Terminology and the basic rules of golf


There are 34 rules in golf and 62 definitions relating to the rules. We don’t expect you to know them all, when you’re getting started. We have picked out some key pointers from the Rules of Golf that may initially flummox you and added in some of our own to get your golf going.

Play the ball as it lies, play the course as you find it, and if you cannot do either, do what is fair.
But to do what is fair you need to know the Rules of Golf.
— The R&A and USGA

The game of golf should be played in the correct spirit and in accordance with the Etiquette Section of the Rules of Golf.


The Spirit of the Game
Golf is played, for the most part, without the supervision of a referee or umpire. The game relies on the integrity of the individual to show consideration for other players and to abide by the Rules. All players should conduct themselves in a disciplined manner, demonstrating courtesy and sportsmanship at all times, irrespective of how competitive they may be. This is the spirit of the game of golf.

In particular:
* show consideration to other players
* play at good pace and be ready to invite faster moving groups to play through, and
* take care of the course by smoothing bunkers, replacing divots and repairing ball marks on the greens.



On the tee

Tee shot (Rule 11)
You may change your ball before playing your tee shot, it is good practice to advise a player in your group if you are changing your ball.

Play your tee shot from between, and not in front of, the tee-markers. You may play your tee shot from up to two club-lengths behind the front line of the tee-markers.


On the teeing ground, a player should not tee their ball until it is their turn to play.


From tee to green


Players should ensure that no one is standing close by or in a position to be hit by the club, the ball or any stones, pebbles, twigs or the like when they make a stroke or practice swing.

Players should not play until the players in front are out of range.

Players should always alert greenstaff nearby or ahead when they are about to make a stroke that might endanger them.

If a player plays a ball in a direction where there is danger of hitting someone, he should immediately should a warning. The traditional word of warning is such situations is “fore”.

Be Ready to Play
Players should be ready to play as soon as it is their turn to play.

Pace of play
Play at Good Pace and Keep Up
Players should play at good pace.

It is a group’s responsibility to keep up with the group in front. If it loses a clear hole and it is delaying the group behind, it should invite the group behind to play through, irrespective of the number of players in that group.

Lost Ball
If a player believes their ball may be lost outside a water hazard or is out of bounds, to save time, you should play a provisional ball.

Playing the ball (Rules 12, 13, 14 and 15)
If you think a ball is yours but you cannot see your identification mark, after notifying your marker or opponent, you may mark the position of the ball and lift it to identify it.

Play the ball as it lies
Don’t improve your lie, the area of your intended stance or swing, or your line of play by:
* moving, bending or breaking anything fixed or growing, except in fairly taking your stance or making your swing, or
* pressing anything down
If your ball is in a bunker or a water hazard, don’t:
* touch the ground (or the water in a water hazard) with your hand or club before your downswing, or
* move loose impediments (Rule 13-4)



The putting green


When playing on or near the putting green, players should leave their bags or carts (buggies) in such a position as will enable quick movement off the green and towards the next tee. When the play of a hole has been completed, players should immediately leave the putting green.

On the putting green, players should not stand on another player’s line of putt or, when they are making a stroke, cast a shadow over their line of putt.

Players should remain on or close to the putting green until all other players in the group have holed out.

On the Putting Green (Rules 16 and 17)
You may:
* mark, lift and clean your ball (always replace it on the same spot), and
* repair ball marks and old hole plugs, but not any other damage, such as spike marks (Rule 16-1)


To download the Rules

Visit the R&A


Our top tip for beginners:

However, having said all that, when you are first learning our top tip, for confidence building on the course, is that if you get into trouble pick the ball up and put it on the fairway or tee it up on a tuft of grass.

Felicity Dunderdale