As games go golf has a lot of rules, which strikes many as odd since the basics of the game are so straightforward. However over the course of a round of golf a lot of different situations will come up and it is necessary to have rules to cover them. Few golfers know all of the rules off the top of their head and will usually need to have a rule book with them to consult.
The basic rules of golf are fairly simple; you have to get your ball into the hole by hitting it with your club in as few strokes as possible. However the actual rules that govern play are far more complicated. This is because there are so many different things that can happen while you are playing golf. As long as your ball stays on the course and is playable the rules are fairly simple to follow, they become much more complicated when you have a ball that can't be played, this happens a lot in golf.
The most basic rule of golf is to play your ball where it lays and to leave the course the way that you find it, unless this is impossible, then you should do what is fair. It is the part about doing what is far that makes things complicated. There are rules that cover every eventuality that you are likely to encounter like your ball going in the water trap, or getting lost or getting stuck in a tree. In most cases you will need to drop your ball in an area where you can play it and take a stroke penalty. The exact procedure will be spelled out in the rule book.
Most golfers are familiar with most of the rules that cover the situations that are likely to occur. However there are few people who know all of the rules by heart. That means that you are probably going to want to carry a rule book with you when you play in case an unusual situation occurs. That being said most golfers are not sticklers for the exact rules, if you are just playing with a group of friends it is probably not necessary to consult the rule book of every situation that you encounter.
While it is not critical that you follow the rules precisely when you are playing with friends the rules regarding golf etiquette do have to be followed. This is to make sure that you are showing respect for the other people who are using the course. This would include things like making sure that you replace your divots and that you don't do anything that will distract other players when they are taking their turn. The rules of etiquette are an important part of golf and you have to make sure that you learn them, there are a lot of them. This will ensure that everybody is able to enjoy their round.