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 firstname.lastname@example.org.