These are the earliest surviving written Rules of Golf, compiled by the Gentlemen Golfers of Leith, later the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, drafted on 7th March 1744, for a tournament played on 2nd April. As well as I can manage, I have reproduced the original spelling and punctuation.
Obviously, disputes over the Rules are nothing new; some years later, the Gentlemen Golfers had to publish an amendment, looking rather like the very first decision, and this is attached at the bottom of the page.

Pictures of the Leith links as it is today, and a layout of the original course can be seen here.

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Articles & Laws in Playing at Golf.

1.  You must Tee your Ball within a Club's length of the Hole.

2.  Your Tee must be upon the Ground.

3.  You are not to change the Ball which you Strike off the Tee.

4.   You are not to remove Stones, Bones or any Break Club, for the sake of playing your Ball, Except upon the fair Green& That Onlywithin a Club's length of your Ball.

5.   If your Ball comes among watter, or any wattery filth, you are at liberty to take out your Ball & bringing it behind the hazard and Teeing it, you may play it with any Club and allow your Adversary a Stroke for so getting out your Ball.

6.  If your Balls be found any where touching one another, You are to lift the first Ball, till you play the last.

7.  At Holling, you are to play your Ball honestly for the Hole, and not to play upon your Adversary’s Ball, not lying in your way to the Hole.

8.  If you shou'd lose your Ball, by it's being taken up, or any other way, you are to go back to the Spot, where you struck last, & drop another Ball, And allow your adversary a Stroke for the misfortune.

9.  No man at Holling his Ball, is to be allowed, to mark his way to the Hole with his Club, or anything else.

10.  If a Ball be stopp’d by any Person, Horse, Dog or anything else, The Ball so stop’d must be play’d where it lyes.

11.   If you draw your Club in Order to Strike, & proceed so far in the Stroke as to be bringing down your Club; If then, your Club shall break, in any way, it is to be Accounted a Stroke.

12.  He whose Ball lyes farthest from the Hole is obliged to play first.

13.  Neither Trench, Ditch or Dyke, made for the preservation of the Links, nor the Scholar's Holes, or the Soldier's Lines, Shall be accounted a Hazard; But the Ball is to be taken outTeedand play’d with any Iron Club.


John Rattray, Capt



Amendment to the Articles & Laws - 1758

The 5th, and 13th Articles of the foregoing Laws having occasioned frequent Disputes It is found Convenient That in all time Coming, the Law Shall be, That in no Case Whatever a Ball Shall be Lifted without losing a Stroke Except it is in the Scholars holes When it may be taken out teed and played with any Iron Club without losing a Stroke - And in all other Cases the Ball must be Played where it lyes Except it is at least half Covered with Water or filth When it may, if the Player Chuses be taken out Teed and Played with any Club upon Loosing a Stroke.



Thomas Boswall, Capt


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