The current Rules of Golf published and approved by the United States Golf Association and the R&A Rules Limited consists of over 200 pages covering 34 rules in-depth. The first known written set of rules for golf consisted of 13 rules. First drafted in 1744 by the Gentlemen Golfers of Leith, later known as The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers. The Gentlemen Golfers of Leith established the rules, known as the Thirteen Articles, for the first Challenge for the Silver Club tournament played at Leith Links in Edinburgh, Scotland.
John Rattray won the Challenge and his signature appears at the end of the Thirteen Articles, which were preserved in the minute book of Edinburgh Golfers.
The rules were adopted a decade later for a similar Challenge played at St Andrew’s. The rules appear on the first page of the St Andrews Golfers’ first-minute book and were titled The Articles & Laws in Playing the Golf. The first Challenge at St Andrew’s was played on May 14, 1754, and is now considered the start date of what would become the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews.
The 13 original rules of golf
1. “You must tee your ball, within a club’s length of the hole.”
Modern rule: Teeing area rules
Your ball is in the teeing area when any part of the ball touches or is above any part of the teeing area. You may stand outside the teeing area in making the stroke at a ball in the teeing area. You may play the ball from a tee placed on the ground or from the ground itself.
2. “Your tee must be upon the ground.”
Current Rule: Teeing
When a player is putting a ball into play from the teeing ground, it must be played from within the teeing ground and from the surface of the ground or from a conforming tee (see Appendix IV) in or on the surface of the ground.
For the purposes of this Rule, the surface of the ground includes an irregularity of surface (whether or not created by the player) and sand or other natural substance (whether or not placed by the player).
If a player makes a stroke at a ball on a non-conforming tee, or at a ball teed in a manner not permitted by this Rule, he is disqualified.
A player may stand outside the teeing ground to play a ball within it.
3. “You are not to change the ball which you strike off the tee.”
Modern rule: Rule Holing out with the same ball played from the teeing area
A player may play any conforming ball when starting a hole from the teeing area and may change balls between two holes. The player must hole out with the same ball played from the teeing area, except when: That ball is lost or comes to rest out of bounds, or the player substitutes another ball (whether or not allowed to do so). The player should put an identifying mark on the ball to be played.
4. “You are not to remove, stones, bones or any break clubs for the sake of playing your ball, except upon the fair green and that only within a club’s length of your ball”
Current Rule Rule Loose Impediments
ReliefAny loose impediment can be removed, except when the ball and the impediment are in the same hazard.
Rule 18-2 applies if the ball is not on the green or if a player removes an impediment that causes it to move.
If the ball or the ball-marker is accidentally thrown onto the green by a player trying to remove an impediment, it must be replaced. If the movement of the ball/ball-marker is directly related to the removal of the impediment, there is no penalty. A penalty of one stroke is assessed under Rule 18-2 for any player who does not comply.
A ball in motion must be free from any obstruction that could affect its movement.
Notice: The ball must remain in the hazard. Players are prohibited from touching or moving any impediments in the same hazard. Refer to Rule 13-4c.
5. “If your ball comes among water or any watery filth, you are at liberty to take out your ball and bringing it behind the hazard and teeing it, you may play it with any club and allow your adversary a stroke for so getting out your ball.”
Modern Rule: Rules Options for Your Ball in the Penalty Area
Red or yellow are the two types of penalty areas. This can affect your options for relief. To play a ball in a penalty zone, you may have to stand there even if you are receiving relief from the penalty. If any part of your ball touches or touches the ground, or is higher than the edge or another part of the penalty zone, it is considered to be in a penalty zone. You can either play the ball where it is without penalty or take penalty relief to play a ball outside of the penalty area. This Rule allows you to get penalty relief if your ball is not found or it is probable that it was in a penalty area. If it is unknown or not likely that your ball rested in a penalty area, and the ball is still lost, stroke-and-distance relief may be available.
6. “If your balls are found anywhere touching one another, you are to lift the first ball, till you play the last.”
Current Rule Interfering with play or rule ball assistance
Ball interference with play except for when the ball is in motion, players may request that another ball be removed from play.
Rule 20-3 requires that any ball lifted in violation of this Rule be replaced. Except when it is on the green, the ball cannot be cleaned. (see Rule 21).
Stroke play is when a player must lift his ball.
Note 1 A player cannot lift his ball if he feels it may interfere with another player’s play. A player who lifts his ball unassisted will be subject to a one-stroke penalty for violating Rule 18-2. However, there is no additional penalty under Rule 22, which carries a fine of $175.
Note 2 A ball that could influence the motion of another ball must not be lifted.
7. “At holing, you are to play your ball honestly for the hole, and, not to play upon your adversary’s ball, not lying in your way to the hole.”
Modern rule: Rule Wrong
A stroke with a wrong ball is not allowed. Matchplay: If your opponent plays the ball of your opponent during play of a hole the general penalty (loss) applies. You must correct your mistake in stroke play by continuing to play with the original ball. You are disqualified if you don’t correct the error before you make a stroke to start another hole or before you return your scorecard.
