Rule 3 - The Competition

Purpose of Rule: Rule 3 covers the three central elements of all golf competitions:

3.1  Central Elements of Every Competition

a. Form of Play: Match Play or Stroke Play

(1) Match Play or Regular Stroke Play. These are very different forms of play:

Most of the Rules apply in both forms of play, but certain Rules apply in only one or the other.

See Committee Procedures, Section 6C  (considerations for the CommitteeCommittee: The person or group in charge of the competition or the course. if it runs a competition that combines the two forms of play in a single roundRound: 18 or fewer holes played in the order set by the Committee.).

(2) Other Forms of Stroke Play. Rule 21 covers other forms of stroke playStroke Play: A form of play where a player or side competes against all other players or sides in the competition. (StablefordStableford: A form of stroke play where:, Maximum ScoreMaximum Score: A form of stroke play where a player’s or side’s score for a hole is capped at a maximum number of strokes (including strokes made and any penalty strokes) set by the Committee, such as two times par, a fixed number or net double bogey. and Par/BogeyPar/Bogey: A form of stroke play that uses scoring as in match play where:) that use a different scoring method. Rules 1-20 apply in these forms of play, as modified by Rule 21.

b. How Players Compete: Playing as an Individual or as Partners

Golf is played either by individual players competing on their own or by partnersPartner: A player who competes together with another player as a side, in either match play or stroke play. competing together as a sideSide: Two or more partners competing as a single unit in a round in match play or stroke play..

Although Rules 1-20 focus on individual play, they also apply:

c. How Players Score: Gross Scores or Net Scores

(1) Scratch Competitions. In a scratch competition:

(2) Handicap Competitions. In a handicap competition:

3.2 Match Play

Purpose of Rule: Match play has specific Rules (particularly about concessions and giving information about the number of strokes taken) because the player and opponent:

a. Result of Hole and Match

(1) Winning a Hole. A player wins a hole when:

If the opponent’sOpponent: The person a player competes against in a match. The term opponent applies only in match play. ball in motion needs to be holedOpponent: The person a player competes against in a match. The term opponent applies only in match play. to tie the hole and the ball is deliberately deflected or stopped by any person at a time when there is no reasonable chance it can be holedHoled: When a ball is at rest in the hole after a stroke and the entire ball is below the surface of the putting green. (such as when the ball has rolled past the holeHoled: When a ball is at rest in the hole after a stroke and the entire ball is below the surface of the putting green. and will not roll back there), the result of the hole has been decided and the player wins the hole (see Rule 11.2a, Exception).

(2) Tying a Hole. A hole is tied (also known as “halved”) when:

(3) Winning a Match. A player wins a match when:

(4) Extending a Tied Match. If a match is tied after the final hole:

But the Terms of the Competition may say that the match will end in a tie rather than be extended.

(5) When Result is Final. The result of a match becomes final in the way stated by the CommitteeCommittee: The person or group in charge of the competition or the course. (which should be set out in the Terms of the Competition), such as:

See Committee Procedures, Section 5A(7)  (recommendations on how the result of a match becomes final).

b. Concessions

(1) Player May Concede Stroke, Hole or Match. A player may concede the opponent’sOpponent: The person a player competes against in a match. The term opponent applies only in match play. next strokeStroke: The forward movement of the club made to strike the ball., a hole or the match:

(2) How Concessions Are Made. A concession is made only when clearly communicated:

A concession is final and cannot be declined or withdrawn.

c. Applying Handicaps in Handicap Match

(1) Declaring Handicaps. The player and opponentOpponent: The person a player competes against in a match. The term opponent applies only in match play. should tell each other their handicaps before the match.

If a player declares a wrong handicap either before or during the match and does not correct the mistake before the opponentOpponent: The person a player competes against in a match. The term opponent applies only in match play. makes his or her next strokeStroke: The forward movement of the club made to strike the ball.:

  • Declared Handicap Too High. The player is disqualified if this affects the number of strokes the player gives or gets. If it does not, there is no penalty.

  • Declared Handicap Too Low. There is no penalty and the player must play off the declared lower handicap.

(2) Holes Where Handicap Strokes Applied.

Each player is responsible for knowing the holes where he or she gives or gets handicap strokes, based on the stroke index allocation set by the CommitteeCommittee: The person or group in charge of the competition or the course. (which is usually found on the scorecard).

