I hope you are able to get out and enjoy lots of golf now that the weather is better and more settled.
It would appear that many of you are organising and entering Open Competitions and I have been informed of some suspicious actions by players during a round.
I have received several emails asking for my advice on how to deal with cheating in Golf.
Perhaps your initial feeling is that you cannot tolerate it and the offender should be disciplined and kicked out of the Club.
But, because of the repercussions of accusing a player of cheating, you need to keep a level-head and carefully assess your approach before you do anything.
What follows are my own ideas on how to approach cheating.
You may not agree with them but I feel they will allow you to deal with a situation without affecting your round, enjoyment of your game or relationship with your playing partner.
A central principle of the game of golf is that players play by the Rules and in the spirit of the game; it makes the game more enjoyable for everyone.
According to studies by the National Golf Foundation, approximately 90% of golfers claim that they play by the rules. So why are there still lots of golfers that sweep away two-footers , improve a lie or take extra tee-shots and don’t add extra strokes?
This is because, basically, although there are players who will always cheat, there are a number of players who don’t even really know they are cheating. So, instead of berating them for it, you should extend them the benefit of the doubt that they are unaware of the cheating – don’t go full pelt into disciplinary action but use the moment to teach them.
You could simply say, ‘You know you’re not supposed to do that?’ and generally, many will thank you for your input and change their behaviour. However, if this isn’t the case and they continue to play the same way, then you simply never play with them again.
Calculate the costs of your actions and always act with a level head.
Golf is seen by many as not just a fun pastime, but also a social event. So, any accusations of cheating in golf can have implications that go way beyond the golfing green. You may accuse a golfer of cheating on the fairway – and then be expected to have a meal and drinks with him/her later… maybe with partners and children.
If the match is of low importance and no one is really losing out greatly by the cheating – and making accusations can cause difficult situations in the future, then it might simply be best just to let things slide. However, if it’s a tournament or important competition, then it’s different. So, are you playing for high stakes or low stakes, or is there more to lose than gain by confrontation?
Calculate what your accusation may cost overall and work out whether it’s worth it.
So, what advice can I offer you?
In 2016, before the New Rules of Golf were introduced in 2019, it was advocated that all Clubs should have both a Code of Conduct and Pace-of-play Policy in place and in the public domain. Unfortunately, not every Club followed the advice.
A policy would provide a reference for players and visitors as to what kind of behaviour was expected from them and, should a player or visitor be guilty of misconduct, a reference to why they were considered to have been in breach of the Code of Conduct and what penalties they might face.
Rule 1.2 is an important Rule in the Rules of Golf as it details the conduct that is expected of all players and what is meant by spirit of the game but on its own it is weak and can be difficult to impose.
There is no penalty under the Rules for failing to act in this way, except that the Committee may under Rule 1.2a, 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 considering 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
A Committee, or individual, should also be mindful of a person’s reputation and the far-reaching effects of an accusation outside of the golf course or Golf Club.
Any accuser or attestor to an incident must be 100% certain of the facts, it is no use just having a suspicion.
Examples of actions that could warrant disqualification under Rule 1.2a and further guidance on what is meant by serious misconduct, can be found in Interpretation 1.2a/1.
However, a Committee may set its own standards of player conduct in a Code of Conduct adopted as a Local Rule.
See Committee Procedures, Section 5H (explaining the standards of player conduct that may be adopted).
Penalties other than disqualification may be imposed for player misconduct only if those penalties are adopted as part of a Code of Conduct under Rule 1.2b.”
A suggested Code of Conduct Policy is available on my Website, click on the link below:
So, in summary, some points that come to mind, for consideration when it comes to suspecting an individual, or group of individuals, of breaching Rules are, in no particular order:
Cheating is a matter of fact it has always gone on and always will with some individuals, professional or amateur.
You must be 100% certain of your facts, be careful to avoid using the word ’cheat’
A mere suggestion could have serious repercussions outside the Golf Course for the ‘guilty’ party, the accuser and the Golf Club
If only a suspicion that an individual is breaching a rule, keep a close eye on them but do not call them out until you have definite evidence.
Is the misdemeanour serious or just a minor infraction?
Is the infringement intentional or accidental?
Could a player handle the situation without resorting to informing a Committee, better this way if it can be done?
Try to use any trespasses as a means of education and avoid any confrontations.
Depending on the status of the competition, if 100% certain of a breach of the Rules, call the player out immediately or could you leave it until you get to the clubhouse and talk it over with him/her. Picking a player up on his/her behaviour may cause an atmosphere for the rest of your round.
Again, depending on the status of the competition, impose a penalty there and then or just give them a reminder of their actions and the correct procedure to follow.
If the individual is a persistent offender or the offence considered really serious, then, having called them out during a round, refuse to mark their scorecard, inform the committee of both your and the player’s actions and let the Committee handle the situation.
Ensure the committee has a sound policy in place for dealing with disciplinary actions.
There is also some advice on My Golf website on how to discipline a member, click on the link below to read more:
Following the introduction of the WHS it is becoming more prevalent that clubs are allowing mixed competitions and play from different tees, according to a player’s playing ability or designated non-gender tees within the same competition. One of the intentions of the WHS was to encourage Mixed Tee events, seeing them as the future of golf competitions.
In such cases additional adjustments to playing handicaps are required to make play equitable.
Where players are playing from tees that have been allocated CRs, an adjustment MUST be applied to the handicaps of players playing the course with the higher CR. These adjustments are calculated differently depending on whether the format is Medal Strokeplay or Stableford (and Par/Bogey), 18-hole or 9-hole Competitions.
Many of you, however, are still having concerns as to how and why these adjustments are necessary.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to the number of strokes, in Medal Play, or the number of points, in Stableford or Par/Bogey Competitions, that you are required to score to play to your Course Handicap.
A frequent question that is asked is, “When players are competing from different tees, why do we have to make a second adjustment (Handicap Adjustment)?”
Now there are a number of reasons for it, which players are not always aware of. Namely:
When organising Mixed competitions of any type, stroke play or match play, it must be realised that the competition is effectively being held over separate courses as all the tees will each have their own Course Ratings albeit that they may share common fairways and greens.
It is important to remember, that golf handicaps level the playing field when competing from the SAME tees, unless it is a mix-gendered competition. Handicaps in golf, though, do not level the playing field when players play from different sets of tees or from the same tee with different Course Ratings (i.e., men and women’s ratings).
It would be entirely unfair if this difference is not accounted for by making an alteration to the handicaps of the players playing the harder course (that with the higher Course Rating) hence the requirement that handicaps MUST be adjusted.
Course Rating is, by definition, the score a Scratch player would be expected to return over a particular course. All handicaps are then adjusted relative to players’ performances against that score. It may seem obvious to state (but seems to be a point not appreciated by a good number of players and committees) that for instance the Ladies’ Course Rating is determined against the performance of a Scratch handicap lady player and the Men’s likewise for a Scratch man.
