The Rules of Golf and the Rules of Amateur Status is published every four years by the governing bodies of golf (R&A/USGA) to define how the game is to be played. The Rules have been published jointly in this manner since 1952, although the code was not completely uniform until 2000. Before 2012 the USGA and R&A presented the same content differently in separate editions. The same content is now published in a uniform fashion with similar formatting and covers — the only differences are now some spelling and their logos. The Rules Committee of The R&A, which was spun off from The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews in 2004, has responsibility for upkeep and application of the rules worldwide except in the United States and Mexico, which are the responsibility of the United States Golf Association (USGA).
The term “Rules” can be said to include the following:
- Decisions on the Rules of Golf, a book published every two years by the USGA and R&A to clarify questions raised by the Rules.
- Local rules set by the Committee of a golf club, for example to denote the method used to define the boundaries of the course, ball drops, environmentally sensitive areas (ESAs), etc.
- Rules of golf etiquette, covered by the main book, define the proper behaviour of those playing the game.
- Rules often adopted in competitions, for example the prohibition on using automotive transportation during a round and Rules related to Temporary Immovable Obstructions (TIOs).
- Rules governing the size, shape and performance of golf equipment (clubs and balls) as defined by the R&A/USGA (Appendices I and II).
- Rules governing golfers with disabilities who play in accordance with A Modification of the Rules of Golf for Golfers with Disabilities as published by the R&A and USGA.