If the players mistakenly apply handicap strokes on a hole, the agreed result of the hole stands, unless the players correct that mistake in time (see Rule 3.2d(3)).

d. Responsibilities of Player and Opponent

(1) Telling Opponent About Number of Strokes Taken. At any time during play of a hole or after the hole is completed, the opponentOpponent: The person a player competes against in a match. The term opponent applies only in match play. may ask the player for the number of strokes (including strokesStroke: The forward movement of the club made to strike the ball. made and penalty strokes) the player has taken on the hole.

This is to allow the opponentOpponent: The person a player competes against in a match. The term opponent applies only in match play. to decide how to play the next strokeStroke: The forward movement of the club made to strike the ball. and the rest of the hole, or to confirm the result of the hole just completed.

When asked for the number of strokes taken, or when giving that information without being asked:

The player gets the general penaltyGeneral Penalty: Loss of hole in match play or two penalty strokes in stroke play. (loss of hole) if he or she gives the opponentOpponent: The person a player competes against in a match. The term opponent applies only in match play. the wrong number of strokes taken, unless the player corrects that mistake in time:

Exception – No Penalty If No Effect on Result of Hole: If the player gives the wrong number of strokes taken after a hole is completed but this does not affect the opponent’sOpponent: The person a player competes against in a match. The term opponent applies only in match play. understanding of whether the hole was won, lost or tied, there is no penalty.

(2) Telling Opponent About Penalty. When a player gets a penalty:

If the player fails to do so and does not correct that mistake before the opponentOpponent: The person a player competes against in a match. The term opponent applies only in match play. makes another strokeStroke: The forward movement of the club made to strike the ball. or takes a similar action (such as conceding the player’s next strokeStroke: The forward movement of the club made to strike the ball. or the hole), the player gets the general penaltyGeneral Penalty: Loss of hole in match play or two penalty strokes in stroke play. (loss of hole).

Exception – No Penalty When Opponent Knew of Player’s Penalty: If the opponentOpponent: The person a player competes against in a match. The term opponent applies only in match play. knew that the player had a penalty, such as when seeing the player obviously take penalty relief, the player gets no penalty for failing to tell the opponentOpponent: The person a player competes against in a match. The term opponent applies only in match play. about it.

(3) Knowing Match Score. The players are expected to know the match score – that is, whether one of them leads by a certain number of holes (“holes up” in the match) or the match is tied (also known as “all square”).

If the players mistakenly agree on a wrong match score:

Exception – When Player Requests Ruling in Time: If the player makes a timely request for a ruling (see Rule 20.1b), and it is found that the opponentOpponent: The person a player competes against in a match. The term opponent applies only in match play. either (1) gave the wrong number of strokes taken or (2) failed to tell the player about a penalty, the wrong match score must be corrected.

(4) Protecting Own Rights and Interests. The players in a match should protect their own rights and interests under the Rules:

3.3 Stroke Play

Purpose of Rule: Stroke play has specific Rules (particularly for scorecards and holing out) because:

After the round, the player and the marker (who keeps the player’s score) must certify that the player’s score for each hole is right and the player must return the scorecard to the Committee.

a. Winner in Stroke Play

The player who completes all roundsRound: 18 or fewer holes played in the order set by the Committee. in the fewest total strokes (including strokesStroke: The forward movement of the club made to strike the ball. made and penalty strokes) is the winner.

In a handicap competition, this means the fewest total net strokes.

See Committee Procedures, Section 5A(6)  (the Terms of the Competition should say how ties will be decided).

b. Scoring in Stroke Play

The player’s score is kept on his or her scorecardScorecard: The document where a player’s score for each hole is entered in stroke play. by the markerMarker: In stroke play, the person responsible for entering a player’s score on the player’s scorecard and for certifying that scorecard. The marker may be another player, but not a partner., who is either identified by the CommitteeCommittee: The person or group in charge of the competition or the course. or chosen by the player in a way approved by the CommitteeCommittee: The person or group in charge of the competition or the course..

The player must use the same markerMarker: In stroke play, the person responsible for entering a player’s score on the player’s scorecard and for certifying that scorecard. The marker may be another player, but not a partner. for the entire roundRound: 18 or fewer holes played in the order set by the Committee., unless the CommitteeCommittee: The person or group in charge of the competition or the course. approves a change either before or after it happens.

