Amendments to the Clarifications and Committee Procedures for the 2023 Rules of Golf

Amendments to the Clarifications and Committee Procedures for the 2023 Rules of Golf

1.3c(4)/1 – Player Gets Two One-Stroke Penalties When There Is an Intervening Event

If a player breaches a Rule with one penalty stroke, becomes aware of that breach and then breaches the same Rule or a different Rule with one penalty stroke, the player gets both penalties for a total of two penalty strokes.

For example, a player lifts their ball in the general area to identify it without marking the spot of the ball. Another player tells the player about the penalty and that they get one penalty stroke under Rule 7.3. Before replacing the ball, the player cleans the ball more than necessary to identify it, also in breach of Rule 7.3. When the player was made aware of the first penalty, that was an intervening event and so the player also gets one penalty stroke for cleaning the ball, which means that the player gets two penalty strokes in total. (New)

When a player breaches multiple Rules or the same Rule multiple times, any relationship between the breaches is broken by an intervening event and the player will get multiple penalties.

1.3c(4)/2 – Player Breaches Rule Then Breaches Another Rule as Part of Their Next Stroke

If a player breaches a Rule without becoming aware of that breach and then breaches the same Rule or another Rule in playing their ball, the player gets only one penalty.

For example, in stroke play, a player takes relief from an immovable obstruction near a putting green but mistakenly drops a ball in a wrong place. Before playing the ball, the player removes sand on their line of play in the general area in breach of Rule 8.1a and then makes a stroke from the wrong place. As there was no intervening event between the removal of the sand and playing the ball from the wrong place, the player gets only one general penalty of two strokes. (New)

3.2c(1)/2 – Player Gives Opponent Incorrect Handicap Information Before Handicap Match.

If a player gives the opponent incorrect information in relation to their handicap and this results in the player giving too few or getting too many strokes, the player is disqualified under Rule 3.2c(1).

For example, a player tells an opponent an incorrect Handicap Index TM, or a Course Handicap TM or Playing Handicap TM that they (the player) calculated incorrectly, and this is used to determine how many handicap strokes there will be in the match. If this means the player will get too many or give too few handicap strokes because of the incorrect information, and this error is not corrected before the opponent makes their next stroke, the player is disqualified. (New)

3.2d(4)/1 – Meaning of “Agree” in Rule 3.2d(4)

A player in a match who knows or believes that their opponent has breached a Rule that has a penalty may choose not to act on the breach, but the player and opponent may not agree to ignore a breach or penalty they know applies. For there to be an agreement, both players need to have been involved in the decision to ignore the breach or the penalty.

The following examples illustrate when there is not an agreement between a player and an opponent:

  • During play of a hole, the player sees their opponent lift their ball for identification without first marking its spot. The player tells the opponent that failure to mark is a breach of the Rules but advises the opponent that they (the player) are not going to act on the breach. It was the player’s sole decision not to act on the breach and, consequently, there has not been an agreement.
  • During play of a hole, the opponent advises the player that they (the opponent) touched sand on their backswing in a bunker. The player confirms that this is a loss of hole penalty, but advises the opponent that they (the player) are not going to act on the breach. It was the player’s sole decision not to act on the breach and, consequently, there has not been an agreement.

In such cases when a player makes a sole decision not to act on a breach and tells the opponent of that decision, the player may not change that decision after either player makes another stroke  on the hole, or if no more strokes are made on that hole, once either player makes a stroke from the next teeing area.

The following examples illustrate when there is an agreement between the player and the opponent:

  • During play of a hole, the player sees their opponent lift their ball for identification without first marking its spot. The player tells the opponent that failure to mark is a breach of the Rules but, after discussion, the player and opponent conclude that they don’t want to apply penalties in situations where there is no clear advantage from the breach of the Rule. As both players were involved in determining the outcome of the situation, and they then agreed not to apply the penalty, there has been an agreement to ignore the breach of the Rules, and both players are disqualified under Rule 1.3b.
  • During play of a hole, the opponent advises the player that they (the opponent) touched sand on their backswing in a bunker. The player confirms that this is a loss of hole penalty, but the opponent suggests to the player that they overlook the breach as no real advantage was gained. The player decides not to apply the penalty. As the player was influenced by the opponent in their decision not to act on the breach there has been an agreement, and both players are disqualified under Rule 1.3b. (New)

3.3b(4)/1 – Penalty for Player Who Deliberately Fails to Alert Committee to an Administrative Mistake

The Committee is responsible for adding up the player’s hole scores and, in a handicap competition, for determining how many handicap strokes the player will get for the round and calculating the player’s net score.

If the Committee makes an error in carrying out any of these responsibilities, this is an administrative mistake and there is no time limit to correct such a mistake (Rule 20.2d(2)). But if a player notices such a mistake, they are responsible for alerting the Committee to the mistake. If it is discovered that the player noticed such a mistake and they deliberately failed to bring it to the attention of the Committee, the Committee should disqualify the player under Rule 1.2a (Serious Misconduct). (New)

4.3a/1 – Limitations on Using Green-Reading Materials

Rule 4.3 limits the use of equipment and devices that might help a player in their play, based on the principle that golf is a challenging game in which success should depend on the judgement, skills and abilities of the player.  This Clarification of Rule 4.3 limits the size and scale of detailed putting green maps and any similar electronic or digital materials that a player may use during a round to help with reading their line of play for any stroke made from the putting green so that a player’s ability to read a green remains an essential part of the skill of putting.

Putting Green Maps

The player is allowed to use a putting green map or other putting green information, except that:

  • Any image of a putting green must be limited to a scale of 3/8 inch to 5 yards (1:480) or smaller (the “scale limit”). 
  • Any book or other paper containing a map or image of a putting green must not be larger than 4 1/4 inches x 7 inches (the “size limit”), although a “hole location sheet” that displays 9 or more holes on a single sheet of paper may be larger, provided that any image of a single putting green meets the scale limit.
  • No magnification of putting green information is allowed other than a player’s normal wearing of prescription glasses or lenses.
  • Hand drawn or written information about a putting green is only allowed if contained in a book or paper meeting the size limit and written by the player and/or their caddie.

Electronic or Digital Putting Green Maps

In electronic or digital form, any image of a putting green must meet the above scale and size limits.  Even when an electronic or digital putting green map meets the above limits, the player is still in breach of Rule 4.3 if the player uses any device in a manner not consistent with the purpose of these limits, such as by:

Increasing the size of the green’s representation beyond the scale or size limits;

Producing a recommended line of play based on the location (or estimated location) of the player’s ball (see Rule 4.3a(1)).

4.3a/2 – When Use of Alignment Device Results in Breach

If a player places an “alignment device” (see definition in Equipment Rules) to show the line of play and then positions their ball based on the direction of that alignment device, the player is in breach of Rule 4.3a.

For example, a player’s ball comes to rest on the putting green and the player marks the spot of their ball with an “alignment device.” When doing so, the alignment device is placed to show the line of play. If the player then lifts and replaces their ball (which includes rotating it) so that a marking on the ball is lined up with the alignment device, the player is in breach of Rule 4.3a. (New)

5.2/1 – 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. (New)

6.4b(1)/1 – Meaning of “Same Order” in Rule 6.4b(1) When Players Played Out of Turn at Previous Teeing Area 

The term “same order” in Rule 6.4b(1) refers to the order in which the players in the group should have played from the previous teeing area, even if they played in a different order.

