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Golf Rules

General Play

Rule 1: The Game

Golf is a game played on a large open-air course, in which a small hard ball is struck with a club into a series of small holes in the ground, the object being to use the fewest possible strokes to complete the course.

Rule 2: The Course

The course is the entire area within which play is permitted, including the teeing area, fairways, rough, hazards, and greens.

Rule 3: Playing a Hole

A hole starts from the teeing area and ends when the ball is holed on the green. Players must play the ball as it lies and play the course as they find it.

Rule 4: The Stroke

A stroke is the forward movement of the club made to strike the ball. Each stroke counts as one towards the player's score.


Rule 5: Clubs

Players are allowed to carry a maximum of 14 clubs in their bag during a round. Each club must conform to the equipment standards set by the governing bodies.

Rule 6: The Ball

Golf balls must conform to the size, weight, and performance standards established by the governing bodies. Players must mark their balls to identify them.

Rule 7: Equipment on the Course

Players are allowed to use various equipment such as tees, ball markers, and distance-measuring devices, provided they conform to the rules.

Rule 8: Substituting Ball

A player may substitute a ball when it is lost or damaged, but must follow the rules for replacing the ball at the proper spot.


Rule 9: Safety

Players should ensure that no one is standing close by or in a position to be hit by the club, the ball, or any debris when making a stroke or practice swing.

Rule 10: Consideration for Other Players

Players should always show consideration for other players on the course by playing at a prompt pace, avoiding distractions, and not disturbing others' play.

Rule 11: Care of the Course

Players should take care of the course by repairing divots, ball marks, and smoothing bunkers after use.

Rule 12: Spirit of the Game

Golf is played in the spirit of fairness, integrity, and sportsmanship. Players are expected to adhere to these principles at all times.


Rule 13: Stroke Play

In stroke play, the player's total score is the sum of all strokes taken during the round. The player with the lowest total score wins.

Rule 14: Match Play

In match play, players compete hole-by-hole. The player who wins the most holes wins the match.

Rule 15: Stableford

Stableford is a points-based scoring system where players earn points based on their score on each hole. The player with the highest total points wins.

Rule 16: Handicapping

Handicaps allow players of different skill levels to compete on an equal basis. Handicaps are calculated based on a player's past performance.

Specific Situations

Rule 17: Out of Bounds

If a ball is out of bounds, the player must play a ball from where the previous stroke was made, adding one penalty stroke.

Rule 18: Water Hazards

When a ball enters a water hazard, the player may play the ball as it lies or take a penalty stroke and drop a ball outside the hazard.

Rule 19: Lost Ball

If a ball is lost, the player must play a ball from where the previous stroke was made, adding one penalty stroke.

Rule 20: Unplayable Lie

If a ball is in an unplayable position, the player may take a penalty stroke and drop the ball within two club-lengths of where the ball lies, no closer to the hole.

Rule 21: Immovable Obstructions

If an immovable obstruction interferes with the player's stance or swing, the player may take free relief by dropping the ball within one club-length of the nearest point of relief.

Rule 22: Movable Obstructions

If a movable obstruction interferes with play, the player may remove it without penalty.

Rule 23: Abnormal Course Conditions

Free relief is allowed for abnormal conditions such as ground under repair, casual water, or burrowing animal holes.

Rule 24: Embedded Ball

Free relief is allowed for a ball embedded in its own pitch-mark in the general area.

Rule 25: Ball in Wrong Place

If a ball is played from a wrong place, the player must correct the mistake by playing from the correct spot, adding the applicable penalty.

Rule 26: Dropping and Re-dropping

When dropping a ball, it must be dropped from knee height and come to rest in the relief area. If the ball rolls out of the relief area, it must be re-dropped.

Rule 27: Ball at Rest Moved

If a player's ball at rest is moved by them, their partner, or their caddie, the ball must be replaced, and a penalty stroke is incurred.

Rule 28: Ball in Motion Deflected or Stopped

If a ball in motion is accidentally deflected or stopped by a person, animal, or object, the ball must be played as it lies without penalty.

Rule 29: Playing a Provisional Ball

If a ball may be lost or out of bounds, the player may play a provisional ball to save time.

Rule 30: Practice

Practice is allowed before the round, but practice on the course between holes during a round is prohibited.

Rule 31: Advice and Assistance

Players are not allowed to receive advice from anyone other than their caddie or partner.

Major Tournaments

Rule 32: The Masters

The Masters Tournament is held annually at Augusta National Golf Club. Specific rules and traditions apply, such as the use of Augusta National's caddies and the green jacket awarded to the winner.

Rule 33: The Open Championship

The Open Championship, often referred to as The Open or the British Open, is the oldest of the four major championships. It is played on a links course, with unique challenges such as high winds and deep bunkers.

Rule 34: The U.S. Open

The U.S. Open is known for its tough course setups, with narrow fairways and thick rough. It is open to both amateur and professional players.

Rule 35: The PGA Championship

The PGA Championship is organized by the Professional Golfers' Association of America. It features a strong field of professional players and is played on some of the best courses in the country.

Rule 36: Ryder Cup

The Ryder Cup is a biennial match play event between teams from Europe and the United States. It features unique formats such as foursomes and fourball matches.

Rule 37: Other Major Tournaments

Other significant tournaments include the Players Championship, the Tour Championship, and the World Golf Championships.

Golf Courses

Rule 38: Famous Golf Courses

Famous golf courses include Augusta National, St Andrews Links, Pebble Beach, and Pinehurst. Each course has unique features and challenges.

Rule 39: Course Maintenance

Players should respect course maintenance by repairing divots, ball marks, and raking bunkers. Maintenance crews work hard to keep the course in top condition.

Rule 40: Local Rules

Local rules are established by the course or tournament committee and must be followed in addition to the standard rules of golf.

Penalties and Infractions

Rule 41: General Penalties

General penalties for rule infractions typically include adding one or two strokes to the player's score.

Rule 42: Specific Infractions

Specific infractions include things like playing a ball from the wrong place, improving the lie of the ball, or causing the ball to move. Each infraction has a corresponding penalty.

Amateur Status

Rule 43: Definition of Amateur Status

Amateur status is maintained by not accepting money or other compensation for playing golf. Amateurs may accept certain non-cash prizes without losing their status.

Rule 44: Prizes and Competitions

Amateurs may participate in competitions and accept trophies or other non-cash prizes. Cash prizes are only allowed if they are donated to charity.

Modifications for Special Needs

Rule 45: Adapted Rules

Adapted rules are available for players with disabilities. These rules allow modifications to equipment and playing conditions to accommodate special needs.

Rules of Conduct

Rule 46: Player Behavior

Players are expected to behave with integrity, showing respect for fellow players, officials, and the course. Unsportsmanlike conduct can result in penalties or disqualification.

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