Code of Conduct Policy, Rules of Golf, Committee Procedures
5H Code of Conduct Policy:
The Committee may set its own standards of player conduct in a Code of Conduct adopted as a Local Rule (see Rule 1.2b). If the Committee does not set a Code of Conduct, it is restricted in penalizing players for inappropriate conduct to using Rule 1.2a. The only penalty available for an act that is contrary to the spirit of the game under that Rule is disqualification (see Section 5H(4) for more information).
(1) Setting a Code of Conduct
In setting a Code of Conduct, the Committee should consider the following:
- When setting limits or prohibiting a player’s actions through a Code of Conduct, the Committee should consider the different cultures of the players. For example, something that may be considered inappropriate behaviour in one culture may be acceptable under another.
- The penalty structure that will apply for a breach of the Code (see Section 5H(2) for an example).
- Who will have the authority to decide penalties and sanctions. For example, it could be the case that only certain Committee members have the authority to apply such penalties or a minimum number of Committee members need to be involved in making such a decision or any member of the Committee has authority to make such a decision.
- Whether there will be an appeals process.
The Committee may include the following within a Code of Conduct:
- A prohibition on players entering all or specified no play zones.
- Specific details of unacceptable behaviour that a player may be penalized for during a round, for example:
- Failure to care for the course, for example not raking bunkers or not replacing or filling divots.
- Unacceptable language.
- Abuse of clubs or the course.
- Being disrespectful of other players, referees or spectators.
- A dress code.
The Committee may provide in the Code of Conduct that a warning will be given for the first breach of the Code and not a penalty, unless the Committee considers the breach to be sufficiently serious.
A Committee needs to determine whether the Code of Conduct applies to a player’s caddie, and whether the player can be penalized under the Code for actions of his or her caddie during the round.
It would not be appropriate to penalize a player under a Code of Conduct for a breach of a spectator code by the player’s family or supporters. For example, in a junior competition where family members are not allowed to walk on the fairway, or within a specified distance of the competitors, the player should not be penalized for any breach by a spectator.
(2) Determining Penalties for Breach of Code
When determining the sanctions and penalty structure that will apply, the Committee should consider the following:
- If there will be a warning system before any penalty or other sanction is imposed.
- Whether the sanctions will be of a disciplinary nature or involve penalties under the Rules.
- Whether the penalty for each breach will be set as one penalty stroke, the general penalty, or if penalties will escalate. The Committee should not use any other types of penalties that would apply to a player’s score.
- If the Code will allow for disqualification for serious misconduct in failing to meet the Code’s standards.
- Whether a penalty will automatically apply whenever a player breaches one of its standards or if such a penalty will be left to the Committee’s discretion.
- If different penalties will apply for breaching different aspects of the Code.
- Disciplinary sanctions that a Committee may impose including refusing to allow the player to enter one or more future competitions run by the Committee or requiring the player to play at a particular time of day. Such sanctions are separate from the Rules of Golf and it is a matter for the Committee to write and interpret any such sanctions.
(3) Sample Penalty Structure for a Code of Conduct
The following model penalty structures give an example of how the Committee may choose to penalize breaches of a Code of Conduct in the Local Rule.
The Committee may decide to implement such a penalty structure without a warning or sanction for a first breach, or it may provide different penalties for each item within the Code of Conduct. For example, certain breaches may result in a one-stroke penalty, with other breaches resulting in the general penalty.
Model Penalty Structure
- First breach of the Code of Conduct – warning or Committee sanction
- Second breach – one-stroke penalty
- Third breach – general penalty
- Fourth breach or any serious misconduct – disqualification.
(4) Spirit of the Game and Serious Misconduct
Under Rule 1.2a, a Committee may disqualify a player for serious misconduct for acting contrary to the spirit of the game. This applies whether or not there is a Code of Conduct in place for a competition.
When deciding whether a player is guilty of serious misconduct, the Committee should consider whether the player’s action was intentional and whether the act was significant enough to warrant disqualification without first giving a warning and/or applying other penalties when a Code of Conduct is in place.
Examples of actions that could warrant disqualification under Rule 1.2a are
1.2a/1 Meaning of Serious Misconduct
The phrase “serious misconduct” in Rule 1.2a is intended to cover player misconduct that is so far removed from the expected norm in golf that the most severe sanction of removing a player from the competition is justified. This includes dishonesty, deliberately interfering with another player’s rights, or endangering the safety of others.
The Committee must determine if the misconduct is serious considering all the circumstances. Even if the Committee determines that the misconduct is serious, it may take the view that it is more appropriate to warn the player that a repeat of the misconduct or similar misconduct will result in disqualification, instead of disqualifying him or her in the first instance.
Examples of actions by a player that are likely to be considered serious misconduct include:
- Deliberately causing serious damage to a putting green.
- Disagreeing with the course setup and taking it on himself or herself to move tee-markers or boundary stakes.
- Throwing a club towards another player or spectator.
- Deliberately distracting other players while they are making strokes.
- Removing loose impediments or movable obstructions to disadvantage another player after that other player has asked him or her to leave them in place.
- Repeatedly refusing to lift a ball at rest when it interferes with another player in stroke play.
- Deliberately playing away from the hole and then towards the hole to assist the player’s partner (such as helping the player’s partner learn the break on the putting green).
- Deliberately not playing in accordance with the Rules and potentially gaining a significant advantage by doing so, despite incurring a penalty for a breach of the relevant Rule.
- Repeatedly using vulgar or offensive language.
- Using a handicap that has been established for the purpose of providing an unfair advantage or using the round being played to establish such a handicap.
Examples of actions by a player that, although involving misconduct, are unlikely to be considered serious misconduct include:
- Slamming a club to the ground, damaging the club and causing minor damage to the turf.
- Throwing a club towards a golf bag that unintentionally hits another person.
- Carelessly distracting another player making a stroke
Because digital media poses a problem some Golf Clubs include clauses in their Club Rules that provide for a Social Media Policy as well.