The Compete Guide To Golf Rules


The first known written golf set of rules only had 13 rules; however, the current Rules of Golf published and approved by the United States Golf Association and the R&A Rules Limited has over 200 pages covering 34 rules in-depth.

I know how confusing some of these rules can be. This article will make things a lot easier to understand.

Does Golf Club Distance Include Roll?

The PGA Tour measures the driving distance to the ball stops, including roll. The total is the straight-line distance to the golf ball’s expected resting point, while carry is the distance the ball flies through the air.

The difference between carry and roll is that the carry is the distance a ball travels in the air, and roll is how far the ball rolls or bounces upon landing. Total distance is a combination of both.

It wouldn’t make sense if driving distance did not include roll. If you hit a 250-yard drive, but it rolled 20 yards, you didn’t hit a 230-yard drive; you hit a 250. It doesn’t matter if the roll rolled those extra 20 yards.

It’s like not counting a Putt if the ball didn’t immediately go into the hole!

Knowing the carry and roll distances of all your clubs is important. You need to know if carry distance will be enough to fly over obstacles like large trees.

If you know your seven iron can hit 150 yards, 130 is the carry, and 20 is the roll. A 150 shot into a green with a big bunker is unlikely to be a good shot as you will miss short of the bunker and sadly roll into the sand.

Knowing your yardages is key to selecting the right clubs for the right moment.

Learn More

Please read my helpful article for more information on why yardages are so important and how to hit the golf ball further.

A Guide to How Golf Tournaments Work

Professional golf tournaments are played in a stroke format over 72 holes which is four full rounds, played over four days. After two rounds, there is a cut, where only 50 of the leading players move into the final rounds. The player with the lowest aggregate score after four rounds is the winner.

All but one of the 40+ yearly PGA events are stroke play, so that is what I will be discussing first.

Professional tournaments are played by 120 players over 72 holes of golf, which is over four full rounds, typically over four days. Although usually, the first day of play is Thursday, with the last being a Sunday, the average game of golf lasts between 3-4 and a half hours.

A golf tournament has 72 holes; 120 competitors need four separate days to see who played best.

Typically, if you see the leaderboard on day one, it is very tight, but the number of players at the top gets thinned out as rounds go by, one double bogey (+2 on your score) could ruin a player’s tournament if they only played 18 holes.

After two rounds (before Saturday starts), the leading 50 players, including the tied players, will move into the final rounds of days 3 and 4, while the players who didn’t make the ‘cut’ are out of the tournament.

Players are usually matched in groups of two (to play), and the ones with the highest score will start early, while the players with the lowest score will start playing last. However, on the last day of golf (Sunday), it can be rearranged depending on the aggregate score of day three.

After four rounds, the winner is the player with the lowest aggregate (combined) score. If more than one player has the same score, there with be a playoff.

Learn More

You can read my comprehensive article for a detailed look into every type of golf tournament and what happens in a golf playoff.

Can You Chip On The Green?

Under the rules of golf, a player can use any club on any shot from any position on the golf course. There is no penalty using a wedge or any club other than the conventionally used putter on the putting green. It is counted as a normal stroke, just like a drive or iron shot.

You could even tee off with a putter without breaking any rules

There are many examples of famous professional players doing this over the years, the most recent instance was during the 2019 US OPEN at Pebble Beach. On the 73rd hole of the Championship and leading by two shots Gary Woodland, who would win the Championship, pulled off this difficult to execute shot with perfection.

The highly revered Rivera Country Club in Los Angeles has a famous Par3 4th Hole, which places a bunker in the middle of the green. Unfortunately, this means that the only option for players is to hit a chip on the green to get the ball close to the hole.

You will use a wedge on the green if you are in a situation where it is easier to chip over awkward areas like in the rough so you can start putting where the ball lands.

It is very difficult to do the potential for miss-hits is very high there is a high chance you could damage the green. The greenkeeper or club members wouldn’t be happy with you!

Learn More

There is a lot more to it to know how to chip on the green successfully and if you can chip if the ball lands on another hole green or when you can’t chip from the green, you can read my detailed article.

The Rules Of Golf Explained

 The two most important rules in golf are to play the ball as it lies and to count your shots correctly. Also, golf is a game of integrity and etiquette that players commonly officiate.

The most important rule is to hit the golf ball where it stops unless the shot has gone out of bounds or in water. After that, you cannot move the golf ball. If you do, it is cheating.

