While golf can have a complicated scoring system and many nuanced rules, the standard premise can be boiled down to three rules:
- Play the ball as it lies.
- Play the course as you find it
- If unable to do either rule No. 1 or rule No. 2, do what is fair.
The rules for the Olympic tournament are based off of the standardized rules as set forth by the R&A and USGA - the governing bodies for rules of golf. Prior to 1952, the two organizations had separate rules with the main difference being the size of the standard golf balls, but after 1952 the two groups put in place a unified set of guidelines.
With no referees or umpires supervising each hole, golf largely relies on the honesty and integrity of the individuals competing. Rules dictate that players should conduct themselves in a disciplined manner, display courtesy and sportsmanship to their competitors. This is known as the spirit of golf.
Presently, there are 34 rules with various sub rules and caveats attached to many of them, but the main objective of golf is to hit the ball off of the tee and make it into the hole in as few strokes as possible. Read the full rules here.
In stroke play, the competitor that completes a round (typically 18 holes) in the fewest strokes is the winner of that round. Broken down, the number of shots it takes for a player to make the ball in each hole is tallied and at the completion of a round, the lowest score wins. For Olympic purposes, the lowest cumulative score over four rounds will be declared the winner.
In the event of a tie for first, second or third place at the end of 72 holes, a playoff or multiple playoffs will be used to decide gold, silver and bronze medal-winners.