Top 12 Basic Rules of Golf Every Golfer Needs to Know

Every game has its own rules and while rules can be boring, they must be followed. Especially when professional play is a part of the sport!

The rules of golf, however, are very simple to understand and follow, particularly the basic rules of golf such as the following…

12 Basic Rules of Golf

1. Limit of Golf Clubs You Can Carry

USGA rules of golf clearly include the 14-club limit, meaning you can’t carry more than 14 golf clubs in your bag for your round of golf. More than 14 and you’ll incur a penalty of two strokes per hole. You may also get disqualified.

Less than 14 golf clubs are completely okay to carry, no penalties are earned there. But you might want to reconsider carrying less than 14 clubs because the game is challenging enough as it is, so why make it tougher by excluding any number of clubs? The rule states to carry a set of maximum 14 golf clubs, so carry those 14 clubs.

2. How to Tee the Golf Ball

It’s from behind those tee markers that you’re supposed to tee your golf ball. Always play behind the markers, otherwise you’ll get a penalty stroke.

Does this mean you’re stuck with playing between those tee markers only? Nope, not necessarily because the official rule is to stay behind the markers, the length of two golf clubs behind with the longest club, that is your driver.

In that case, you get around 90 inches of distance behind the tee markers. So you can increase the distance to accommodate a longer golf club or you could just stand outside that tee box between the markers. The former will boost distance and the latter allows you to play a slice more easily.

3. Play the Golf Ball As You Find It

Play the golf ball as you found it – no exceptions!

But what if the ball is dropped or lands on the golf cart path, close to an object, or in an area under maintenance or construction? Then this particular rule does not apply.

As for identifying your golf ball, rotating it to confirm it’s yours is okay, but only if you rotate it back and leave it exactly where you found it without moving it or making any changes.

4. OB or Out of Bounds

Hitting your shot out of bounds means receiving a penalty of two shots. But what does out of bounds really mean here? It’s when the golf ball lands on the outside or outskirts, such as the white stakes, wall, fence, ditch, road, etc.

When hit out of bounds, the golf ball must be then replayed from the spot of the previous shot. And you hit three instead of two from the tee box.

Another option is hitting a provisional ball if you want to prevent a slow pace of play. Think of a provisional ball as a backup when the original golf ball goes out of bounds. But don’t forget to announce this clearly. Identifying a provisional shot is necessary to avoid confusion when it comes to searching for the balls.

And lastly, hit a provisional only when the golf ball travels out of bounds, and not when it goes into any water hazard. Speaking of hazards…

5. Know the Hazards

The game of golf involves balls landing in hazards. Whether you’re a beginner or a professional player, this is very likely to happen. The situation, more often than not, is unavoidable. But what can be done is either you play the ball from the water hazard, which seems risky indeed, or identify a lateral hazard.

According to USGA and R&A rules of golf, one penalty stroke is earned when you have one relief option from the penalty area, two for the yellow penalty areas, and three relief options for the red penalty areas.

For red hazards, relief can be taken laterally (two golf clubs length from the location of the ball in the water), from the line of sight, or from a drop (if there is one) in the relief area.

About yellow stakes, that is water hazards, you get two drops – drop in the line of sight or relief area. No lateral drops here!

6. Unplayable Lies

It’s only common for beginners to end up with the golf ball landing in unfavorable territories, such as unplayable lies. Each time that happens, you get one penalty stroke for that drop.

In such a scenario, your drop options are as follows…

  • Line of sight
  • Two golf club lengths
  • Replay the previous shot

7. Golf Ball Lost

Consider this as playing out of bounds, thus you replay the precious shot.

Hitting a provisional is also an option in order to speed up the pace of play.

8. Whiffing the Golf Ball

Most beginners whiff, and that’s how they receive one penalty stroke.

If, during whiffing, your shot actually falls from the tee or you end up hitting the ball accidentally during your practice swing, no penalty is given.

9. No Advice Should be Exchanged

Playing a round of golf officially means not taking or giving any advice. For casual play, it’s obviously alright to exchange opinions and strategies, but not when competing professionally. Otherwise, one penalty shot is received.

You can’t even ask another player anything about golf club selection unless you’re talking to your caddy or teammate.

10. Time Allotted to Look for Golf Balls

You get 3 minutes for the job of looking for your lost ball. After that, if you haven’t found the ball, it’s written off as lost and you get a penalty stroke. But if you happen to find that golf ball after hitting it into obstruction, you save that penalty stroke.

11. Play the Same Golf Ball

On a full hole, you have to play the same ball, regardless of it getting damaged. Only when that particular hole is completed can you replace a damaged golf ball.

The same can be said about golf ball markings – you can refresh these markings on your ball only after the completion of the hole.

Also important to remember is that for tournament play, there is a single golf ball rule. So, for instance, if you’re using one of the best TaylorMade golf balls, then only the same brand and model should be used for the whole round of golf.

12. Bunker Rules

Bunkers can be really very challenging. On top of that, you have to steer clear of avoidable penalty strokes as well.

The most important rule – do not ground your golf club. Just hover it over the sand in the case of both greenside and fairway bunkers. If the club comes in contact with the sand, an unnecessary penalty shot is earned.


There are more basic rules of golf, but I’ve covered some of the most important ones in this article. Just pay attention to…

  • Not touching the golf ball of another player.
  • Always marking your ball for quick, better identification.
  • No penalties are given if a shot is hit accidentally when practicing your golf swing for example.
  • In the case of a water hazard, check the color of the penalty area to decide which relief option to choose.
  • Hitting a provisional ball when faced with out-of-bounds or when the golf ball is lost.
Photo of author

Jim Furyk

One of the PGA TOUR’s most recognizable and talented golfers, Jim Furyk was born on May 12, 1970 in West Chester, Pennsylvania. It seems like Furyk was born to play golf; his father Mike as an assistant pro at Edgmont Country club, and young Jim was raised into the game. Jim Furyk’s only golf instruction came from his father; and many note that might account for his unusual—yet effective—swing. In addition to Edgmont Country Club, Mike Furyk also served as head pro at Uniontown Country Club.

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