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Golf Rules

When we talk about golf rules today we are essentially talking about a set of standards and regulations governing the manner in which the game of golf is played by literally millions of golfers around the world. There is however no single set of golf rules and the rules of golf are laid down by the United States Golf Association (USGA) for games played within the United States and Mexico and by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, Scotland (R&A) for games played throughout the rest of the world.

The first rules of golf (13 in all) were drawn up by the Honorable Company of Golfers in Edinburgh in 1744 in preparation for the Edinburg Silver Cup competition and were adopted by the R&A some ten years later. In 1899 these rules were adopted as the accepted golf rules for all British golfers and the following year formed the basis of the first set of rules drawn up by the USGA. Finally, in 1951, the two associations met to produce a uniform set of rules of golf and this is essentially what we have today.

Essentially an amateur game for many years, golf today has now followed the route of many sports and has a very substantial number of professional players competing in major tournaments around the world. As a result the Professional Golfers' Association (PGA) was formed to oversee the game at a professional level and today we also have a set of PGA golf rules. The PGA rules are designed to cater for minor differences between the R&A and USGA golf rules and to lay down additional rules which are necessary for professional tournament play.

Basic golf rules have remained unchanged for many years and perhaps the greatest influence on the official rules of golf today comes from advances in technology affecting principally items of golf equipment. It is estimated for example that there are about 3,000 new pieces of golfing equipment coming onto the market each year from new golf clubs and balls to golf tees, shoes and gloves. Each of these pieces of equipment needs to be tested to ascertain whether or not it should be acceptable for use in order to protect the traditions of the game and to ensure that the game remains a game of skill, rather than a game the outcome of which will become too heavily dependent upon the level of technology of the equipment used.

There are currently 34 golf rules which cover such areas as the game itself, clubs and balls, the teeing ground, playing the ball, the putting green, obstructions, hazards, the order of play and much more.

In our beginners guide to the rules of golf, which is very much a simplified overview and should not be taken as a substitute for the full rules of the game, we will start by looking at the etiquette of the game of golf and then cover the rules under the following headings:

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