Don’t play too slow. One of the worst things for a golfer is being behind a slow four-ball. Golf etiquette is about spectating other players and the course itself, keeping up with the pace of play by not holding up play on the course.

Also, remember to respect the course. You cannot try to change any part of the course, such as chopping grass with your club to get a cleaner shot or breaking tree branches to get a full backswing.

According to ‘Rule 8 – Course Played as It Is Found’, you can move loose objects that impede their swing, but you cannot move or break any natural growing thing on the course.

Remember to repair your divot (hole) you make on the fairway, rake bunkers after taking your shot, sweep all your footprints, and repair any ball marks on the green.

The three most important points for golfers to remember are to repair their divots on the fairway, rake bunkers after taking your shot, sweep all of your footprints, and repair any ball marks left on the green

Learn More

It just touched the surface. For a detailed look into the five rules of golf and helpful deep dive into the basic golf etiquettes, do yourself a favor and read my comprehensive guide.

Can You Drink While Playing Golf?

Generally, most golf courses will allow you to drink alcohol while playing your round. However, it is always advisable to check club rules before bringing alcohol into the clubhouse or onto the course.

It is commonly acceptable to drink beer while playing golf across most golf courses worldwide. Bringing a hip flask of liquor (get one on Amazon) is a traditional part of the game, but golfers should always respect the course rules and other golfers to maintain the club etiquette wherever you’re playing. 

Some golf courses will not like you bringing your alcohol, especially if they have a bar on the course.

For many golfers, having a beer while you play your round can work to help loosen you up and help you relax into your swing. There’s nothing worse than being tense and rigid on a golf course, so having a beer while you play can sometimes improve your game.

For other golfers, drinking can hinder their performance, with the effects of alcohol inhibiting you from dialing in your swing distances and being accurate with your shots onto the greens.

Many golf societies will also allow you, even encourage you to have a beer while you go about your round. Some courses even have bar staff driving around the course in buggy’s serving alcohol and, on special occasions, cocktails, which golfers can purchase and enjoy during their game. 

It’s important to remember that if you have a few beers while playing, you must maintain the pace of play, adhere to the club rules and common etiquette of golf, and don’t leave litter on the course.

Many golf courses will not mind if you bring your beer onto the course, but it is important to check the club rules before playing. You will often find the clubhouse selling cans or bottles of beer you can take with you on your round.

For example, the rules will differ for higher quality golf courses, like Pebble Beach, St Andrews, and Sawgrass. If you’re playing a PGA-recognized course, I’d advise not bringing alcohol onto the course as these are professional, high-quality golf courses. Save the beers until after your round is done on these courses.

Learn More

To see how you can pack beer in a golf bag and more information on if you can drink beer on the course.

How Long Is a Round of Golf?

An 18-hole round should take four people approximately four hours to complete, and you may be guilty of slow play. It should take two to three and a half hours for two to three people.

Playing Group Size Time Through 9-Holes Time Through 18-HolesPar 3 TimePar 4 TimePar 5 Time
One-Ball1 hr 15 min2 hr 30 min6 mins8 mins10 mins
Two-Ball1 hr 30 min3 hr 0 min8 mins10 mins12 mins
Three-Ball1 hr 45 min3 hr 30 min9 mins11 mins14 mins
Four-Ball2 hr 0 min4 hr 0 min10 mins13 mins17 mins

Two people should complete 18-holes of golf within 3 hours and 30 minutes, averaging around 10 minutes for each par 4 and 15 minutes for each par five-hole. A skilled pair of golfers could complete an empty 18-hole golf course in less than 3 hours if they had a golf cart. 

Maintaining a good pace of play is one of the essential parts of playing golf. Especially if you’re four players, you need to respect other players on the course who are playing a lot faster than you and not hold them up.

That can sometimes take a little longer if they are held up on the fairways and greens by other slow players ahead of them on the course, which can be frustrating for golfers who maintain a good pace.

Generally, two golfers shouldn’t take much time to get around 18-holes. However, if you take over 4 hours, something is going seriously wrong, and you might want to book a lesson. Although you’re playing a lesson with a coach, it’s normal to take over three and a half hours to complete a round. 

Remember not to rush your game with two players playing. Your best golf will help you go efficiently through the round rather than rushing every shot. If you hurry, you’re likely to chunk shots, hit more slices, and spend more time looking for your ball in the bushes, taking a lot of time out of your round.

