

Rule 33: The Committee
Rule 34: Disputes and Decisions

Rules of Amateur Status
USGA Policy on Gambling

Note: The golf rules reprinted here do not include the Appendices from the Official Rules of Golf. For the Appendices, 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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