As you will know from the performance of professional golfers in both Europe and the USA, the best ladies cannot return scores that compare with the best men. As there is no compensation allowed in professional golf, ladies and men do not (generally) compete in mixed events for a single prize, or if they did the winner would only be a man. It could be argued that a club running a competition without making the adjustment for any difference in the Course Ratings is introducing a Condition of Competition that is, at best outside the spirit of, and at worst contrary to, Rule of Golf 3.3b (which does not allow a player to declare a handicap higher than that to which they are entitled). The argument being that if an upward adjustment is not applied to the player on the harder course (higher Course Rating) those on the easier course are effectively playing off too high a handicap, contrary to Rule of Golf 3,3b
To provide equity, then, when competitors are playing from 2 or more different sets of tees, adjustments MUST be made to the Playing Handicaps of some players.
NOTE: These adjustments are used solely to determine competition results and do not affect the player’s Scoring Record or Handicap Index calculation.
On another point, following the introduction of the World Handicap System, many players, also, question the adjustment where players are competing from different sets of tees, or men and women are competing from the same set of tees considering the tees have been allocated a Course Rating and a Slope Rating for both genders.
This can be a difficult concept to understand, and I hope that what follows may help you to understand the position better.
So, we need to define what the Slope Rating does, as many players think the different Slope Ratings automatically take care of the difference in the two sets of tees.
This is a myth. The Slope Rating is used to convert your Handicap Index to a Course Handicap, which allows you to receive the number of strokes you need to play to the level of a scratch golfer for a particular set of tees. In other words, it is the number of strokes you need to play to the Course Rating for that particular set of tees, i.e., what score you need to Play to your Handicap from that particular set of tees.
With Stableford, Par/Bogey Competitions it will be the number of points you need to play to your handicap for the particular set of tees you are playing.
As an illustration:
James and John are playing against each other. They each have a 15.8 Handicap Index.
John plays from the White tees which has a Course Rating of 68.5, a Slope Rating of 121 and Par of 70. If you were to look at a handicap table, you would find that John’s Course Handicap is 17.
James plays from the Yellow tees, which has a Course Rating of 64.6, a Slope Rating of 107 and a Par of 69. James’s Course Handicap is 15.
So, what do they each need to score to ‘play to their handicap’?
To find this number we can use what is called a target score, which is the Course Rating added to their Course Handicap. In our example the target scores would be as follows:
For Medal, Gross Score & Maximum Score (18 hole)
John’s Target Score = 68.5 + 17 = 86
James’ Target Score = 64.6 + 15 = 80
For Stableford, Par/Bogey Competitions where point count is used:
John’s Target Point Score = 36 – (68.5 – 70) = 37.5 (Rounded to 38)
James’ Target Point Score = 36 – (64.6 – 69) = 40.4 (Rounded to 40)
For Medal, Gross Score & Maximum Score (18 hole)
If John scores 86 playing exactly to his handicap his Net will be 69.
If James scores 80, again playing to his handicap, his Net will be 65.
James wins every time.
This is because the course rating is 3.9 (rounded to 4) strokes different from the White tees to the Yellow tees. So, if players compete from different tees a second adjustment needs to be made to equalise their handicaps by adding the difference in the Course Rating to John’s handicap or subtracting the difference in Course Ratings to James’s handicap.
In equity they should both end up with the same Net score if they play to their handicaps.
To adjust ‘off the lower rating’ you would give John a Course Handicap of 21 (17+4), which will now produce the following results: Table 16
Or adjust using ‘off Higher Course Rating’, and give James a Course Handicap of 11 (15-4), which will now produce the following results:
For Stableford, Par/Bogey Competitions where point count is used (18-holes):
Points to Play to Handicap
James wins every time
This is because the points required to play to handicap is 1.9 (rounded to 2) points different from the White tees to the Yellow tees. So, if players compete from different tees a second adjustment needs to be made to equalise their handicaps by adding the difference in the Points Required to Play to Handicap to John’s handicap or subtracting the difference in Points Required to Play to Handicap to James’s handicap.
Adding Adjustment for Difference in Points to Play to Handicap
Subtracting Adjustment for Difference in Points to Play to Handicap
Adjustments for 9-Hole Competitions are different because the calculation takes into account (Course Rating – Par), which in GB&I it does not for 18-hole Competitions.
Medal, Gross Score and Maximum Score (9-Holes)
A player competing from a set of tees with a higher Par receives additional strokes equal to the difference in Pars
Stableford and Par/Bogey (9-holes)
No adjustment is required. It is accounted for in the calculation of a 9-hole Course Handicap.
In the illustrations above, we have reached our desired goal, where both players have scored to their Course Handicap and their net scores result in a tie.
In some jurisdictions it is recommended that the adjustment be made to the smaller group of players. Example: A tournament has 48 players; 40 are playing from the harder rated tees and 8 are playing from the easier rated tees. An adjustment is made to the course handicap of the 8 players playing the easier rated tees and no adjustment needs to be made to the larger group of players.
Nowhere in the above example has the word par been mentioned. Players often try to throw par into the mix when trying to figure if scores are equal. Par is of little relevance in the handicap system and is a poor indicator of predicting score. For example, one course may be 5500 yards long and have a par of 72 and another may be 7200 yards long and have a par of 72. It is highly unlikely that scores on these two courses would be equal for any level of golfer.
In the example, we have used both Course Rating and Slope Rating. The point is that Slope Rating by itself has little meaning within the Handicap System. There must be a Course Rating standard to connect to the Slope Rating in order for there to be any meaning. If there is one thing to remember from all of this, it is that the Slope Rating is used to convert your Handicap Index to a Course Handicap for a particular set of tees, which allows you to receive the number of strokes you need to play to the level of a scratch golfer for that particular set of tees.
There is then the question of ‘Which Courses to use?’
WHS states quite clearly that each set of players should play a course for which the Course Rating (CR) has been allocated for them, whenever possible. Normally this will mean that the men play from the Men’s Tees using the Men’s CR and the ladies from the Ladies’ Tees using the Ladies’ CR. Even then a handicap adjustment must be applied if the Ladies’ and Men’s CRs are different.
Which card to use in Mixed Foursomes and Four-Ball formats?
In Foursomes competitions from mixed tees, when a single ball is in play, the Committee must specify in the Terms of the Competition which single set of tees will determine the Pars and Stroke Index that are to be used but it is recommended that the Ladies’ Par and Stroke Index is used. This does not then require Ladies to play holes that have a lower Par than would be recommended. It does mean that Men may return somewhat higher scores than against their own Par, however, to do otherwise would militate against Ladies making an appropriate contribution.
In Four-Ball formats from mixed tees, where players play their own ball, individual players score using the card and Stroke Index appropriate for the tee they are playing from
How do Handicap Allowances and any other adjustments get applied in an 18-hole mixed/multi-tee event?
The WHS facilitates play between golfers of any gender, ability or age, as players can compete for the same prize in a competition playing from any rated set of tees
When playing in an 18-hole mixed or multi-tee event, whatever the format of play, the first step is for each player to calculate their own individual Course Handicap
Next, the applicable Handicap Allowance for the format of play is applied to the Course Handicap, giving the player their Playing Handicap
Next, those players playing from a set of tees with a higher Course Rating add additional strokes to their Playing Handicap – equal to the difference between the Course Rating of the tees they are playing from and the tees being played with the lowest Course Rating
In Four-Ball formats, strokes are only allocated after each player has calculated their individual Playing Handicap. Strokes are then taken from the player with the lowest Playing Handicap
In Foursomes and Greensomes, any adjustment for the difference in Course Ratings would be half of the combined adjustment for each side
A few further examples and summary.
