Golf Rules

Golf is a game in which a ball is struck with a club from a prepared area, know as the “teeing ground”, across fairway and rough to a second prepared area, which has a hole in it, known as the “putting green”. The object of the game is to complete what is known as a hole by playing a ball from the teeing ground into the hole on the putting green in the fewest possible number of strokes. A “round of golf” consists of playing 18 such holes.

There are basically two forms of play, one is decided by holes won and lost (match play) and the other which is decided by the total number of stokes taken to complete the round (stroke play).

Three important principles to remember when playing golf:
Play the course as you find it.
Play the ball as it lies.
If you can’t do either, do what’s fair.
To do what’s fair you need to know the Rules.


1. General points 8. Interference
2. Teeing Ground 9. Loose impediments
3. Playing the Ball 10. Obstructions
4. Putting Green 11. Water Hazards
5. Ball at Rest Moved 12. Lost or Out of Bounds
6. Ball in Motion Deflected or Stopped 13. Ball Deemed Unplayable
7. Lifting, Dropping and Placing


  • Don’t move, talk or stand close to or directly along the line of a player making a stroke.
  • Don’t play until the group in front is out of the way.
  • Always play without delay. Leave the putting green as soon as all players in your group have holed out.
  • Invite faster groups to play through.
  • Replace divots. Smooth out footprints in bunkers.
  • Don’t step on the line of another’s putt.
  • Don’t drop clubs on a putting green.
  • Replace the flagstick carefully in an upright position.
  • Leave the course in the condition in which you’d like to find it.


The rules of Golf contains over 40 Definitions which form the foundation around which the Rules of play are written. A good knowledge of the defined terms will help in the correct application of then Rules. These include:

  • Teeing Ground – the starting place for the hole, defined by two tee-makers.
  • Through the Green – the whole area of the golf course except the teeing ground and putting green of the hole being played and all hazards.
  • Hazards – any bunker or water hazard.
  • Putting Green – an area specially prepared for putting and containing a 4.25 inch diameter hole.
  • Out of Bounds – ground on which play is prohibited, i.e., not part of the course. A ball is out of bounds when all of it lies out of bounds.
  • Loose Impediments – natural objects such as stones, leaves and twigs provided they are not fixed or growing, are not solidity embedded and are not sticking to the ball.


General points

  • Before commencing your round:
  • Read the Local Rules on the score card.
  • Put an identification mark on your ball. Many golfers play the same brand of ball and if you can’t identify your ball, it’s lost. (27)
  • Count tour clubs. You are allowed a maximum of 14 clubs.(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 caddy. 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)


Teeing Ground
Tee off within two club-lengths behind the front edges of the tee-makers. 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)


Playing the Ball

  • Play the ball as it lies. (13-1) Don’t touch it unless a Rule permits.(18-2)
  • Play the courses 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)


Putting Green

  • Don’t touch the line of your putt unless a Rule permits. (16-1a) You may repair ball marks and old hole plugs on the line but not spike marks. (16-1c)
  • You may lift, and if desired, clean your ball on the putting green. Always replace it on the exact spot. (16-1b)
  • Don’t test the surface by scraping it or rolling ball. (16-1d)
  • 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 you putt (2-4, 3-2, 16-2)


Ball at Rest Moved

  • 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)


Ball in Motion Deflected or Stopped

  • If your ball in motion is deflected or stopped by you, your partner or your caddie, in match play you lose the hole. In stroke play you incur a two-stroke penalty and the ball is played as it lies. (19-2)
  • If your ball in motion is deflected or stopped by someone else, play your ball as it lies without penalty, except (1) in match play, if an opponent or his caddie deflects your ball, you may play it as it lies or replay it or (b) in stroke play if your ball is deflected after a stroke on the putting green, you must replay.(19)
  • If your ball in motion is deflected or stopped by another ball in play and at rest, play your ball as it lies. In match play, you incur no penalty. In stroke play, you incur a two-stroke penalty if your ball and the other ball were on the green your stroke. (19-5)


Lifting, Dropping and Placing

  • If your ball to be lifted is to be replaced, its position must be marked. (20-1)
  • When dropping, stand erect, hold the ball at shoulder height band arms length and drop it. A ball to be dropped in a hazard must be dropped, and stay, in the hazard. (20-2a)
  • If a dropped ball strikes the player or his partner, caddie or equipment, it must be re-dropped without penalty. (20-2a)
  • A dropped ball must be re-dropped if it rolls into a hazard, out of a hazard, onto a putting green, out of bounds or to a position where there is interference by the condition from which relief is taken (in case of immovable obstructions, abnormal ground conditions, embedded ball and wrong putting green) or comes to rest more than two club-lengths from the where it first struck a part of the course or nearer the hole than its original position or other reference point under Rule 25-1c or 26-1. If the ball when re-dropped rolls into any position listed above, place it where it first struck a part of the course when re-dropped. (20-2c)
  • If the original lie of a ball to be replaced has been altered, place it in the nearest similar lie within one club-length not nearer the hole, except in a bunker recreate the original lie and place it in the lie. (20-3b)



  • You may lift your ball if it might assist any other player. (22)
  • You may have any other ball lifted if it might interfere with your play or assist any other player. (22)


Loose impediments

  • Loose impediments are natural objects (such as stones and leaves) not fixed or growing, not solidity embedded and not adhering to the ball. (23)
  • You may move them unless the loose impediment and your ball lie in or touch the same hazard. (23-1)
  • If you move a loose impediment within one club-length of your ball and your ball moves, the ball must be replaced and (unless your ball was on the putting green) you incur a penalty stroke. (18-2c)



  • Obstructions are artificial (i.e., man-made) objects. Objects defining out of bounds such as fence posts or stakes and immovable artificial objects out bounds are not obstructions. (24)
  • Movable obstructions anywhere may be moved. If your ball moves, replace it without penalty. (24-1)
  • If an immovable obstruction interferes with your stance or swing, you may, except when your ball is in a water hazard, drop within one club-length of the nearest point of relief not nearer the hole. In a bunker drop in the bunker, and on the putting green place in the nearest position which affords relief, not nearer the hole. There is no relief for intervention on your line of play unless your ball and the obstruction are on the green. (24-2)
  • If your ball is lost in an immovable obstruction (except in a water hazard) take the same relief based on the point where the ball entered the obstruction. (24-2c)


Water Hazards

  • You may play the ball as it lies or, under penalty of one stroke, drop any distance behind the water hazard keeping the point at which the original ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, or replay the shot. (26-1a,b)
  • In a lateral water hazard, you may also, under penalty of one stroke, drop within two club-lengths ofthe point where the ball last crossed the hazard margin or a point on the opposite hazard margin equidistant from the hole. (26-1c)


Lost or Out of Bounds

  • If your ball may be lost outside a water hazard or out of bounds, you may play a provisional ball before you go forward to look for the original, provisional ball before you go forward to look for the original, provided you announce your intention to do so. If your original ball turns out to be in a water hazard or is found outside a water hazard, you must abandon the provisional ball. (27-2)
  • If your ball is lost outside a water hazard or is out of bounds, add one penalty stroke and play the provisional or, if you did not play a provisional, replay the shot. (27-1)


Ball Deemed Unplayable

  • If you believe your ball is unplayable outside a water hazard you may add one penalty stroke and drop within two club-lengths of where the ball lies not nearer the hole,drop any distance behind the point where the ball lay (keeping that point directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped), or replay the shot.
  • If your ball is in a bunker you may proceed under (a), (b) or (c), however, if you elect to proceed under (a) or (b), you must drop in the bunker. (28)