Laying Down the Law
By OGA Senior Rules Officials: Pete Scholz and Terry McEvilly
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Laying Down the Law
This month we take a short break from our normal question and answer format to look back in history. The oldest surviving written Rules of Golf, printed in 1744 by the Leith Golf Club in Edinburgh, were built upon three principles -- the golfer must play the course as it is found, play their ball as it lies and not touch the ball, other than by a stroke, until it is holed out. These original Rules were later adopted, almost verbatim, by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club (R&A) ten years later. And today, it is the R&A and USGA who govern the game.
Starting in January of 2019, the changes produced by the Rules Modernization project, a multi-year joint effort by the USGA and R&A, take effect with a sweeping overhaul of the Rules of the game. The new Rules maintain the spirit of the original principles, but were updated to take into account changes in technology, golf course architecture, societal changes and to make the Rules less confusing to the player. After all, the creators of the game could never have envisioned a future where distance would be measured with a laser or that motorized carts would transport golfers along paved paths in search of a ball that had just travelled 300 yards. And while we are excited to begin playing under the new Rules, we never want to forget our roots and the guiding principles that make golf the challenging sport it is.
Below, you will find the original Rules of Golf as they were printed in 1744 (Yes, we retained the original wording, grammar and spelling.) You will notice that the new Rules look remarkably similar and different at the same time. Enjoy reading the original Rules and from this point forward, the focus of our articles will shift to the new Rules going into effect on January 1st, 2019.
Articles & Laws in Playing at Golf
- You must Tee your Ball within a Club’s length of the Hole.
- Your Tee must be upon the Ground.
- You are not to change the Ball which you Strike off the Tee.
- You are not to remove Stones, Bones or any Break Club, for the sake of playing your Ball, Except upon the fair Green and that only / within a Club’s length of your Ball.
- If your Ball comes among watter, or any wattery filth, you are at liberty to take out your Ball & bringing it behind the hazard and Teeing it, you may play it with any Club and allow your Adversary a Stroke for so getting out your Ball.
- If your Balls be found any where touching one another, You are to lift the first Ball, till you play the last.
- At Holling, you are to play your Ball honestly for the Hole, and not to play upon your Adversary’s Ball, not lying in your way to the Hole.
- If you should lose your Ball, by it’s being taken up, or any other way, you are to go back to the Spot, where you struck last, & drop another Ball, And allow your adversary a Stroke for the misfortune.
- No man at Holling his Ball, is to be allowed, to mark his way to the Hole with his Club, or anything else.
- If a Ball be stopp’d by any Person, Horse, Dog or anything else, The Ball so stop’d must be play’d where it lyes.
- If you draw your Club in Order to Strike, & proceed so far in the Stroke as to be bringing down your Club; If then, your Club shall break, in any way, it is to be Accounted a Stroke.
- He whose Ball lyes farthest from the Hole is obliged to play first.
- Neither Trench, Ditch or Dyke, made for the preservation of the Links, nor the Scholar’s Holes, or the Soldier’s Lines, Shall be accounted a Hazard; But the Ball is to be taken out teed / and play’d with any Iron Club.