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A brief overview of the rules of golf

The official rules of golf are administered by the R & A (the name comes from Royal & Ancient golf club at St Andrews). The R & A publishes a comprehensive guide to the rules every two years, which details how the game should be played at amateur and professional level.

The rules of golf sets down the regulations which govern both match play and stroke play. Match play is contested on a hole by hole basis. The player who wins the most holes, wins the game. In stroke play, the winner is decided based on their performance on the course as a whole. The player who completes the course in the fewest strokes wins. Although they have similarities, the rules for match play and stroke play are different, and players should ensure they adhere to the rules relevant to whichever format of the game they are playing.

Aside from specific rules relating to the different formats of the game,there are general rules covering clubs and balls. For example, a player should carry no more than fourteen clubs in their bag. Before playing, golfers should ensure they meet the rules surrounding clubs and equipment, as penalties can be imposed otherwise.

Etiquette also plays a big part in golf, and although many of these practices don't form part of the formal rules, players are generally expected to comply with certain standards. Many of these standards are in place to ensure proper respect is shown between players. Rules which fall under the broad category of etiquette include guidelines relating to slow play, order of playing individual shots, and adhering to safety considerations. Individual clubs may also impose their own rules of etiquette, so it's important players familiarise themselves with any specific regulations before playing a course.

There are also rules relating to lost balls, balls which go out of bounds, and obstructions. These kind of rules are often subject to local rules too, so again, check with the course to ensure the correct practice is followed.

While no player is expected to memorise the rules, a broad knowledge of them is useful. Serious golfers are encouraged to carry a copy around with them, so they are aware of what is expected, and know what to do in the instance of any disagreement or dispute. Detailed information about the rules of golf are available on the R & A website at randa.org.

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