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 | View on
    Rule 9: Information as to Strokes Taken

    Order of Play
    Rule 10: Order of Play: View on | View on

    Teeing Ground
    Rule 11: Teeing Ground: View on | View on

    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 | View on

    The Putting Green
    Rule 16: The Putting Green: View on | View on
    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: View on | View on
    Rule 22: Ball Interfering with or Assisting Play
    Rule 23: Loose Impediments: View on | View on
    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: View on | View on
    Rule 32: Bogey, Par and Stableford Competitions

    Rule 33: The Committee
    Rule 34: Disputes and Decisions: View on | View on

    Rules of Amateur Status
    USGA Policy on Gambling

    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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