How well do you know your golf rules?

Posted by Alex Wood on

If you play golf I guess you kinda think you know the rules of golf, probably picked up from watching TV or playing with more experienced friends. But what exactly can you do and what is forbidden when playing a hazard for example? To find out more you can refer to the Royal and Ancient rules of golf?

What is the Royal & Ancient (R&A)?

To quote their own introduction:

“The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews was founded on 14 May 1754 with the first Challenge for the Silver Club. Evolving over 250 colourful years of British history, it has grown from a small society of no fixed abode into a club whose membership of around 2,500 extends worldwide. 

From the late 19th century, the Club increasingly came to be regarded as a governing authority, both in the United Kingdom and abroad. Between 1897 and 2003 it developed three distinct areas of responsibility, namely the administration of the Rules of Golf in conjunction with the USGA, the running of The Open and other key golfing events, and the development of the game in existing and emerging golfing nations. 

A major reorganisation in 2004, however, saw the Club devolve responsibility for these functions to a newly-formed group of companies, known as The R&A.” 

You can take a peek here and download the latest version of the rules as a PDF. This document is 117 pages long which quite frankly I find mindboggling, however help is at hand because the good fellows at the R&A also make a handy 2 page summary guide available as PDF download. It is interesting that in addition they make the rules available in 15 different languages and have separate guides for equipment, etiquette and others sections for pace of play and modernisation should you be interested.

Go Mobile

If you find the thought of downloading PDF documents a bit daunting they also have the rules available as an App so you can effectively consult with them on the course should you so desire. I downloaded the main rules app (android version) and found that overall it is a useful handy reference guide, there is a quick guide as well as the full rules if you so wish plus definitions and etiquette. They even have a quiz (in the form of a round) to test your understanding. When downloading the App I noticed there are a plethora of other Apps available claiming to provide the rules of golf, I didn’t bother looking at them as I suspect all they do is regurgitate the R&A official rules anyway.

Time for a change?

Back in March this year (2017) the R&A proposed revised rules that may or may not come into force in 2019. The main proposals are also covered on the R&A website

In summary the main rule changes could be: 

  • Reduce time allowed to search for a lost ball from five to three minutes.
  • Remove any penalty for accidentally moving ball.
  • Allow club committees to set a maximum score for a hole (such as double par or triple bogey) to allow a player to pick up and move to the next hole.
  • Relax protocols for taking free or penalty drops, with the ball dropped from only an inch above the ground, rather than shoulder height.
  • Recommend no player takes more than 40 seconds to hit a shot.
  • Use fixed distances (20 or 80 inches) rather than club lengths to measure areas where a ball should be dropped.
  • Allow putting on the green with the flagstick left in the hole.
  • Allow players to repair spike marks and animal damage on greens.
  • Allow use of distance measuring devices. Ban caddies helping players’ alignment.
  • Encourage players in strokeplay to implement “ready golf” rather than waiting until their turn.

If they implement these rules I think it can only improve the enjoyment and speed of the game for everyone.



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