For example, Player A has the honour on the 6th hole, but Player B plays first from the teeing area to save time. If the players have the same score on the 6th hole, the honour on the 7th hole remains with Player A as that is the same order that the players would have played in from the previous teeing area had they not chosen to play “ready golf”. (New)

9.2b/1 – Determining Whether the Player’s Actions Caused the Ball to Move When Equipment Is Involved 

Rule 9.4 applies when it is known or virtually certain that the player’s actions caused their ball to move. This includes when a player’s actions cause an object to move the ball. But Rule 9.4 does not always apply when the player’s ball has moved and their equipment is involved. 

Examples of when Rule 9.4 applies because it is known or virtually certain that the player was the cause of the ball’s movement include when the player:

  • Puts down their bag on a slope and the bag immediately falls onto the ball and moves it.
  • Drops a club which causes the ball to move.

Examples of when Rule 9.6 applies because it is not known or virtually certain that the player was the cause of the ball’s movement include when the player:

  • Puts down his bag and there is a period of time before the bag falls onto to the ball and moves it.
  • Leaves a towel on top of their bag which then blows onto the ground and causes the ball to move.

These principles would also apply in determining whether an opponent’s actions caused a player’s ball to move (Rule 9.5). (New)

10.2b/1 – Use of Self-Standing Putter for Alignment Help Is Not Allowed

Provided a self-standing putter conforms to the Equipment Rules, it may be used to make a stroke (Rule 4.1a(1)). But the player (or their caddie) is not allowed to set such a putter down to get help in any way that would breach Rule 10.2b.

For example, the player must not set the putter down in a standing position right behind or right next to the spot where the ball lies on the putting green to show the line of play or to help the player in taking their stance for the stroke in breach of Rule 10.2b(3). (New)

11.1b/3 – What to Do When Ball Played from Anywhere Except Putting Green Is Deflected or Picked Up by an Animal

If a ball played from anywhere except the putting green is in motion and is stopped or deflected by an animal, there is no penalty and the ball must be played as it lies (see Rule 11.1).

But if an animal picks up a ball in motion, the ball has come to rest on the animal and free relief must be taken using the point where the animal picked up the ball as the reference point (see Rule 11.1b(1)).

For example, a ball played from the fairway is picked up by a dog while it is still in motion. The ball has come to rest on the animal at the point where the dog picked up the ball. 

  • If the ball was picked up on the fairway, a ball must be dropped within one club-length of and no nearer the hole than the point where the ball was picked up by the dog in the general area
  • If the ball was picked up on the putting green, a ball must be placed on the putting green on the estimated spot where the ball was picked up. (New)

14.1c/2 – When a Moved Ball May Be Cleaned

When a moved ball has been lifted because a Rule requires it to be replaced, the ball may always be cleaned, except in the four situations described in Rule 14.1c.

For example, if a player’s ball has come to rest against a movable obstruction and the ball moves when the movable obstruction is removed, the player is required to replace the ball on the original spot (Rule 15.2a(1)) and may clean the ball before doing so. (New)

14.2c/3 – Ball Must Not Be Pushed into Ground When Replacing It

When replacing a ball, it must be replaced on its original spot. The original spot includes the same vertical position the ball was in before being lifted or moved. If the ball will not remain at rest when attempting to replace it, the player must follow the procedure in Rule 14.2e (What to Do If Ball Does Not Stay on Original Spot) rather than push the ball into the ground.  

For example, a player’s ball comes to rest against a movable obstruction on the slope of a bunker. If the ball moves when removing the obstruction, the ball must be replaced. If the ball will not stay at rest on the original spot, the player must replace the ball on the nearest spot in the bunker where the ball will remain at rest that is not nearer to the hole. If instead, the player pushes the ball into the sand, the player has replaced the ball in a wrong place (Rule 14.7) and has altered their lie (Rule 14.2d) and must correct the mistake by lifting the ball (Rule 14.5b(2)), re-creating the original lie and replacing the ball under Rules 14.2c and 14.2e. (New)

15.3/1 – Methods for Moving Ball or Ball-Marker Helping or Interfering with Play

When a player is moving their ball or ball-marker under Rule 15.3, it should be placed to the side by measuring with a club, such as by using the clubhead or the full length of a club. This can be done by measuring directly from the ball or by marking the spot of the ball and measuring from there.

Some examples of this include:

  • The player may mark the spot of the ball and then move the ball-marker one or more clubheads to the side.
  • The player may mark the spot of the ball and then move the ball-marker a clubheads to the side.
  • The player may lay a club or clubhead down immediately to the side of the ball and move the ball to the other end of the club or clubhead, or place a ball-marker at that point.

In moving the ball or ball-marker, the player should align the club with a fixed object (such as a blemish on the green or a sprinkler head) to ensure that when replacing the ball, the steps can be reversed and the ball be replaced on the spot from which it was lifted. (New)

16.3b/1 – Taking Embedded Ball Relief When Spot Immediately Behind Ball is Not In General Area

When a player is allowed to take relief from a ball embedded in the general area, there are situations where the spot immediately behind where the ball is embedded is not in the general area.

When this occurs, the relief procedure requires the player to find the nearest spot in the general area that is not nearer the hole to the spot immediately behind where the ball embedded, and this spot becomes the reference point for establishing a relief area under Rule 16.3b.

While this spot is normally very close to the spot behind where the ball embedded, it could be some distance away (such as when a ball embeds just outside a penalty area and, based on the shape of the penalty area, the player would need to go some distance to the right or left in order to find a spot in the general area that is not nearer the hole).

This procedure also applies when a ball is in bounds but embeds right next to out of bounds or when it embeds in the wall or face right above a bunker. (New)

Advice/3 –When Statements That Include Public Information Are Advice

Statements of public information may be given without penalty. But it is advice when the statement also contains information intended to influence a player in choosing a club, making a stroke or deciding how to play during a hole or round.

Examples of statements that are not advice include:

  • “The penalty area is 5 yards short of the front edge of the green.”
  •  “The wind is blowing from the west, which means that on this hole the wind is blowing from the right.”

Examples of statements that are advice include:

  • The penalty area is 5 yards short of the front edge of the green, so you may want to use enough club to make sure you carry the ball to the middle of the green.”
  • “The wind is behind us on this hole, so be sure to land the ball short of the green.” (New)

Committee/1 – Limiting a Committee Member’s Duties and Responsibilities

Committee may choose to limit the role of some members, require that certain decisions have the agreement of specific members or delegate some responsibilities to people outside the Committee.

Examples include:

  • Limiting a referee’s duties in match play or stroke play.
  • Specifying that only certain referees or members of the Committee can enforce a Pace of Play Policy.
  • Stating that a minimum of three members of the Committee are required to decide whether a player will be disqualified for serious misconduct under Rule 1.2.
  • Giving authority to the club professional, club manager or other designated person to make rulings on behalf of the Committee
  • Authorizing the head of the maintenance staff to suspend play on behalf of the Committee.
  • Limiting which referees have the authority to define an unmarked area to be ground under repair during a competition. (New)

Relief Area/1 – Determining Whether Ball Is in Relief Area

Generally, a ball has come to rest in a relief area if any part of the ball is within the one or two club-length measurement.

But when taking relief under a Rule that has a reference point (such as when taking relief from an immovable obstruction), a ball is not in the relief area if any part of the ball is nearer the hole than the reference point.

When taking back-on-the-line relief or if a dropping zone is being used as a relief area, as there is no reference point, the ball is in the relief area when any part of the ball touches or overhangs the relief area. This is true even if part of the ball is nearer the hole than the front edge of the relief area. (New)

Moved Clarifications

6.5/1 – When a Player or Side Has Completed a Hole

When a player has holed out, the play of that hole is completed and the player gets no penalty for playing another ball.

