5. Before the Competition

The resources available to a Committee will differ depending on the course or the level of competition being run and so a Committee may not be able to implement all of the suggested practices. Where this is the case, the Committee will need to decide its priorities for each competition.

The period before the competition begins is arguably the most important in terms of preparation to ensure the smooth running of the competition. The Committee’s duties during this period include:

5A Setting the Terms of the Competition

Terms of the Competition determine the structure of each competition including who may enter, how to enter, what the schedule and format of the competition will be and how ties will be decided. It is the responsibility of the Committee to:

Other than in exceptional circumstances, the Committee should avoid altering the Terms of the Competition once the competition has started.

It is the responsibility of each player to know and follow the Terms of the Competition.

Sample wording of Terms of the Competition can be found at www.USGA.org.

(1) Eligibility

The Committee may make Terms of the Competition that restrict who is eligible to play in the competition.

Gender Requirements

A competition may be limited to players of a specific gender.

Age Limits

A competition may be limited to players within a specific age range. If so, it is important to specify the date on which the players must be of age. Some examples are:

Amateur or Professional Status

A competition may be limited to just amateurs, just professionals or allow all players. When a competition is open to anyone, the Committee should ensure that amateurs properly identify themselves and waive their right to any prize money in advance of the competition.

Handicap Limits

The Committee may set restrictions and/or limits on the handicaps eligible for entry or use in a competition. These may include:

Residence and Membership Status

The Committee may limit entry to players who reside in or were born in a specific county, state, country or other geographic area. It may also require that all players are members of a specific club, organization or golf union.

(2) Entry Requirements and Dates

The way to enter the competition and the starting and ending dates for entry should be specified.

Examples include:

(3) Format, Including Handicap Allowance

The following points in relation to the format of the competition should be specified where required:

(4) Terms for Other Forms of Play

Alternative Scoring Methods

When the form of play is Stableford, Maximum Score or Par/Bogey, the Terms of the Competition may need to specify certain aspects in relation to how points will be scored, or the maximum number of strokes that a player can score on each hole.


Stableford is a form of stroke play where points are awarded to a player for each hole by comparing the player’s score to the fixed target score for the hole. The fixed target score is par unless the Committee sets a different fixed score (see Rule 21.1b).

If the Committee decides to set a different fixed target score, it may set it in the Terms of the Competition as bogey, birdie, or some other fixed score.

Maximum Score

When the form of play is Maximum Score, the Terms of the Competition should specify the maximum number of strokes a player can score on each hole (seeRule 21.2).

The maximum may be set in one of the following ways:

When considering what maximum to set for a Maximum Score competition, the Committee should consider the following:


When the form of play is Par/Bogey, the Terms of the Competition should specify the fixed score against which the player’s score on a hole is compared to determine whether the player wins or loses a hole. For a Par competition, the fixed score would normally be par, and for a Bogey competition the fixed score would normally be bogey (one over par).

Other Forms of Play

There are many other forms of play such as Scrambles and Greensomes. See Section 9 and/or www.USGA.org for more information on these and other forms of play.

Team Competitions

When the form of play involves a team competition, the Committee should consider if additional Terms of the Competition are required. Examples include:

(5) When Scorecard Has Been Returned

In stroke play, Rule 3.3b holds players responsible for ensuring the accuracy of their hole scores and promptly returning the scorecard to the Committee at the completion of the round.

The Committee should tell players where the scorecards should be returned, have someone available to resolve any potential issues the players might have with the Rules and validate the scores.

When possible, a quiet, private area should be provided for players to use in checking the validity of the scores on their scorecards, speaking with a member of the Committee, if needed, and returning their scorecards.

Specify When Scorecard Is Considered Returned

The Committee should specify when the scorecard is considered returned. Options include:

Requesting Players to Provide Other Information on Scorecards

The Committee may request that players assist the Committee by completing scorecard related tasks that are the Committee’s responsibility. The Committee must not apply a penalty to a player under the Rules of Golf if he or she fails to comply with these requests or makes a mistake in doing so, but the Committee may provide a disciplinary sanction for a player who fails repeatedly to comply with such a request. For example, the Committee may ask players to:

Similarly, the Committee may request that players assist the Committee by entering their scores into a computer system at the end of the round, but a player should not be penalized under the Rules of Golf if he or she fails to comply with this request or makes a mistake in doing so. But the Committee may provide a disciplinary sanction, for example in a Code of Conduct, for a player who fails repeatedly to comply with such a request.

