Ten Golf Rules You Need to Know Before Stepping Out on the Green

While the premise of golf may be pretty simple (get the ball into the hold), in reality, there are a variety of rules that you must be aware of before you hit the course. If you do not know these rules and you play, then you will very likely reach a disagreement or argument with a player who takes the rules seriously.

Luckily, we compiled a list of the ten most essential golf rules you need to know before playing with anyone. It does not matter if you are a beginner, or a seasoned player, it is never too late to take a quick refresher course of the rules of golf.

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The rules of golf have been under near-constant revision since it first started being played. However, today the internationally accepted standards for golf come from the United States Golf Association (or the USGA). If you want a full copy of the rules for USGA, then you can visit their website.

Though the game itself may look reasonably merely, there are a variety of variables the come into play depending on the course and where your ball lands within. These rules mainly cover things like make-up shots but also include important rules regarding the way you interact with the class and terrain.

When Do You Need to Follow These Golf Rules?

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If you play a friendly game with someone not as skilled, you can make exceptions to the rules, or place handicaps on the more experienced player. But, if you want to play competitively with any player, then you must follow the rules on this list to a tee.

However, you should always discuss the rules you wish to follow during your golf match with the other players before you begin. As such, you are having a good general set of rules comes in handy for maintaining a universal sense of fairness.

Top Ten Golf Rules You Should Know About Before Playing

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If you want an official up to date guide on the latest set of rules, then you can find them at the USGA website by following this link http://www.usga.org/rules-hub.html. In this section, we provide you with some of the golf rules highlights that we think are essential for playing any match. We will start with the premise.

1) Hit Your Ball, Follow It and Hit Again

This tenet is the basic premise of the game. There are some exceptions, as we will see, but virtually all you do when playing golf is hit your ball, find it and then hit it again. Rinse and repeat until you made the ball into the hole. It is as simple as that.

2) Beware Any Plant Objects or Vegetation

Now that we know the basic premise of the game let us go into some of the specifics. For example, if your golf band lands near any natural vegetation like leaves, tall grass or branches that grow out of the ground in a fixed position., then you cannot move this debris.

You also cannot bend, break or press any natural obstructing object that gets in the way of your shot. If you do not follow this rule, then you get a two-stroke penalty in stroke play. Or if you play match play format, then you will experience a loss of hole. So be careful of nature!

3) You Can Move Certain Natural Objects

While vegetation and branches growing out of the ground may be off limits for touching when your balls land certain objects are okay for moving. As long as you do not affect your ball at all during the process, then you can walk around the rocks, loose pebbles, broken sticks or similar objects away before your shot.

4) You May Also Move Certain Man-Made Objects

On a well-kept course, a human-made object might be things like a bunker raker and yard markers, or on unkempt classes, it might be things like a liter or mechanical object. When you encounter these human-made objects, then you can take what is known as a “relief.”

You take relief by placing your golf ball one stick length away from the intruding human-made object. You may never put a relief shot nearer to the hole. If you are in a sand bunker, then you will need to take your relief shot from the container itself.

5) You Can Take One Free Relief Per Turn

Reliefs are not only for when you encounter a human-made object. You can take one free relief away from things like animal holes, tight water spots, construction spots, or even on the greens. But make sure you follow the proper procedure we listed in the previous rule.

Generally, you want to use the longest club in your arsenal — preferably your driver since it gives you a little more room for dropping in. Keep the ball within the distance of the club and make sure you never move it toward the hole, always away from it.

6) Never Touch The Ground Around A Bunker or Water Hazard

When you find your ball trapped in a water hazard or bunker situation it is vital that you do not disturb the ground or water with your hand or club in any way. While it might not seem like a big deal, such action will incur a penalty of two strokes or, in the case of match play, the loss of the hole. Do not do this ever!

7) Water Hazards Options

No one likes getting trapped in a water hazard, but do not fear! The game is not over quite yet. When you hit a golf ball into a water hazard area, then you have three different options you can following for taking your next shot. Keep in mind that all of this option will cost you a one-shot penalty.

The first option you can take is going back to the last place you shot and hitting the ball again. However, some players find this option a bit embarrassing since it feels like a walk of shame. Luckily, there are some alternative options as well.

The second option would involve placing your golf ball within a distance of two golf clubs from the point where the ball crossed the hazard mark. So if you hit the ball into a pool of water, then you could place it by the edge of the lake.

The third option involves the same rules as the second option, but you can set up the shot away from the hazard as long as it is on the other side, apart from the hole.

8) Out of Bound Balls or Lost Balls

A ball becomes declared out of bounds when it passes the marked areas of the course, or if you cannot find it after fifteen minutes of searching. When this action occurs, you must return to roughly the spot where you last hit that ball and try again. You also incur a penalty of one stroke.

We recommend taking a provisional shot if you believe that your ball probably landed out a bound. Take another chance and then search for your catch. That way if you discover it out of bounds or lost you do not need to travel back to the spot you last shot from with your club.

9) Options for an Unplayable Ball

Simply put, a ball becomes unplayable when you cannot hit it for whatever reason — either because it landed in the middle of a bunch of bushes, or right up against the side of a tree. When this event occurs, you can perform three options.

The first option is merely traveling back to the last spot you shot and shooting again. Or, you can move the ball two stick lengths away from the unmovable object, apart from the hole. Alternatively, you can run the ball behind the immovable object as long as the ball remains between you and the shaft.

10) You Can Repair the Turf When Putting on the Green

Sometimes the green around the hole can become messed up by other player’s ball marks. Usually, these tuffs are pretty easy to fix, so go ahead and do so before you take your shot. Or, you can get the course maintenance worker to fix it if need be. Just make sure you do not set and foot marks — it is not allowed.

Conclusion: Why Golf Rules Are Important

We know that the rules for golf might seem a bit confusing for the average person. But we still encourage you to take the time to learn them by heart. We find that if you learn them early on, then the game becomes a much more enjoyable experience for regular play with friends and acquaintances.

The first reason that golf rules are important is they provide a universal standard which you can measure your performance against. You can also compare your performance with any of your friends and family and know that nothing interfered with the scoring process.

There is also the pride that comes along with knowing that you scored a great game fairly and according to the same standards as everyone else. If you do not follow the rules carefully, then a dark feeling quickly begins to shadow your accomplishment.

It is also essential for you to remember that the rules are not always working against you. Indeed, in many cases, they actually advocate for your rights when retaking a shot. There is nothing worse than being bossed around by another player gloating about their version of the rules. If you know them by heart, then you can check the other person when you get in a pickle.

Often, we associate the game of golf as a gentlemen's sport — one that puts honor and integrity above everything else. As such, we believe another essential part of memorizing the rules is so you can be honest and open when playing with other people. While ignorance might pass as an excuse in the outside world, it does not fly for serious golf players.

We hope this article helped you learn some of the most critical golf rules.

As you can see, there are a variety of reasons you should take the necessary time to familiarizing yourself with the game. We believe the most important reason is merely the human connection you get with other players. We hope you do too.

Adam Jenkins

I’m certainly no expert on the game of golf, but I am someone who knows what it’s like to start out completely overwhelmed. From one beginner to the next, here's to a better golf game!

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