There are several Rules (such as Rules 4.1b4.35.5b and 20.1b(2)) where it is important to understand when a hole has been completed.

Match Play:

Single: When the player has holed out, their next stroke has been conceded, or the outcome of the hole has been determined.

Foursome: When the side has holed out, its next stroke has been conceded, or the outcome of the hole has been determined.

Four-Ball: When both partners have holed out, their next strokes have been conceded, or the outcome of the hole has been determined.

Stroke Play:

Individual: When the player has holed out.

Foursome: When the side has holed out.

Four-Ball: When both partners have holed out, or one partner has holed out and the other cannot better the side’s score.

StablefordPar/Bogey, and Maximum Score: When the player has holed out, or has picked up after scoring zero points, losing the hole or reaching the maximum score.

Moved from 5.5b/1

7.4/3 – Ball Moved When Search Temporarily Stopped

In Clarification 7.4/2, a player gets a penalty if the ball is moved when they are not trying to find it.

However, if a player accidentally moves their ball when a search is temporarily stopped due to circumstances outside the player’s control, the player gets no penalty for moving the ball.

For example:

  • The player stops searching for their ball to get out of the way of another group who is going to play through. While getting out of the way, the player accidentally moves their ball.
  • The Committee suspends play and the player begins to leave the area and accidentally steps on and moves their ball.

Moved from 9.4b/3

New Sections Introduced to the Committee Procedures for 2023

4A(1) Starting Intervals

Overcrowding the course is a common cause of rounds taking longer than necessary. The bigger the gap in tee times, the better play will flow. But the Committee will often need to balance this with the desire to allow as many players as possible to have the opportunity to play the course or competition. 

When play is in two-balls an interval of at least 8 minutes is recommended. When play is in three-balls, the interval should be increased to at least 10 minutes. For four-balls, 11 or 12 minute intervals should be considered.

Even with appropriate starting intervals, delays can arise on the course due to a number of factors, such as ball searches or a hole that is playing particularly hard or easy. The impact of such delays can be minimized by having empty starting intervals, sometimes referred to as “starter’s gaps”.

If, for example, the starting intervals are 10 minutes and the Committee has an empty starting time after every 10th group, there will be a 10 minute break in play from the 1st tee every 90 minutes. If a delay has built up on a particular tee early on in the round, the starter’s gap should help to minimize the impact of the delay. Without the empty starting interval, the likelihood is that waiting on that hole will increase as the day goes on.

5D Eligibility Requirements for Players with Disabilities to use Rule 25

As provided in Rule 25.1, the modified Rules for players with disabilities apply to all competitions, and it is a player’s category of disability and eligibility that determine whether they can use specific modified Rules in Rule 25.

 It is not necessarily the role of a Committee to make assessments on player eligibility. Determining a player’s eligibility to use specific Rules in Rule 25 can be straightforward, but in some cases it is less obvious. Eligibility for Rule 25 is based on the impact that a player’s impairments have on their ability to play golf rather than being a determination of whether someone is disabled.

A Committee may ask for evidence of a player’s disability in order to confirm the eligibility of a player to use Rule 25. Such evidence could be in the form of a medical certificate, confirmation from a national governing body, a pass issued by an officially accredited medical authority, or something similar. 

Alternatively, a Committee may specify that only players who hold a specific pass or certificate are eligible to compete in a competition (with players who are eligible then using the modified Rules applicable to their category of disability).

Examples of passes that a Committee may choose to require as evidence of a category of disability or may require for players to be eligible for specific competitions are the WR4GD Pass and the EDGA Access Pass. These passes are administered and issued by the EDGA Eligibility Team and the application process for golfers to get an EDGA Pass is free of charge. More information can be found at: http://www.edgagolf.com/online/pass/pass_info.php

(7) Guidance and Explanation of Best Practice to Help Prevent “Backstopping”

“Backstopping“ is the common term used to describe the following situation in stroke play: 

A player, without agreement with any other player, leaves their ball in place on the putting green close to the hole in a position where another player, who is about to play from off the putting green, could benefit if their ball struck the ball at rest.

As there has been no agreement to leave the ball in place to help any player, there is no breach of the Rules (see Rule 15.3a).

However, The R&A and USGA take the view that “backstopping” fails to take into account all of the other players in the competition and has the potential to give the player with the “backstop” an advantage over those other players. 

As a result, the following guidance and explanation of best practice is available for Committees to provide to players to help prevent backstopping:

  • In stroke play, the competition involves all players and, because each player in the competition cannot be present to protect their own interests, protecting the field is an important responsibility that all players in the competition share. 
  • Therefore, in stroke play, if there is a reasonable possibility that a player’s ball close to the hole could help another player who is about to play from off the green, both players should ensure that the player whose ball is close to the hole marks and lifts that ball before the other player plays.
  • If all players follow this best practice, it ensures the protection of the interests of everyone in the competition.

Duties and Authority of Referees and Committee Members

As detailed in the definition of “referee”, a referee’s duties and authority in match play depends on their assigned role, whereas in stroke play, a referee is responsible for acting on any breach of the Rules they see or are told about.

Whether or not a referee is assigned to one match, they cannot act on a request for a ruling if the facts were known to the opponent at the time and no request was made in time. See Clarification Committee/1 for limitations that can be put on the role of some referees or some Committee members.

(5) Player Responsible for Providing Correct Information to Referee

A referee will often rely on the assistance of a player to determine the facts of a situation before making a ruling. In these situations, the player needs to do their best to provide correct information to the referee so that the referee can make a ruling. 

If the ruling given turns out to have been wrong when additional information is brought to the attention of the Committee (such as by reviewing video), the action the Committee should take is based on whether the player did their best to provide the correct information to the referee.

If the player failed to do their best (such as by deliberately giving the referee misleading comments or deliberately withholding information) and this resulted in the referee directing the player to play from a wrong place, the Committee should correct the ruling so that the player is in breach of Rule 14.7 on the hole in question. The same would be true if a referee did not penalize the player when a penalty should have been applied (such as when the player improved their conditions affecting the stroke). The Committee should also consider whether the player should be disqualified for serious misconduct under Rule 1.2a.

However, if the player did do their best to provide correct information, and the referee made a ruling based wholly or in part on information the player provided, the player should not be penalized retrospectively for playing from a wrong place. But, the player may still be penalized retrospectively if their actions before speaking to the referee were a breach of the Rules. 

For example, a player sees their ball at rest move in the rough before a stroke and does not believe they were the cause of the movement. They then speak to a referee and state that they do not think they touched the grass near the ball prior to its movement. Based on that information, the referee rules that the ball will be played as it lies without penalty. Later in the round, video evidence shows that the player did touch the grass very close to the ball causing it to move. By doing so, the player should have been given one penalty stroke and replaced the ball before making the next stroke. In this situation, the Committee should retrospectively add one penalty stroke to player’s score on that hole for causing their ball to move. But, because the player did their best to help the referee with the ruling, the player would not be penalized for playing from a wrong place.

A similar example would be when a player improves the conditions affecting their stroke while preparing to play (such as by walking across the fringe of the putting green and unknowingly stepping on and pressing down a small pile of sand on their line of play). A nearby referee with an incomplete view of the player’s actions is concerned the player may have improved their lie. When asking the player what they did, the player states they thought they stepped over the line of play. Based on this information the referee rules there is no penalty. It is later discovered the player did walk on their line and, in doing so, pressed down sand that improved their line of play. Even though the player did their best to provide the referee with correct information, the action had already occurred at the time of the conversation so the Committee should correct the ruling and retrospectively rule that the player gets the general penalty on that hole.