(1) Marker’s Responsibility: Entering and Certifying Hole Scores on Scorecard. After each hole during the roundRound: 18 or fewer holes played in the order set by the Committee., the markerMarker: In stroke play, the person responsible for entering a player’s score on the player’s scorecard and for certifying that scorecard. The marker may be another player, but not a partner. should confirm with the player the number of strokes on that hole (including strokesStroke: The forward movement of the club made to strike the ball. made and penalty strokes) and enter that gross score on the scorecardScorecard: The document where a player’s score for each hole is entered in stroke play..

When the roundRound: 18 or fewer holes played in the order set by the Committee. has ended:

(2) Player’s Responsibility: Certifying Hole Scores and Returning Scorecard. During the roundRound: 18 or fewer holes played in the order set by the Committee., the player should keep track of his or her scores for each hole.

When the roundRound: 18 or fewer holes played in the order set by the Committee. has ended, the player:

If the player breaches any of these requirements in Rule 3.3b, the player is disqualified.

Exception – No Penalty When Breach Due to Marker Failing to Carry Out Responsibilities: There is no penalty if the CommitteeCommittee: The person or group in charge of the competition or the course. finds that the player’s breach of Rule 3.3b(2) was caused by the marker’sMarker: In stroke play, the person responsible for entering a player’s score on the player’s scorecard and for certifying that scorecard. The marker may be another player, but not a partner. failure to carry out his or her responsibilities (such as the markerMarker: In stroke play, the person responsible for entering a player’s score on the player’s scorecard and for certifying that scorecard. The marker may be another player, but not a partner. leaving with the player’s scorecardScorecard: The document where a player’s score for each hole is entered in stroke play. or without certifying the scorecardScorecard: The document where a player’s score for each hole is entered in stroke play.), so long as this was beyond the player’s control.

See Committee Procedures, Section 5A(5)  (recommendations on how to define when a scorecardScorecard: The document where a player’s score for each hole is entered in stroke play. has been returned).

(3) Wrong Score for a Hole. If the player returns a scorecardScorecard: The document where a player’s score for each hole is entered in stroke play. with a wrong score for any hole:

  • Returned Score Higher Than Actual Score. The higher returned score for the hole stands.

  • Returned Score Lower Than Actual Score or No Score Returned. The player is disqualified.

Exception – Failure to Include Unknown Penalty: If one or more of the player’s hole scores are lower than the actual scores because he or she excluded one or more penalty strokes that the player did not know about before returning the scorecardScorecard: The document where a player’s score for each hole is entered in stroke play.:

This exception does not apply:

(4) Scoring in Handicap Competition. The player is responsible for making sure that his or her handicap is shown on the scorecardScorecard: The document where a player’s score for each hole is entered in stroke play.. If the player returns a scorecardScorecard: The document where a player’s score for each hole is entered in stroke play. without the right handicap:

  • Handicap on Scorecard Too High or No Handicap Shown. If this affects the number of strokes the player gets, the player is disqualified from the handicap competition. If it does not, there is no penalty.

  • Handicap on Scorecard Too Low. There is no penalty and the player’s net score stands using the lower handicap as shown.

(5) Player Not Responsible for Adding Up Scores or Applying Handicap. The CommitteeCommittee: The person or group in charge of the competition or the course. is responsible for adding up the player’s hole scores and, in a handicap competition, applying the player’s handicap strokes.

If the player returns a scorecardScorecard: The document where a player’s score for each hole is entered in stroke play. on which he or she has made a mistake in adding up the scores or applying handicap strokes, there is no penalty for doing so.

c. Failure to Hole Out

A player must hole outHoled: When a ball is at rest in the hole after a stroke and the entire ball is below the surface of the putting green. at each hole in a roundRound: 18 or fewer holes played in the order set by the Committee.. If the player fails to hole outHoled: When a ball is at rest in the hole after a stroke and the entire ball is below the surface of the putting green. at any hole:

See Rules 21.1, 21.2 and 21.3 (Rules for other forms of stroke playStroke Play: A form of play where a player or side competes against all other players or sides in the competition. (StablefordStableford: A form of stroke play where:, Maximum ScoreMaximum Score: A form of stroke play where a player’s or side’s score for a hole is capped at a maximum number of strokes (including strokes made and any penalty strokes) set by the Committee, such as two times par, a fixed number or net double bogey. and Par/BogeyPar/Bogey: A form of stroke play that uses scoring as in match play where:) where scoring is different and a player is not disqualified if he or she does not hole outHoled: When a ball is at rest in the hole after a stroke and the entire ball is below the surface of the putting green.).