8. “If you should lose your ball, by its being taken up, or any other way, you are to go back to the spot where you last struck and drop another ball and allow your adversary for the same misfortune.”
Current Rule Rule ball Lost or Out Of Bounds; Provisional
Stroke and Distance; Ball Out of Bounds, Ball Not Found Within Five Minutes
Under Stroke or Distance A player may play a ball as close as possible to the spot where the original ball was last played (see rule 20-5), i.e. under penalty for stroke or distance.
Except as provided by the Rules, any stroke made at a ball at the same spot where the original ball was played last is considered to be a stroke.
Out of Bounds A ball that is out of bounds means the player must play the ball under penalty of one strike as close as possible to the spot where the original ball was last played. (Refer Rule 20-5).
A Ball Was Not Found within Five Minutes If a player loses a ball because it is not found by him or his caddies within five minutes, they must play the ball under penalty of one stroke as close as possible to the spot where the ball was last played (see Rule 25-0).
Exception: The player can proceed as per the applicable Rule if it is known or almost certain that the original ball has been moved by outside agencies (Rule 18-1), has become stuck (Rule 24-3), or is in an abnormal ground situation (Rule 25-1), or is in a water hazard or (Rule 26-1).
9. “No man at holing his, is to be allowed to mark his way to the hole with his club or anything else.”
Modern rule: Rule Advice
You must not give advice or seek advice from anyone else during a round. To learn more information about another player, touch their equipment.
10. “If the ball is stopped by any person, horse, dog, or anything else, the ball stopped must be played where it lies.”
Current Rule Rule Ball In Motion Deflected
By Outside Agency– A player’s ball is not allowed to move if it is deflected, stopped, or redirected by an outside agency.
If the ball of a player is in motion following a stroke on the putting course, it must pass through the green or be in a hazard to be dropped. The ball must be placed on the green as close as possible to the spot where it came to rest on the outside agency or the green, but not closer to the hole.
The stroke will be canceled if the ball is in motion following a stroke on putting green. The ball must be replaced or replayed.
A substituted ball may be used if the ball isn’t immediately retrievable.
Exception: A person who strikes a ball while attending or holding flagstick or any other item he carries – see Rule 17.3b.
Notification: A player’s ball in motion was deliberately deflected, or stopped by an external agency.
After a stroke, you must estimate the location where the ball would have landed if it had been taken from another place than the putting green. The spot where the ball would have landed is called:
The ball must be dropped in the hazard or through the green.
Out of bounds, the player must follow Rule 27-1;
The ball must be placed at the spot indicated on the putting green.
After a stroke on putting green, the stroke must be canceled. The ball must be replaced or replayed.
Rule 1-2 applies to fellow competitors if the outside agency is his caddie.
(Player’s ball is deflected, or stopped by another ball. See Rule 19-5)
11. “If you draw your club, in order to strike and proceed so far in the stroke as to be bringing down your club; if then your club shall break, in any way, it is to be accounted for.”
The modern rule: “The forward movement of your club to strike the ball”
12. “He whose ball lies furthest from the hole is obliged to play first.”
Current Rule: Order of Play
In-Play of Hole After both players have begun play of the hole, it is decided which ball will be played first. If the balls are not at the same distance from the hole, or their positions relative to the hole are uncertain, it is best to decide by lot.
Exception: rule 30-3b (best-ball and four-ball match play).
Notice: If it is discovered that the original ball is not to lie, the player must play the ball at the exact spot where the original was last played (see Rule 20.5). The spot from which the previous stroke was made determines the order of play. The position from which the ball was last played determines the order of play.
Play of Hole After competitors have begun play of the hole, it is decided which ball will be played first. If more than one ball is within a reasonable distance of the hole, or their positions relative to the hole are uncertain, it should be decided by lot.
Exceptions Rules 22 (ball interfering or ball assisting with play) and 31-4 (4-ball stroke play).
Notice: If it is discovered that the original ball is not to lie, the competitor must play the ball at the exact spot where the original was last played (see Rule 20-5). The spot from which the previous stroke was made determines the order of play. The order of play for a ball that is not played at the same spot as the previous stroke is determined by where it came to rest.
13. “Neither trench, ditch or dyke, made for the preservation of the links, nor the scholar’s holes or the soldier’s lines, shall be accounted a hazard; but the ball is to be taken out/teed and played with any iron club.”
Modern Rule: Rule Abnormal Course Conditions
You can get free relief if your ball is located in the general area or if there is an abnormal condition on the course.
Golf has undergone many changes in the last century, but it is surprising to see how many of these original 13 rules are still employed today. As a result, golfers from all generations can enjoy this sport which was first played in 15th-century Scotland. Whether you’re an avid player or just looking for a way to relax and have some fun with friends, there’s never been a better time than now to start playing golf! What are your thoughts on this old game? We want to hear what makes you love or hate it so we can keep our readers informed about both sides of the story.