Most players agree that the rules of golf are far too complicated. To give an idea of how complicated, it requires a book with 128 pages to write them all down and another bigger book just to explain them. All players get into trouble with the rules sooner or later. Nearly all top professional and amateur players around the world have been disqualified for breaking rules at some point in their careers.
Breaking rules in golf should not be confused with cheating because 99 times out of 100 players do not even know that they are breaking a rule until it is too late. Cheating is the worst possible thing you can do in golf. There are no umpires because everyone assumes you are an honest person. It is not worth risking being caught and losing your good name for the sake of saving a couple of lousy shots. Eventually, you will have to learn all the rules but while you are learning to play the game, stick to the following. They are not official but should help you through your first few games.
Make sure no one is near you when you hit. This means checking around you to make sure that you can’t hit anyone with your club as well as looking down the fairway to make sure you can’t hit anyone with your ball.
Count every shot, whether you hit the ball or not. If you are trying to hit the ball, the shot counts. Don’t pretend it was a practice shot.
Take time to admire the scenery during your round but do not hold up play. If you are playing more slowly than the group behind you, and there are no players in front of you, stop playing and allow the group behind to ‘play through’ (go past you). The same thing applies if someone in your group loses a ball and you have to look for it.
Play the ball where it lies, even if you don’t like the look of it. From the time you hit your tee shot until the ball reaches the green, you cannot touch or move it. If you find it is impossible to hit the ball, you may take a penalty drop. This means dropping the ball not more than two club-lengths from where it is resting and adding a penalty shot onto your score. If you do this, you must drop the ball without moving it closer to the hole. On the green, you may pick up and clean your ball after marking its spot with a coin or marker.
Look after the course. If you take a divot (a piece of grass or earth dislodged by your golf club or ball) replace it. If you go into bunkers, rake them. If your ball makes a plug mark ( a dent or depression where it lands ) on the green, repair it. Don’t walk between a ball and the hole, causing footprints in the smooth grass, when someone is on the green. Leave the course the way you would like others to leave it for you.
Don’t walk ahead of you playing partners until they have hit their shots. The result will be a whack in the head with a golf ball.
Don’t pick up stray balls unless you’re absolutely sure they’re lost. Balls found in the rough or in bushes are usually lost and can be picked up. Balls in the fairway should be left, even if you can’t see any other players.
If you hit your ball into the water you can play another ball from the same spot or play another ball within two club-lengths of where the ball last passed over dry ground.
If you hit your ball out of bounds, you must play another ball from the same spot. Every shot counts and you must add on a penalty shot as well.
There you have nine rules to go on with. If you thought we were joking when we said at the start of the chapter that the rules were complicated, try reading through just one page from the rules book. For beginners, we think our rules are much better. Forget about the rules for a while, read on and start teaching yourself to play golf.