In our first Ask the Ref feature, Women & Golf’s rules expert Sheila Waltham shares the 101 on the Rules of Golf.

Welcome to the first Ask the Ref feature with Women & Golf’s rules expert and England Golf Rules Referee Sheila Waltham. Each week, Sheila will be tasked with a rules scenario that needs a solution and will provide the answer according to The Rules of Golf.

But to kick things off, we thought we’d start right at the beginning and ask Sheila: What are the Rules of Golf?

Rules of Golf 101

By Sheila Waltham

Many players take up golf without any knowledge of the Rules and learn about them from others as they play. It's not surprising then that many players, including some good golfers, are lacking in their knowledge of the Rules. Sadly, some of these players will happily communicate their (mis)understanding of the Rules to others, too.

We all talk about “The Rules”, but do we really know what they are and where to find them?

The Rules of Golf book and app

The Rules of Golf are published by the R&A and USGA in a book entitled “Rules of Golf”. They're also available via a handy downloadable app, which includes helpful diagrams and how-to videos.

How many Rules are there?

When you play golf, you must follow the 25 Rules of Golf, as well as any Local Rules that are in place on the golf course.

Local Rules vary according to the course. There is usually a set (often abbreviated) on the scorecard. However, I would always advise checking that these are current before you play. Clubs will often have additional temporary local rules when undertaking works on the course, which will not appear on the scorecard.

Clubs should also post a full set of their Local Rules on a noticeboard that is visible for all players. I usually take a photo of them on my phone to ensure I have all the information I need during my round.

Understanding the Rules

First, it's vital to familiarise yourself with the definitions of the Rules. It is impossible to truly interpret a Rule if you do not understand the definitions used in that Rule.

The second thing is to remember that very few answers to Rules questions are straightforward, and there are many aspects to consider. There are also exceptions to Rules which may be relevant. Nothing is a true substitute for reading the actual wording in the Rules.

In my Rules segments, I will attempt to simplify the answers to some of the questions asked. It is better to have a good understanding of the basics before delving into the nuances and exceptions.

About the author

Sheila Waltham

Sheila Waltham has been a qualified rules official for over 15 years and joined the England Golf Tournament Panel of Referees in 2019. A keen golfer since 1995, Sheila’s interest in the Rules was born out of the realisation that a lot of the information she received as a novice golfer was incorrect. So, she took matters into her own hands!

Look out for our next Ask the Ref feature coming soon!