The R&A - Working for Golf

The Official Rules of Golf

The Rules of Golf are comprehensive and provide answers to the many issues that arise in a game that is played worldwide on many different types of courses by players of all abilities.

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About The Player's Edition
The Player's Edition of the Rules of Golf is intended for you, the golfer. It contains the Rules situations that occur most commonly on the course and is an abridged version of the full Rules. Although its text is edited, it gives you the same answer that is in the full Rules of Golf and so it is a functioning Rule book.


The Game, Player Conduct and the Rules

Purpose: Rule 1 introduces these central principles of the game: Play the course as you find it and play your ball as it lies. Play by the Rules and in the spirit of the game. You are responsible for applying your own penalties if you breach a Rule, so that you cannot gain any potential advantage over your opponent in match play or other players in stroke play

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The Course

Purpose: Rule 2 introduces the basic things you should know about the course: There are five defined areas of the course, and There are several types of defined objects and conditions that can interfere with your play. It is important to know the area of the course where your ball lies and the status of any interfering objects and conditions, because they often affect your options for playing your ball or taking relief.

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The Competition

Purpose: Rule 3 covers the three central elements of all golf competitions: Playing either match play or stroke play, Playing either as an individual or with a partner as part of a side, and Scoring either by gross scores (no handicap strokes applied) or net scores (handicap strokes applied).

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The Player’s Equipment

Purpose: Rule 4 covers the equipment that you may use during your round. Based on the principle that golf is a challenging game in which success should depend on your judgment, skills and abilities, you: Must use conforming clubs and balls, Are limited to no more than 14 clubs and normally must not replace damaged or lost clubs, and Are restricted in the use of other equipment that gives artificial help to your play.

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Playing the Round

Purpose: Rule 5 covers how to play a round - such as where and when you may practise on the course before or during your round, when your round starts and ends and what happens when play has to stop or resume. You are expected to: Start each round on time, and Play continuously and at a prompt pace during each hole until your round is completed. When it is your turn to play, it is recommended that you make the stroke in no more than 40 seconds, and usually more quickly than that.

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Playing a Hole

Purpose: Rule 6 covers how to play a hole - such as the specific Rules for teeing off to start a hole, the requirement to use the same ball for an entire hole except when substitution is allowed, the order of play (which matters more in match play than stroke play) and completing a hole.

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Ball Search: Finding and Identifying Ball

Purpose: Rule 7 allows you to take reasonable actions to fairly search for your ball in play after each stroke. But you must be careful, as a penalty will apply if you act excessively and cause improvement to the conditions affecting your next stroke. You get no penalty if your ball is accidentally moved in trying to find or identify it, but you must then replace the ball on its original spot.

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Course Played as It Is Found

Purpose: Rule 8 covers a central principle of the game: "play the course as you find it". When your ball comes to rest, you normally have to accept the conditions affecting the stroke and not improve them before playing the ball. However, you may take certain reasonable actions even if they improve those conditions, and there are limited circumstances where conditions may be restored without penalty after they have been improved or worsened.

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Ball Played as It Lies; Ball at Rest Lifted or Moved

Purpose: Rule 9 covers a central principle of the game: "play the ball as it lies". If your ball comes to rest and is then moved by natural forces such as wind or water, you normally must play it from its new spot. If your ball at rest is lifted or moved by anyone or any outside influence before the stroke is made, your ball must be replaced on its original spot. You should take care when near any ball at rest, and if you cause your own ball or your opponent's ball to move you will normally get a penalty (except on the putting green).

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Preparing for and Making a Stroke; Advice and Help; Caddies

Purpose: Rule 10 covers how to prepare for and make a stroke, including advice and other help you may get from others (including your caddie). The underlying principle is that golf is a game of skill and personal challenge.

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Ball in Motion Accidentally Hits Person, Animal or Object; Deliberate Actions to Affect Ball in Motion

Purpose: Rule 11 covers what to do if your ball in motion hits a person, animal, equipment or anything else on the course. When this happens accidentally, there is no penalty and you normally must accept the result, whether favourable or not, and play the ball from where it comes to rest. Rule 11 also restricts you from deliberately taking actions to affect where any ball in motion might come to rest.

