Getting into golf isn’t the easiest thing. Besides figuring out how to swing the club you also need at least a basic understanding of the golf rules and regulations as well as some basic golf etiquette for beginners.
I was very confused about the rules of golf when I first started out. I also felt insecure about the golf etiquette I had heard so much about and what was expected from me.
My guess is that the reputation golf has is holding many new and potential golfers away from the game. All the rules and etiquette is a barrier of entry that not all are willing to climb because they feel insecure. Maybe this applies to you too.
After reading this article though, there will be no more feeling insecure for you. We will cover the basic rules of the golf game as well as the basic golf etiquette for beginners.
For me it actually took quite a few years until I felt comfortable around the clubhouse and on the course. I wish someone had given me a better introduction to the basic golf rules and regulations and also to some basic golf etiquette for beginners.
With a little bit of time invested in reading about the most basic golf rules and etiquette in combination with some time spent on the course, the rules and etiquette won’t be a hazard standing between you and the joy of the game.
The official rules of golf are governed by the R & A and you can read them directly from their website if you don’t mind mind reading a lot of text. The golf rules are administered by the R&A and the United States Golf Association and jointly written.
The rules of golf are comprehensive and they will provide you with answers to the many situations you can come across when playing golf. The Rules of Golf are intended for those who administer the game and this version of the rules is quite hard to read. If you want to go through the rules from A to Z, make sure you consult “The Player's Edition” version of the rules.
However, there are easier ways to learn the rules than reading straight from the official rule book. We will cover many of the main rules briefly in a simpler way in this article.
How do you play golf for beginners?
Often there are many question when you are first starting out, such as:
So, let's get going…
If you are in a hurry, here’s a useful golf etiquette and rules quick reference cheat sheet.
Further down you will also be able to take two quick golf rules and etiquette quiz, one on the rules and one on etiquette. These will give you a baseline on where you stand when it comes to golf knowledge.
When first starting out you shouldn’t feel that you need to know every rule in the book, because you don’t have to. The most important thing is that you get golfing and you will pick up the necessities as you go along.
The golf rules for beginners are the same as for every seasoned golfer, but when playing with friends it’s not as important to know them as it is in tournament play. If you know the basics that apply to golf rules & scoring you’ll be fine, as long as you are aware about the safety aspects of the game.
Begin watching the video below. It covers many of the golf rules basics and I find it very useful.
What are the golf rules of the game and the rules for scoring? Do you have to read the entire golf rules book? These are questions I asked myself in the early days and I guess you too are asking the same questions.
We’ll get you there without reading the entire book...
Let's start out with clarifying that the rules have been the same for a very long time. That is until 2020 when there was a major overhaul in the book with new golf rules as an outcome. With the golf rules changes, what are the new golf rules for 2020 and beyond?
The major changes to the new rules is in this direction:
Before we go into the rules and the new changes, take a quick quiz from the R&A to see how well you know the rules of golf:
I still love the Golf Rules And Etiquette For Dummies book, even though it’s yet to be updated with the latest rules changes.
If you want to learn how to play golf and the rules, this is still a book that will get you there in an easy to read and fun way.
Just be aware that there are some changes to the rules, but these are also easy to pick up from your playing partner or from other sources so you should be just fine.
How many golf rules are there?
Well, there’s quite a few.
Here we’ll cover briefly the R&A main rules and sections from The Player's Edition rule book:
1 The Game, Player Conduct and the Rules
The purpose is to introduce you to the central principles of the golf game. You should play the course in the same way you find it and you should play your ball as it lies on the ground.
Not only should you play by the rules, you are also expected to play in the spirit of the game. Golf is a great game and you are responsible for applying your own penalties when doing something that is not allowed.
2 The Course
This section covers the basics you should know about the golf course. You should know about the five defined areas as well as the defined objects and conditions on the course that can interfere with you when you are playing.
3 The Competition
Here you learn about the central elements of golf competition. You are either playing match play or you are playing stroke play. You can also play as an individual or with a partner as a team. Your score is counted either as gross scores (no handicap applied) or as net scores (handicap applied).
4 The Player’s Equipment
This section covers the equipment. I would say that the most important thing for you to know right now is that you can carry no more than fourteen clubs in your bag.
5 Playing the Round
Basically this rule tells you that you should be on time to first tee and to play your round at a good pace.
6 Playing a Hole
This rule tells you where to tee off, to use the same ball for the hole with some exceptions and the order in which you should play.
