Traditional Rules of Golf

The Traditional Rules of Golf (TRGA) is an authority of the game of golf that grounds itself in it's historical traditions. The TRGA promotes that golf be played honestly and with sportsman like conduct. Traditionally, the rules of the game are designed to follow four principles or pillars of importance.

(1) Simplicity

The TRGA believes that while golf is a difficult game, it is also a simple game and that the ball should be played as it lies whenever possible with minimal exceptions. The TRGA also believes that the rules for "Out of Bounds" "Lost Ball" and "Unplayable Lie" have one uniform penalizing procedure. This affords golfers the simplicity to play the game across a said property, void of unecessary markings or stakes defining lines for hazards, other than the obvious property boundaries. Find it and ye may play it!

(2) Fairness

The penalty fitting the crime is a guiding force throughout the TRGA rule book.
The TRGA believes that both casual and competitive rounds shall be both practical and consistently playing off the same rule book, affording weekend golfers the right to play by the rules without slowing down play, or otherwise violating the rules that would only be enforceable at proper conpetitive events. Making a game easier, does not necessitate it being more enjoyable.

(3) Self Government

TRGA believes that the rules of golf shall be easily self governed in a simple and easy to understand fashion. TRGA promotes golf's enjoyment at all skill levels without fear of disqualification for petty infractions.

(4) Preservation

TRGA believes that the rules need not be changed to make the game easier and that part of the intrigue of golf lies within the intrinsic nature of the game's challenges.

(4.1) Preservation of skill and technique

The TRGA stands firm in opposition to other governing bodies in that the game of golf is not better off by allowing technology to make the game easier for the golfer particularly with the driving of the ball

. Tradition has shown that a 250 yard drive was an acceptable distance by top players from the invention of steel shafted woods with persimmon heads as far back as the 1920's all the way into the early 1990's before the age of enlarged super light titanium headed clubs arrived. The TRGA believes that a golfer's ability to increase their distance off the tee should be done through better technique of the swing, not by a race on technology.

Designing clubs with larger sweet spots devalues the golfers efforts to strike the ball properly and with precision. The TRGA believes this continuing devaluation of technique is stifling the development of the golf swing itself. The replacement of long irons with various easy to hit hybrid clubs has furthered this deterioration.

(4.2) Preservation of the Golf Course

The preservation of golf's finest courses shall not be outdated due to radical technological advances in the equipment used to play the historical game.

The TRGA supports the vision of master architect Alister MacKenzie with regard to golf course design and preservation. In MacKenzie's published work of 1920 ("13 General Principles of Golf Course Architecture") The TRGA follows Dr. MacKenzie's lead.

1. Dr. MacKenzie believed golf should be walked or assisted with a caddy.

TRGA believe that golfers should be encouraged to walk the course. Walking is healthy, enjoyable,
quieter, and better for the course. A course without cart paths is more fair and also desirable.

2. There should be a short walk between a green and the next tee.

TRGA argues that keeping golf courses shorter puts more emphasis upon golf and not walking.

3. There should be an emphasis upon natural beauty, not upon artificial gimmicks.

4. A course should be enjoyable for the weaker player and challenging for the stronger player.

5. There should be an absence of searching for lost balls, therefore, an absence of heavy rough.

6. A player should be required to use every club in their bag.

A typical 18 hole par 72 Championship golf course consists of (4) 5 pars, (4) 3 pars with the heart of the test being the (10) 4 pars.

These ten 4 pars are divided into different lengths that are intended to challenge or test the golfers ability and skill with their approach shots therefore utilizing all all the irons in their bag.

A classic championship course should offer three long 4 pars 430 yards or longer, that would require a skilled golfer to hit an appropriate drive and a long iron approach usually a 1,2,3 or 4 iron.

The mid range holes 380 yards to 429 yards challenge the golfer with irons 5,6 and 7 irons.

Finally, the three short 4 par holes measuring under 380 yards give the golfer an opportunity to test his or her short irons shots 8,9 and wedges.

The measuring stick or benchmark used by the great golf course architects of the past was a 250 yard drive.

TRGA believes that the five par hole, should more often than not, take three strokes to reach the green, and only in the case of an extremely well struck drive that would be significantly better than average for a fine player, should the golfer be in a position to reach the 5 par green in two strokes. The par five green would not typically be designed to accept a longer lower trajectory approach shot. This type of risk and reward for the golfer to "go for it" adds proper drama and excitement to the game of golf.

A common assessment of the modern game is that by adding 20% in shot length, the 250 yard drive is now closer to 300 yards with the same relative stroke of the player, and this has made most of the 5 pars for all intent and purpose now 4 pars. To counter this situation, the modern game is now designing golf courses longer than ever before taking up more land, costing more in maintenance, water, fertilizer and so forth. Many older courses are being hastardized into longer versions that are not properly integrated with the origins of the original architectural layout both functionally and aesthetically.

(4.3) Preservation of the Equipment

TRGA believes that keeping restrictions on driving gear forces the golfer to use all the clubs in their bag, including long irons. This is good to preserve both the skill needed to play as well as the swing itself. The crack of bat and beauty of a properly crafted persimmon wood is intrinsic to a deeper connection to the game's traditions and history.

TRGA believes that golf's "woods" should be made of wood, as other games have kept to their wooded traditions such as Baseball, and Cricket without much incident.

(4.4) Gauging distances

The TRGA believes that a player should be required to gauge the distance of their approach without the use of yardage books or pin sheets. Properly judging distances should be an intrinsic skill within the game that should lie soley upon the player's feel, judgment and intuition. This also preserves many of the subtle intricate deceptions offered by both the course designer and nature herself.


The TRGA stands firm in opposition to other governing bodies on the "open door policy" regarding technology within the game of golf.

TRGA believes that just because technology is available, it doesn't necessitate it's application. For example; baseball has remained enjoyable and seen growth without oversized titanium bats which would radically change the game, quickly abolish long standing hitting records, and taint the historical traditions the game has been built upon.

TRGA believes that professional players are the role models of the game.
Touring pros should be playing by the same rules as the average golfer and this should be exemplified by a set of rules that are not only easy to follow, but also functional and encourage a quick pace of play.

Changes of Note (Rules)

In summary, several distinct differences set the TRGA apart from other organizations that suggest golf's ruling guidelines.

1. TRGA like other sports acknowledges an "in play" vs. "out of play" definition. A player may declare his ball out of play at anytime upon the course and take the appropriate penalty.

2. A golfer may choose to putt with the pin either in the hole or removed.

3. TRGA has much stricter equipment rules than other organizing bodies.

4. TRGA eliminates the provisional ball which slows down play and never sends a player back to the tee to replay a lost ball, unplayable condition or out of bounds shot. Returning to the tee is an inpractical contributor to slow play and is not in tradition with the origins and intentions of the game. TRGA uses a universal yardage penalty in combination with the rules of "in" and "out" of play which is more consistent to the first procedure' for dropping a ball implemented in 1754: throwing it behind a water hazard 'six yards at least. (Leith Code 1754, 1775)

5. TRGA does not promote the use of yardage books or pin sheets. Players should gauge distances with their senses and intuition just as they do around the greens.

6. TRGA does not acknowledge professional vs amateur. Golfers are simply golfers and TRGA empowers them to make their own decisions regarding acceptance or dispersment of prize money, or legal gambling.