Substantive Changes

Before the Competition

5A(1)c Amateur Status

A competition may be limited to amateur golfers only, professional golfers only or may allow all players to compete against each other. When a competition is open to all players, the Committee should ask players to identify their status (for example, “amateur”) in advance of the competition, such as on an entry form.

5F(2) Selecting Hole Locations

New holes should ideally be made on the day on which a competition begins and at such other times as the Committee considers necessary, provided all players in a single round play with each hole cut in the same location.

But when a single round is to be played on more than one day (such as when players may choose which day to play in a competition), the Committee may advise players in the Terms of the Competition that the holes and teeing areas will be located differently on each day of the competition. But on any one day, all players must play with each hole and each teeing area in the same location.

The locations of the holes on the putting greens can have a considerable effect on scoring and pace of play during competitions. Many factors go into the selection of hole locations, with emphasis on the following points:

  • In selecting the locations, the ability of the players should be considered so that the locations selected are not so difficult as to slow down play significantly or so easy as not to challenge better players.
  • The speed of the greens is a significant factor in choosing the location of the hole. While a hole location may work well for a slower green, it may prove to be too severe when the speed of the greens is increased.
  • The Committee should avoid placing a hole on a slope where the ball will not come to rest. When the contours of the green allow, holes should be placed where there is an area of two to three feet around the hole that is relatively level so that putts struck at the proper speed will stop around the hole.

Some additional considerations include:

  • Setting holes where there is enough putting green surface between the hole and the front and sides of the putting green to accommodate the approach on that particular hole. For example, placing the hole immediately behind a bunker when a long approach is required by the majority of the field is usually not recommended.
  • Balancing hole locations for the entire course with respect to left, right, centre, front and back locations.

5I 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). The purpose of such a Code is to outline the standards of conduct the Committee expects of the players while playing the game of golf and the penalties that may apply for breaches of that Code. But the Rules of Golf determine what actions a player may and may not take while playing the game and a Committee does not have the authority to change those permissions and restrictions by applying penalties differently through a Code of Conduct.

If a Code of Conduct has not been established, the Committee is limited to penalizing players for inappropriate conduct usingRule 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 5I(5) for more information).

(1) Establishing a Code of Conduct

In establishing a Code of Conduct, the Committee should consider the following:

When setting limits or prohibiting a player’s actions, 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 5I(4) 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, 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.

(2) Allowed and Prohibited Uses of a Code of Conduct

a. Allowed

The Committee may include the following within a Code of Conduct:

  • Specific details of unacceptable behaviour that a player may be penalized for during a round, for example:
  • Failure to care for the course, such as not raking bunkers or not replacing or filling divots.
  • Unacceptable language.
  • Abuse of clubs or the course.
  • Failing to show proper consideration for other players, referees or spectators.
  • A prohibition on players entering all or specified no play zones.
  • Limitations on the use of social media
  • Details on acceptable clothing 

b. Not Allowed

The Committee may not use a Code of Conduct to:

  • Change existing penalties in the Rules of Golf, such as by increasing the penalty for a player who fails to mark their ball before lifting it on the putting green, from one stroke to two strokes.
  • Introduce new penalties for actions unrelated to player behaviour, for example a Committee may not use a Code of Conduct to introduce an unauthorized Local Rule, such as penalizing a player for hitting a ball over properties located out of bounds, or introducing a penalty for a player who fails to announce to another player that they are going to lift a ball to identify it.
  • Apply stroke penalties for inappropriate player behaviour before or between rounds. But the Committee may apply other sanctions, such as withdrawing the player from the competition or refusing to allow the player to enter future competitions. 
  • Penalize a player under a Code of Conduct for a breach of a spectator code by the player’s family or supporters, such as by penalizing a player when a family member walks on the fairway in a junior competition when they are not allowed to do so.

(3) Determining Penalties for Breach of Code

When determining the sanctions and penalty structure that will apply, the Committee should consider:

  • If there will be a warning system before any penalty or other sanction is imposed.
  • If the sanctions will be of a disciplinary nature or involve stroke penalties or other penalites under the Rules. Disciplinary sanctions that a Committee may impose include 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.
  • If the penalty for each breach will be set as one penalty stroke or the general penalty and if penalties will escalate, such as one penalty stroke for the first breach and the general penalty for the second breach. The Committee should not use any other types of penalties that would apply to a player’s score.
  • If 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 breaches of a Code of Conduct will be carried forward to later rounds in multiple round events where there are escalating penalties for multiple breaches. For example, in a 36-hole competition, where a first breach results in a warning and a second breach results in one penalty stroke, the Committee may provide that any breaches from round 1 carry forward to round 2.
  • If different penalties will apply for breaching different aspects of the Code.
  • If the Code of Conduct is to be applied to a player’s caddie. A Code of Conduct automatically applies to a player’s caddie through Rule 10.3c, therefore, if the Committee does not want any aspects of a Code of Conduct to apply to a player’s caddie, this aspect needs to be stated in the Code of Conduct

(4) Sample Penalty Structure for a Code of Conduct

The following model penalty structures give examples 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 one penalty stroke, with other breaches resulting in the general penalty.

Model Penalty Structure 1

  • First breach of the Code of Conduct – warning or Committee sanction.
  • Second breach – one penalty stroke.
  • Third breach – general penalty.
  • Fourth breach or any serious misconduct – disqualification.

Model Penalty Structure 2

  • First breach of the Code of Conduct – one penalty stroke.
  • Second breach – general penalty.
  • Third breach or any serious misconduct – disqualification.

If a breach happens between two holes, the penalty applies to the next hole

(5) 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 conduct was do far removed from the expected norm in golf that the most severe sanction of removing a player from the competition is justified. 

Examples of actions that could warrant disqualification under Rule 1.2a can be found in Clarification 1.2a/1.

5J Information for Players and Referees

(1) Local Rules

The Committee should ensure that any Local Rules are posted for players to see, whether on a separate handout on the first tee (sometimes referred to as a “Notice to Players”), the scorecard, a notice board or by digital communication methods.

Many organizations that run multiple competitions create a document which contains all the Local Rules they commonly use in all of their competitions. Historically this document has been printed on card stock and is known as a “Hard Card”.

If players are required to play balls on the List of Conforming Ball List (see Model Local Rule G-3) or use clubs on the List of Conforming Driver Heads (see Model Local Rule G-1) or that meet the groove and punch mark specifications (see Model Local Rule G-2), the Committee should consider making the lists available for players to view or provide access to the applicable online databases.

(2) Grouping or Draw Sheets

Sheets that provide the groupings for the round along with their starting times should be produced and posted in locations where players can check them. While players are frequently sent their starting time and groups electronically or can check them on a website, they should also be available at the course so that players can reconfirm their starting time.

(3) Hole Location Sheets

The Committee may wish to provide players with a sheet that shows them the position of the holes on the putting greens. These may be circles with the distance from the front of the green and the nearest side, a piece of paper with just the numbers or a more detailed set of drawings of the green and its surrounds with the location indicated.

(4) Scorecards Including Handicap Stroke Index Allocations

The Committee is responsible for publishing on the scorecard or somewhere else that is visible (for example, near the first tee) the order of holes at which handicap strokes are to be given or received. This allocation will be used for handicap matches and in some forms of net-score stroke  play such as Four-Ball, Stableford, Maximum Score (when the maximum score is linked to the player’s net score) and Par/Bogey competitions. For guidance on how to determine the order of handicap strokes, consult System Rules of Handicapping or other guidance as provided by the handicapping body operating in the local jurisdiction. 

Match Play – In a handicap match, the Committee should clarify the following in the Terms of the Competition:

  • If a handicap allowance will apply and what the handicap allowance will be. 
  • The stroke index allocation to be used to identify the order of holes where players will give or receive handicap strokes.

