Comparative sequencing of GS3, the most important grain length (GL) QTL, has shown that differentiation of rice GL might be principally due to a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) between C and A in the second exon. A total of 180 varieties representing a wide range of rice germplasm were used for association analysis between C–A mutation and GL in order to confirm the potential causal mutation. A cleaved amplified polymorphic sequence (CAPS) marker, SF28, was developed based on the C–A polymorphism in the GS3 gene. A total of 142 varieties carried allele C with GL from 6.4 to 8.8 mm, while the remaining 38 varieties carried allele A with GL from 8.8 to 10.7 mm. Twenty-four unlinked SSR markers were selected to genotype 180 varieties for population structure analysis. Population structure was observed when the population was classified to three subpopulations. Average GL of either genotype A or genotype C within japonica among the three subpopulations had no significant difference from that in indica, respectively, although indica rice had longer grains on average than japonica in the 180 varieties. However, genotype C always had longer grain length on average than genotype A among three subpopulations. The mutation could explain 79.1, 66.4 and 34.7% of GL variation in the three subpopulations, respectively. These results clearly confirmed the mutation between C and A was highly associated with GL. The SF28 could be a functional marker for improvement of rice grain length.