In the Golf Rules made easy section here at, we’ll go over key rules and explain – in clear, concise, layman-friendly language – how and when to apply them on the course. Most golf organization like the PGA of America play golf under the USGA rules of golf. Better to learn the rules from us than from the stickler in your foursome, who can’t wait to call a penalty on you for taking an improper drop or grounding your club in a hazard.

“Golf was invented by some Scotsman who hit a ball, with a stick, into a hole in the ground. The game today is exactly the same, except that it now takes some ninety-odd pages of small type to ensure that the ball is hit, with the stick, into the hole in the ground without cheating.”
A.S. Graham
Golf Rules
If only Mr. Graham could see the rulebook now. Since he made that biting remark, the “Rules of Golf” booklet has ballooned to more than 200 pages. The type is still tiny, the language no easier to decipher than ancient hieroglyphics.

Ask the average golfer how many basic golf rules and regulations the game entails and you’ll get a range of guesses. Not many will guess as low as 34, however, which is the actual answer. Of course, to say golf has fewer than three-dozen rules is a bit misleading. Many rules feature numerous sub-rules, often with additional sections under each sub-rule.

“I have always believed there are far too many rules in golf. For me, if you cannot write them all on the back of a matchbox then something is wrong.”
 Henry Longhurst

So many rules for such a seemingly simple endeavor. Emphasis on seemingly. The Rules of Golf cover every topic imaginable: Equipment specifications; competitive situations; playing from the tee, the green and all points in between; lost balls; balls hit into hazards or out of bounds; embedded balls; loose impediments and obstructions; and, quite famously, burrowing animals.

How did golf evolve from such a basic stick-and-ball game into today’s red-tape riddled exercise? Consider, today’s rules took root in 18th century Scotland. Like a river delta collecting silt, new material naturally deposited over time.

Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, most of the United Kingdom’s top clubs drafted their own rules, though there were many similarities between them. In 1899, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews (now known as the R&A) issued the first universal Rules of Golf. The USGA, formed in 1895, adopted the R&A’s rules in 1900.

In the decades to come, the R&A occasionally revised its rules to address equipment changes and refine outdated guidelines. The USGA essentially adhered to the R&A’s rules until 1947, when the American body published its own independent set. In 1952, the two associations jointly released the first uniform code.

The USGA and R&A continue to collaborate on the Rules of Golf, issuing a revised set every four years.

“There is no surer or more painful way to learn a rule than to be penalized once for breaking it.”
Tom Watson

Yes, there are a lot of rules. No doubt, many of them seem pointless. In fact, some of the more obscure rules are rarely invoked. (For example, it’s pretty rare to find your ball in hole made by a burrowing animal.)

But it pays to know as many of the rules as possible, starting with the most basic one of all – play the ball as it lies. Other need-to-know rules include those involving hazards, boundaries, unplayable lies and free drops.

Hopefully, learning the rules will help you enjoy the game more – and understand it more deeply.

“I have come to think that a person grows in his regard for the rules as he improves his game. The best players come to love golf so much they hate to see it violated in any way.”
Excerpt from Michael Murphy’s “Golf in the Kingdom”