Where the Committee has authorized a match to begin at a hole other than the 1st, the Committee may alter the stroke index allocation table for such matches.

Stroke Play – In a net-score competition, the Committee should determine the handicap allowances in accordance with the rules or recommendations contained within the World Handicap System publications or other guidance as provided by the handicapping body operating in the local jurisdiction. 

(5) Pace of Play and Code of Conduct Policies

Copies of the Pace of Play and Code of Conduct policies should be available to players before the competition begins. When players are unfamiliar with these policies, the Committee may wish to explain them to the players in advance of the competition.

Referees and others who will be enforcing these policies should be trained and provided with any other additional materials, such as timing sheets or scripts with the specific language they should use to inform players of warnings or possible breaches.

(6) Evacuation Plan

Each Committee should consider how to evacuate players in case of severe weather or another emergency. If it is felt necessary, an evacuation plan may be created and provided to the players. 

(7) Guidance and Explanation of Best Practice to Help Prevent “Backstopping”

“Backstopping“ is the common term used to describe the following situation in stroke play: 

A player, without agreement with any other player, leaves their ball in place on the putting green close to the hole in a position where another player, who is about to play from off the putting green, could benefit if their ball struck the ball at rest.

As there has been no agreement to leave the ball in place to help any player, there is no breach of the Rules (see Rule 15.3a).

However, The R&A and USGA take the view that “backstopping” fails to take into account all of the other players in the competition and has the potential to give the player with the “backstop” an advantage over those other players. 

As a result, the following guidance and explanation of best practice is available for Committees to provide to players to help prevent backstopping:

  • In stroke play, the competition involves all players and, because each player in the competition cannot be present to protect their own interests, protecting the field is an important responsibility that all players in the competition share. 
  • Therefore, in stroke play, if there is a reasonable possibility that a player’s ball close to the hole could help another player who is about to play from off the green, both players should ensure that the player whose ball is close to the hole marks and lifts that ball before the other player plays.
  • If all players follow this best practice, it ensures the protection of the interests of everyone in the competition.

During the Competition

6C(9)a Correction of Wrong Ruling by a Referee During a Match

a. Correction of Wrong Ruling by a Referee During Match

  • A referee should not correct a wrong ruling after either player makes their next stroke. But if a player should have been disqualified and was not, that ruling may be corrected any time before the start of the player’s next match, or before the result of the competition is final (but there is no time limit on disqualifying a player under Rules 1.2 or 1.3b(1).
  • If no more strokes are made on a hole after a ruling has been made, a referee should not correct a wrong ruling once either player makes a stroke from the next teeing area.
  • If neither of the above bullet points apply, a wrong ruling by a referee should be corrected.
  • In a situation where a wrong ruling can be corrected, if the wrong ruling has resulted in one or more players lifting their ball, the referee is responsible for directing the players to replace their balls and complete the hole, with the correct ruling applied.
  • The principles above also apply where a referee fails to penalize a player for a breach of a Rule due to misunderstanding the result of a hole.
  • For example, a referee fails to advise a player of a loss of hole penalty for a breach of the pace of play policy as the referee believed the player had already lost the hole. On the next hole, the referee learns that the player had not lost the hole. If the player or the opponent has made a stroke from the teeing area of that next hole, the referee can no longer correct the error.

6C(10)d Referee Gives Player Incorrect Information, Player Acts on Information in Subsequent Play

If a referee provides a player with incorrect information on the Rules, the player is entitled to act on such information in their subsequent play.

Consequently, the Committee may be required to make a judgment as to both the duration of the player’s entitlement and their proper score when, as a result of proceeding according to the incorrect information provided, the player is liable to a penalty under the Rules.

In these situations, the Committee should resolve the matter in whatever manner it considers most fair, in light of all the facts and with the objective of ensuring that no player receives an undue advantage or disadvantage. In cases where the incorrect information significantly affects the results of the competition, the Committee may have no option but to cancel the round. The following principles are applicable:

  • General guidance on the Rules

When a member of the Committee or a referee provides incorrect information in the nature of general guidance about the Rules, the player should not be exempt from penalty.

For example, a player asks a referee, for future reference, if they are allowed to remove sand surrounding their ball in the general area. The referee incorrectly advises the player they are allowed to do so. Because the question did not relate to a specific situation, the player would not be exempt from penalty if the player breached that Rule later in the round.

  • Specific ruling

When a referee gives a wrong ruling, the player is exempt from penalty. The Committee should extend this exemption for the duration of the competition in circumstances where the player proceeds incorrectly on their own in exactly the same manner as advised by a referee earlier in the competition. However, that exemption ceases if, in that competition, the player becomes aware of the proper procedure or has their actions questioned.

For example, a player asks a referee for help in taking relief from a red penalty area and the referee incorrectly tells the player that they must drop again because their stance is in the penalty area. If the player drops again for that same reason when taking relief from a red penalty area later in the round or during the next round of the same competition the Committee should not penalize the player for playing from a wrong place.

  • Guidance on Local Rules or Terms of the Competition

When a member of the Committee or a referee gives incorrect information on whether a Local Rule or Term of the Competition is in effect, the player is exempt from penalty for acting on that information. This exemption applies for the duration of the competition unless corrected earlier, in which case, the exemption ends at that point.

For example, if the player is told by a referee that distance-measuring devices are allowed even though the Local Rule prohibiting their use is in effect, that player does not incur a penalty for using the distance-measuring device during the competition. However, if the Committee learns of the wrong ruling, the player should be informed of the mistake as soon as possible.

  • Equipment Ruling 

When a member of the Committee or a referee rules that a non- conforming club is conforming, the player is exempt from penalty for using the club. This exemption applies for the duration of the competition unless corrected earlier, in which case, the exemption ends at the completion of the round during which the correction was made.

After the Competition

7C Awarding Prizes

If the competition involves amateur golfers, the Committee should only award prizes to amateur golfers that are allowed under the Rules of Amateur Status. Committees should refer to the Rules of Amateur Status and the accompanying Guidance Notes which are available at www.USGA.org.

2023 Updates to the Rules of Golf

Key Changes to the Rules of Golf Set to Take Effect in 2023 (NOVEMBER 7, 2022)

Information that many of you have been eagerly waiting for has finally been published.

The USGA and the R&A have unveiled a regular update to the Rules of Golf as they continue to make the Rules easier to understand and apply. The new Rules will go into effect on January 1, 2023.

You can download a Poster detailing 5 Key Rules by clicking on the download button below:

You can also download a document ‘Outcome Changes: 2019 Rules to 2023 Rules Comparison’, which details the changes to the Rules of Golf for 2023, by clicking on the download button below:

The 2023 edition continues the modernization process, with an emphasis on both inclusion and sustainability. For the first time, the modified Rules for players with disabilities have been fully incorporated into the playing rules without the need to adopt a local rule. The governing bodies, supported by longstanding partner Rolex, will also promote digital and mobile app access to the Rules while significantly reducing the production and distribution of more than 4 million printed books.

Several penalties have been relaxed and language has been clarified to help golfers at all levels of play.

