EVOLUTION OF THE RULES OF GOLF
In the late 19th century, each country had its own set of Rules established by their own governing body of Rules. In Great Britain and all countries in the British Empire the playing of the game of golf came under the jurisdiction of the R&A, with an exception in Canada as the Royal Canadian Golf Association (now called Golf Canada) governed play of the game. In the United States and Mexico, the USGA governed play of the game. While the R&A was established over 250 years ago, both the RCGA and USGA were each formed in 1895. These 3 are referred to as the ‘governing bodies of golf’. The professional golf associations and Tours throughout the world work with these governing bodies of golf. Everyone around the world plays using the same rules of golf.
In the early 20th century, players had to understand the differences in Rules when playing in other countries with the availability of different sizes of golf balls, different restrictions on number and design of clubs, different procedures, penalties, etc.
Recognizing that different rules being used throughout the world was making play complicated, in 1952, representatives from the R&A, RCGA and USGA (the governing bodies) met to discuss Rules issues.:
- Decided to meet every 4 years thereafter and started to publish ‘similar’ Rule books;
- In 1984, there was a major re-write of the order and content of the rules and reduction from 41 rules to the present 34 rules;
- In 1996, almost the same Rules throughout the world with some exceptions in the suggested local rules;
- In 2000, all Rule books published throughout the world were almost identical;
- In 2012, all Rule books published throughout the world WERE identical including the cover; and
- The 2016 publication followed the same pattern, and was designed, published and presented jointly by golf’s governing bodies. It is reproduced in 36 official languages and distributed to millions of golfers around the world. Golf Canada has the exclusive right to govern, publish and distribute the Rules of Golf throughout Canada. As the National Sport Federation, Golf Canada produces a French edition of the Rules of Golf.
- Effective in 2019, following another major re-write, a new rule book will be issued. Instead of the present 34 rules, there will be 24 rules. Much of the information, procedure, methods, etc., in existing rules will be carried forward, but there will be some consolidation and re-writing of many aspects.