The Rules of Golf

The rules of golf are both simple and complicated. Although they can be complex and run to hundreds of pages,their intent is simple. The following quote, from the cover of the R&A version of the rules, says it best: "Play the ball as it lies, play the course as you find it, and if you cannot do either, do what is fair."

Who Makes the Rules of Golf?
The Rules Committee of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews (R&A) and the United States Golf Association (USGA) jointly administer the rules of golf. These groups publish updated rules every four years-the latest version runs from 2008 through 2011.

Golf Scoring Rules
Basically, every time you take a swing at the ball (yes, even if you miss) you are charged a stroke. The object of the game is to finish with the fewest strokes possible. Although the rules of golf don't require it, each hole is given a numerical indication called "par." Par for a hole is the number of strokes a skilled golfer would be required to finish the hole. Your score against par is the best measure of your personal success in a round of golf.

Play Of The Game
Once all players have teed off, the person farthest from the hole hits first. Play continues this way until all players have putted their balls into the hole. As the hole is played, these rules apply as well:

  • Each player must play the ball from the position where it comes to rest after a stroke. This rule may be modified by other rules that affect the playability of a ball.
  • The condition of the ground under the ball cannot be improved.
  • During the play of a hole, a ball may only be replaced if it is lost or unplayable.

Golfing Penalties
A golfer's score can be modified through penalties. The following are some typical penalty situations:

  • Lost ball. If a ball has been lost or has landed out of bounds, the player must hit another ball from the original spot and receives a one-stroke penalty.
  • Moving the ball. A player receives a one-stroke penalty if his equipment causes the ball to move or if the ball moves when removing a loose impediment such as leave, sticks or rocks.
  • Hitting another ball. If the player hits the wrong ball or hits another golfer's ball with a putt, she receives a two-stroke penalty.

Be sure to know the rules of golf before you hit the green.

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