When you first get into golf, one of the most daunting tasks is learning the rules. Understanding the basic rules of golf will make sure your score is legit and make sure you stay on the right side of the rules guy… there’s always one.
To be honest with you, even amongst experienced golfers there are still some that cause confusion. Even amongst the pros, they have a referee with each group because even they have to check the rules.
Why do the rules of golf seem so complicated? Well, because they are.
The players (short version) of the rule book is ONLY 160 pages long. And that’s after they shortened it a couple of years ago.
Know the basic rules, then learn as you go and if you’re unsure, just ask.
If playing in a competition, you’ll need to make sure you strictly adhere to the rules. So for the first few times, always check with your playing partners, in fact, if you are ever unsure, just ask.
11 Rules of Golf All Beginners Should Know
1. Number Of Clubs – You are allowed to carry up to 14 clubs.
You can have less, but no more.
You might wonder how this would ever happen… but some people often have more than 14 clubs and change them out depending on the course, or which club they happen to hit better at the driving range that week.
2. Lost Balls/Out Of Bounds
Picture this… you are on the tee, you hit your classic bad shot, the big high slice. You watch it sail off towards the trees… it’s likely long gone, but you think you might have a chance at finding it. Or perhaps it’s gone past the white stakes and is out of bounds.
If there is any doubt, take another ball out of your bag, state you are hitting a provisional, and now stripe this one down the centre of the fairway.
You have a 1 stroke penalty and you are now on the fairway having hit your 3rd shot.
Once you get to the area where you think your first ball is you have 3 minutes to try and find it.
The same rules apply anywhere else. If you are on the fairway, hit a wild shot that you think might be lost. Drop another ball right where you hit the shot from, state it’s a provisional and hit again.
Local Rules – Last year a new rule came in, that is generally accepted and often used at clubs, but always be sure to double check.
If you hit a tee shot, walk up and can’t find it. Instead of running back to the tee to hit again, you can take a drop from where you think the ball ended up, for a 2 shot penalty. So you are now hitting your 4th shot.
3. Make Sure You Are Playing YOUR Ball
Seems obvious but accidents happen, whether it’s someone thinking your ball is theirs, or your in the woods looking and you find a ball that you think is yours, but aren’t sure.
Solution – don’t just think… my ball is a Titleist number 3. Do you know how many Titleist number 3 balls have been lost/donated to the course? A lot! And chances are you’ll find some.
Grab a sharpie and draw something on your ball, 2 dots, 3 dots, your initials, a smiley face. It really doesn’t matter, just something that makes it super obvious it’s your ball.
4. Tee up behind the tee marker line
On the tee box, there are two markers identifying the teeing area. Do not tee in front of that line. Make sure you are level, or slightly behind to be safe, but no more than 2 club lengths back.
5. Swing & A Miss Counts As A Shot
We’ve all been there as beginners, for me even recently while the ball was way down in the rough, if you take a swing and miss the ball, I’m afraid that counts as a shot. I know you didn’t actually hit the ball, but them’s the rules.
6. Play The Ball As It Lies
Don’t move the ball, unless you are allowed to under the rules. There are times you will be allowed to move the ball, such is if the ball or your stance is on a path, or if the ball has landed in a “ground under repair” area.
7. Don’t Improve Your Lie…
This one is super common, you cannot use your club or foot to flatten the ground, or rough behind the ball.
Patrick Reed, got in a lot of trouble for improving his lie a couple of years ago. Not sure people will ever let him forget this.
8. You Can Move Loose Impediments
While you can’t trample the ground, you can remove anything that is loose – stones, leaves, twigs etc, Just make sure your ball doesn’t move.
9. You Can’t Break Off Branches
You find yourself in the trees, or near a bush. And you find that your swing is impacted by a branch. You can’t break that branch to allow yourself a better swing.
10. Don’t ground your club in a bunker before taking your shot
If you find yourself in a bunker, you can’t ground the club, meaning you can’t touch the sand with your club prior to your shot. Not even resting it on the sand. And so it’s safe to avoid practice swings in the bunker too.
11. Don’t Ask For Advice
In competition, don’t ask people what club they played, or what line of putt they suggest, or what club you should play. Advice is a big no no.
However, in social rounds, I’ve rarely seen people stick to this rule. My friends and I always talk the shots through and tell each other what clubs we hit.
There will always be one person who sticks to the rules, so just be wary of who you are playing with.
The only time in competitions when you can ask for advice is when you are playing as a team. For example in a Better Ball competition, you can ask your partner for advice.
Rules Of Golf Apps From The R&A:
The R&A has a rules app, so you can download it to your phone and check the rules easily anytime you are unsure.
The R&A has all the rules also on their website, click here to check them out.
They also have quizzes you can do to test your knowledge on the rules of the game, I suggest starting with the basic test.
I’ll like the idea of this, but reading some of the questions sometimes feels like it’s written in Latin.
Check out some of the other guides in our beginners series:
- Golf Etiquette For Beginners
- Golf Terms For Beginners – Learning The Language Of Golf
- Golf Dress Code For Beginners
- Best Golf Balls For Beginners
- Stableford Scoring – The Complete Guide To Golfs Popular Format
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