The Basic Rules of Golf

The Basic Rules of Golf

This is a collection of some common basic rules of golf as advised by the USGA. Golf rules may change, so please check with the USGA if in doubt. The numbers in brackets behind the rules below are the references to USGA golf rules.

[Click HERE to download a printable version of the most common/important Golf Rules. Print it and take it to the Golf Course, bring some extra copies for your buddies!]

Golf Rules during Match and Stroke Play

  • Put an identification mark on your ball. If you can’t identify it as yours, it’s lost. (27)
  • If your ball becomes unfit for play, you may replace it, without penalty, on the hole where it becomes unfit or between holes. (5-3)
  • Count your clubs. No more than 14. (4-4)
  • Don’t use an artificial device or unusual equipment for gauging or measuring distance or conditions, or to give artificial aid in gripping. (14-3)
  • Don’t ask for advice from anyone except your partner or your caddie. Don’t give advice to anyone except your partner. (8-1)
  • During a hole you may practice swing but not play a practice stroke. Between holes you may practice chip and putt on or near the putting green of the hole last played or the tee of the next hole but not from a hazard. (7-2)
  • Play without delay. (6-7)

Golf Rules about the Order of Play

  • On the first tee the honor is determined by the order of the draw or, in the absence of a draw, by lot. (10)
  • In match play, the ball farther from the hole is played first. The winner of a hole tees off first on the next hole. If a player plays out of turn anywhere on the course, his opponent may require him to replay. (10-1)
  • In stroke play, the ball farthest from the hole is played first. The competitor with the lowest score on a hole tees off first on the next hole. There is generally no penalty for playing out of turn. (10-2)
  • In four-ball competitions, partners may play in the order they consider best. (30-3c and 31-5)

Golf Rules regarding the Teeing Ground

  • Tee off within two club-lengths behind the front edges of the tee-markers.
  • If you tee off outside this area, in match play there is no penalty but your opponent may require you to replay the stroke. In stroke play you incur a two-stroke penalty and must then play from within the proper area. (11-4)

Golf Rules about playing the Ball

  • Play the ball as it lies. (13-1) Don’t touch it unless a Rule permits. (18-2)
  • Play the course as you find it. Don’t improve your lie, the area of your intended swing or your line of play or a reasonable extension of that line beyond the hole by moving, bending or breaking anything fixed or growing except in fairly taking your stance or making your swing. Don’t press anything down. (13-2)
  • Don’t build a stance. (13-3)
  • If your ball is in a bunker or a water hazard, don’t touch the ground in the bunker or the ground or water in the water hazard before the downswing. (13-4)
  • Strike at the ball with the clubhead. Don’t push or scrape it. (14-1) If your club strikes the ball more than once in a single stroke, count the stroke and add a penalty stroke. (14-4)
  • If you play a wrong ball (except in a hazard), in match play you lose the hole. In stroke play you incur a two-stroke penalty and must then play the correct ball. (15)

Golf Rules when on the Putting Green

  • Don’t touch the line of your putt unless a Rule permits. (16-la)
  • You may repair ball marks and old hole plugs on the line but not spike marks. (16-lc)
  • You may lift, and if desired clean, your ball on the putting green. Always replace it on the exact spot. (16-lb)
  • Don’t test the surface by scraping it or rolling a ball. (16-ld)
  • If your ball played from the putting green strikes the flagstick, in match play you lose the hole or in stroke play you incur a two-stroke penalty. (17-3)
  • Always hole out unless in match play your opponent concedes your putt. (2-4, 3-2, 16-2)

Golf Rules when the Ball at rest moves

  • If your ball is moved by you, your partner or your caddie except as permitted by the Rules or if it moves after you have addressed it, add a penalty stroke and replace your ball. (18-2)
  • If your ball is moved by someone else or another ball, replace it without penalty to you. (18)

Continue to Golf Rules Part 2.