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Golf Rules (At a Glance and In-Depth)

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Golf rules books are issued every four years

The Official Rules of Golf are published in booklet format every four years by the R&A and USGA.

Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

The Golf Rules section on About.com includes the full Rules of Golf, which you'll find below, along with FAQs about frequently misunderstood rulings, a rules forum where you can post questions to experts, the rules in plain English, plus more info about the guidelines for playing golf.

The Official Rules of Golf are kept, updated and published jointly by the United States Golf Association (USGA) and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews (R&A).

Update: Coming Rule 14-1b (ban on anchoring) and what it affects

Original Rules of Golf from 1744
The first written rules of golf appeared in 1744, and there were 13 of them. Here's what the original golf rules said.

Golf Rules at a Glance
Here we offer a quick introduction to the Official Rules of Golf, breaking down each rule into a few key points, written in plain English. If you're new to golf, you can get a quick grasp of the important concepts in the rules; if you're a veteran golfer, this feature is a good refresher.

The Full Rules of Golf

The Official Rules of Golf appear here courtesy of the USGA. These golf rules are used with permission of the USGA, and may not be duplicated or reprinted without the express permission of the USGA. On to the rulebook:

Etiquette - Behavior on the Course
Official Definitions from the Rules of Golf

The Game
Rule 1: The Game
Rule 2: Match Play
Rule 3: Stroke Play

Clubs and the Ball
Rule 4: Clubs
Rule 5: The Ball

Players Responsibilities
Rule 6: The Player
Rule 7: Practice
Rule 8: Advice; Indicating Line of Play
Rule 9: Information as to Strokes Taken

Order of Play
Rule 10: Order of Play

Teeing Ground
Rule 11: Teeing Ground

Playing the Ball
Rule 12: Searching for and Identifying Ball
Rule 13: Ball Played as It Lies
Rule 14: Striking the Ball
Rule 15: Wrong Ball; Substituted Ball

The Putting Green
Rule 16: The Putting Green
Rule 17: The Flagstick

Ball Moved, Deflected or Stopped
Rule 18: Ball at Rest Moved
Rule 19: Ball in Motion, Deflected or Stopped

Relief Situations and Procedures
Rule 20: Lifting, Dropping and Placing; Playing from Wrong Place
Rule 21: Cleaning Ball
Rule 22: Ball Interfering with or Assisting Play
Rule 23: Loose Impediments
Rule 24: Obstructions
Rule 25: Abnormal Ground Conditions, Embedded Ball and Wrong Putting Green
Rule 26: Water Hazards (Including Lateral Water Hazards)
Rule 27: Ball Lost or Out of Bounds; Provisional Ball
Rule 28: Ball Unplayable

Other Forms of Play
Rule 29: Threesomes and Foursomes
Rule 30: Three-Ball, Best Ball and Four-Ball Match Play
Rule 31: Four-Ball Stroke Play
Rule 32: Bogey, Par and Stableford Competitions

Administration
Rule 33: The Committee
Rule 34: Disputes and Decisions

Rules of Amateur Status
USGA Policy on Gambling

Note: The golf rules reprinted here do not include the Appendices from the Official Rules of Golf. For the Appendices, please visit the USGA Web site or the R&A Web site and navigate to the Rules section.

More Golf Rules Resources

Rules FAQ: What's the Ruling?
Golfers often encounter sticky situations in which the proper way to proceed under the rules isn't always clear. These FAQs take a look at such situations and explain the rulings.

Ask Questions in the Rules Forum
Have a question you need to ask, want to get a clarification on a rule or opinions about a ruling? Our Rules Forum is the place to do it. Pose your question, and rules experts will help.

Golf Etiquette
This primer on golf etiquette covers the basics on the proper way to conduct onself on a golf course. And it's not just about manners, good golf etiquette helps promote a good pace of place as well as safety on the golf course.

Poll: How strictly do you adhere to the Rules of Golf in friendly rounds? (click your choice to cast vote)
1) Very strict - I always play by the book
2) I try to play by the Rules, but I'm not fanatical about it
3) Depends on who I'm playing with
4) Rules? What rules?

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