Rules Throwback: The Rules in 1896 December 16, 2016 By Jamie Wallace, USGA

The USGA's First Edition of the Rules of Golf

The USGA was founded on Dec. 22, 1894, and conducted its first championships in 1895 – the U.S. Open, the U.S. Amateur and the U.S. Women’s Amateur. To conduct these championships, a set of rules was needed. The USGA adopted The R&A’s 1891 Rules code, which served as the Association’s first edition of the Rules of Golf, shown above.

When the USGA Executive Committee met on July 13, 1895, they appointed a special committee to interpret the Rules of Golf. It consisted of only two members at first, Charles Blair Macdonald and Laurence Curtis. The general format and structure of the adopted Rules code was maintained, but the USGA added interpretations as needed below each Rule. The beginnings of this structure can be seen on pages 10 and 11, where an addition was made to Rule 2 within the “Special Rules for Medal Play” section.

One of the interesting items to note about this original USGA Rule book is that the Rules code is written for match play, which was the default form of play at the time. After the general Rules of Golf at the beginning of the code is a section called “Special Rules for Medal Play,” which is commonly called stroke play today.

You will also see that the original USGA Rules of Golf included a section on etiquette, found on page 12. Nearly all of the principles laid out in the Etiquette section are still observed by golfers today.

Currently, the game of golf is governed by a single set of Rules agreed upon by The R&A and the USGA, that applies to all golfers worldwide.

Jamie Wallace is the manager of Rules education and digital content. Email him at

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