To make competitions from tees with different Course Ratings fair, an adjustment to players’ Course Handicap must be made. An upward adjustment in handicap for players playing from tees with higher Course Ratings (Option 1) or a decrease in handicap for player playing from tees with lower Course Ratings (Option 2) can be applied.
As a Rule of Thumb, when golfers compete from tees that have different Course Ratings, either add OR subtract strokes…
A Two-player example:
In this two-player competition, Roy plays from the White tees and Tom plays from the Yellow. In a simple situation where you just have two players, the RULES OF HANDICAPPING recommend adjusting the Course Handicap of the player playing from the tees with a higher Course Rating. In this case, John is playing from the White tees with the higher Course Rating of 71.3, so you would add the difference in Course Rating (rounded to nearest whole number) to John’s Course Handicap of 12.
White Course Rating – Yellow Course Rating = Difference in Course Rating 71.3 – 68.7 = 2.6 rounded to 3
Handicap Adjustment (Option 1)
Playing Handicap (Option 1)
Handicap Adjustment (Option 2)
Playing Handicap (Option 2)
A Three-player example:
In this three-player competition, Roy plays from the White tees, Tom plays from Yellow and Jane plays from Red tees. In a simple situation where you just have two players, the RULES OF HANDICAPPING recommend adjusting the Course Handicap of the players playing from the tees with higher Course Ratings. In this case, Jane and John playing from the White and Red tees with the higher Course Rating of 72.7 and 71.3, so you would add the differences in Course Ratings (rounded to nearest whole number) to Jane and John’s Course Handicap of 12 and 17.
Red Course Rating – White Course Rating = Difference in Course Rating 72.7 – 71.3 = 1.4 (Rounded to 1)
Red Course Rating – Yellow Course Rating = Difference in Course Rating 72.7 – 68.7 = 4
Handicap Adjustment (Option 1)
Playing Handicap (Option 1)
Handicap Adjustment (Option 2)
Playing Handicap (Option 2)
In a Competition situation where you have many players, you can determine what the most efficient route to adjust handicaps would be: adjusting handicaps of player playing from higher Course Ratings or lowering the handicaps of players playing from tees with lower Course Ratings. The effect is the same.
In the above three-player example, if we chose to lower the handicaps of players playing the two sets of tees with the lower Course Ratings (Yellow and Red), then John’s playing handicap would remain at 12, Tom’s would lower to 14 and Dave’s would lower to 15.
A Men and Women competing from same tees with different Course Ratings Example:
In this two-player competition, John plays from the Yellow tees and Jane plays from the Yellow. In a simple situation where you just have two players, the RULES OF HANDICAPPING recommend adjusting the Course Handicap of the player playing from the tees with a higher Course Rating. In this case, Jane is playing from the Yellow tees with the higher Course Rating of 72.8, so you would add the difference in Course Rating (rounded to nearest whole number) to Jane’s Course Handicap of 18.
Yellow Course Rating for Women – Yellow Course Rating for Men = Difference in Course Rating:
72.8 – 68.7 = 4.1 (Rounded to 4)
Handicap Adjustment (Option 1)
Playing Handicap (Option 1)
Handicap Adjustment (Option 2)
Playing Handicap (Option 2)
If you have a Competition with, say, 100 players and 88 play from the White tees (like John) and 12 play from the Yellow tees (like Tom), it may be less work for a Competition Committee to adjust the 12 players’ handicaps than the 88 playing from the White tees. In such a case, the RULES OF HANDICAPPING say you can adjust the 12 Yellow tee players’ Course Handicaps downward by 3 strokes. The effect being the same.
Medal, Gross Score & Maximum Score (9 hole)
A player competing from a set of tees with a higher Par receives additional strokes equal to the difference in Pars:
Playing Handicap = [ Course Handicap X Handicap Allowance ] + Difference in Pars Table 24
Women's Extra Strokes
Stableford & Par/Bogey (9 hole)
No adjustment is required. It is accounted for in the calculation of 9-hole Course Handicaps.
If your competition includes two sets of tees or women and men competing from the same tee which has different Course Ratings, either add strokes to the players playing from the higher Course Rating (increase their handicaps) OR subtract strokes from the golfers playing from the lower Course Rating (decrease their handicaps).
If your event includes more than two sets of tees or includes players playing from more than two different Course Ratings, then keep the Course Handicap for the players playing from the lowest Course Rating and add strokes, or increase handicaps for players playing from higher Course Ratings. Alternatively, keep the Course Handicap for the players playing from the highest Course Rating and subtract strokes, or decrease handicaps for players playing from lower Course Ratings.
This article was intended to explain why Handicap Adjustments are necessary in Mixed Tee Events and provide a few illustrative examples.
You can download a document that helps in the understanding of Mixed Tee Handicap Allowances by clicking on the Download Button below:
It has not been possible to cover all competition formats here, without making the article too long.
However, you can download a document that provides details on all Handicap Calculations by clicking on the download button below.
Now we all know how frustrating a slow round of golf can be and are always ready to blame players or a group in front of us, but player behaviour may not always be the reason for Slow Play.
The R&A and USGA have championed the use of Ready Golf in order to deter Slow Play and many Golf Clubs are following their recommendation in the misguided belief that it will encourage golfers to play more frequently, attract more individuals to play golf and overnight turn round their falling revenues.
I do not see how the R&A and USGA can continue to promote this action when their own findings from their Pace of Play Global Survey (2015) clearly demonstrated that Player behaviour did not play a major part in increasing the time to play a round of golf.
That less than 18% of golfers said Slow Play prevented them from playing more frequently
Over 75% of golfers said they had no issues with Slow Play and did not feel it affected their membership or impacted greatly on the Pace of Play
Meaning that Player Behaviour was not a major factor in increasing the Pace of Play of a round of golf.
What the R&A and USGA did find from their Global Survey, and I do not know why they are not asking Clubs to put these issues to the top of a Pace of Play agenda was that the three major factors affecting Pace of Play were:
Many policies that Golf Clubs have already in place create a slow pace of play even before a golfer has teed up his/her ball on the first tee.
Surely Clubs must be encouraged to address these issues if they want to thrive and improve revenues, rather than covering them up by blaming player behaviour for the problem – which Ready Golf only emphasises.
Ready Golf as it is being introduced at the moment, like the previous ‘keep up with the group in front’, will not work alone.
To have any effect it will require marshalling, which is expensive both in time and manpower and the need to have a strict pace of Play Policy in place so that players, both members and visitors, know what is expected of them out on the course or in a competition.
You can browse the R&A Pace of Play Manual by following the link below:
Addendum to Last Post on Recording Gross Score against Course or Player Handicap
A reader commented on my mention of Stableford and Maximum Score formats relating to England Golf and not other jurisdictions.
I must thank him for bringing it to my attention and hope I have not caused any confusion for anyone.
The reason I mentioned that my comments related to England is that, although I do try and advise on all jurisdictions (worldwide) I do concentrate on England and have to remember that some of my readers are from other countries and I could easily confuse them if I don’t qualify some of my points.
Although the WHS is supposed to be worldwide, not all of its features have been adopted by some Countries.
My comments therefore on Stableford and Maximum Score formats do alsoapply to Wales, Scotland and Ireland.