Key changes include:

  • Modifications for Players with Disabilities: The modifications to the Rules for players with disabilities have been made part of the Rules and are in effect for all players who are classified in the categories covered in Rule 25.
  • Handicap Usage in Stroke Play: With the continued growth of score-posting technology following the adoption of the World Handicap System™, players are no longer penalized for failing to put their handicap on their scorecard in stroke play. The committee will be responsible for ensuring the accuracy of each player’s handicap.
  • Club Damaged During Round: The Rule has been amended to allow a player to replace a club that is damaged during a round, provided the player did not damage it through abuse.
  • Ball Moved by Natural Forces: A new exception provides that a ball at rest must be replaced if it moves to another area of the course or comes to rest out of bounds after being dropped, placed or replaced.
  • Back-on-the-Line Relief Procedure: The back-on-the-line relief procedure, often used for penalty area and unplayable ball relief, has been simplified so that the player now drops their ball on the line, and the ball must come to rest within one club-length of where it is dropped.
Taking Back on the Line Relief Rules of Golf 2023
Taking Back on the Line Relief Rules of Golf 2023

The new Rules will go into effect on 1 January 2023 but remember that the current edition of the Rules of Golf (2019) still applies when playing or posting scores for the remainder of 2022.

From 2023, you are being encouraged to download and use the R&A’s Rules of Golf App. There is a real push towards the Rules of Golf app and other digital offerings.

The R&A are printing four million fewer books than last time round, so reducing their distribution operation in getting those around the world, which also fits in with their emphasis on sustainability.

A full update to the Rules of Golf App will be available for download from mid-December and will include the following developments:

  • The Player’s Rule Finder will replace the Player’ s Edition and the Visual Search. It is intended to help you quickly find a summary of the Rule you need to answer your Rules questions for the majority of scenarios.
  • A new video section will allow you to access all Rules videos in one location. 
  • A new Quick Guide video is aimed at players who are transitioning from learner golfer to a competitive golfer (for example those who are looking to gain a handicap). It will provide new golfers with the minimum Rules information that they need to get around the course. 
  • A new set of short, animated videos will be available to help you understand the most frequently used Rules.
  • A new Rules News section will include Rules articles and news (available in English language version only) and you will have the option to turn on push notifications so that you never miss a new Rules article or update.
  • The quiz will be updated to allow you to select the length of the quiz as 6, 9 or 18 questions and will provide you with immediate feedback after every question.

The full Rule book will still be printed but there will be no printed Player’s Edition from 2023, which is normally distributed free to all Golf Clubs.

You can learn about all the major changes and take a deeper look at the 2023 Rules of Golf, by visiting the R&A and USGA websites.

NOTE: The online version of the Rules of Golf 2023 does not include Clarifications, these are only contained in the published 2023 Official Guide to the Rules of Golf

CLICK HERE TO BUY THE 2023 OFFICIAL GUIDE TO THE RULES OF GOLF

However, the USGA Online Version does, and you can view that by clicking here

Although the R&A and USGA have concentrated on the 5 Key changes the 2023 Rules of Golf contain many other Rule changes, New Clarifications and Local Rules that you should know about because they could impact on your Round of golf.

You can read more details of the 2023 changes to the Rules of Golf and also details of the Additional Rule Changes which may impact on your round of golf by clicking on the link below:

2023 Updates to the Rules of Golf

2023 Rules of Golf – Outcome Changes 2019 vs 2023

2023 Rules of Golf – Outcome Changes 2019 vs 2023

The chart below summarises the substantive changes between the 2019 and 2023 Rules of Golf. While this document provides more detail than the principal changes noted in the front of both the Rules of Golf and Official Guide to the Rules of Golf, it does not detail every minor change that has been made. This chart does not detail points that were covered by the 2019 – 2022 Clarifications document as many of those points have been incorporated into the applicable Rule without the outcome changing.

You can download a copy of the chart by clicking on the download button below.

Why do Golf Clubs have a Dress Code?

Why do golf clubs have a dress code?

There is, in fact, no set or fixed golf dress code, except in professional golf tournaments, e.g.:

‘At all PGA Golf Management tournaments, players shall present themselves with a neat and clean appearance. Shorts or denim are not permitted to be worn by male competitors. Khakis or slacks and collared shirts must be worn by all male players. Female competitors may wear shorts or skirts’.

A golf club’s dress code is whatever the club decides. Some clubs are happy to have none, others can have some highly complicated regulations. However there is some broad consensus among golf clubs which have chosen to have dress codes as to what is and is not acceptable.

If you are in any doubt as to  what to wear, check with the Golf Club beforehand.

Many golf courses require golfers to wear particular clothing because this instils a sense of professionalism and respectability. It’s important for players to look their best, so they maintain the reputation of the club.

If in doubt, wear chinos and a collared shirt. No club is going to object to that. Well not if the shirt is tucked into the trousers anyway, as some clubs have prohibitions on untucked shirts.

What is acceptable on the course and in the clubhouse can be different, too. If you have ever wondered what a spike bar is, this is a bar that players can go into straight off the course without having to change out of your spiked golf shoes.

Why Do Golfers Have A Dress Code?

When you start thinking about playing golf, you’ll come across a lot of new rules.

Not all of them have to do with how you play golf, your swing, choosing a club, playing a stroke, birdies, pars, or eagles. One of the things many of you may feel concerned about is a dress code.

Many municipal golf courses don’t have any rules about the way you should dress. However, when it comes to private golf clubs, you can face a dress code. Each club may have its own dress code, but the basic points are usually the same.

Let’s take a look at a few reasons why some golf clubs are strict about maintaining a dress code.

A Respect for Tradition

A dress code is steeped in tradition

The first games of golf as we know them date back to the 15th century. Although there is evidence that golf may have originated much earlier than that; the game has had several centuries to grow and develop and so have the traditions around it.

Golf, initially, was played by royalty and the elite. Each game being a special event at which the nobility didn’t just have fun. They used it as an opportunity to discuss important matters and arriving at a golf course inappropriately dressed was absolutely out of the question.

If you were to arrive at the golf course looking less than impeccable, the consequences could be dire, starting from unpleasant rumours and ending with the dissatisfaction of the king.

That’s why with time, a certain dress code has emerged, and Golf Clubs and players have continued to ensure that they follow it closely.

As time has passed, and although the game of golf has turned into an entertaining event accessible to more and more people, players haven’t really wanted to change tradition.

Comfort and Safety

If you look at old photographs of golfers, it will seem that the comfort of the players was rarely considered, with time however, it has become more and more important. What may at first appear to be a tribute to tradition is, in fact, a sensible way to add comfort and safety to the players.

  • Golf hat or cap – protects the player from the sun while the visor shields the eyes from direct sunlight to help make a good swing.
  • Collared shirt or polo – a collar is an excellent way to protect your neck from the sunshine and avoid sunburn.
  • Special golf shoes – ensure comfort on the course for hours without slipping or damaging the grass.
  • Slacks, pants, trousers, shorts, skirts – provide freedom of movement, protection from the sunrays and undergrowth and proper ventilation.

So, even if a club doesn’t demand it, it makes sense to follow the common dress code. Wearing clothing made specifically for playing golf, can make your game comfortable and increase your chances of achieving better results.  

Following the Dress Code

In the 21st century, following the golf club’s dress code is easier than it may seem. If you wear a collared shirt, trousers, tailored shorts, skirts and golf shoes without metal spikes, you are likely to be accepted at most golf clubs.

Also bear in mind, that besides following the dress code, you must protect your skin from the sun and also dress appropriately in cold or rainy weather. No matter how strict your club is about the dress code, it’s likely to relax its rules when it comes to rain suits or overcoats.

A Final Comment

When you are planning for your next game, consider having a change of clothing with you, especially when there is a threat of inclement weather.

A day at the golf club may entail a dinner or a cup of coffee inside the building. You don’t want to sit at the table sweaty with your clothes dripping wet or stained by grass. That’s why you should have a change of clothing that suits the club’s dress code.

