The Rules

The Rules of Golf are universal but unlike many other sports, are applied by the players themselves. Therefore, every golfer should carry a Rules of Golf book, which is free and available from most golf clubs or state associations. The Rules outlined below are very simple but will assist initially.

R&A Rules App

The R&A have a rules app that can be downloaded onto your phone, which allows you to search for rules easier and also provides animated videos on the top 10 rules. CLICK HERE for more information.

Rules Quiz

The R&A have a number of rules quizzes to test your golfing knowledge. Work your way up from the beginner to intermediate and then to the advances quiz to see if you are a master of the rules. The quizzes are a great way for all members to develop their golfing knowledge and can be done individually or in groups.

You can access the R&A rules online quizzes by CLICKING HERE or see the downloads below.



The Rules generally do not permit you to improve the position of the ball. You may not bend or break anything growing or fixed except in taking a fair swing. You are not allowed to press anything down but you can remove loose natural impediments such as stones, twigs or fallen leaves without penalty from all penalty areas and bunkers. In penalty areas (bunkers not included) you can ground your club and take practice swings without penalty, just as you can on the fairway or in the rough. In bunkers you cannot touch the sand with your club in the area right in front of or right behind your ball, during your backswing or in taking practice swings.


Most golf courses have Local Rules which are specific to their club. You will find these either on the back of the score card or prominently displayed at the clubhouse.


You can repair damage on the putting green without penalty. Damage on the putting green means any damage caused by a person or outside influence such as ball marks, shoe damage (such as spike marks) and scrapes or indentations caused by equipment or a flagstick. You may remove leaves and other loose impediments on the line of your putt and you may also mark the position of your ball to pick it up and clean it.


There are some instances under the Rules of Golf where you can pick up the ball and relocate it – sometimes with a penalty and sometimes without a penalty. To drop the ball, the player must let go of the ball from a location at knee height. “Knee height” means the height of a player’s knee when in a standing position. But the player does not have to be in a standing position when the ball is dropped.
If you drop it and it accidentally touches yourself, your partner or equipment before it strikes the ground, or it rolls closer to the hole, you must drop the ball again, without penalty.


If you hit your ball into a penalty area, you may play the ball as it lies (you can ground your club and take practice swings without penalty, just as you can on the fairway or in the rough). Or:

  1. Play another ball at the spot from which the original ball was last played, taking a one stroke penalty; or
  2. If the penalty area is marked with yellow stakes, drop a ball behind the penalty area keeping the point where your ball last crossed the margin of the hazard in line with the hole and the spot where you drop the ball. There is again a one stroke penalty; or
  3. If the penalty area is marked with red stakes, you may also drop a ball outside the hazard within two club-lengths (longest club in your bag excluding your putter) of and not nearer the hole than where it last crossed the margin of the hazard, or at a point on the opposite side of the margin. There is again a one stroke penalty


Sometimes a ball may land in a position where it is very difficult or impossible to hit. If you decide you cannot hit your ball you may declare the ball unplayable, except in a penalty area. You may then pick it up and drop it at one of the positions below adding one penalty stroke to your score.

  1. at the spot from which the original ball was last played; or
  2. at a point any distance back from the spot where the ball lay in line with the hole; or
  3. within two club-lengths of where the ball lay but not nearer the hole.

If you declare the ball unplayable in a bunker, you can decide to drop under options 2 or 3 above with a one stroke penalty but you must drop the ball in the bunker, or

For two penalty strokes, the player may take back on the line relief outside the bunker based on a reference line going straight back from the hole through the spot of the original ball.


If you think your ball may be lost or out of bounds, you can save time by hitting a second ball from the same spot. This ball is called a “provisional ball” and you must tell your partners of your intention to play a “provisional” before doing so. You are allowed a maximum of three minutes to look for a lost ball. If you find your ball and it is in bounds, you must pick up the provisional and continue to play with the original ball. If your first ball is lost or out of bounds you must continue to play with the provisional ball counting all your strokes, plus one penalty stroke.