7 Golf Tournament Rules to Follow

golf tournament rules

First Golf Tournament Rules

Here’s a pat on the back for coming this far. You’ve been working your way to the top, one competition at a time. All those golf cart drives and rides do have a purpose.

Whether you are aiming for an amateur status or a professional one, it’s pertinent to stick to the rules of the game. 

Top rules for your first golf tournament

Golf goes by the rules of the game and etiquette. The R&A Rules Limited (Royal and Ancient, a spin-off group from the oldest golf club, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews) and USGA (United States Golf Association) jointly publish the Rules of Golf. The R&A sanctions golf games worldwide while the USGA is confined to US and Mexico tournaments.

The first rule as a participant is to get a copy of the tournament’s official rules and immerse yourself with the R&A and USGA’s latest edition of the Rules of Golf.

It’s because the governing rulebook receives regular updates, such as these major changes for 2019 that concern pro, amateur, and recreational golfers and lovers.

Here’s a quick tour of the pertinent rules of the game for your first golf tournament.

Play the Ball as It Lies

This rule is the guiding principle of golf. It is codified in rule 1, which sets down the game of golf as a round of 18 or fewer holes where a player strikes a ball.

First Golf Tournament 7 Rules You Need To Follow TodayYou are required to play the ball as it lies and play the course as you will find it. There are specific situations, however, that allow you to alter conditions when making a stroke (e.g., taking reasonable steps to remove loose impediments and movable obstructions).

Conduct Yourself Properly

Golfers’ conduct is an integral part of the game. As a player, you are expected to play with integrity, show consideration to others, and take care not to damage the course.

Erring players may be penalized per the Rules of Golf or local rules adopted by a committee in charge of the tournament or course. To be safe and avoid penalties, play by the rules.

Know the Course

You are required to familiarize the defined areas of the course, course boundaries, and out-of-bounds. This knowledge especially the definition of terms is critical in line with playing (1) the ball where it lies and (2) the course as you find it and with the available relief from such rules.

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Bring the Correct and Conforming Equipment

You are required to bring balls and clubs that meet the standards.

  • For golf clubs, the number is limited to 14. If you have brought fewer than this number, you may add clubs that meet the 14-club limit during the round. You may not share golf clubs and replace damaged or lost ones, subject to exceptions. If you are permitted to add or replace a club, the action should not cause an unreasonable delay of the game.
  • For golf balls, they should meet the rules. Your golf ball must not contain alterations that can change its performance. If the ball breaks during a play, you may not be penalized and the stroke not counted.

Aside from the golf clubs and balls, your use of other equipment, such as gloves, is subject to the relevant rules.

Play the Round

Your round starts when you make a stroke to the first hole. Each round is played at a quick pace. It is recommended that you do your stroke within or less than 40 seconds.

Practice strokes are not allowed when playing a hole. You may be allowed to practice your putt or chip when it’s not made from a bunker and does not unreasonably delay the match.

You may be penalized for unreasonable delays, except where there is a good reason for the short delay.

Search for the Ball in Three Minutes

You are given three minutes to search for a ball; otherwise, it is considered lost. Interestingly, the time frame for ball searching was once five minutes.

You may be allowed to substitute a ball when taking a stroke-and-distance relief.

Know Golf Cart Rules

Consult with the tournament and the course regarding the use of your easy go golf cart. For example, are you allowed to bring your own or use the fleet from the golf course? Which areas can it be used or parked?

In USGA championships, for instance, you and the caddie are required to walk, and you may use a golf cart when you have secured a medical certificate per the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Per the current USGA and RA’s rules, golf carts, mowers, and cars are examples of movable obstructions that players may remove without penalty during the round. Be that as it may, the caddie is authorized to handle your equipment through a cart or a trolley.


Read the current 24 Rules of Golf, as broken down into subsections, at R&A’s official website. You can also read the 2019 rule book here.

In spite of the rules, have fun and enjoy your first golf tournament!

7 Golf Tournament Rules to Follow