Rules Corner Blog

Settling Ties

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By Rob Ockenfuss

Kohler, Wis. – One of the most exciting outcomes for fans and players alike, in golf or in any sport, is a tie. However, the Rules of Golf allow a Committee in charge of the competition or the golf course to determine the method of breaking ties.

For example, the Committee may use any one of the following examples: 18-hole playoff, a 3-to-5-hole aggregate playoff, hole-by-hole playoff, or matching scorecards. The decision to break ties should be made known in advance of the competition, so that a judgment does not need to be made at the last minute and any claims of unfairness can be avoided. That being said, the responsibility to announce the manner, date and time for the decision of a tie falls squarely on the Committee (Rule 33-6: The Committee; Decision of Ties)

Appendix I provides guidelines and recommendations for a wide variety of methods to resolve ties, including those listed above, but nothing listed in this section of the Rules is a requirement and nothing prevents the Committee from allowing a tie to stand unbroken.

The 1998 U.S. Women’s Open determined its winner through an 18-hole playoff.  Since the playoff was still tied after 18 holes, the competitors played a hole-by-hole playoff to decide the winner. Se Ri Pak won on the second extra hole.

The Conditions of Competition for the 2012 Championship provide that an aggregate, three-hole playoff, comprised of holes 16-18 will be used.  If any competitors are still tied after these three holes are played, the 18th hole will be repeated until a champion is crowned.

In many sports, including professional football, baseball, or basketball, ties are settled by overtime or extra innings. In golf, a tie can be an acceptable result.

Rob Ockenfuss is a Manager, Rules Inquiries for the USGA. Email him at 


Pak Plays From Hazard To Win Women's Open

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By Rob Ockenfuss

Kohler, Wis. – In 1998, 92 holes were played to determine the champion at the U.S. Women’s Open conducted at Blackwolf Run. It was the largest number of holes played to determine a winner in the championship’s history. On the par-4 18th hole of the 18-hole playoff between LPGA Tour rookie Se Ri Pak and amateur Jenny Chuasiriporn, Pak’ s drive on the dogleg-left par-4 rolled into the lateral water hazard bordering the left-hand side of the fairway.  Her ball came to rest in the long grass within the lateral water hazard, but outside of the water itself in a playable position.

The Rules of Golf permitted Pak to try to play the ball from inside the water hazard without penalty, but she was restricted on what she could do in terms of the shot. She was not permitted to test the condition of the hazard, which could include intentionally sticking an object into the ground or taking a practice swing that strikes either the water or the ground in the hazard.  Additionally, she was not allowed to ground her club in the hazard before making her stroke. And she was not permitted to touch or move loose impediments in the hazard (Rule 13-4).

She was allowed to take more than one club into the hazard with her and place the club or clubs she wasn’t going to use down in the hazard and she could touch grass and other growing things during practice swings and her backswing, provide she didn’t touch the ground or the water (see Note to Rule 13-4).

By playing her ball from the water hazard, instead of taking a penalty stroke under the Water Hazard Rule to extract her ball, Pak was able to save a stroke and make a bogey. Chuasiriporn, who was tied with Pak going into the 18th hole, also bogeyed, and the playoff continued into sudden death. On the 20th hole of the playoff, Pak made birdie to win the Women’s Open, a historic triumph that led to a plethora of young Korean golfers playing the LPGA Tour.

Rob Ockenfuss is Manager, Rules Inquiries for the USGA. E-mail him at 



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