John Renslow: Golfers all play by same rules |

John Renslow: Golfers all play by same rules

John Renslow
Get Into Golf

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 13 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 & 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, & 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, & 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.

Today, the Rules of Golf have grown to a total of 34 and, over the course of time, golfers have come up with enough questions (“but, what about this …” or “if I could just …”) to require more detail in writing the rules.

In fact, we now have a companion book known as the “Decisions on the Rules of Golf.” This is a compilation of interpretations and clarifications for unique situations.

Regulations can occasionally cramp your style, but there is also a certain amount of redemption for those who know the rules. You may find your ball in an adverse position from which you are entitled to relief. That’s right, no penalty, just move the ball to a different spot, in accordance with the Rules.

A few of these helpful rules will come up nearly every round of golf that you play and Get Into Golf will explain them over the next few weeks. Between now and then, try to pick up a Rules of Golf book at your local Pro Shop or head to

This is going to be great for your game!

John Renslow is general manager and director of golf at Alta Sierra Country Club. Please contact John with your questions or comments at

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