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GET INTO GOLF: A look at the rules, old and new

Offsides, icing, illegal crackback, these are a few rules from sport that require some investment in the game to figure out what they are and why they exist. Golf has a few of those, too.

Although there may be moments when we do not understand how a certain rule came to be, we can rest on the fact that over the last few hundred years, countless hours have been devoted to arrive at the documents and decisions that we have today.

There is one important thing to remember. The objective is for all who will play, regardless of age or ability, to play by the same rules. Rules should be equitable and the parameters should not vary.



The Gentleman Golfers of Leith wrote the original thirteen rules of golf in the year 1744.

Here they are for your edification:




Articles & Laws in Playing at Golf

1. You must tee your ball within a club’s length of the hole.

2. Your tee must be upon the ground.

3. You are not to change the ball which you strike off the tee.

4. You are not to remove stones, bones or any break club, for the sake of playing your ball, except upon the fair green within a club’s length of your ball.

5. If your ball comes among watter, or any wattery 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.

6. If your balls be found any where touching on another, you are to lift the first ball, till you play the last.

7. At holling, 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.

8. If you should lose your ball, by it’s being taken up, or any other way, you are to go back to the spot, where you struck last, and drop another ball, and allow your adversary a stroke for the misfortune.

9. No man at holling his ball, is to be allowed, to mark his way to the hole with his club, or anything else.

10. If a ball be stop’d by any person, horse, dog, or anything else, the ball so stop’d must be play’d where it lyes.

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 a stroke.

12. He whose ball lyes farthest from the hole is obliged to play first.

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 and play’d with any iron club.

Pretty straightforward, eh? If your dog or your horse stops your ball, that’s the way it goes. A phrase developed over the years, it’s called ‘rub of the green.’ We still use that one. By definition, ‘rub of the green’ occurs when a ball in motion is deflected or stopped by any outside agency (this would include dogs and horses). You hit it. You find it. You play it.

The Rules of Golf are reviewed by the governing bodies periodically with changes occurring every two to four years. Many of the possible updates have been kicked around for years and recently there were over a hundred topics in these conversations.

This year there are many updates and changes that improve our game. With the time available to us, over the next couple of weeks let’s take a look at the changes that will likely effect most players.

The number of rules has been reduced. From the original 13, the Rules of Golf grew to 34. With streamlining in mind, the Rules have been consolidated to a total of 24.

Repairing spike marks on the greens prior to putting has been a hot topic for years. The essence of the Rules is to play the course ‘as you find it.’ However, if one can repair a ball-mark on the green, why should one not be able to repair a spike mark?

For 2019, we now can repair damage to the green. This would include ‘spike marks’ (caused by nodules) or other flaws caused by animals (say deer). However, this does not include other imperfections, such as aeration or natural erosion.

Looking for a lost ball seems to take forever, specifically when it’s not your ball….ha. Honestly, I don’t see this as a big improvement, yet the amount of time one can hunt for their ball will likely be reduced from 5 minutes to 3 minutes. Not earth shattering, but…virtually anything that can be done to speed up play is a good thing. For most of us, it ain’t the Open Championship. Look for a minute or two and move along.

A few of these helpful rules will come up nearly every round of golf that you play and Get Into Golf will continue to provide helpful information that will improve your day on the course. Between now and then, try to pick up a Rules of Golf book at your local Pro Shop or head to http://www.usga.org. And remember, the first rule is to have fun!

John Renslow is a PGA Professional, VP of Yugi Golf Management, and provides golf instruction at local courses.


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