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Mon, Oct. 21

Gunby: Rules of golf and their evolution
Tee It Up

I ran across a newly published book that encompasses the entire history of golf, “Born on the Links: A Concise History of Golf,” written by John Williamson.

This well written book covers the development of golf equipment, rules and courses and how the game changed from a pastime exclusively for the rich to a sport that is played by millions of people of all ages, classes and backgrounds.

If you love golf, you will enjoy reading about the history of this great game while wrapped in a warm blanket during our colder winter months.

Much has been talked about and written about the upcoming changes with the Rules of Golf. Before being more educated, I expressed my dismay of some of the changes that are coming about.

I have since changed my opinion and I think these revised rules will be more player friendly. It is a natural progression and the new rules are necessary to keep up with the changes in equipment, changes in our society and grow the game.

The more we know where and why our golf rules started, the more understanding and willing we will be in our acceptance of the new rules, going in effect in 2019.

In 1744, the Gentlemen Golfers of Leith, drew up a set of thirteen rules that would govern their play. They were titled Articles and Laws in Playing Golf. Leith Links was the historical home of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers.

It was a five-hole course, with each hole being over 400 yards long and is now a city park in Edinburgh. Let’s investigate some of these rules as they pertain to today’s game of golf.

Article 4 – You are not to remove stones, bones, or break club for the sake of playing your ball, except upon the fair green, and that only within a club’s length of your ball. This deals with what we now refer to as “loose impediments” like leaves and twigs. It also gives us an insight of the primitive conditions of a golf course at that time

Article 8 – If you should lose your ball by its being taken up or any other way, you are to go back to the spot where you struck last and drop another ball and allow your adversary a stroke for the misfortune. This is the forerunner of “stroke and distance” penalty imposed on a lost ball or ball out of bounds.

Article 12 – He whose ball lies farthest from the hole is obliged to play first. This article established the order of play. Today this rule still applies in match play but in 2019, a new Rule will allow playing out of turn in match play by agreement, encouraging “ready golf.”

Many of your local golf rules gurus will be attending upcoming USGA seminars to explore in depth the new Rules of Golf.

I will join them as part of my commitment to the game as a PGA Golf Professional and Rules Official. In the next few columns, I will present some rule changes to get you prepared for the coming year. Let’s always remember that the Rules of Golf rely on the integrity of the players. Always has and always will.

John Gunby Sr. is a columnist for The Daily Courier. Reach him by email at

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