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Purpose: Rule 12 is a specific Rule for bunkers, which are specially prepared areas intended to test your ability to play a ball from the sand. To make sure you confront this challenge, there are some restrictions on touching the sand before your stroke is made and on where relief may be taken for your ball in a bunker.

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Putting Greens

Purpose: Rule 13 is a specific Rule for putting greens. Putting greens are specially prepared for playing your ball along the ground and there is a flagstick for the hole on each putting green, so certain different Rules apply than for other areas of the course.

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Procedures for Ball: Marking, Lifting and Cleaning; Replacing on Spot; Dropping in Relief Area; Playing from Wrong Place

Purpose: Rule 14 covers when and how you may mark the spot of your ball at rest and lift and clean your ball and how to put it back into play so that your ball is played from the right place. When your ball has been lifted or moved and is to be replaced, the same ball must be set down on its original spot. When taking free relief or penalty relief, you must drop a substituted ball or the original ball in a particular relief area. You may correct a mistake in using these procedures without penalty before your ball is played, but you get a penalty if you play the ball from the wrong place.

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Relief from Loose Impediments and Movable Obstructions (including Ball or Ball-Marker Helping or Interfering with Play)

Purpose: Rule 15 covers when and how you may take free relief from loose impediments and movable obstructions. These movable natural and artificial objects are not treated as part of the challenge of playing the course, and you are normally allowed to remove them when they interfere with your play. But you need to be careful in moving loose impediments near your ball off the putting green, because you will get a penalty if moving them causes your ball to move.

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Relief from Abnormal Course Conditions (Including Immovable Obstructions), Dangerous Animal Condition, Embedded Ball

Purpose: Rule 16 covers when and how you may take free relief by playing a ball from a different place, such as when you have interference by an abnormal course condition or a dangerous animal condition. These conditions are not treated as part of your challenge of playing the course, and you are generally allowed free relief except in a penalty area. You normally take relief by dropping a ball in a relief area based on the nearest point of complete relief. This Rule also covers free relief when your ball is embedded in its own pitch mark in the general area.

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Penalty Areas

Purpose: Rule 17 is a specific Rule for penalty areas, which are bodies of water or other areas defined by the Committee where a ball is often lost or unable to be played. For one penalty stroke, you may use specific relief options to play a ball from outside the penalty area.

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Stroke-and-Distance Relief, Ball Lost or Out of Bounds, Provisional Ball

Purpose: Rule 18 covers taking relief under penalty of stroke and distance. When your ball is lost outside a penalty area or comes to rest out of bounds, the required progression of playing from the teeing area to the hole is broken; you must resume that progression by playing again from where the previous stroke was made. This Rule also covers how and when a provisional ball may be played to save time when your ball in play might have gone out of bounds or be lost outside a penalty area.

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Unplayable Ball

Purpose: Rule 19 covers your relief options for an unplayable ball. This allows you to choose which option to use - normally with one penalty stroke - to get out of a difficult situation anywhere on the course (except in a penalty area).

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Resolving Rules Issues During Round; Rulings by Referee and Committee

Purpose: Rule 20 covers what you should do when you have questions about the Rules during a round, including the procedures (which differ in match play and stroke play) allowing you to protect the right to get a ruling at a later time. The Rule also covers the role of referees who are authorized to decide questions of fact and apply the Rules. Rulings from a referee or the Committee are binding on all players.

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Other Forms of Individual Stroke Play and Match Play

Purpose: Rule 21 covers four other forms of individual play, including three forms of stroke play where scoring is different than in regular stroke play: Stableford (scoring by points awarded on each hole); Maximum Score (your score for each hole is capped at a maximum); and Par/Bogey (match play scoring used on a hole by hole basis).

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Foursomes (Also Known as Alternate Shot)

Purpose: Rule 22 covers Foursomes (played either in match play or stroke play), where two partners compete together as a side by alternating in making strokes at a single ball. The Rules for this form of play are essentially the same as for individual play, except for requiring the partners to alternate in teeing off to start a hole and to play out each hole with alternate shots.

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Purpose: Rule 23 covers Four-Ball (played either in match play or stroke play), where you and your partner compete as a side with each of you playing a separate ball. Your side's score for a hole is the lower score of the two of you on that hole.

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Team Competitions

Purpose: Rule 24 covers team competitions (played in either match play or stroke play), where multiple players or sides compete as a team with the results of their rounds or matches combined to produce an overall team score.

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