The Original Rules of Golf: 1744

Sean

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We all know how thick the rule book is now. Here were the original rules first written down in 1744 (courtesy of About.com). I thought some of you may find this interesting.

At least not until the mid-18th Century, when the first known written rules of golf were put into writing by the Gentlemen Golfers of Leith, now the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers based at Muirfield. The rules were written for the Annual Challenge for the Edinburgh Silver Club in 1744.

There were 13 of them, and here they are (with a few explanatory comments in parentheses). Note how many of these rules survive today:

1. "You must tee your ball within a club's length of the hole." (A diameter of two club lengths. Teeing grounds are now defined as two club lengths in depth.)

2. "Your tee must be on the ground." (Tees, back in these days, consisted of little pyramids of sand.)

3. "You are not to change the ball which you strike off the tee." (Look at that - the "one ball condition way back then! Actually, holing out with the same ball with which you teed off - with a few exceptions - is in Rule 15-1)

4. "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 the ball." (Loose impediments, Rule 23)

5. "If your ball comes among watter, or any wattery filth, you are at liberty to take out your ball and 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." (Origin of the 1-stroke penalty for a ball in a water hazard. Rule 26)

6. "If your balls be found anywhere touching one another you are to lift the first ball till you play the last." (Rule 22-2)

7. "At holling you are to play your ball honestly at 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 and drop another ball and allow your adversary a stroke for the misfortune." (Stroke plus distance, Rule 27-1.)

9. "No man at holling his ball is to be allowed to mark his way to the hole with his club or anything else." (Now incorporated in Rule 8-2.)

10. "If a ball be stopp'd by any person, horse, dog, or any thing else, the ball so stopp'd must be played where it lyes." (Deflection by an outside agency. Play it as it lies. Rule 19-1)

11. "If you draw your club in order to strike and proceed so far in the stroke as to be bringing down your club, if then your club should break in any way, it is to be accounted a stroke." (Definition of stroke)

12. "He whose ball lyes farthest from the hole is obliged to play first." (Virtually unchanged after all this time. Rule 10)

13. "Neither trench, ditch, or dyke made for the preservation of the links, nor the Scholars' Holes or the soldiers' lines shall be accounted a hazard but the ball is to be taken out, teed and play'd with any iron club." (The first written rules also include the first local rule, for what we would now describe as ground under repair.)
 

Smallville

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So we can re-tee after any drop? Or do we have to drop it on a tee? hehehe

Fun little find there, Sean.
 

Sean

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Thanks Smalls. I was thinking earlier today how complex the Rules can be so I got curious as to what the first rules were like.
 

Fourputt

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3. "You are not to change the ball which you strike off the tee." (Look at that - the "one ball condition way back then! Actually, holing out with the same ball with which you teed off - with a few exceptions - is in Rule 15-1)
Not quite. This has nothing to do with the one ball condition. All this says is that you finish the hole playing the ball you started with. That is Rule 15-1 today:

15-1. General

A player must hole out with the ball played from the teeing ground... (with certain specific exceptions)
The one ball condition is only instituted in competitions where the player is required to use the same type of ball for the entire round. Back then this would be a moot point as all balls were featheries and relatively identical. There were no brands or types with different playing characteristics.
 

dhjkelly

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thats actually quite an interesting read, cheers sean
 

Hawk

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Thanks for posting Sean.
 

Weezy

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Thanks for posting this Sean! This is a great find!
 

coolbreeze

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Thanks Sean that was very interesting.
 

RatFink

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"1. "You must tee your ball within a club's length of the hole." (A diameter of two club lengths. Teeing grounds are now defined as two club lengths in depth.)"

Can someone explain this one to me?
Does this mean that the minimum length of a hole is 1 clubs length?
 

Fourputt

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"1. "You must tee your ball within a club's length of the hole." (A diameter of two club lengths. Teeing grounds are now defined as two club lengths in depth.)"

Can someone explain this one to me?
Does this mean that the minimum length of a hole is 1 clubs length?
No. Back then you teed your ball on a mound of sand which you dug out of the hole. You were required to build this mound within one clublength of the hole just completed.
 

RatFink

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No. Back then you teed your ball on a mound of sand which you dug out of the hole. You were required to build this mound within one clublength of the hole just completed.
Ohh I see, so the lack of formal courses meant you just kept going from where you finished then.
 

yorkem

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Really interesting Sean, thanks for posting it.
 

bumpnrun

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The one ball condition is only instituted in competitions where the player is required to use the same type of ball for the entire round. Back then this would be a moot point as all balls were featheries and relatively identical. There were no brands or types with different playing characteristics.
Though as each one was hand made, I would guess they could actually play quite differently.

Great post. We always joke that the modern rules were drafted by lawyers, thats why the rule book is so thick.
 

Sean

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Though as each one was hand made, I would guess they could actually play quite differently.

Great post. We always joke that the modern rules were drafted by lawyers, thats why the rule book is so thick.
I think it was Lee Trevino who said the rules of golf should fit on the back of a matchbook cover. Apparently he didn't go to law school. lol
 

Bullfrog

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I hope my ball never strikes a horse! Very interesting read.
 

Colt

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I like those rules. Plenty enough right there.
 

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