Basic rules of golf

At its very basic the aim of the game is to get a little ball into a little hole using the fewest hits, or gentle taps of a golf club. But there are more than a few rules...

If you're new to the game you may want to have a quick look through our jargon buster before delving into the rules.

For a complete breakdown of all the rules of the game you should have to hand a rules reference or visit the web site of the Royal & Ancient, golf's governing body, which now features an interactive rules guide.

But as a start... players must not agree to break the rules!!!

Golf Equipment

Golf Clubs - In general a player is allowed to carry up to 14 clubs for a round and must not swap or borrow clubs with other players. There are some special rules about suitability of clubs, damage to clubs during play and sharing clubs with a partner.

Balls - Balls must be within the weight and size requirements but there is no limit to the number that can be carried. The ball may not be changed between the tee or the green unless it is declared lost or is agreed to be unfit for play. Unlike clubs, a player may also borrow balls from another player if too many go missing in the water or bushes!

Playing the Game

Stroke Play - In stroke play golfers compete over the complete course and the player with the least number of strokes (after accounting for their handicap) is the winner.

Match Play - In match play golfers compete for each hole in its own right to take a win or loss. The player or team with the most holes won at the end of the round is the winner regardless of the number of strokes played.

Stableford - In a stableford competition golfers compete on a points system, where points are awarded: 1: bogey, 2: par, 3: birdie, 4: eagle and 5: albatross. The winner is the player or team with the highest score over the whole course.

Local rules

Most clubs and courses will have some guidance on any "local rules" rules. These may be specifically to do with the course you are playing on, water/temporary hazards, footwear and club selection so be sure to check these before setting off.

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