However, unlike England, Scotland and Wales, it is Ireland’s intention to trial the inclusion of some match play events into handicapping and to also include some Four Ball Better-Ball scores in situations where the returned scores are better than a target expectation for this format of play.
Where scores returned in match play or four-ball formats are Acceptable Scores there is a need for calculating a ‘Most Likely Score’ when a player starts a hole but does not hole out.
So in Ireland, when using a ‘Most Likely Score’ a player must still bear in mind the score that would be recorded compared to a Net Double Bogey against their Course Handicap.,
NOTE: This will not be in use for the rest of GB&I, although it is part of the WHS and in use in the rest of the world.
Something, no doubt, England Golf will review that situation in the future.
Golf Ireland will issue details of the inclusion of match play and 4BBB in due course, but at the moment these formats are not acceptable in England or Scotland.
WHS – Do I Record on My Scorecard, the Number of Strokes Taken Based on My Course Handicap or My Playing Handicap?
Well while we, in GB&I, find ourselves in Golf Lockdown again, some golf is being played around the world and I am receiving both Rules of Golf and World Handicap System queries, which is why I have not posted anything yet on Mixed Tee Competitions as promised.
While England Golf struggles with teething problems over the introduction of the WHS the 4-week lockdown may give them some respite and time to sort things out before we get back to playing golf with a vengeance.
I recently received a query from a reader to which I could provide a straight forward answer but which also raised a point with the New World Handicap System that many players may not be aware.
Unlike the previous CONGU Qualifying Rounds, which were played off Full Handicap, under the the WHS there are occasions when acceptable rounds will be played off a percentage of a Course Handicap and you must be aware of both your Course Handicap and your Playing Handicap in the same round so that you ‘do not pick up before you run out of strokes, according to your Course Handicap’
Now this goes against the teachings of improving the Pace of Play, but is a necessary action under the WHS when competitions are being played for Handicap purposes.
The R&A will no doubt have to reconsider Rule 21 in the light of the WHS and remove the wording ‘To help pace of play, players are encouraged to stop playing a hole when their score will result in zero points.’ for Stableford Formats and ‘To help pace of play, players are encouraged to stop playing a hole when their formats. score has reached the maximum’, for Maximum Score formats.
All will, I hope be revealed below.
The question was:
‘In a Stableford qualifying competition, do I record on my card, the number of strokes taken based on my course handicap or my playing handicap for the competition?’
My answer was:
You record your Gross Score for each hole, and you should base it on your Course Handicap not your Playing Handicap for the reasons which I will give below.
Under the Rules of Golf ,you must record your gross score for each hole, whatever the competition format, it is the score that you enter into your Golf Club’s Handicap Computer.
The Course Handicap, calculated from your Handicap Index and your Course’s Slope Rating, replaces your CONGU Handicap, and could be considered to be one and the same. It is this Handicap that dictates if any Adjustments to Hole scores need to be made for Handicap purposes.
The Playing Handicap is your Handicap for a particular competition depending on the format being played and is the number of strokes you actually receive for that round and is the one you use, in the case of a Stableford Competition, to calculate your points for each hole and the one that your Club’s Handicap System will use to calculate your points for each hole for a competition result.
Under the new World Handicap System, there are a couple of points that you need to be aware of that can influence your play of a hole, especially if you think you are unable to score on a particular hole and decide to pick your ball up.
Your Playing Handicap may be a percentage of your Course Handicap and not its full value, e.g. in an Individual Stableford your Playing Handicap will be reduced to 95%.
For scores being submitted for Handicap Purposes, your Adjusted Gross Score for a competition is used in your Handicap Index calculation. There is a maximum score that can be accepted for each hole this is a Net Double Bogey, and this is applied by the WHS, when you submit your score, based on your Course Handicap.
If you fail to score on a hole or complete the play of a hole the WHS will award you a Net Double Bogey for that hole.
This last point is an important one because you must ensure that by having a Net Double Bogey recorded for not completing the hole does not award you a score higher than if you had completed the hole.
This is relevant especially when a Handicap Allowance for a particular format reduces your Playing Handicap or a Committee sets a Maximum Score for each hole.
An example would probably better illustrate my point.
Caroline has a Handicap Index of 20.1
She is playing an Individual Stableford Competition on her home course from the Red Tees which have a Course Rating of 72.8, a Par of 72 and a Slope Rating of 126
Caroline’s Course Handicap (in GB&I) is: 22
The Handicap Allowance for an Individual Stableford is 95% which adjusts her Playing Handicap to: 21
From this Playing Handicap Caroline will receive one stroke on holes with Stroke Index 4 -18 and two strokes on each of holes with Stroke Index 1, 2 and 3.
Caroline is playing well but on Hole 6, a Par 4 with Stroke Index 4, where she receives 1 stroke in this competition, she runs into a bit of trouble and after just missing a putt for a 6, decides to pick up and record a 0 at that hole, because she is out of shots for that hole according to her Playing Handicap.
Hole 6 is a hole on which she would in general play have received 2 strokes, but off 95% of her Course Handicap now only receives 1 Stroke.
This would be all right for the result of the competition, but for Handicap Purposes the WHS would record a Net Double Bogey of 8 for her not completing play of the hole, working from her Course Handicap.
This would in fact be one more stroke than if she had putted out and completed play of the hole.
It would therefore have been better for Caroline to putt out and record a 7, recording one stroke less for handicap purposes.
Many players will not fully appreciate the importance of continuing beyond the maximum hole score to reach their NDB score on a given hole.
So remember in England when playing Stableford or Maximum Score Formats you need to keep an eye on your scoring against your Course Handicap and not just your Playing Handicap or the Maximum Score for a Hole.
Think before you pick up and record a Net Double Bogey or a Zero on your scorecard.
This can be a little confusing to begin with, but just keep your wits about you.
This situation obviously does not occur in General Play, when no Handicap Allowances apply and you are playing off your Course Handicap
As an example, on a day when a 9-Hole Stableford is due to be played on Holes 1-9 of a golf course, a group of players wonder if they could play 18 Holes starting on the 10th Tee and then play in the 9-Hole Competition which starts on the 1st Tee.
Under the Rules of Golf 2019, this was not allowed, because the meaning of ‘course’ was the whole area between the boundaries of a golf club and areas owned by a golf club.
A player may practise on the course before a round or between rounds of a match-play competition.
5.2b Stroke Play
On the day of a stroke-play competition:
A player must not practise on the course before a round, except that the player may:
Practise putting or chipping on or near their first teeing area.
Practise on any practice area.
Practise on or near the putting green of the hole just completed even if they will play that hole again on the same day (see Rule 5.5b).
A player may practise on the course after completing play of their final round for that day.
“Practising on the course” means playing a ball or testing the surface of the putting green of any hole by rolling a ball or rubbing the surface.
On the day of a stroke-play competition:
A player must not practise on the course before a round, except that the player may practise putting or chipping on or near his or her first teeing area and practise on any practice area.
However, under Clarification 5.2/1 of the Rules of Golf 2023, the meaning of ‘Course’ is now clearly defined:
Meaning of “Course” in Rule 5.2
For the purpose of Rule 5.2, the word “course” (when not used as a definition in italics) is used to mean the holes being used for any rounds of the competition to be played on that day. Examples of when practising is allowed before a round include when:
A player who is due to play a competition on one course may play on the other course earlier on the same day, even if both courses are situated on the same property with no boundaries between the two.
