The Rules of Golf are designed to make the golf fair for all concerned.

The rules can seem complex and confusing however there are three important principles to remember:

  • Play the course as you find it
  • Play the Ball as it lies
  • And if you can't do either, do what's fair

Explore the Rules of Golf with the easy to use facility provided by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews. Find any rule quickly with the fast Keywords Search or browse through every detail of the Table of Contents.

Comparison between the Royal & Ancient and the USGA

As independent bodies The Royal and Ancient and the United States Golf Association have worked closely together since 1952 to produce a uniform code of rules so that wherever the game is played the same laws apply.

Every four years the two governing bodies agree any necessary amendments or clarifications and the main thrust of their work is in reviewing, revising and clarifying the rules so that they can be more easily understood and applied.

Because of the complex nature of the game, one small change in the rules is rather like altering the shape of one piece of a jig-saw puzzle, affecting all the pieces that touch it.

Proposed changes are discussed in detail with golf authorities in all parts of the world and when the R&A and USGA make their final decisions there has to be complete agreement on both sides. The abiding principle is always "are they for the good of the game?"

Suggestions for simplifying the rules or making them more fair are always welcomed by the R&A.

R & A Website

The Royal and Ancient website contains a complete resource regarding the Rules of Golf. Visit the following links to this site:

  • Rules Application (Detailed information on each Rule of Golf)
  • Decisions Book
  • Book and Videos
  • Interactive Quiz (Really good section where test your rules skills)
  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)

Rules Milestones

1744 - First written code of rules. Rule 1 stated: "You must tee your ball within a club's length of the hole."

1850 - With the introduction of the gutta percha ball a new rule provided that if a ball broke up in flight another ball could be dropped without penalty where the largest piece was found

1897 - Formation of the R&A Rules of Golf Committee.

1904 - Time allowed in searching for a ball reduced from 10 to five minutes.

1909 - Limits on the form and make of clubs applied for the first time.

1922 - Restrictions on the size and weight of golf balls imposed in an effort to limit the distance they would travel.

1929 - Steel shafts became legal for the first time.

1939 - Only 14 clubs to be carried from this date.

1949 - To stop the spread of slow play, committees were empowered to disqualify players who unduly delayed others. Modified in 1952 to loss of hole or two-stroke penalty, with disqualification for repeated offences.

1952 - First world code agreed between R&A and USGA. Stymie abolished - players no longer forced to chip over an opponent's ball coming to rest between their ball and the hole in match play.

1960 - Distance measuring devices banned.

1984 - Ball no longer dropped over the player's shoulder, but at arm's length and at shoulder height.

1990 - The 1.68-inch ball becomes the only legal ball, marking the demise of the 1.62 British ball.