Golf for Beginners: The Basic Rules of Golf


Golf Tips for Beginners

Alongside the extensive etiquette and rules of golf, there are a set of rules to the sport which should be followed on any golf course. Although there are variations of golf that can be played; Match Play, Stroke Play, Four-ball, etc. there are general rules which impact any type of game of golf. Golf is a game of integrity and etiquette, and without the Sky Sports cameras trained on your every move, enforcing any rules you are playing with when you start relies on honesty. It may be tempting to mark off a penalty stroke but part of the experience is seeing your scores reduce as you improve - so don’t be afraid to pick up any penalties.

Golf Rules for Beginners

The Official “Rules of Golf” is 182 pages long. Don’t fancy a long read? Chances are you won’t need to know every intricate detail of these rules in order to play with your friends (unless your group are highly competitive!). Here is a snapshot of some of the key rules that all beginners should be familiar with before hitting the course.

A Swing and a Miss (“Whiffing” The Ball):

Every golfer starting out will experience this either on the range or starting on a course. “Whiffing” the golf ball is when you take a swing and miss the ball. This usually incurs a 1 stroke penalty.

Tee Off Behind the Markers:

Where you tee off on each hole is shown by markers. There will be different coloured markers for different players, such as pros and amateurs. When placing your ball to tee off, it should be placed behind these markers.

Don’t Move Your Ball:

Do not pick up your ball during a hole unless it is on the putting green and you are using a placement marker.

Play The Ball Where it Lies:

For those that have seen the hit comedy, Happy Gilmore starring Adam Sandler, you might know you must play the ball as it lies. That means if it is in deep rough or blocked behind a tree, you must use an extra shot to rescue before continuing, and never pick up the ball. Sometimes a man-made obstruction can occur - a yard marker, empty bottle of buckfast - in that case, you are allowed a drop ball.

What if I Have an Unplayable Lie?:

Golf balls can land in the strangest places. If you can’t hit out - for example; from the middle of a bush - you should take a one stroke penalty and drop the ball two club lengths from where it originally landed.

Hitting Out of Bounds:

Out of bounds could be over a fence or wall. If you do hit out of bounds, this is a two stroke penalty and you must replay the shot with a new ball. Let other players know you are playing with a provisional ball.

Lost a Ball?:

Every golfer will loose hundreds of balls. Sometimes they are irretrievable. Sometimes they vanish (or are stolen, if you’ve ever played Knightswood…). Never spend more than a few minutes looking for your ball. If you can’t find it, you should play a new ball and follow out of bounds rules.

Landing in a Hazard Trap:

There are specific rules for landing in bunkers and water;


If your club touches the sand, even on a practice swing, you should take a one stroke penalty. You can remove any stones or rubbish by hand which may impede the ball, but the sand must stay untouched. Remember to always rake a bunker once you have played your shot!


You can play from water if the ball isn’t fully submerged, but it is risky. If you can’t play it, you can drop a new ball in a relief area alongside the area the ball landed and incur a 1 stroke penalty.

Landed on Another Hole?:

Another unavoidable part of an errant shot is when your ball lands on a different hole to the one you are playing, while other golfers are in play. As long as the other hole isn’t considered "Out of Bounds", you can play your ball as it lies. However, always allow players on their own hole to play first, unless they give you permission to hit before them.

Don’t Touch Other Player’s Balls:

You may be tempted to pick up and keep stray balls that you find on your round to replace the balls you have lost - however, players may have hit shots astray and are looking for them too! Remember that golf is a game of etiquette, so always let players know if they are looking for a ball you have found.

Shop Golf at Greaves

With all the hazards and dangers of loosing balls, we would highly recommend having a strong supply of golf balls when you hit the course as beginning golfer. At Greaves, we stock everything you need to play golf, including; golf clothing, golf accessories and golf clubs.

Shop our full golf range in-store and online here.

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