USRGA Rules and Etiquette

The USRGA rules for recreational golfers were created based on significant feedback from LinkedGolfers members.


The Game of Golf is an ancient sport with rich history and traditions.  Golf should be fun!  Unlike most sports the player is ultimately responsible for his or her own behavior, following the Rules and showing consideration for other players.  Deviating from these traditions is discouraged.

The Rules of Golf were originally created in 1744 in Scotland by the Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers.  Over the years the original 13 Rules have been amended continuously and today the USGA has 34 sometimes confusing Rules of Golf that are appropriate for organized competitions for skilled players.

With the support of LinkedGolfers’ members, the United States Recreational Golf Association has created the following 13 Simple Rules of Golf designed to make the game more fun and less intimidating for recreational golfers.  These rules are a direct reflection of how the majority of golfers play the game in the United States.

A round of golf should be completed in approximately four hours.  Players should be aware of their position on the course at all times and should attempt to keep up with the group in front of them. Letting faster players play through is a recommended courtesy.

Players are encouraged to use the most forward tees to speed up play.  Golfers are encouraged to play “ready golf.”  Whoever is ready to hit should hit.  Putt out; don’t mark once you’ve started putting.  Players should be careful that no one is standing close or in a position to be hit by the club or a ball.  If a player hits a ball that may hit another player it is customary to shout “fore” in the direction of the player.

Players are encouraged to show respect for their fellow players and not cause distractions (talking, rattling clubs, etc.) that will disturb them.  On the putting green players should not step or stand on another player’s line to the hole.

Players are encouraged to fix ball marks on the putting green; their own as well as those of other players.  Replace divots in the fairway or fill with sand.  After hitting a shot from a bunker the player should carefully rake the sand and smooth it for other players.  Players may enlist the aid of a caddie to help them with their equipment or raking bunkers.


The USRGA Rules of Golf

  1. The Game of Golf consists of hitting a ball with a club around a golf course. The ball should be struck with a club, not pushed, scraped, lifted, thrown or spooned. A “round” consists of any number of consecutive holes on a golf course.  Each time a player strikes the ball it is called a “stroke.”  The sum of all strokes in a round equals the golfer’s score. A hole starts with a stroke from the teeing ground and ends on the green when the ball is holed.
  2. The Rules of Play are to be agreed upon in advance by the players before teeing off on the first hole. The highest authority for settling disputes is the foursome or player’s group. They may ultimately decide what is right under all circumstances.  Players may agree to add, waive or amend any Rule.  If there is a dispute not covered by the Rules, then the golfers in the group will determine how to resolve the dispute; the decision should be made in accordance with what is fair. The players may appoint a ruling committee for the purpose of settling issues during group or tournament play.  Advice may be sought or offered during the course of play but responding to a request is at the discretion of the golfers in the group.
  3. Medal play consists of a round of consecutive holes when all strokes are counted. In Medal play the player must count every shot in a round and may not “pick up” after a shot.  In Stroke play all members of the group are “fellow players.”  A “side” is a player or two or more players who are partners.  In match play the member/s of the opposing side is/are an “opponent.”  Match play consists of a game when the players play each hole individually or with a partner against another individual or an individual and his partner.  A Match can be played for any consecutive number of holes until a winner is established.  A match can also be played as a Nassau when the match is divided into a first nine, second nine and an overall match.  Each hole has a winner/loser or a tie score.  Players may pick up after their ball no longer counts on a particular hole.  Rules for Match and Medal play are the same regarding penalties. In case of a tie it is suggested that additional holes should be played until a winner is determined. The player’s may play in any order they choose.  In competitions, the player/side with the lowest score on the previous hole tees first.  There is no penalty for playing out of turn.
  4. Any commercially available balls and clubs are deemed acceptable for play. A player is allowed to carry a maximum of 20 clubs. Penalty for exceeding the limit is one stroke.  Clubs may not be altered during the course of play but broken or damaged clubs may be replaced at any time during the round. A player claiming a handicap or average score for a given golf format should play with the equipment used to establish the handicap for that golf format.
  5. It is allowable for a player to switch balls at the beginning of each hole during a round; this includes switching the brand, model and number of the ball. Unless a ball is lost during the play of a hole, the player should finish the hole with the ball that was in play at the start of the hole.  If a ball is lost during the play of the hole it should be replaced with a ball that is similar to the one that was used to start the hole.  The ball may be lifted, cleaned and placed without penalty at any time.
  6. If the wrong ball is played the shot/s should be replayed from their original position/s.  There is no penalty for hitting the wrong ball.
  7. If a ball is lost a player has two (2) minutes to find it.  The penalty for spending more than two (2) minutes searching for a ball is one stroke. The penalty for spending additional time beyond four minutes is one additional stroke
  8. If the ball is in a “non-standard” condition for the location, it is acceptable to improve the position or lie of the ball one club length except on the putting green.  Such “non-standard” conditions include divots, bare or uneven turf, temporary water, cart paths, sprinkler heads or hoses and unraked sand in a hazard.  The ball may be lifted and placed one club length but not closer to the hole. When improving a player’s lie the lie should not be moved from the rough to the fairway, from the fringe to the green or out of a bunker to the rough or fairway.
  9. The flagstick does not need to be removed unless it is requested by the player who is chipping or putting.  If a ball hits the flagstick and it is not holed there is no penalty. If the ball comes to rest against the flagstick it is considered holed.
  10. A ball in motion should not be deliberately deflected or stopped by the other golfers in the group or their equipment.  Penalty for violation is one stroke.  A ball on the putting green that may assist or interfere with a shot should be marked and lifted.
  11. If a ball comes to rest out of bounds, in a water hazard or lateral hazard, the ball should be placed as near as possible to where it went out of bounds or entered the hazard and not closer to the hole.  The golfer also has the option to replay the shot or use a designated “drop area”.  The penalty is one stroke.
  12. Movable objects may be moved if they interfere with a swing or the player’s line of sight.  A player is entitled to move the object without penalty. A player is entitled to move the ball one club length to get relief from immovable unnatural objects (telephone poles, fences, drain pipes, maintenance equipment, etc.) with no penalty.
  13. A golfer may deem his ball unplayable and may place the ball near where the ball is deemed unplayable.  If it is unplayable in a bunker it must be dropped in the bunker.  If ball is in hazard it must be dropped in the hazard. Penalty is one shot.
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