A player who is due to play a competition on holes 1–9 may play on holes 10–18 earlier on the same day.
This is the standard ruling; however,
There are many different considerations about whether to allow practice on the course, such as fairness to the players, possible interference with set-up of the course and maintenance activities, the amount of time before or between rounds, or when players are encouraged to play on the course outside the competition.
For these or other reasons, a Committee can choose to adopt a Local Rule that modifies these default provisions by either allowing or prohibiting such practice entirely or by limiting when, where or how such practice may take place.
Committees are at liberty to introduce a Local Rule (Model Local Rule I-1.1), preventing a player from playing on any course as well as the competition course or a Local Rule (Model Local Rule I-1.2) allowing a player to practise on the competition course before or between rounds.
NOTE: You would be wise to check with the Committee as to whether they have adopted any such Local Rules for a competition before you go out to play.
I received a question recently as to the status of Shotgun Starts and whether they could be run as Qualifying Competitons for Handicap Purposes
Under the Rules of Golf, a Committee is at liberty to set any teeing ground where a player will start her/his round and can stipulate the order in which holes are to be played in that round, so covering split tee starts and shotgun
Under the CONGU Unified Handicap System Decision 1(g) Shotgun Starts may be played as Qualifying Competitions so long as the course being played conforms to Competition Playing Conditions
Definition: Competition Play Conditions
Competition Play Conditions prevail during Stroke Play, Par/Bogey and Stableford competitions over 18 holes and for competitions played over a Designated Nine-Hole Course under the Rules of Golf from Competition Tees.
Competition Play Conditions shall not prevail when the length of the course played varies by more than 100 yards (91 metres) from the length of the Measured Course.
Note 1: Special rules apply when the length of a Measured Course has been temporarily reduced or increased – see Clause 13.
Note 2: Special rules apply to Nine-Hole Qualifying Competitions – see Clause 22.
Decision: Dec.1(g) Status of a competition in which shotgun starts are employed or competitors are authorised by the Committee to start other than at the first tee.
Competitions in which competitors are authorised by the Committee to commence play elsewhere than from the first tee will be Qualifying Competitions for handicap purposes provided all other requirements of the
UHS are satisfied. This includes ‘Shotgun Starts’.
So the answer is yes, Shotgun Competitons can be organised as Qualifying Competitions.
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Most of our golf competitions are played under the Rules of Stroke Play, which includes Medals, Bogey, Par and Stableford competitions. However, many Golf Clubs run Match Play competitions, such as Club Knockouts, which are often scheduled to run over a full season.
An important point that you must understand is that there are many differences between the Stroke Play and Match Play formats of golf that you should be aware of if you do not want to incur penalties, or worse, an unnecessary disqualification.
Because certain rules specific to Match Play are greatly different from those governing Stroke Play, the R&A, previously, prohibited any competitions that would combine the two formats.
However, under the New Rules of Golf although the combining of Match Play and Stroke Play is discouraged, because of the substantial difference of certain Rules between the two formats, the R&A and USGA recognise that there will be times when players either request to combine the two forms of play or do so on their own, and then request a ruling. A Committee should make its best efforts to support players at these times and should use the following guidelines in doing so.(Committee Procedures 6c(12))
When players request to combine Match Play and Stroke Play
If a Committee chooses to allow players to play a match while competing in a stroke-play competition, it is recommended that the players be advised that the Rules for Stroke Play apply throughout. For example, no concessions are allowed and if one player plays out of turn, the other does not have the option of recalling the stroke.
When players request a ruling having combined Match Play and Stroke Play
If the Committee is asked for a ruling when players have combined Match Play and Stroke Play, it should apply the Rules of Golf as they would apply to each of Match Play and Stroke Play separately. For example, if one player did not complete a hole for whatever reason then he or she is disqualified from the stroke-play competition for a breach of Rule 3.3c. But, for Stableford, Maximum Score and Par/Bogey see Rules 21.1c(2), 21.2c and 21.3c(2) respectively.
Remember that if you do anything during the round that breaches the Stroke Play format, this could disqualify you from the singles competition. For example, you must putt out on every hole, respect the order of play, not give or receive any advice, or ignore a breach of Rule made by any player in the group.
During a round, the player and opponent must play each hole in the same group, (Rule 5.4a) and, as with all Golf competitions, play under the Rules of Golf in force at the time.
The Rules of Golf do not require players to keep a score card in Match Play, because each hole is either won by one of the two sides, or halved between them. The winner is the side who wins the most holes over the stipulated round, or an extension of that round if the match has to be played to a conclusion. For example, if a side is 3 holes up and there are only 2 holes of the stipulated round remaining, the match is over with a result of 3 and 2 to that side.
However, a minority of handicapping systems, including the USGA Handicap System, require players to record and return their Match Play scores, as these authorities consider them to be acceptable scores for the purposes of handicap review.
At the moment, including these scores is not envisaged in the World Handicap System, due to be introduced in March 2020, for the UK, but this requirement could change.
Match Play Format
In Match Play (see Rule 3.2), a player, or team and an opponent or opposing team, compete against each other based on holes won, lost or tied and the result of the match is decided under Rule 3.2a(3) or (4).
A player wins a hole when:
The player completes the hole in fewer strokes (including strokes made and penalty strokes) than the opponent,
The opponent concedes the hole, or
The opponent gets the general penalty (loss of hole).
If the opponent’s ball in motion needs to be holed to tie the hole and the ball is deliberately deflected or stopped by any person at a time when there is no reasonable chance it can be holed (such as when the ball has rolled past the hole and will not roll back there), the result of the hole has been decided and the player wins the hole (see Rule 11.2a, Exception).
A hole is tied (also known as “halved”) when:
The player and opponent complete the hole in the same number of strokes (including strokes made and penalty strokes), or
The player and opponent agree to treat the hole as tied (but this is allowed only after at least one of the players has made a stroke to begin the hole).
A player wins a match when:
The player leads the opponent by more holes than remain to be played,
The opponent concedes the match, or
The opponent is disqualified.
If a match is tied after the final hole:
The match is extended one hole at a time until there is a winner. See Rule 5.1 (an extended match is a continuation of the same round, not a new round).
The holes are played in the same order as in the round, unless the Committee sets a different order.
But the Terms of the Competition may say that the match will end in a tie rather than be extended.
The result of a match becomes final in the way stated by the Committee (which should be set out in the Terms of the Competition), such as:
When the result is recorded on an official scoreboard or other identified place, or
When the result is reported to a person identified by the Committee.
See Committee Procedures, Section 5A(7) (recommendations on how the result of a match becomes final).
Concessions (Rule 3.2b and 23.6)
Whereas in Stroke Play the player must finish every hole by holing out, in Match Play a player may concede a stroke to their opponent so that they can pick-up without holing out.
A player may concede the opponent’s next stroke, a hole or the match:
Stroke: This is allowed any time before the opponent’s next stroke is made.
The opponent has then completed the hole with a score that includes that conceded stroke, and the ball may be removed by anyone.
A concession made while the opponent’s ball is still in motion after the previous stroke applies to the opponent’s next stroke, unless the ball is holed (in which case the concession does not matter).
