Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Original Rules of Golf - Average Golfer Book Review

The Original Rules of Golf

By: Dale Concannon
Foreword by: Tony Jacklin

Only, if only, today's modern golf rules numbered just thirteen, the original amount deemed necessary to regulate the game. They could be memorized and there would be no need to consult a Philadelphia lawyer when searching for a mid-round ruling. Why the game's arbiters have found it required to expound on simple concepts seems only a crutch to justify their existence.

1744 was the year that the ancient game of golf tied it's loosely held rules into a framework that forms the basis for today's modern rules. Naturally, a competition was the spark that drove the bus. Penned in Leith, Scotland by a local surgeon, John Rattray, the rules were assembled to regulate the chase for the Silver Club, one of the first recognized golf tournaments. The "Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers" sponsored an open competition seeking participants from all over Great Britain and Scotland. A compilation of the heretofore loose rules was needed to guarantee fairness in pursuit of the Silver Club. Hence the original thirteen tenets, ancestors to the R&A and USGA volumes that now govern the game.

The book is short, but precise in it's explanation of how golf rules evolved. It's an ideal mid-summer afternoon's escape. Reading the original thirteen demonstrates a direct link to our modern game. Most of them are still applicable with one of my favorites being #10, "If a Ball be stopp'd by any person, Horse, Dog, or anything else, the Ball so stop'd must be played, where it lyes." Still applicable if you replace the horse with a modern golf cart.

If you want an interesting read with proof that good things come in small packages then The Original Rules of Golf is a must get. Appreciating where we're at is many times just a matter of knowing where we came from.

The Original Rules of Golf, Bodleian Library, Available on Amazon.

Til' next,


  1. It would be interesting to connect its "Silver Club" beginnings to Golf as it is played today.

  2. Indeed Heather. Notably, with the huge exception of equipment advances, the game is remarkably similar. Put a ball in a hole using a stick in as few whacks as possible!