No matter how well you know the dress code, it’s important to call the club in advance or visit the website to check the details. Each golf club, especially well established ones, may have its own dress code nuances, which could become the cause of ruined plans.

Rules of Amateur Status

Guidance on the Rules of Amateur Status – Revised 2022

Significant Changes To Golf’s Rules Of Amateur Status Published

The R&A and USGA have published new Rules of Amateur Status which came into effect 1st January 2022, which bring in big changes to prizes and sponsorship.

RULES OF AMATEUR STATUS: THE HEADLINES

The new Rules identify that only the following acts would result in a golfer losing their amateur status:

  • Accepting a prize with a value exceeding the prize limit (£700/$1000) or accepting prize money in a handicap competition.
  • Playing as a professional.
  • Accepting payment for giving instruction (although all current exceptions still apply, such as coaching at educational institutions and assisting with approved programmes).
  • Accepting employment as a golf club professional or membership of an association of professional golfers.

To achieve this simplified approach, the following key changes have been introduced:

  • Distinguishing between scratch and handicap competitions in terms of the prizes that may be accepted.
  • The prize rule applies only to tee-to-hole competitions played on a golf course or a simulator but no longer apply to long-drive, putting and skills competitions that are not played as part of a tee-to-hole competition.
  • Eliminating all advertising, expense-related and sponsorship restrictions.

PRIZES

The rules make a distinction between scratch and handicap golf.

Rule 3a says that an amateur playing in a scratch competition may accept a prize (including cash) up to a new limit of £700 or $1,000 – that limit is raised from £500 or $750.

But Rule 3b states that an amateur playing in a handicap competition is not allowed to accept prize money but can claim any other prize up to the £700/$1,000 limit.

The initial proposal was a situation where any amateur golfer would be able to accept a cash prize up to the prescribed limit, regardless of the type of event they were playing in.

Feedback that the R&A and USGA received demonstrated two main concerns –

Firstly, that cash has certain temptations, and they didn’t want to tamper with the fabric of amateur golf – The game the majority play which relies so heavily on integrity and self-policing in terms of Rules and handicapping.

Secondly, a concern on the potential loss of revenue for Golf Clubs. The way it works with vouchers and merchandise as prizes is important to the game financially, as it stays within the golf clubs.

Those two aspects made the R&A and USGA reconsider the situation with regards to cash prizes across the game. So, they’ve limited that to scratch only.”

By removing the cash prize element for handicap golf, the governing bodies were able to consider raising the prize money limit. It will now by £700 or $1,000.

By changing their position on cash prizes, it enabled them then to feel that they could also give something for handicap golf by raising the limit.

The prize limit applies to any tee to hole competition, any skills competition within a tee to hole competition (nearest the pin or longest drive for instance).

Total prizes accepted in a single competition should not exceed the limit – If you were to win the team, individual, nearest the pin and longest drive prizes in one event, you wouldn’t be able to accept total prizes with value higher than £700 or $1,000.

But in non-tee to hole competitions, a long drive contest or trick shot contest for instance, the prize limit does not apply.

SPONSORSHIP

Perhaps the biggest change to the Rules is the removal of all restrictions on advertising, expenses and sponsorship on amateurs being able to advertise the source of sponsorship assistance they were given.

There are reasons for that. As they were, if you were part of a national squad, what you could receive and what the squad could do in terms of giving publicity to the sponsor was out of kilter with what an individual could do.

Similarly, if you managed to get yourself onto a scholarship programme in the U.S, or elsewhere, you’d have funding and backing that would enable you to compete at an elite level.

But if you were just short of that standard then you’d be looking to try to get some assistance without being able to offer anything back.

A halfway house would add a burden on administrators and players themselves. Therefore, it seemed right that the time had come to remove those restrictions.”

INSTRUCTION

The Rule on instruction has been tweaked slightly to allow amateurs to give instruction online if it’s not to a specific individual or group.

This is taking note of the number of elite amateur players who may have social media or other online accounts, in which they inevitably talk about their golf in a way that could be construed as instruction.

Instruction was previously allowed to be given in writing, via a magazine article or book for instance.

This is not seen as a significant change to the instruction rule, it’s a logical incremental step based on how social media has become the new form of instructional book.

The new Rules on Amateur Status, together with guidance notes and an overview document can be downloaded by clicking on the download buttons below: 

Cheating in Golf

Hi,

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:

Code of Conduct Policy • Getting to Grips with the Rules of Golf and Handicapping (my-golf.uk)

Also for consideration is an example Pace-of-play policy available by clicking on the link below.:

Sample Pace of Play Policy • Getting to Grips with the Rules of Golf and Handicapping (my-golf.uk)

Summary

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:

  1. Cheating is a matter of fact it has always gone on and always will with some individuals, professional or amateur.
  2. You must be 100% certain of your facts, be careful to avoid using the word ’cheat’
  3. A mere suggestion could have serious repercussions outside the Golf Course for the ‘guilty’ party, the accuser and the Golf Club
  4. 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.
  5. Is the misdemeanour serious or just a minor infraction?
  6. Is the infringement intentional or accidental?
  7. Could a player handle the situation without resorting to informing a Committee, better this way if it can be done?
  8. Try to use any trespasses as a means of education and avoid any confrontations.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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:

How to Discipline a Member (or Visitor). • Getting to Grips with the Rules of Golf and Handicapping (my-golf.uk)

There may be a few more observations that you can think of and I would like to hear them from you, but I hope you find these helpful at the moment.

Enjoy your Golf

Tony

New Rules of Golf – 2019

New Rules of Golf – 2019

 

INTRODUCTION

The new Rules of Golf 2019 which took effect on 1st January 2019. The key changes included:

NEW DEFINITIONS:

  • Penalty Area – an area from which relief with a 1 shot penalty is allowed (formerly ‘Water Hazard’). Still defined as either yellow or red.
  • Relief Area – the area in which the ball must be dropped (and come to rest) when taking relief under a rule.
  • General Area – anywhere on the course except Teeing areas, Penalty areas, Bunkers and Greens (formerly ‘Through the Green’)
  • Temporary Water – formerly ‘Casual Water’

PACE-OF-PLAY SUPPORT

  • Encouragement of Ready Golf in Stroke Play.
  • Players may agree to play out of turn in Match Play.
  • Elimination of ‘Ball Moved’ penalties
  • No penalty for accidentally moving a ball on the putting green or in searching for a ball.

RELAXED PUTTING GREEN RULES

  • No penalty if a ball hits an unattended flagstick in the hole.
  • Players may repair damage to the green, whether their ball is on the green or not. This includes old hole plugs, spike marks and damage made by shoes, animals, and maintenance practices (but not aeration holes, unless there is a local rule in place).
  • No penalty for touching the line of putt.
  • A ball resting against the flagstick is deemed holed if part of the ball is below the surface of the ground.
  • Interference by a Wrong Green now includes the player’s stance.

RELAXED BUNKER RULES

  • No penalty for moving loose impediments (stones, leaves, etc.) in a bunker or for generally touching the sand with hand or club (but not directly in front or behind the ball or in making a backswing or practice swing).
  • An extra relief option for an unplayable ball, allowing the ball to be played from outside the bunker with a two stroke penalty.

RELAXED RULES FOR PENALTY AREAS

  • Expanded use of red penalty areas where lateral relief is allowed.
  • No penalty for moving loose impediments, touching the ground or water or taking a practice swing in a Penalty Area.

SIMPLIFIED WAY OF TAKING RELIEF

  • New procedure for taking relief by dropping in a specific Relief Area.
  • Ball dropped from knee height and must stay within the Relief Area.

