From January 2019, all players are allowed and encouraged to play out of turn when safe to do so and in a responsible way (‘READY GOLF’), without penalty, under the following Rules of Golf 2019.
6.4b Stroke Play
6.4b (2) Playing Out of Turn in a Safe and Responsible Way (“Ready Golf”). Players are both allowed and encouraged to play out of turn in a safe and responsible way, such as when:
- Two or more players agree to do so for convenience or to save time,
- A player’s ball comes to rest a very short distance from the hole and the player wishes to hole out, or
- An individual player is ready and able to play before another player whose turn it is to play under the normal order of play in (1), so long as in playing out of turn the player does not endanger, distract or interfere with any other player.
But if the player whose turn it is to play under (1) is ready and able to play and indicates that he or she wants to play first, other players should generally wait until that player has played.
A player should not play out of turn to gain an advantage over other players.
The R&A and USGA Official Line is:
“Ready golf” is a commonly used term which indicates that players should play when they are ready to do so, rather than adhering strictly to the “farthest from the hole plays first” stipulation in the Rules of Golf.
“Ready golf” is not appropriate in match play due to the strategy involved between opponents and the need to have a set method for determining which player plays first. However, in stroke play formats, it is only the act of agreeing to play out of turn to give one of the players an advantage that is prohibited. On this basis, it is permissible for administrators to encourage “ready golf” in stroke play, and there is strong evidence to suggest that playing “ready golf” does improve the pace of play. For example, in a survey of Australian golf clubs conducted by Golf Australia, 94% of clubs that had promoted “ready golf” to their members enjoyed some degree of success in improving pace of play, with 25% stating that they had achieved ‘satisfying success’.
When “ready golf” is being encouraged, players have to act sensibly to ensure that playing out of turn does not endanger other players.
“Ready golf” should not be confused with being ready to play, which is covered in the Player Behaviour section of The R&A Pace of Play Manual.
The term “ready golf” has been adopted by many as a catch-all phrase for a number of actions that separately and collectively can improve pace of play. There is no official definition of the term, but examples of “ready golf” in action are:
- Hitting a shot when safe to do so if a player farther away faces a challenging shot and is taking time to assess their options
- Shorter hitters playing first from the tee or fairway if longer hitters have to wait
- Hitting a tee shot if the person with the honour is delayed in being ready to play
- Hitting a shot before helping someone to look for a lost ball
- Putting out even if it means standing close to someone else’s line
- Hitting a shot if a person who has just played from a green-side bunker is still farthest from the hole but is delayed due to raking the bunker
- When a player’s ball has gone over the back of a green, any player closer to the hole but chipping from the front of the green should play while the other player is having to walk to their ball and assess their shot
- Marking scores upon immediate arrival at the next tee, except that the first player to tee off marks their card immediately after teeing off
Comment: Please be aware that although the R&A state:
‘“Ready golf” is not appropriate in match play’, there may be occasions in Match Play when playing out of turn is allowed:
6.4a Match Play
6.4a (2) Opponent May Cancel Player’s Stroke Made Out of Turn. If the player plays when it was the opponent’s turn to play, there is no penalty, but the opponent may cancel the stroke:
- This must be done promptly and before either player makes another stroke. When the opponent cancels the stroke, he or she cannot withdraw the cancellation.
- If the opponent cancels the stroke, the player must, when it is his or her turn to play, play a ball from where that stroke was made (see Rule 14.6).
- If the opponent does not cancel the stroke, the stroke counts and the ball is in play and must be played as it lies.
Exception – Playing Out of Turn by Agreement to Save Time:
To save time:
- The player may invite the opponent to play out of turn or may agree to the opponent’s request to play out of turn.
- If the opponent then makes the stroke out of turn, the player has given up the right to cancel the stroke.