The Basic Golf Rules for Beginners: Learn the Game the Right Way

Golf is a sport that has been around for centuries and is enjoyed by people of all ages. It’s a game that can be played competitively or just for fun, and it’s a great way to get some exercise.

If you’re new to the game, or even if you’ve been playing for awhile, it’s important to know the rules. Otherwise, you might end up breaking them and getting penalized.

The basic rules of golf are relatively simple. Each player starts with a set number of strokes, and the goal is to use those strokes to hit the ball into the hole in as few shots as possible.

There are different rules for different situations, but if you stick to the basics, you’ll be fine.

Basic Golf Rules: Equipment

In order to play golf, there are some basic rules that you need to follow regarding your equipment.

Golf Clubs

Basic Golf Rules for Beginners golf clubs

There are many different types of golf clubs.

  • Putters
  • Irons
  • Drivers
  • Woods
  • Wedges
  • Hybrids

At a minimum, you need 2 clubs to play…a club to get you to the green and a putter for the green.

Of course, you’ll want more than 2 clubs and the rules do state there is a maximum number of clubs you can play with, which is 14.

There are no rules about which clubs need to make up that set of 14 (or fewer), but if you have more than 14 clubs, you’ll need to leave the extras behind.

Playing with too many clubs can actually cost you penalty strokes for every hole you play. Count your clubs!

Golf Balls

Unless you lose the ball, you must finish a hole with the same ball you started with. Once you’ve completed the hole, you can choose a different golf ball to start on the next tee box.

The next 3 sections will cover the rules of play in 3 parts. The Tee Box, the Fairway, and the Green….and each comes with it’s own set of rules!

Basic Golf Rules: The Tee Box

Basic Golf Rules for Beginners tee box

The tee box is one of the most important parts of the golf course. It’s where you start each hole, and it sets the tone for the rest of the round.

There are a few simple rules that every golfer should follow when teeing off.

Know your Tee Box Markers

Most golf courses have at least 3 sets of tee markers, each a different color based on yardage, number of yard to the green.

Your skill level and gender will determine which marker you make your tee shot from.

  • Black or Gold Tee Markers: These are for the pros and are not even available at all courses. The are reserved for clubs that hold serious tournaments
  • Blue Tee Markers: This is the marker for most men who have a low handicap. This is the tee marker with the longest yardage on most courses, unless the tee box has black or gold markers.
  • White Tee Markers: This is typically the middle marker in the tee box and is suitable for most men with a middle or high handicap
  • Red Tee Markers: These are usually located in front of the white tee and is referred to as the “women’s tee”. This is usually the shortest yardage tee in the tee box. Occasionally, you’ll see a red tee marker behind the white, and in this rare case, it’s for championship play.
  • Green Tee Markers: When available, this tee is perfect for all juniors and beginner players. It offers an even shorter yardage than red, and is often referred to as the “senior” tee.

No matter which marker you choose, make sure to line up behind the appropriate marker, withing 2 club lengths.

Additional Tee Box Rules

Now that you know where to hit the ball from in the tee box, there are a few other rules to know.

  1. Place your ball on a tee. This is the only time in game you get to use a tee.
  2. If the balls falls off the tee before you swing, you can replace it without penalty.
  3. You can take a practice swing without penalty, because the ball is not officially in play yet. However, you are not allowed to take practice swings beyond the tee box.
  4. If you intentionally try to hit the ball off the tee and completely miss it (air swing!), you do have to count it as one shot.

Order of Play on the Tee Box

If it’s the first hole, you can choose the person with the lowest handicap to go first, or flip a coin.

After that, the order of play is determined by the score of the previous hole. The honors for first shot goes to the lowest score for the previous hole, and the rest of the group shoots off the tee in order from lowest to highest score from the previous hole.

Basic Golf Rules: During Play of the Hole (Fairway Rules)

Basic Golf Rules for Beginners Fairway

Once the ball is in play, the biggest rules is that you must play the ball as it lies.

This means:

  • You cannot place the ball on a tee
  • You cannot move the ball to give yourself a clear shot.
  • You cannot break tree branches to get them out of your shot range.
  • You cannot flatten the ground around the ball or push the ball down with your foot. This goes for both the fairway AND the sand trap (officially known as the bunker), if you unfortunately end up there.

With that said, there ARE a few things you CAN do.

  • You CAN move loose, unattached debris such as branches and sticks
  • You CAN move anything man-made or artificial that can easily be moved
  • You CAN make accommodations for abnormal course conditions, such as unusual water accumulation due to heavy rain.

More considerations on the Fairway

This may seem obvious, but make sure you are playing with the correct ball throughout the hole.

Aside from the brand stamp and color, golf balls are basically all the same. If you lose site of your ball after the last shot, you need to be able to correctly identify your golf ball when you go searching for it.

To avoid getting a penalty from using the wrong golf ball, be sure to mark your balls clearly, with distinct, personal symbols.

Check out this Golf Ball Marker kit on Amazon!

What happens in golf if you lose your ball?

When your original ball is lost, you have 2 options, and the one you choose will be determined by what kind of game you are playing and who you are playing with.

Official tournament rules state you must retake the shot AND add a one stroke penalty to your score. But, when playing with friends, you can agree to do a new ball drop near where the ball was lost and decide if the player will incur a 1 or 2 stroke penalty.

Using the ball drop option can be ideal to move the play along and not hold up any teams playing behind you.

Order of Play on the Fairway

On the fairway, the golfer with the ball furthest from the hole goes first. This really makes sense for game-play, otherwise your group will be moving back-and-forth along the fairway for everyone to make their shot.

By choose the ball furthest from the hole first, the play will continue to advance forward toward the green.

Additional rules for hitting the ball in the Fairway

You must hit the ball with one strike. Scooping the ball and extended contact (like in hockey) are not permitted.

The ball must be at a standstill before you strike it. Do not hit a ball that is still moving.

Basic Golf Rules: The Putting Green

Basic Golf Rules for Beginners Putting Green

Now that you’ve made it off the fairway and are getting closer to the hole, there are a few things to know.

Once on the green, you may mark it with a coin or disk, lift it and clean it before you putt.

You may also repair any damage on the green caused by people or animals. You may NOT repair any natural surface imperfections or natural wear of the hole.

You may remove any loose debris that stands in the way between your ball and the hole, however you are not allowed to scrape or run the green with your hand or your club.

Take note of where everyone’s ball is and make sure you are not standing in the line of any shot.

And finally, it’s totally optional whether or not you remove the flagstick from the hole or keep it in place, but you must decide before you put. I personally prefer the flagstick out of the hole while putting.

Basic Golf Rules: Scoring

At the end of each hole, once everyone has finished putting, you will mark the score card with the number of strokes from the tee box to the hole, plus any penalty strikes.

The total number of strokes is calculated at the end of the round for your final score.

You end score average can vary greatly by golf course, depending on the level of difficulty.

The average score on a regulation 18-hole golf course is about 90 strokes for men and 100 strokes for women.

In summary….

What are the most important rules in golf?

  1. Don’t carry more than 14 clubs in your bag. That’s the max!
  2. Stand behind the appropriate tee box marker.
  3. Strike the ball properly, no scooping.
  4. Play the golf ball where it lies.
  5. No swapping balls in the middle of a hole.
  6. Know the order of play.
  7. Don’t stand in someone’s shot line on the putting green.
  8. Have FUN!

And that’s pretty much all there is to basic golf rules! Just remember to have fun, take your time, and be respectful of the other players and the course. That’s what it’s all about!

I hope this article was helpful in getting you started with the wonderful game of golf! If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below. I would love to hear from you! Happy Golfing!

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