The Coomer Corner: Rule 1

Editor's note: Welcome to the first edition of The Coomer Corner! Bill Coomer, PGA, who was the organization's long-time Director, Amateur-Professional Competitions before retiring in 2021, will be authoring these pieces which are designed to help you more easily understand the Rules of Golf, while also gaining a sense of their history. Please enjoy and pass any suggestions for future pieces on to Ethan Fisher, PGA via email.

A golf-like game is recorded as taking place on February 26, 1297, in the Netherlands where the Dutch played a game with a stick and leather ball. The winner was whoever hit the ball with the fewest strokes into a target several hundred yards away. So was born the game that has evolved to what we know today.

Perhaps the inventors of the game didn’t see the value of creating a set of rules on how to play the game back then, but as of 1744 the first set of rules of golf (known as the Thirteen Articles) were created by the Gentlemen Golfers of Edinburgh for the first “open” championship at the Leith links.

Now let’s be honest, if you could play the course as you find it and play the ball as it lies, you wouldn’t need any more rules of play than what was created 279 years ago, right. But no, we’ve been complicating the game a little bit with every generation since then.

So, it’s 2023 and some of the rules have changed again. After a full modernization of the game in 2019, I wasn’t sure there was anything else the golf gods could alter, but they did.

I’ll be introducing some of these changes, along with pertinent rules information, throughout the coming year. We will look at each of the 25 rules, highlighting keys elements to take to the course and improve your knowledge.

Might as well start at the beginning…Rule 1 (The Game, Player Conduct, and the Rules).


Complicated: but there are exceptions where the Rules allow the player to alter conditions on the course and require or allow the player to play the ball from a different place than where it lies.


Complicated: Rules are written for cases of Serious Misconduct, Integrity, Consideration, Caring for the Course, and Codes of Conduct.


Complicated: Breaching a rule, applying penalties, disqualifications, levels of penalties, multiple penalties, etc.

Do you see where I’m going with this? Even though the game of golf is supposed to be simple, it isn’t. Let’s look at one of the newest changes in Rule 1.

Rule 1.3c(4) Applying Penalties to Multiple Breaches of the Rules

This change was made to decrease the penalties given to a player when they breach more than one rule at a time.

Single Penalty Applied for Multiple Breaches between Intervening Events

Example: Player removes attached boundary stake in his area of intended swing & cleans his ball without marking or lifting it & detaches several leaves during a practice swing that may assist in his next stroke at the ball. All of these violations will only cause the player to receive the general penalty (2 strokes instead of 5 strokes) because he either did not know or was not informed he was in violation of the rules or did not complete a stroke at his ball.

Multiple Penalties Apply for Breaches Before and After Intervening Event

Example: Player removes attached boundary stake in his area of intended swing. He is notified there is a rules violation for doing so (2 strokes). After taking the next stroke at his ball, he then cleans his ball without marking or lifting it. He once again is informed of his rules violation (1 stroke). Before he makes his next stroke, he detaches several leaves during a practice swing that may assist in his next stroke at the ball and was again informed of his violation (2 strokes). Each of these violations will cause the player to get the appropriate penalty strokes because he was informed of his violation before he made a stroke at his ball or after the stroke was made.

The important fact about these statements is the intervening event (making a stroke at the ball or whether the player knew they were violating the rules).

I respectfully refer to the R&A and USGA as the “golf gods” because of their commitment to the game and final decision makers as it affects the rules. As in all sports, you may not like certain rules but without them, where would we be?

~Bill Coomer, PGA

Click here to read Rule 1 from the USGA Rules of Golf

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Golf House Kentucky is the umbrella organization for Kentucky’s Family of Golf Organizations: Kentucky Golf Association, Kentucky PGA and Kentucky Golf Foundation. The vision of Kentucky’s golf leaders, Golf House Kentucky was founded in 1978, and is headquartered in a picturesque country setting in Louisville, Kentucky. Golf House Kentucky conducts competitions for golfers of all ages, gender and skill levels (amateur, professional and junior), and provides valuable services to Kentucky PGA professionals and member golf facilities. Working in partnership with the USGA, Golf House Kentucky provides individual golfers and member golf facilities with a wide range of services: Handicapping, USGA Course and Slope Rating, award programs, club consulting and golf management software. The family’s philanthropic affiliate, Kentucky Golf Foundation promotes the Kentucky Golf Hall of Fame, Kentucky golf museum and provides grant and scholarship programs for youth in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

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