Remember to factor in the difficulty of the course and the rough around the surrway. On routes like Winged Foot or Carnoustie in Scotland, the wild on the obstacles, conditions, and way the course plays can be pretty difficult for most golfers, even the pros!

Learn More

It just scratched the surface. To learn more about how long you should play nine holes and what is a fast round in golf, you can read my helpful article.

Can You Switch Golf Balls on the Green?

You cannot switch out your golf ball on the putting green. Once a player has teed off on a hole, they must complete the hole before they are allowed to switch out their golf ball. You can mark and replace your ball when on then green, but you cannot switch it with another golf ball. 

You can use a new ball when starting a hole or use a different ball when taking both free and penalty relief.

When the ball is unfit for play, you can change the ball but set it in the same place it came to rest on the green.

The number one rule of golf is playing the ball where it stops. You can mark and retrieve your golf ball when on the green, but you must place the same ball back down after aligning your putt.

The only exception is if your ball becomes damaged, the damage must be so bad that you cannot use the ball. You must replace the ball with a like-for-like replacement (the same ball) in the position you found it.

Learn More

For more information and to know if there’s a penalty for hitting another golfers ball, you can read my helpful guide.

The Complete Guide to Golf Course Rules

Generally, golfers must have paid and booked a tee-off time to play most golf courses. In addition, you must avoid slow play and stick to the local club rules when playing. When on the course, golfers should play their ball as it lies and be mindful of other people on the course when hitting. 

You can run on golf courses that are accessible to public members as long as you don’t impede or distract any golfers on the course. You cannot run on a private course that restricts access to members of the public.

Running on a golf course can be dangerous. Depending on the course you’re running on, you need to avoid being hit by a golf ball. Runners can damage grass on the fairways and, even worse, damage the greens by running over them— which you can get fined for.

Walking on a public golf course without paying is illegal, but walking on a privately owned golf course is prohibited. Still, you might avoid walking close to tee boxes, greens of any fairways.

Look at this golf course in Scotland’s rules on walking on a course:

  • Allow players to play their shot before crossing a fairway.
  • Be still when close to a player about to play.
  • Follow paths where they exist, and
  • Keep your dog on a short lead.

You can walk on the golf course without paying, but you might check the local club rules before doing so if you are with someone playing. Private courses typically will not allow not public members on the course.

Learn More

For a more detailed guide and the answer to if you can walk on a golf course at night, please read my helpful guide.

The Complete Guide to Sharing Golf Clubs

Generally speaking, a player plays only with their clubs in golf and with 14 clubs maximum in the bag (USGA rule 4.1(2)). This fairly universal rule is in place for a few reasons, including the pace, golf club fit, and player ability.

You can take a look at the rule yourself here.

Courses need to maximize the number of golfers on the course and keep the groups moving. Sharing clubs slows down the pace of play.

Rules 22.5 and 23.7 state that partners can use the same clubs if the number of clubs between them does not exceed 14. Balance is protected because the golfers are limited to 14 clubs, which may fit one player better than the other and vice versa.

This wrinkle in the rules could help partners strategize in a tournament setting. Often tournaments will have minimums for using each team member’s drive a certain amount of times, but if one player is best off the tee, they can do the majority of those shots.

Perhaps their partner is better around the greens, and they can play most of those shots. If the team decides to use 14 higher-quality clubs instead of 28 lower-quality clubs, they offer themselves a chance to compete.

If you have trouble understanding golf rules, TRUST ME. You are not alone. The rules are very complicated, even for me. For a complete guide into the rules of golf, you should read my golf rules article.

It’s okay to let your wife/girlfriend borrow your clubs, but clubs vary and offer advantages for specific needs in height, swing speed, trajectory, and length.

Women’s clubs will be shorter and lighter. If the shaft is graphite on a woman’s club, it will have more flex to create greater clubhead speed, increasing length and trajectory. If your wife borrows your clubs, she might not have the best possible experience, which may cause a lack of interest in the game.

If you are interested in more information about the flex of a club, consider reading my guide on the differences between stiff and flexible shaft flex.

The best time for your wife to use your clubs is if your wife is beginning and is not sure if she wants to commit to buying clubs. However, there are options for low-cost clubs that will not break the bank and offer a better experience from the onset making it more likely that your wife will continue in the game.

Look no further for information about low-cost clubs and the best starting clubs to purchase. Our helpful guide is about how much a beginner should spend on clubs.

Learn More

Please read my helpful article for a deeper look into how sharing golf clubs work.

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