The Evolution Of The Rules Of Golf

rules of golf

The Evolution Of The Rules Of Golf

The first known rulebook was laid out by the ‘Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers’ in 1744. And on the back cover of that rule book, as a guiding principle of ‘Fairness’ is the overriding principle: Play the ball as it lies, play the course as you find it, and if you cannot do either, do what is fair.

Rules are standardized and governed by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews in Scotland and the United States Golf Association, who collaborate to ensure consistency and fairness.

The rules of golf have evolved over the years. In the olden days there was no such thing as ‘out of bounds’. ‘Play it where it lies’ was the common saying that was developed and it’s still in use today. Of course, this is not really practical as it is perfectly possible to hit a ball out of the course boundaries. Thus the ‘Out of bounds’ rule has long been in force, meaning a 1 stroke penalty and the 3rd shot being played from either where the ball went out of bounds, or from the site of the original stroke.

Nowadays a golfer is allowed 14 clubs in his bag and the make up of these clubs is completely up to the individual golfer (within the rules of golf of course). For example a ruling in 1909 makes a Croquet Mallet unacceptable as a golf club. Who would have thought?

Original golfers used balls made of wood and then the feathery ball became standard from the 1600s until the Gutta-percha balls were introduced in 1848. However, there were no rules actually governing the balls. The Gutta-percha balls used to break so the first rules regarding replacement balls was in 1850. Replacement balls were allowed where the largest piece of a broken ball ended up. It was not until 1920 that the rules actually specified that a ball would weigh 1.62 ounces and have a diameter of 1.62 inches. This was eventually changed in 1973 to a 1.68 inch diameter ball, favored by the Americans.

Hazards are another area where the rules have taken a long time to catch up. The first definition of a hazard was in 1891 and anything in the way of a ‘fair lie’ was considered a hazard. These rules have been updated and changed to include things like ground under repair, water hazard, etc.

Rule #1 was an interesting rule. This rule was never codified until 1891. This rule states that the objective of the game is to get a ball from the tee into a hole. This rule was then dropped again for some unstated reason in 1933 and only reincorporated in 1952. Play from a Tee or not to play from a Tee? I know a few golfers myself who’d rather not use the Tee. Although, with advancements in club size and technologies I believe most people are happy to ‘Tee Off’.

Golf rules and regulations have changed over the years quite a bit. Fashions and styles of clubs have also changed. There has been some movement back to classic looking clubs and drivers that has caused quite the shake-up in the golf industry. A very interesting concept of combining old styles with new technology. Zenieus Golf has revived vintage clubs and brought them up to speed. These clubs are excellent golf gifts for any avid player of the game.