The United States Golf Association: A Short History of the USGA

The USGA and the R are the reason that the rules are the same for a game of golf in Michigan as for a game of golf in Middlesex, Malaysia or Machrie Bay. But the USGA has not always been involved with the Rules of Golf, and it has other roles as well.

The Founding of the USGA

The USGA was founded on December 22, 1894 under the name "The Amateur Golf Association of the United States" and became the "national governing body of golf for the U.S. and Mexico." The founding members were:

o Newport Golf Club

o Shinnecock Hills Golf Club

o The Country Club (Brookline, Massachusetts)

o St. Andrew's Golf Club (Yonkers, New York)

o Chicago Golf Club.

The USGA hosts championships, sets the Rules of Golf, tests equipment to determine whether it conforms to the rules, provides funding for research in golf-related fields, administers a system of handicaps, and performs other functions that promote the game of golf.

The Championships

A year after the USGA was founded, the first US Open was played at the Newport Golf Club, one day after the official US Amateur championship was played for the first time. The next year, 1896, the US Open was integrated for the first time, with an African-American contestant, as well as a Native American contestant. In 1900, the US Open was first won by Englishman Harry Vardon, so it had attained international reach in just five years.

Today, the USGA holds twelve other championships in addition to the US Open each season.

The USGA and the Rules of Golf

In order to run tournaments, you have to have rules, so the USGA quickly got into the rule-making business. The rules were similar to those of the R in most ways, but they had some differences. In 1910, for example, the USGA accepted the center-shafted putter, while the R banned it.

The differences grew greater as time passed, but this trend was turned around when the organizations decided to produce a joint copy of the Rules. The first edition of the joint USGA and R Rules of Golf came out in 1952, and the joint venture continues.

The USGA and Equipment Testing

The equipment used in golf must be in conformity with the rules, and testing is conducted to make sure that it is. The USGA provides players with a list of conforming and non-conforming products to guide them.

Because of the strict rules about conforming and non-conforming drivers and golf balls, people who are new to golf may be surprised to learn that adjustable clubs like the TaylorMade R11 are on the USGA's Conforming Clubs List.

Additionally, new golfers may be interested to learn that custom fitting does not affect the conformity of a club. In fact, TaylorMade and other top brands do not allow any non-conforming merchandise to leave their warehouse (TaylorMade Customer Service, personal communication, May 13, 2011).

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Historical Rules of Golf Pages. (n.d.). Home page. Retrieved from USGA (n.d.). About the USGA. Retrieved from USGA (n.d.). USGA history: 1894-1910. Retrieved from USGA (n.d.). List of conforming driver heads. Retrieved from USGA. (n.d.) Rules and decisions: Rule 6-3. Retrieved from

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