Rules of Golf: What you need to know

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rules of golf

The rules of golf are pretty straightforward if you’re accustomed to the sport – but if you’re new to golf and want to know how to bet on events, then they can seem a little daunting.

While the whole point of golf is to hit the ball in the hole in as few strokes as possible, the book of golf rules stretches way beyond that.

In this guide we’ll take you through the basics of the sport and explain the rules in golf that you need to know. In doing so, you’ll be able to improve your golf betting decisions. So, lets tee off with the simple stuff.

rules of golf

Golf Rules

Here are the core rules of golf you need to know before placing a bet on the sport:

  • The aim of golf is to hit a ball into a hole in the fewest possible shots.
  • There are 18 holes on a golf course, and tournaments generally feature 4x rounds of 18 across four days.
  • Every time a player hits the ball with their club or putter, it counts as a shot.
  • Each hole on a golf course has a ‘par’ score, which shows the average number of shots a player is expected to take to putt the ball.
  • If a player scores higher than the par on that hole, points are added to their total score. If they shoot below, points are taken off.
  • Golf scoring therefore works like an index. The lower your score, the fewer shots you’ve taken to go round the course, and the higher up the leaderboard you go.
  • There are names attached to each score you can make on a hole. They are:
    • +1 over par = bogey
    • +2 over par = double bogey
    • +3 over par = triple bogey, etc
    • -1 under par = birdie
    • -2 under par = eagle
    • -3 under par = albatross
  • Golfers usually go round a course in pairs of groups of three, and take it in turns to take a shot, depending on who is furthest from the hole.
  • At the end of the first two rounds, tournaments may ‘cut’ the lower portion of the field. This results in fewer players playing the final two days.


Golf Tournament Rules

What we explained above are the basic rules of golf and what you can expect to find in a normal tournament format. However, there are different types of tournaments out there. So, here are the main golf tournament rules you need to be aware of:

General rules

  • There are four golf majors over the course of the season: The Masters, US PGA Championship, US Open, The Open
  • There are scores of other PGA Tour, European Tour, LIV and other tour events over the course of the year
  • Most professional tournaments that you can bet on in golf consist of 4x rounds of 18 holes, with a par score usually of 72
  • Golfers qualify for one of the four majors through their rankings, recent performances at tournaments, and past performances at majors

Outside of the usual tournaments, there are other competitions such as the Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup and Solheim Cup that pit teams of players against each other. In these situations, there are three types of golf that are played over a number of days. Teams accumulate points when players win their matches. Here’s a quick breakdown of the rules:

Foursomes Golf Rules

  • In foursomes golf, two teams consisting of a pair on each team face each other. There are only two balls in play
  • Teams alternate between themselves when taking shots, and whoever scores the lowest score on the hole wins a point. If the score is level, the hole is shared
  • The leading team at the end of 18 holes claims the win and a point for their overall team 

Fourball Golf Rules

  • In fourballs golf, two teams of two players each face each other but the difference is that each player has a ball
  • Players take it in turns to take shots, and whoever putts the ball in the fewest number of strokes wins the hole for their team
  • Whichever team is leading at the end of 18 holes earns a point for their overall team

Match Play Golf Rules

  • Singles matchplay is reserved the final day of the Ryder Cup and other team tournaments, and pits individual players against each other
  • Each match is a one-on-one battle and the same scoring rules apply as with fourballs and foursomes
  • You earn a point if you outscore your opponent on a hole, and that advantage shrinks if you then lose a hole
  • Whoever is leading at the end of 18 holes earns a point for their overall team

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Best Golf Bets To Look Out For

When it comes to betting on golf it’s obviously important to know the rules. However, certain bet choices are more common and feasible than others, depending on the tournament format and what you’re planning to bet on.

Knowing the rules will help you make smarter options. Here are some quick golf betting tips on how you can use your knowledge to your advantage.

Power Players

Some players thrive in team competitions. Ian Poulter is famous for his incredible feats playing for Team Europe at the Ryder Cup. Those who prefer team environments are worth backing in matchplay events such as the Ryder and Solheim Cups. These are power players who live for the camaraderie.

Big Range Players

Look at the drive stats for the PGA’s top players and you’ll notice that the very best can thump their tee shots much further than the rest of the field. In many tournaments around the United States where muscle is key to keeping par, these players are more likely to thrive.

Links Consistency

Likewise, more intricate, technical players are likely to impress at links courses. These are courses based along the coast and are more affected by windy weather conditions. Shooting low, targeted shots is key here. Raw muscle won’t cut it.

Playoff Maestros

If more than one player has the same top score at the end of a tournament then a playoff will determine the winner. This might be a one-hole playoff that leads to sudden death, or perhaps a three-hole playoff. Some players are better in this situation than others. Be sure to check the playoff records of all competing players before you bet on that one-off hole.


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