The player may concede the opponent’s next stroke by deflecting or stopping the opponent’s ball in motion only if that is done specifically to concede the next stroke and only when there is no reasonable chance the ball can be holed. Hole: This is allowed any time before the hole is completed (see Rule 6.5), including before the players start the hole.
Match: This is allowed any time before the result of the match is decided (see Rules 3.2a(3) and (4)), including before the players start the match.
A concession is made only when clearly communicated:
This can be done either verbally or by an action that clearly shows the player’s intent to concede the stroke, the hole or the match (such as making a gesture).
If the opponent lifts his or her ball in breach of a Rule because of a reasonable misunderstanding that the player’s statement or action was a concession of the next stroke or the hole or match, there is no penalty and the ball must be replaced on its original spot (which if not known must be estimated) (see Rule 14.2).
A concession is final and cannot be declined or withdrawn.
So, if you concede a short putt to your opponent, but they putt anyway and miss, it does not matter because they are still considered to have holed out with the conceded putt for the purposes of the match.
Whilst there is no penalty when a player putts out after their next stroke has been conceded, if this would be of help to a partner in a Four-Ball or Four Ball Better Ball Match, the player’s score for the hole stands, without a penalty, but the partner’s score for the hole cannot count for the side. (Exception to Rule 23.6)
A breach of the Rules, that only incurs a one stroke penalty in Stroke Play, also incurs a one stroke penalty in Match Play.
In Stroke Play, the General Penalty for a breach of the Rules is two strokes, whereas in Match Play it is loss-of-hole.
Resolving Rules Issues During Round (Rule 20.1b)
If you are unsure of a Rule or a procedure in Match Play the Rules do not permit you to play a second ball, (Rule 20.1b(3)), as they do in Stroke Play, (20.1c). You must try and resolve the issue with your opponent without undue delay. If you cannot agree, a claim must be made before teeing-off at the next hole. You must notify your opponent that you are making a claim, agree the facts of the situation and make it clear that you will be asking the Committee for a ruling.
During a round, the players in a match may agree how to decide a Rules issue:
The agreed outcome is conclusive even if it turns out to have been wrong under the Rules, so long as the players did not deliberately agree to ignore any Rule or penalty they knew applied (see Rule 1.3b(1)).
But if a referee is assigned to the match, the referee must rule on any issue that comes to his or her attention in time and the players must follow that ruling.
In the absence of a referee, if players do not agree or have doubt about how the Rules apply, either player may request a ruling under Rule 20.1b(2).
Ruling Request Made Before Result of Match Is Final: When a player wants a referee or the Committee to decide how to apply the Rules to his or her own play or the opponent’s play, the player may make a request for a ruling.
If a referee or the Committee is not available in a reasonable time, the player may make the request for a ruling by notifying the opponent that a later ruling will be sought when a referee or the Committee becomes available.
If a player makes a request for a ruling before the result of the match is final:
A ruling will be given only if the request is made in time, which depends on when the player becomes aware of the facts creating the Rules issue:
When Player Becomes Aware of the Facts Before Either Player Starts the Final Hole of the Match. When the player becomes aware of the facts, the ruling request must be made before either player makes a stroke to begin another hole.
When Player Becomes Aware of the Facts During or After Completion of the Final Hole of the Match. The ruling request must be made before the result of the match is final (see Rule 3.2a(5)).
If the player does not make the request in this time, a ruling will not be given by a referee or the Committee and the result of the hole(s) in question will stand even if the Rules were applied in the wrong way.
If the player requests a ruling about an earlier hole, a ruling will be given only if all three of these apply:
The opponent breached Rule 3.2d(1) (giving wrong number of strokes taken) or Rule 3.2d(2) (failing to tell the player about a penalty),
The request is based on facts the player was not aware of before either player made a stroke to begin the hole being played or, if between holes, the hole just completed, and
After becoming aware of these facts, the player makes a request for a ruling in time (as set out above).
When a player makes a request for a ruling after the result of the match is final:
The Committee will give the player a ruling only if both of these apply:
The request is based on facts the player was not aware of before the result of the match was final, and
The opponent breached Rule 3.2d(1) (giving wrong number of strokes taken) or Rule 3.2d(2) (failing to tell the player about a penalty) and knew of the breach before the result of the match was final.
There is no time limit on giving such a ruling.
A player who is uncertain about the right procedure in a match is not allowed to play out the hole with two balls.
That procedure applies only in stroke play (see Rule 20.1c).
Applying Handicaps (Rule 3.2c)
Before starting a match, in which handicaps are to be considered, the players should tell each other their respective handicaps.
If a player begins a match having declared a wrong handicap from that to which they are entitled and does not correct this mistake before the opponent makes his or her next stroke:
If the Handicap Index, Course Handicap or Playing Handicap declared is higher or lower than the player’s actual Handicap, the player is disqualified.
Handicap strokes are given by hole, and the lower net score wins he hole.
If a tied match is extended, handicap strokes are allocated by hole in the same way as in the round, (unless a committee sets a different way of doing so).
Each player is responsible for knowing he holes where he or she gets or gives strokes, based on the stroke index allocation set by the Committee. There is no penalty if players fail to determine one another’s handicaps before starting a match, but if this results in one of them not receiving a handicap stroke at a hole at which they are entitled to receive one, the hole stands as played (3.2d(3)).
If the players mistakenly apply handicap strokes on a hole, the agreed result stands, unless it is corrected before either player makes a stroke to begin another hole or for the final hole, before the result of the match is final (see Rule 3.2a(5)).
If however a player has requested a ruling in time (Rule 20.1(b)) and the finding of the ruling would affect the match score, it must be corrected.
Practice (Rule 5.2a)
Unlike in Stroke Play competitions, on any day of a Match Play competition, a player may practice on the competition course before their round or between rounds.
However, occasionally a Committee may prohibit practice on the day in the Conditions of Competition, so it is wise to check first.
Time of starting (Rule 5.3)
Some players often think that the start time for a match is not as important as it is for a Stroke Play competition. This is not the case.
If a player arrives at the first teeing area late, but within five minutes of their start time, they lose the hole at the same time if they tee-off before their start-time, but no more than five minutes earlier they get the General Penalty of loss-of-hole, applied to his or her first hole.
If player/s arrive more than five minutes late, they are disqualified.
If both players or teams arrive on the first teeing area late, but within five minutes of their start time, each player would incur a penalty of loss of the 1st hole and the result of the first hole is a tie (Interpretation 5.3a/5.
Note that if exceptional circumstances prevent a player or players to start on time and it is up to a committee to determine what acceptable exceptional circumstances are, a Committee may, with the concurrence of the opponent, waive a starting penalty or postpone the match for a reasonable period. (Interpretation 5.3a/1)).
Starting and Ending a Round (Rule 5.3a)
A round ends in Match Play when the result of the Match is decided under Rule 3.2a(3) or (4)
Stopping Play, Resuming Play (Rule 5.7a and 5.7b(2))
In Stroke Play players may not suspend play for bad weather, unless they consider there is danger from lightning. If they do, the Committee would be justified in disqualifying them. However, in Match Play, players may discontinue their match by agreement, unless by so doing the competition is delayed.
However, when either player decides that they want to resume play, the other player must also resume, otherwise there is no longer agreement between them and that player is disqualified. If a match is discontinued by agreement, e.g. due to darkness or threat of lightning, the match must be resumed from where it was discontinued; the players do not start the match again, even if resumption occurs on a subsequent day.
