There is so many different rules in golf it can often be intimidating starting off. We have hazards, boundaries and various different situations that ever golfer can come across during a round of golf. Knowing the rules can often help you in certain situations, not knowing them could cost you big. We will talk through some of the most basic rules of golf from where to tee it and who plays first, to some of the problems and issues you may encounter throughout your round.
The Dress code
Although not officially a rule the dress code is a very important part of the etiquette of golf. To play on a golf course the basic dress code requirements are:
- A collared shirt (no football jerseys or polo’s)
- Tailored pants or shorts (no football shorts or denim jeans)
- Golf shoes (in most recent times with soft spikes not metal)
Although every golf course is slightly different these general rules should get you through most situations.
What equipment to have?
- Set of golf clubs in your own golf bag (maximum 14 clubs in a bag)
- Have an ample amount of golf balls and tees (minimum 8 golf balls)
- Always carry a pitch mark repairer, pencil and ball marker
- Although not essential I would always carry at least one if not multiple golf gloves
The Golf Course
Below is a basic golf hole with some of the key features highlighted
The Teeing area (Tee Box)
- Often there are several on each hole for different golfers such as juniors, ladies, mens and tournaments. These will be defined by different coloured tee markers.
- The First shot from every hole will be played from this area. The shot must be played from inside and behind the two tee markers. You can move the ball as much as 2 club lengths behind the markers but no more.
- You always have the option to use a tee on the first shot on every hole
- Depending on the length of the hole your target should be to hit the fairway (see below) or hit the green (see below)
- The first person to tee off on the first hole will always be the lowest handicap golfer. From holes two onwards it will be the person who had the lowest score on the previous hole.
- The fairway will be the second shortest grass and will act as a path towards the hole.
- Generally the fairway is a different shade of grass from the rough (see below) and will often have noticeable lines (light and dark) from the mower. This is generally where you would aim to hit the ball from the teeing ground. However if you hit it either side of the fairway you may encounter various hazards (see below) or rough (see below).
- The person to always play first once the tee shot is hit will always be whoever is furthest from the hole.
- The rough is generally a longer darker grass which will surround the fairway
- Although there is no penalty for hitting it in the rough depending on the golf course it can be more difficult to hit it from the rough.
The Sand Bunker (Bunker)
- The bunker is most commonly an enclosed area of sand which is quite clearly defined. On some courses there are also desert areas for which the rules are different
- The bunker is considered a hazard so it has slightly different rules than hitting of grass. Most notably you cannot touch the sand before you play the shot. This means two things, firstly you cannot take a practice swing and hit the sand, secondly you must hover the club (not ground it) behind the ball as you play the shot
- After playing the shot the etiquette would be to rake the bunker and leave it in the same state you found it ie no footprints or divots
Water hazards are areas of water that are part of the golf course. They are almost always defined by red or yellow stakes. The different colours indicate slightly different rules
Yellow stakes (water hazards) gives you three main options
- Play the ball as it lies (cannot ground the club)
- Play the ball from where your last shot was played (1 stroke penalty)
- Drop the ball behind the hazard as far as you like keeping the point where the ball crossed the hazard in a straight line between you and the flag (1 stroke penalty)
Red Stakes (lateral water hazard) will also give you the above options in addition to:
- Dropping the ball within 2 club lengths of where the ball crossed the hazard but no closer to the hole (1 stroke penalty)
- Dropping the ball 2 club lengths the opposite site of the hazard at a point that is the same distance from the hole as where the ball originally crossed the hazard but no closer to the hole (1 stroke penalty)
Out Of Bounds
- Out of bounds describes hitting the golf ball outside the bouncy of the golf course. This boundary should be defined by white stakes
- If you hit the ball out of bounds the only option you have is a stroke and distance penalty. You must replay the shot from as near as possible to where you last hit it and add one stroke extra to your score.
- If your ball happens to rest against or near a boundary fence you must play the ball as it lies, there is no relief from a boundary.
The Putting Green
- The putting green will always be the shortest grass on the golf course and will have a hole indicated by a flag on it.
- When on the green the ideal club to use is the putter. When a shot is played on the green the flag must be removed. If you hit the flag when on the green you will receive a penalty.
- In most cases when on the green you will remove the flag before playing a stroke. In some cases where you are a long distance from the hole you can ask for the flag to be held or tended by a fellow player. When this happens they will remove the flag before the ball reaches the hole.
- When a ball lands on a green from distance it will often make a small hole in the green which we call a pitch mark. It is important that we always try our best to repair this mark with either a pitch mark repairer or a tee.
- The most common Type of game we play in golf is Stroke play. In this format we count every shot on the score card and subtract our handicap from the total. Another common format is stable ford. This is a points based game and is a slightly easier format particularly for beginners as there is a limit to your score. The third most common format would be match play. This format is a head to head game where you count how many holes 1 person/team wins over another.
- The handicap system in golf is designed to level out the playing field and allow everyone to compete regardless of level. The handicap is an allowance of extra shots one person would be allowed over another or over the golf course. To get a handicap you generally need to join the countries golfing federation and hand in 3 score cards to see what standard you are currently playing to. As you improve your handicap will be adjusted.
- On the first tee you should always declare the make and number of the golf ball you are playing. This ensures nobody plays the wrong ball during the course of a round.