Two simple sheets against a booklet today… The first rules of golf were enacted in 1744 by the Scottish club The Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers which organized a competition (the oldest known to date) on its 5-hole links in Leith .
This simple parchment would change the fate of the little white ball. Already existing for several centuries, golf was until then only a hobby. With the establishment of the rules, it becomes a real sport, ready to develop.
Golf, the first rules
Faced with the constant increase in practice, competitions, the implementation of new formulas, not to mention, already, the slowness of the game, the rules have evolved.
By accompanying the development of golf, they set out in search of a universality that is after all difficult to achieve. The price to pay: the addition of rules, provisions and other paragraphs, modifications and tests of all kinds interspersed with heated debates.
This long and complex evolution gave birth today to a pensum of 24 rules unknown to most players. And again: for a long time, they were much more numerous (40 in 1893!) and, until 1952, were not even uniform for everyone!
Some articles gave goosebumps to legalists who no longer knew how to behave like how to drop after losing a ball in a water hazard: Throw the ball at least six yards behind the hazard (1754 St. Andrews).
Toss the ball overhead (without indication of distance) (1776 Bruntsfield Links).
Face the Hole and Drop the Ball Over the Head (1809 Honorable Company).
Put the ball on the tee and play it behind the danger (1812 St.
Toss the ball over the shoulder (1825 Perth). The rules have therefore undergone small and large changes during several distinct periods. The first ended in 1897, when Saint Andrews definitively took power in the matter by creating its Rules Committee, recognized as the responsible authority.
As such, the R&A is hastily considered to be the “inventor” of the rules, although his only date from 1754. Codified 10 years later, these are identical to those of 1744, with one exception, that of rule 5.
Saint Andrews introduces the notion of dropping one's ball instead of putting it down and cancels the possibility of replaying on a tee. Rediscovered only before the Second World War, the rules of 1744 were therefore more to the advantage of the golfer...
Why then did the Edinburgh club not play the role traditionally given to Saint Andrews? While it could have been considered the cradle of golf, it is ultimately only the pram, suffering from chronic instability by moving in turn to Leith then Musselburgh and finally Muirfield...
We often hear that golf is governed by ancestral rules and that their principles have not fundamentally changed. Here is the translation which contains some small nuggets, with details in brackets. Make up your own mind!