The Original 13 Rules of Golf
Posted on May 9, 2017
The current Rules of Golf published and approved by the United States Golf Association and the R&A Rules Limited consists of over 200 pages covering 34 rules in-depth. The first known written set of rules for golf consisted of 13 rules. First drafted in 1744 by the Gentlemen Golfers of Leith, later known as The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers. The Gentlemen Golfers of Leith established the rules, known as the Thirteen Articles, for the first Challenge for the Silver Club tournament played at Leith Links in Edinburgh, Scotland. John Rattray won the Challenge and his signature appears at the end of the Thirteen Articles, which were preserved in the minute book of Edinburgh Golfers.
The rules were adopted a decade later for a similar Challenge played at St Andrews. The rules appear on the first page of the St Andrews Golfers’ first minute book and were titled The Articles & Laws in Playing the Golf. The first Challenge at St Andrews was played on May 14, 1754 and is now considered the start date of what would become the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews.
The Thirteen Articles were as follows, with an overview of their modern equivalents noted below:
1. “You must Tee your Ball, within a Club’s length of the Hole.”
Interesting Note: The first rules change in golf was to modify this from a single club length to two club lengths.
2. “Your Tee must be upon the Ground.”
Current Rule: 11-1. Teeing – When a player is putting a ball into play from the teeing ground, it must be played from within the teeing ground and from the surface of the ground or from a conforming tee (see Appendix IV) in or on the surface of the ground.
For the purposes of this Rule, the surface of the ground includes an irregularity of surface (whether or not created by the player) and sand or other natural substance (whether or not placed by the player).
If a player makes a stroke at a ball on a non-conforming tee, or at a ball teed in a manner not permitted by this Rule, he is disqualified.
A player may stand outside the teeing ground to play a ball within it.
3. “You are not to change the Ball which you Strike off the Tee.”
4. “You are not to remove, Stones, Bones or any Break Club for the sake of playing your Ball, Except upon the fair Green & that only within a Club’s length of your Ball.”
5. “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.”
6. “If your Balls be found anywhere touching one another, You are to lift the first Ball, till you play the last.”
7. “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.”
8. “If you should lose your Ball, by its 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.”
9. “No man at Holling his Ball, is to be allowed, to mark his way to the Hole with his Club or, anything else.”
10. “If a Ball be stopp’d by any person, Horse, Dog, or any thing else, The Ball so stop’d must be played where it lyes.”
11. “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.”
12. “He, whose Ball lyes farthest from the Hole is obliged to play first.”
13. “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.”
Interesting Note: This was the first recorded local rule which was included in the original rules of golf.