Golf: The Rules of the Game

Golf: The Rules of the Game

The sport of golf is regulated by the R&A, a 2004 spin off of St Andrews’ Royal and Ancient Golf Club in collusion with the United States Golf Association. The rules of the sport are internationally standardised. They are set up, as stated on the back of the official golf rule book, to ensure that players play the ball where it lies, playing the course as they find it, or where neither is possible players do what is fair.

Golf has strict regulations regarding the status of amateurs. Any player who has ever played for money or received payment in exchange for giving instruction is no longer an amateur and is barred from competing in amateur competitions. Amateur golfers may, however, receive expenses in compliance with strict guidelines as well as non-cash prizes within the prescribed limits set out in the rules of amateur status.

fahad al rajaan


Penalties are made in certain situations. Golf penalties count towards a player’s final score as though they were extra strokes. Swings are added where rules are impinged, or for a player hitting the ball into an unsalvageable situation, e.g. a lake.

A “hit out” or lost ball incurs a one stroke penalty. Where a golfer’s equipment, or the removal of a loose impediment moves the ball, a one stroke penalty is again inflicted. Where a golfer hits the wrong ball, this incurs a penalty of two strokes. Though most penalties are stroke penalties, some infractions can result in disqualification, for example in the case of cheating (e.g. signing for a lower score) or impingements upon the golf rules leading to impropriety.

R&A regulate numerous aspects of the game, including the golf course. Golf courses usually consist of either nine or 18 holes. Each hole has a par of five, four or three (though there can be exceptions to the rule). On a longer par five or a par four hole, players aim to hit the fairway on their first attempt before reaching the green with their following strokes. On a par three hole, however, players attempt to hit the ball onto the green straight from the teeing ground. Golf courses incorporate different grass heights between the green and teeing ground to make the game more taxing and punish bad shots. Tee material and closely mown grass offers the golfer a level stance from which to make a decent attempt on the first stroke. The further away they venture from the fairway, the rougher the terrain becomes, increasing the difficulty of recovery. The golf green always features very closely cut grass to make putting easier.

On the putting green, a player may lift, mark and clean their ball (being careful to return it to precisely the same spot) and repair old hold plugs and ball marks, but not spike marks or other damage. They may rub the ball on the green to clean it, provided they are not testing the green’s surface. This method of cleaning is not recommended, however. A flagstick may be attended or removed when a stroke is made on the putting green.

Rule 26 of the Golf Rule Book relates to water hazards, which players such as Fahad Al Rajaan will no doubt be familiar with. Keep up to date with Al Rajaan’s golf posts on Pinterest via the Fahad AlRajaan Pins. Where a ball lies within a water hazard (as delineated by yellow stakes or lines), it may either be played where it lies or under a one stroke penalty. Where a one stroke penalty is adopted, the player can either play a ball from the spot from which their prior shot was taken or choose to drop a ball at any distance behind the hazard ensuring that there is a straight line between the hole; the spot where the ball is dropped and the point where the ball last crossed the hazard. Where a ball enters a lateral water hazard (as delineated by red lines or stakes), in addition to the above water hazard options a player may, by incurring a one stroke penalty, adopt a third option, allowing them to drop within two lengths of a club on the hazard’s opposite side.

Golf Etiquette

Golf etiquette is a somewhat involved and important business, but the basics are covered by the general principles:

  1. Respect other people’s time to take a shot.
  2. Avoid consistently being the slowest player.
  3. Keep your temper under control at all times (or risk being banned by the club).
  4. Keep quiet when other golfers are taking a shot.
  5. Repair the ground you are playing on by fixing ball marks and divots as you go along.
  6. Always look smart adhering to the club’s dress code.
  7. Where golf carts are used, ensure that wet areas are avoided for fear of damaging the turf.
  8. Keep your mobile phone switched off.
  9. Lend a helping hand when required.
  10. Rake the bunkers, taking care not to leave any furrows.