Advice (Rule 10.2a)
As with Stroke Play, except when playing together as partners on a side, a player must not ask for advice or give advice to a member of his or her team playing on the course.
This applies whether the team member is playing in the same group as a player or in another group on the course.
In team Match Play, it is important that team captains familiarise themselves with the conditions of the competition. It is common for there to be a condition stipulating that only the team captain, or someone else that has been agreed by the captains prior to the start of the match, may give advice. A team captain who is also playing in the competition may not give advice to a team member other than their four-ball or foursome playing partner (Interpretation 24.4/1).
Telling Opponent of Your Breach of Rule (Rule 3.2d(2))
If you incur a penalty that has not been observed by your opponent, you must inform them as soon as reasonably possible. If you fail to do so before your opponent makes their next stroke you get the General Penalty of loss of hole.
You do not, however, receive a penalty if your opponent knew that you had received a penalty but failed to tell your opponent about it.
This penalty also applies if you give incorrect information during play of a hole regarding the number of strokes taken and you do not correct that mistake before your opponent makes their next stroke. You are always entitled to ascertain from your opponent the number of strokes they have taken on the hole.
Order of Play (Rule 6.4 and 5.6b(2))
In Match Play the order of play is fundamental, if a player plays out of turn, the opponent may cancel that stroke and make the player play again.
On the first teeing ground, both in Stroke Play and Match Play, the side that has the honour (i.e. plays first) is determined by the order of the draw. In the absence of a draw, the honour should be decided by lot (e.g. tossing a coin).
Thereafter, the person who won the previous hole, or in the case of a halved hole played first on that hole has the honour and plays first from the teeing area. Anywhere else on the course the ball farthest from the hole is played first. Whereas, there is no penalty in Stroke Play for playing in the wrong order, unless players have agreed to do so to give one of them an advantage in which case, they are both disqualified, it is different in Match Play. If a player makes a stroke when their opponent should have played first, there is still no penalty, but the opponent may immediately require the player to cancel that stroke and play again, in the correct order, as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played. In other words, if you think your opponent played a bad shot when they played out of turn you should say nothing, but if they played a good shot then you may want to ask them to cancel the stroke and, in correct order, play a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played (see Rule 14.6), in the hope that the result of their next shot will not be as good as the one that you required them to cancel.
Note that in Match Play players may agree that one of them will play out of turn to save time (Rule 6.4a)
In four-ball Match Play, balls belonging to the same side may be played in the order that the side considers best.
For example, Ball A is farthest from the hole and in Stroke Play should be played first, unless ‘Ready Golf’ is in operation (Rule 6.4b Exception).
In Match Play, if A and B are on the same side, they may choose whose ball to play first.
Playing from Outside Teeing Ground (Rule 6.1b)
If a player, when starting a hole, plays a ball from outside the teeing area there is no penalty, but their opponent may choose whether the stroke stands or require them to cancel their stroke.
This cancellation must be done promptly and before any player makes another stroke. The cancellation cannot be withdrawn and the player must play again from within the teeing area and it is still his her turn to play.
If the opponent does not cancel the stroke, the stroke counts and the ball is in play and must be played as it lies.
Wrong Ball in Match Play (Rule 6.3c)
A player who plays a wrong ball in singles Match Play loses the hole. If a player and an opponent exchange balls during the play of a hole the first to make a stroke at a wrong ball loses the hole; when this cannot be determined, there is no penalty and the hole must be played out with the balls exchanged.
Ball at Rest Lifted or Moved by Opponent, Caddie or Equipment (Rule 9.5)
This rule applies only when it is Known or Virtually Certain that an opponent lifted or moved a ball at rest; there is a one stroke penalty, except when it happens accidentally while searching, marking a player’s ball on the putting green or lifting a ball at a player’s request. for an opponent’s ball.
The ball must be replaced if it has been moved on its original or an estimated spot, (Rule 14.2), except when the opponent is conceding the next stroke, hole or match (Rule 3.2b) or when the opponent lifts or moves a ball at the player’s request.
Ball Overhanging Hole Deliberately Lifted or Moved by Opponent Before Waiting Time Ended (Rule 13.3b)
If your opponent deliberately lifts or moves your ball overhanging the hole before the waiting time has ended, your ball is treated as having been holed with the previous stroke, and there is no penalty to the opponent under Rule 11.2b
Opponent Lifts or Deliberately Touches Ball Causing it to Move
Opponent incurs a 1-stroke penalty, except when conceding next stroke, hole or Match or at player’s request or when marking or lifting player’s ball on putting green in mistaken belief that it was opponent’s own ball or accidentally moving ball
Ball in Motion Accidentally Hits Person or Outside Influence (Rule 11.1)
If you play a stroke and your ball hits any person or outside influence which includes your opponent, caddie, their equipment there is no penalty and you play your next shot from where it comes to rest.
Ball in Motion Deflected or Stopped by Another Ball
This is an unusual one, which not many Match Play golfers know about. If a putt from the putting green hits another ball at rest on the putting green, whether it is your partner’s ball or your opponent’s ball, there is no penalty in Match Play, whereas this would incur a penalty of two stokes in Stroke Play. Just play your ball from where it comes to rest and ensure that the ball that your ball moved is replaced back to where it was.
Ball or Ball-Marker Helping or Interfering with Play
15. 3a Ball on Putting Green Helping Play
Rules of Golf Interpretations 15.3a/2
Players Allowed to Leave Helping Ball in Match Play
In a match, a player may agree to leave his or her ball in place to help the opponent since the outcome of any benefit that may come from the agreement affects only their match.
Ball in Motion Deliberately Deflected or Stopped by Person (Rule 11.2)
This rule applies only when it is Known or Virtually Certain that a player’s ball in motion was deliberately deflected or stopped by a person. The Opponent gets the General Penalty of loss of hole unless the action is taken at a time when there is no reasonable chance the ball can be holed and when done either as a concession or when the ball needed to be holed to tie the hole, (Rules 3.2a(1) and 3.2b(1).
Playing from Wrong Place (Rule 14.7a)
In Match Play a player who plays from a wrong place loses the hole.
Deliberately Moving Objects or Altering Conditions to Affect Ball in Motion (Rule 11.3)
When a ball is in motion a player must not deliberately alter physical conditions such as replacing a divot or pressing down a raised area of turf (Rule 8.1a), lift a loose impediment (rule 15.1a Exception 2) or a movable obstruction (Rule 15.2a Exception 2).
Penalty is loss of hole.
Four-Ball Match Play – Representation of Side (Rule 23.4)
A side may be represented by one partner for all or any part of a match. A partner who arrives late for the start of a match, after any player has started play of a hole, may join it on that hole, but may not play until the next hole. However, they may give advice to their partner as soon as they arrive.
Four-Ball Match Play – Wrong Ball (Rule 23)
If a player incurs the loss of hole penalty under Rule 15-3a for making a stroke at a wrong ball, they are disqualified for that hole, but their partner incurs no penalty, even if the wrong ball belongs to them.
Four-Ball Match Play – Penalty only to Player (Rule 23.8a(1)
When a player gets a penalty other than disqualification, that penalty normally applies only to the player and not also to his or her partner.
Any penalty strokes are added only to the player’s score, not to the partner’s score.
