In 1744, the Company of Gentlemen Golfers was established in Edinburgh and then codified the first rules of play. They’ve been evolving ever since. The official USGA golf rules, plus decisions, covers over five hundred pages. So, no brief article can cover every facet. The following is highly simplified.
In general, the idea is to hit your own golf ball the fewest number of times in order to reach a hole that starts a couple of hundred yards distant. Remember, the rules may not always be fair, but like your parents’ rules they’re rigid.
You should tee off between or behind (up to two club-lengths), not in front of, the tee-markers.
BALL IN MOTION INTERFERED
If you deflect or stop your ball in motion you’ve cost yourself two strokes. Accidents will happen, but you still pay the price. If a ball struck by you is interfered with by someone else, play it as it lies. If your ball is struck by another ball oh well, that’s life. Unless you’re both on the putting green at the start, in which case “that’s life” costs two strokes.
PLAYING THE BALL
Play the ball where it lies. Don’t try to improve your position by bending anything fixed or growing, except in taking your stance or making your swing.
BALL AT REST MOVED
If you move your ball after it’s come to rest, you’ve cost yourself a stroke. It all counts, baby.
BALL LOST OR OUT OF BOUNDS
If you lose your ball and can’t find it after five minutes, you have to play another ball from the spot where the last golf chip shot was played. You lose one stroke.
You’re allowed to move rakes, beer bottles, etc if they’re in your way. If an immovable obstruction, such as a water fountain, interferes with your stance or swing, you’re allowed to drop the ball within one club-length of the nearest clear point that’s not nearer the hole.
ON THE GREEN
An area about 10 yards in diameter of smoother, lower grass near the hole is called ‘the green’. When you’ve been skilled or lucky enough to get your ball there, remove the flagstick from the hole and replace it when all players have finished the hole. You can pick up and clean your ball on the green, provided you replace it exactly where it was. And, by the way, you’re expected to do all this with golf clubs, (no more than 14), and nothing but golf clubs.
The ideas behind golf etiquette are all common sense courtesies. Dress appropriately and don’t make loud noises,
Most courses are pretty busy so arrive on time. And, if you can’t get through a hole or a shot in a reasonable amount of time, let those behind you play through. No taking phone calls in the middle of play!
Who plays first is usually decided by a coin toss, but you can be creative.
Don’t get in the way of someone’s shot. This is not only courteous but in the best interest of your safety.
Replace divots (chunks of turf and earth scooped up during a swing). And rake the sand trap after you’re done making your bunker shot.
Don’t fling your club fifty yards when you miss that two foot putt.
Do have a good time.