7 Ball Search: Finding and Identifying Ball
In this section rule 7 covers how long you can search for your ball after a stroke and what to do if you accidentally move your ball.
8 Course Played as It Is Found
This is one of the central principles of the game, play the course as it is.
9 Ball Played as It Lies; Ball at Rest Lifted or Moved
The rule covers another central principle of the golf game, stating that you should play your ball as it lies. Be careful every time you are near a ball at rest.
10 Preparing for and Making a Stroke; Advice and Help; Caddies
Golf is about skill and personal challenge and is covered in this section of the rule book. It tells you what kind of help you can get in preparing a shot from other people.
11 Ball in Motion Accidentally Hits Person, Animal or Object
About what to do if your ball hits a person, animal or equipment. If it happened accidentally there will be no penalty.
This rule is about bunkers and they are no fun. No touching the sand before you take your stroke and where to take relief in a few cases.
13 Putting Greens
About the rules on the putting green.
Who putts first on or off the green? Until the new rule changes came into effect in 2020 it was always the player who was the furthest away from the hole who putted first.
With the new rule changes we want a faster game and you're now playing ready golf. This means that if you are ready before someone who’s closer to the hole you can putt first. The same thing goes for every stroke on the course. But on the green it’s still common that the player furthest away putt first.
The golf rules on flagstick is covered in section 13.2. You may now, with the new rules, leave the flagstick in the hole while putting. Or you can still have it removed, but you must decide before taking your putt.
14 Procedures for Ball
When you can mark and lift your ball. Also about when you can take free or penalty relief and where to drop it.
15 Relief from Loose Impediments and Movable Obstructions
This rule covers free relief from loose impediments and movable obstructions, when and how you can take it.
16 Relief from Abnormal Course Conditions
Here you learn when and how you can take a free relief by playing your ball from another place when the conditions are not treated as part of the course. It also covers how to drop the ball in a relief area and what to do when your ball is embedded in its own pitch mark.
17 Penalty Areas
A specific rule for penalty areas (hazards), such as golf rules for water hazard and others. Also covers golf rules in a hazard when you may use specific relief options and play your ball from another spot.
18 Stroke-and-Distance Relief, Ball Lost or Out of Bounds, Provisional Ball
Section 18 are rules that most likely are more important to you than some of the other golf rules.
What is the rule for out of bounds in golf?
The new golf rules out of bounds is all covered and knowing the out of bounds golf rules are vital for a weekend golfer.
Rule 18 also covers golf rules for lost balls and this is something that is likely to happen during a round for most of us. Knowing the golf rules on lost balls and when to hit a provisional ball also help keeping the pace on the course.
19 Unplayable Lie Golf Rules
The purpose of golf rules for unplayable lies is to get out of a tough situation on the course and you often have more than one option.
20 Resolving Rules Issues During Round
When playing for fun with friends this rule is rarely used. Most often there is no referee, but it can apply when you are playing tournaments. The rule covers what you should do if you have questions during a round. Rulings from a referee are binding for you.
21 Other Forms of Individual Stroke Play and Match Play
Here you learn about the match play in golf rules. Match play golf rules are probably nothing you will need to know much about, unless you are playing with your buddies on a weekend trip. Matchplay golf rules are also covered in all chapters from 21-24
You will learn what is the maximum score you can take on a golf hole and that it also depends on the type of golf you are playing that particular round.
This section also touches other forms of playing golf, such as scramble golf rules and greensomes. Skins golf rules ain’t covered though.
A fun way to play the game is foursomes where you compete together as a team by alternating your strokes at a single ball.
Four-Ball is also known as better ball or best ball. Rule 23 covers the best ball golf rules and it’s an easy and fun way to play together as a team.
24 Team Competitions
Purpose of rule 24 is to cover team competitions and how rounds or matches are combined into an overall team score.
I used to ask myself what is golf etiquette in the beginning and I guess the same goes with you. Today I’m feeling more secure about what a protocol for golf etiquette is, but I’m still not totally sure about the golf etiquette definition.
When playing on certain courses, it seems to me that the club and members can have their own golf etiquette and rules. I guess that’s the way it is and it shouldn’t be a hazard holding you back from enjoying the game.
Before we dig deeper into golf etiquette for beginners, here’s a quick 101 test on golf etiquette rules to give you a baseline on what you know and what’s left to learn:
Personally I like to read when I want to gain more knowledge on a topic.
