The Rules of Golf entrusts the Committee to fulfill a number of responsibilities (see Rule 33). The goal of this page is to remind the Committee of these responsibilities and to provide resources to assist the Committee in meeting its obligations.
The information contained in this page is drawn from The Rules of Golf , The Decisions on the Rules of Golf , The USGA Handicap System Manual , and the USGA Publication, "How to Conduct a Competition."
Additionally, links are provided to the USGA 'hard-card' of Local Rules which are adopted for all USGA Championships, a Pace of Play Guideline used in a USGA Championship and an entry application for a USGA Championship .
- Specifying the Competition
- Preparing the Course
- Local Rules, Notice to Players
- Starting and Scoring
I. Specifying the Competition
Prior to the competition, the Committee must establish:
- Entry requirements
- Entry deadline.
- Eligibility (e.g. age limit, Handicap Index limit, whether players must be amateurs or professionals etc.)
- Entry procedure (certain competitions may require a formal entry application , for others, a sign-up sheet in the clubhouse is sufficient).
- Form of play and flights
- The Committee must specify the form of play (i.e. individual Stroke Play , Four-Ball Stroke Play , Four-Ball Match Play , Foursomes , Stableford , etc.). Additionally, if the form of play is one not covered by the Rules of Golf, e.g. a best-ball-of-four, or 'scramble,' the Committee must establish, in advance, any special conditions which apply.
- The method of settling ties must be specified - see Rules of Golf Appendix I; Part C ; Section 11 for the USGA recommendation on this matter.
- In a flighted competition, each flight is considered to be a separate competition.
- Number of rounds to be played.
- Dates of stipulated rounds.
- Rain dates (if applicable).
- In a match play competition in which the players are responsible for establishing the date and time of their match it is recommended that a time of starting be set for the match and the players be permitted to play the match ahead of schedule. A time of starting set by the player has the same status as one set by the Committee - see Decision 33-3/1.
- The Committee may allow players in stroke play to set their own times of starting as well - see Decision 33-3/3.
- Handicapping Issues, if applicable
- Section 9-2 of the USGA Handicap System Manual discusses which Handicap Index should be used
- Section 9-3 of the USGA Handicap System Manual discusses the assignment of strokes and includes the adjustments for players competing from different sets of tees or men and women competing from the same sets of tees.
II. Preparing the course
- Rule 33-2a explains the Committee's responsibilities regarding the marking of the course. If the Committee does a poor job of marking the course, it is unlikely that the Rules of Golf will be applied consistently.
- It is advisable to remove any unused sets of tee-markers from the course in order to assist players in playing from the correct teeing grounds.
- The USGA publication, "How to Conduct a Competition" provides additional recommendations on the marking of the course.
III. Local Rules and Notice to Players
- The Committee must establish the Conditions of the Competition and Local Rules which are applicable for the competition. It is strongly recommended that this information be distributed to the players in writing to avoid any communication problems.
- Rule 33-8 explains that a Local Rule may not waive a Rule of Golf. The Decisions under Rule 33-8 offer many examples of recommended Local Rules and of Local Rules which are not in accordance with the Rules of Golf. Additionally, Appendix I; Part B includes several specimen Local Rules.
- Poorly written Local Rules will confuse players and may lead them to breach a Rule of Golf, some examples include:
Poor - Free Relief may be taken from staked trees.
Clear - Staked Trees - Local Rule in Appendix I; Part B; Section 2 adopted for all trees marked with a red ribbon.
In the 'poor' example, neither the conditions under which a player is entitled to relief under this Local Rule nor the procedure for taking such relief is explained.
Poor - Lay off roads and paths (no penalty).
A Local Rule is unnecessary for artificially surfaced roads and paths; relief without penalty due to interference from immovable obstructions is addressed by Rule 24-2 .
Poor - Plugged Balls: A plugged ball, except in a hazard (water, sand trap, etc.) may be lifted, cleaned, and dropped.
Clear - Embedded Ball Through the Green - Local Rule as prescribed in Appendix I; Part B is in effect.
The 'poor' example does not explain where the player is permitted to drop his ball. Could such a player drop the ball 20 yards away?
Poor - "When in doubt, play two balls."
In stroke play, Rule 3-3 authorizes the player to play two balls when he is faced with a doubt as to his proper procedure under the Rules. In order to receive the maximum benefit of that Rule, the player must follow the procedure outlined within it; a player who follows the short-hand Local Rule above is unlikely to proceed in accordance with Rule 3-3. Please note that Rule 3-3 does not apply in Match Play (see Decision 3-3/9)
Poor - "Play the ball 'up'." Or "Winter Rules apply."
As with other poor Local Rules, the one above does not explain when the player is entitled to apply the Local Rule nor does it outline the player's procedure for doing so.
With the 2004 revision of the Rules of Golf, the Rules include a recommended Local Rule when adverse conditions warrant permitting the players to lift, clean, and place the ball. This Local Rule can be found in Appendix I; Part B; Section 3b. Please note that scores made when the Committee has adopted this Local Rule are acceptable for Handicapping purposes.
Each year, the USGA publishes a 'hard-card' of Local Rules which are adopted for each USGA Championship. This document is supplemented by a Notice to Players at each Championship.
The Notice to Players provides information specific to that Championship site e.g. areas which are out of bounds and how they are marked, whether Ball Drops (see Appendix I; Part A; Section 6 ) have been established and the conditions under which players may use them.
If your club or golf association conducts a number of competitions during the season, writing a 'hard-card' may be helpful to your players and the Committee in charge of those competitions.
- Rule 6-7 authorizes the Committee to establish Pace of Play Guidelines. Example
IV. Starting and Scoring
- The teeing ground(s) from which the players will start their rounds should be well-supplied with copies of the Local Rules, Notice to Players , score cards, pencils, hole location sheets (if available), permanent markers, etc. A copy of the times of starting and groupings must be available for the starter (a member of the Committee who is knowledgeable about the Rules of Golf should serve as the starter in case question arise before the round or should players be late for their time of starting ).
- In stroke play, Rule 33-5 explains the Committee's responsibilities and Rule 6-6 outlines the responsibilities of the players. Please note that score cards are not required in match play.
- In handicap competitions, the player is responsible for using the correct handicap (in stroke play, by recording that handicap on his score card before returning it; in match play, by declaring the correct handicap to his opponent). The Committee should not assist the players by providing this information (either on the score cards or on the match play bracket) as the player will ultimately be responsible for any error in this regard.
- In match play, players and the Committee should be aware of Rules 2-5 and 34-1a as a claim may only be considered by the Committee if it is made in accordance with Rule 2-5 .
- In stroke play, a member of the Committee who is knowledgeable about the Rules of Golf should receive the score cards from the players at the conclusion of the stipulated round. The person receiving the score cards should a) ask the players to check their hole by hole scores and if there are any Rules questions or issues to resolve, b) ensure that the competitor and his marker have both signed the score card, and c) suggest that the player remain in the scoring area until the score card has been checked. Changes to the player's score card may not be made once the score card has been returned (see Rule 6-6c and Decision 6-6c/1 )