LOST BALL & PROVISIONAL BALL

  • A ball is Lost if not found within 3 minutes of commencing search, although a reasonable amount of additional time is allowed to get to and identify a ball that has been spotted within the 3 minutes.
  • A Provisional Ball may be played after the player has moved forward, at any time up to the end of the 3 minute search period.

ALTERNATIVE TO STROKE & DISTANCE

  • A new Local Rule to allow golfers to drop the ball in the vicinity of where the ball is lost or out of bounds under a two-stroke penalty.
  • This Local Rule is not available in Qualifiers and is not intended for higher levels of play, such as professional or elite level competitions.

SOME OTHER CHANGES

  • The honour on the tee is determined by the player with the lowest gross score on the previous hole.
  • No need to announce the intention to lift a ball to identify it or determine if it is in an abnormal condition (ball must be marked first).
  • A ball may be marked by holding a club behind or to the side of it.
  • Natural objects may be moved to see if they are loose or unattached. If they are found to be attached they must be replaced as close as possible to their original position.
  • No penalty for a multiple hit or if the ball accidentally hits the player.
    Relief for an embedded ball is available anywhere in the General Area and the Relief Area is 1 club length from a point directly behind the ball.
  • No “opposite side relief” from red penalty areas.
  • A player may keep using and/or repair any club damaged during the round, no matter what the damage and even if the player damaged it in anger.
  • A player is not allowed to replace a damaged club, except when it is damaged by an outside influence or by someone other than the player or caddie.
  • A new form of Stroke Play called ‘Maximum Score’ where the maximum score for a hole is set at a specific number (e.g. 8), or twice the par of the hole, or nett double bogey. For example, if the maximum score for a hole is set at 8 and you lose your ball and decide not to complete the hole, your score is entered as 8. Similarly, once you have played 7 (or less) shots you can pick up your ball and record 8 on the scorecard.
  • For Acceptable Scores, the maximum score must be set at a minimum of 5 over par (equivalent to net double bogey for a player receiving 3 shots on the hole).

Click on the links below which will take you to more detailed videos on specific topics and which are often accompanied by additional written explanations:

BALL AT REST

TAKING RELIEF

THE PUTTING GREEN

PENALTY AREAS

BUNKERS

PLAYING THE BALL

WHEN TO PLAY DURING A ROUND

PLAYER BEHAVIOUR

NEW LOCAL RULE which golf clubs may adopt

RELIEF OPTIONS

The relief options under the New Rules of Golf are described below. Click on the links to go directly to the rule.

R&A RULES OF GOLF WEBSITE

Click to go to the Official Rules of Golf website, which is made up of 6 parts, including:

  • The Rules of Golf (full version) which is intended for those who administer the game and who need to answer the variety of questions that can arise in relation to golf competitions.
  • The Rules of Golf (Player’s Edition) which is intended for you, the golfer. It contains the Rules situations that occur most commonly on the course and is an abridged version of the full Rules. Although its text is edited, it gives the same answer that is in the full Rules of Golf and so it is a functioning Rule book.
  • Definitions – over 70 defined terms that form the foundation around which the Rules are written.
  • Interpretations – provided only for aspects of the Rules that are considered to require additional clarification (replaces the old ‘Decisions’ book).
  • Committee Procedures – practical guidance for those involved in running day to day play at golf courses, including defining Penalty Areas and defining Local Rules.

R&A RULES MODERNISATION WEBSITE

The Rules of Golf Modernisation website contains detailed descriptions, documents and videos about the new rules, as well as a link to download a 2019 Rules app for iOS and Android.

Slow Play – Pace of Play – Ready Golf

Slow Play – Pace of Play – Ready Golf

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.

Their Global Survey clearly showed:

  1. That less than 18% of golfers said Slow Play prevented them from playing more frequently
  2. 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:

  1. Overcrowding the Golf Course
  2. Course Set Up
  3. Course Management

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:

https://www.randa.org/pace-of-play/manual

or download a copy of the R&A Pace of Play Manual by clicking on the download button below:

You can link to an example of a Pace of Play Policy, from where you can also download a copy, by clicking on the link below:

Sample Pace of Play Policy – Getting to Grips with the Rules of Golf and Handicapping (my-golf.uk)

VIDEO:

Click on the link below to view a video featuring Andrew Coltart and John E Morgan providing advice on how Pace of Play can be improved:

How you can improve Pace of Play – Sky Sports Video

 

 

Free Relief is not Mandatory nor an Automatic Option

Free Relief is not Mandatory nor an Automatic Option

Rule 16 – Relief from Abnormal Course Conditions (Including Immovable Obstructions), Dangerous Animal Condition, Embedded Ball, covers when and how a player may take free relief by playing a ball from a different place, such as when there is interference by an abnormal course condition or a dangerous animal condition.

  • These conditions are not treated as part of the challenge of playing the course, and free relief is generally allowed except in a penalty area.
  • The player normally takes relief by dropping a ball in a relief area based on the nearest point of complete relief.

Many players assume that they must take Free Relief under a Rule that offers it as an option or take Free Relief because it is offered.

However, there are occasions when a player decides against taking Free Relief because a Nearest Point of Complete Relief may place her/his ball in an unfavourable lie, and so s/he opts to play the ball as it lies.

A player is allowed to play her/his ball as it lies if they so wish.

There may also be occasions when Free Relief may not be allowed, and these are outlined under Rule 16.1a(3) – No Relief When Clearly Unreasonable to Play Ball.

There is no relief under Rule 16.1:

  • When playing the ball as it lies is clearly unreasonable because of something other than an abnormal course condition (such as, when a player is standing in temporary water or on an immovable obstruction but is unable to make a stroke because of where the ball lies in a bush), or
  • When interference exists only because a player chooses a club, type of stance or swing or direction of play that is clearly unreasonable under the circumstances.

The diagram below illustrates a typical instance when Free Relief would not be allowed.

Diagram Showiing Relief Options for Ball Unplayable in General Area with Temporary Water
Diagram illustrating that Free Relief is not a right and may not be an option.
This diagram assumes that you are Right-handed.

You discover that your ball is lying in the middle of a bush.

To play a stroke at the ball you find that you will be standing in Temporary Water and decide to take Free Relief under Rule 16, Relief from Abnormal Course Conditions etc.

Unfortunately, because of the lie of the ball, it is not possible for you to play a normal stroke at the ball, even if the Temporary Water was not there; you must be able to play a normal stroke at your ball.

To claim Free Relief under a Rule of Golf that offers it as an option you must, in the first instance, be able to play a normal stroke at your ball. So, in these circumstances, you are not allowed to take Free Relief from the Temporary Water and your only course of action is to declare that your ball, in the bush, is unplayable. (See Rule 19) You now have three options, in each case adding one penalty stroke:

1. You may take stroke-and-distance relief by playing the original ball or another ball from a relief area based on where the previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6 and Diagram 14.6).

2. You may take back-on-the-line relief by dropping the original ball or another ball in a relief area based on a reference line going straight back from the hole through the spot of the original ball. The reference point is a point on the course chosen by you that is on the reference line and is farther from the hole than the spot of the original ball. There is no limit on how far back on the line the reference point may be. The relief area is one club-length from the reference point, is not nearer to the hole than the reference point and may be in any area of the course. In choosing this reference point, you should indicate the point by using an object (such as a tee).

3. You may take lateral relief. The reference point is the spot of the original ball. The relief area is two club-lengths from the reference point, is not nearer to the hole than the reference point and may be in any area of the course, including the Temporary Water. If you decide to, and can drop your ball in the Temporary Water, you may then get Free Relief from the Temporary Water under Rule 16, remembering to still include your one penalty stroke for the initial Unplayable Ball.