If you prefer to read too, a golf etiquette book that still stands strong is the Golf Rules & Etiquette For Dummies. I really enjoy this golf etiquette for dummies book as well as the entire dummy series.
The book is a few years old, but it's still very useful and I think you will enjoy it.
This golf etiquette video is a beginner’s guide to golf course etiquette and will get you off to a good start with examples:
Below we cover some more etiquette rules and for many situations there isn’t something absolutely right or wrong. Some examples also depend on what course you are playing and how much you want to align yourself with the other members.
What Is The First Basic Etiquette Rule In Golf?
I would say that you should always be polite and play by the safety measurements so nobody gets hurt. Same golf etiquette for juniors apply.
What Is A Turkey In Golf?
This is an expression that some really good golfers use when they are having a particular good round. I’ve never used this expression myself though...
Golf Course Maintenance Etiquette
You should always let the greenkeeper finish his or her work before you shoot. They do their work as fast as possible so that there won’t be any unnecessary delays. If they move to the side to let you take the shot, make sure you both signal to each other that you are taking the shot.
Golf Tournament Etiquette
At bigger tournaments golf etiquette for volunteers comes natural. Usually they are very familiar with the game and eager to do a good job. Golf etiquette for spectators can be trickier, but keep your voice low and your phone off and you should be fine.
Golf Etiquette Clothing
What to wear on the golf course is a tricky question when it comes to etiquette. The same goes for women's golf attire.
Personally I’m not a huge fan of a strict golf etiquette dress code and I don’t mind seeing a golfer in jeans once in a while.
Some new golfers ask why can't you wear jeans on a golf course. My answer is that you can in some places sometimes, but that you don’t want to. There are so many other comfortable pants you want to wear when playing golf.
Golf etiquette when it comes to shorts? Wear them if the weather is warm and it’s not in any other way inappropriate on the course you are playing.
Golf Etiquette Pace Of Play
It’s important to keep up the pace when playing. Slow play is annoying for everyone else on the course.
You shouldn’t feel stressed though, but walk briskly and don’t look for your ball too long. On the other hand, the ball behind yours shouldn’t play too tight and stress you. They should go with the flow on the course as well.
However, if the ball behind is faster than yours, it’s good etiquette letting both a single player and faster balls through.
Golf Etiquette Hole In One
This is an unofficial rule for many golfers saying that you should celebrate accordingly when the round is over after a HIO. This includes buying a round of drinks and you can even sign up for a hole-in-one insurance should you feel that the tab might be toward the more expensive kind.
Golf Etiquette Bunker Rakes
Use the rake after you’ve been to the beach. Leave the sand the way you would like it next time you end up in the bunker. Leave the rake in the direction of play.
Golf Bag Etiquette
If you are using a trolley, don’t roll it over the fringe or green and don’t in between bunker and green. If you are using a carry bag, it’s ok to stand it on the fringe but be careful.
Golf Etiquette On The Fairway
Keep the pace, don’t play slow. Don’t stress the ball in front of you. Take security in a serious way, don’t shoot when risking to hit someone. Shout “Fore!” should your ball come close to somebody.
Golf Green Etiquette
Always repair your ball mark. Better still, repair your own and one more with your pitch fork. We all want nice and smooth greens to putt on and we have to help each other out in order to keep the course in good condition.
Golf etiquette on the green has changed a bit since the new rules. We are now playing ready golf and it’s alright golf etiquette to putt if you are ready first, even if you are closer to the hole than someone else. But it’s still common to play by the old rules that say furthest away putt first. If everyone is keeping a good pace when playing, this isn’t a problem.
Good golf etiquette on where to stand is that you should be standing behind the player who is putting. Also don’t step into someone's line of putting and don’t position yourself so your shadow disturbs your playing partner.
Golf Etiquette On The Tee Box
Be quiet when others are hitting. It’s good golf etiquette not talking when your partner is taking a shot. The same goes for every shot, not only on the tee. Pick up the tee after your shot.
It's not always perfect on the course though. This is when golf etiquette goes out the window - presenting golf etiquette with John Cleese. This one is funny...
Now we’ve covered quite a few things about the golf etiquette and rules. Hopefully you can feel more secure on the course from now on and don’t feel that there are any big issues holding you back from enjoying and playing the game with your friends.
This was a simple overview of basic golf rules and regulations and the proper golf etiquette for beginners. Your next step is to dig into the parts you want to know more about to really boost yourself for your next round.