In match play, a player who gets the general penalty (loss of hole) has no score that can count for the side on that hole; but this penalty has no effect on the partner, who may continue to play for the side on that hole.
Four-Ball Match Play – Penalty to Side (Rule 23.8a(2)
In those cases where the penalty for a breach of Rule is by the deduction of one hole for each hole at which the breach occurred, with a maximum deduction per round of two holes, (principally Rule 4.1b, Limit of 14 Clubs, Shared, Added or Replaced Clubs), both players of the side are penalised and not just the player that breached the Rule.
When player’s breach helps partner’s play or when player’s breach hurts opponent’s play, adjustment is made to the side’s score.
Four-Ball Match Play – Disqualification to Side (Rule 23.8b)
(1) When Breach by One Partner Means Side Is Disqualified.
A side is disqualified if either partner gets a penalty of disqualification under any of these Rules:
(3)When Breach by One Player Means Only That the Player Has No Valid Score for Hole.
In all other situations where a player breaches a Rule with a penalty of disqualification, the player is not disqualified but his or her score on the hole where the breach happened cannot count for the side.
In match play, if both partners breach such a Rule on the same hole, the side loses the hole.
Three Ball Match Play (Rule 21.4)
Three-Ball Match Play is a form of match play where:
Each of three players plays an individual match against the other two players at the same time, and
Each player plays one ball that is used in both of his or her matches.
The normal Rules for match play in Rules 1-20 apply to all three individual matches, except that these specific Rules apply in two situations where applying the normal Rules in one match might conflict with applying them in another match.
Playing Out of Turn
If a player plays out of turn in any match, the opponent who should have played first may cancel the stroke under Rule 6.4a(2):
If the player played out of turn in both matches, each opponent may choose whether to cancel the stroke in his or her match with the player.
If a player’s stroke is cancelled only in one match:
The player must continue play with the original ball in the other match.
This means the player must complete the hole by playing a separate ball in each match.
Ball or Ball-Marker Lifted or Moved by One Opponent
If an opponent gets one penalty stroke for lifting a player’s ball or ball-marker or causing the ball or ball-marker to move under Rule 9.5b or 9.7b, that penalty applies only in the match with that player.
The opponent gets no penalty in his or her match with the other player.
Ignoring a Breach of Rule Made By Your Opponent (1.3c(3))
In match play, the player and opponent may agree how to decide a Rules issue so long as they do not deliberately agree to apply the Rules in the wrong way (see Rule 20.1b(1)).
In Stroke Play, you have an obligation to your fellow competitors to report every breach of a Rule that you witness. There is no such obligation in Match Play, as you may disregard, or overlook any breach of a Rule by your opponent. The reason for this is that only you or your side are affected by a breach of Rule by an opponent, it does not affect any other entrant in the Match Play competition.
However, you still must not say anything to your opponent during play of the hole where the breach occurred, as under Rule 1.3b players must not agree to exclude the operation of any Rule, or to waive any penalty incurred by either side. If they do, the penalty is disqualification for both sides. So, you must wait until the result of the hole has been decided and at least one player has commenced play of the next hole, before making any comment on a penalty that you witnessed on the previous hole. At this stage it cannot be considered that there was agreement between the sides to waive a Rule and no penalty is incurred.
Summary Check List That Everyone Should Be Aware Of
You may practice on the competition course before a round or between rounds of a match (Rule 5.2a).
Playing from Wrong Teeing Area (Rule 6.1b(1))
If you play from outside a teeing area or even from a wrong set of tee markers there is no penalty, but your opponent may cancel your stroke, which he or she must do immediately before any other stroke is made. You still retain the order of play and must play from inside the correct teeing area.
If your opponent does not cancel the stroke the stroke counts and your ball is played as it lies
You must not touch your opponent’s ball in play (Rule 95b), unless you are helping to search for it. You will incur a 1-stroke penalty.
Do not mark an opponent’s ball on the putting green unless requested to do so by your opponent.
A concession of a hole may be given at any time and cannot be declined or withdrawn (Rule 3.2b and 23.6).
You may putt out after your putt has been conceded, providing it will not assist your partner when your side would then lose the hole.
Incorrect information (Rule 9-2).
If your opponent gives you wrong information about their score, they must correct it before you make your next stroke, or they lose the hole.
Order of Play (Rule 6.4, 6.4a(2)).
If your opponent plays out of turn you may ask them to cancel their stroke and play again in order. In four-ball Match Play, balls belonging to the same side may be played in the order that the side considers best.
Playing Wrong Ball (Rule 6.3c)
If you play a wrong ball you lose the hole. If you and your opponent play wrong balls the first to have played the wrong ball loses the hole. If it cannot be determined who payed the wrong ball first continue play with the exchanged balls.
Your ball hits your opponent or their equipment (Rule 11.1).
There is no penalty and you play your next shot from where your ball comes to rest.
Putt from the putting green hits a ball at rest on the putting green (Rule 11.1a).
There is no penalty in Match Play, the other ball is replaced, and you must play your ball from where it comes to rest.
Four-Ball Match Play –Representation of Side (Rule 23.4).
One partner may play for all or any part of a match, but when their partner arrives they must wait until the start of the next hole.
Four-Ball Match Play – Wrong Ball (Exception to Rule 23.8a(2)).
If a player makes a stroke at a wrong ball, he or she gets the general Penalty of loss of hole, but his or her partner may continue play of the hole incurring no penalty, even if the wrong ball belongs to them.
Asking for and giving Advice (Rule 10.2a).
If a spectator gives advice there is no penalty, but you must request them not to. You may not give advice to any team member other than your partner.
If you are unsure of a Rule or procedure try and resolve it with your opponent immediately (Rule 20.1b).
If you cannot agree, a claim must be made before teeing-off at the next hole. You must notify your opponent that you are making a claim, agree the facts and ask the Committee for a ruling.
When a Player knows of an Opponent’s Breach of Rule (Exception to Rule3.2d(2))
In Match Play, you do not have to call a penalty on your opponent if you witness a breach of a Rule by them. They do not get a penalty because you were aware of the breach, but DO NOT discuss it with them before teeing off at the next hole, or you could both be disqualified for agreeing to waive a Rule.
Informing an Opponent of Breach of Rule (Rule 3.2d(2)).
You must tell your opponent about any penalty that you incur, failure to do so and you lose the hole. However, if you correct your mistake before your opponent makes another stroke or takes another action e.g. conceding the next stroke or hole, then only the penalty for the breach is applied.
Handicapping (Rule 3.2c and 3.2d(3))
You and your opponent must declare your handicaps before the start of a match, if a handicap is declared that is too high the player is disqualified; if it is too low, there is no penalty and the player must play off the declared lower handicap.
If a player mistakenly applies handicap strokes on a hole, the agreed result of the hole must stand, unless the players correct the mistake before a stroke is made at the next hole or for the final hole, the match result is agreed.
Stopping and Resuming Play Rule(5.7b(2) and 5.7c)
Players in a match may agree to stop play for any reason, except if doing so would delay the competition. If they agree to stop and then one player wants to resume play, they must resume play, if one player refuses to resume play, he or she is disqualified.
Advice (Rule 10.2a)
If you are given advice by a spectator, there is no penalty, but you must ensure that it does not continue. If it does you will lose the hole.
You are, however, allowed to give advice to your partner.
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