(6) How Ties Will Be Decided

In match play and stroke play, the Terms of the Competition can be used to alter the way in which ties are decided.

Match Play

If a match is tied after the final hole, the match is extended one hole at a time until there is a winner (see Rule 3.2a(4)), unless the Terms of the Competition state otherwise.

The Terms of the Competition should specify if the match may end in a tie or if the play-off method will differ from that specified in Rule 3.2a(4). Options include the following:

In a handicap match, the stroke index allocation as set by the Committee should be used to determine where handicap strokes should be given or received in extra holes unless the Terms of the Competition state otherwise.

A tie in a match should not be decided by a stroke-play play-off.

Stroke Play

The Terms of the Competition should specify whether a competition may end in a tie, or if there will be a play-off or matching of scorecards to determine the winner and other finishing positions.

A tie in stroke play should not be decided by a match.

Play-off in Stroke Play

If there is to be a play-off in stroke play, the Terms of the Competition should set the following:

Matching Scorecards (Also Known as a Scorecard Count-Back)

If a play-off is not feasible or desired, the Terms of the Competition may specify that any ties will be decided by matching scorecards. Even when the winner of a competition is to be decided by a play-off, other positions in the competition may be decided by matching scorecards. The method of matching scorecards should also provide for what will happen if this procedure does not produce a winner.

One method of matching scorecards is to determine the winner based on the best score for the last round. If the tying players have the same score for the last round or if the competition consisted of a single round, determine the winner based on the score for the last nine holes, last six holes, last three holes and finally the 18th hole. If there is still a tie, then the last six holes, three holes and final hole of the first nine holes will be considered in turn. If the round is less than 18 holes, the number of holes used in matching scores may be adjusted.

If this process does not result in a winner, the Committee could consider the competition a tie, or alternatively could decide the winner by chance (such as tossing a coin).

Matching scorecards is also known as a card count-back or a scorecard play-off.

Additional Considerations:

(7) When the Result of the Competition Is Final

It is important for the Committee to clarify in the Terms of the Competition when and how the result of the competition is final as this will affect how the Committee will resolve any Rules issues that occur after play is complete in both match play and stroke play (see Rule 20).

Match Play

Examples of when the Terms of the Competition may state that the result of a match is final include:

When a match is determined to be final once the result is recorded on an official scoreboard, the Committee may take responsibility for recording the winner’s name on the scoreboard or it may pass that responsibility to the players. In some cases the official scoreboard will be a prominent structure and in other cases it might be a sheet of paper in the golf shop or locker room.

In cases where a referee has been assigned by the Committee to accompany a match, any announcement of the result of the match by the referee on the final putting green is not the official announcement unless it was stated as such in the Terms of the Competition.

Stroke Play

Examples of when the Terms of the Competition may state the competition to be closed in stroke play include:

In stroke-play qualifying followed by match play, Rule 20.2e(2) stipulates that the stroke-play portion of the competition is closed when the player has teed off to start his or her first match.

(8) Changing Terms of the Competition After Competition Has Started

The Terms of the Competition set out the structure of the competition and once a competition has started, the terms may be altered only in very exceptional circumstances.

An example of a situation where the Terms of the Competition should not be altered:

Examples of situations where there are exceptional circumstances and the Terms of the Competition may be altered:

(9) Anti-Doping

The Terms of the Competition may require players to comply with an antidoping policy. It is a matter for the Committee to write and interpret its own anti-doping policy, although guidance in developing such a policy can usually be provided by the national governing body.

5B Marking the Course

When preparing for a competition, the Committee should make sure that the course is properly marked and refresh any markings that might be used for general play, or change them if necessary. While there typically is no one “right” way to mark a course, failing to mark it properly or at all can lead to situations where a player is unable to proceed under the Rules or the Committee will be forced to make decisions while play is ongoing that might result in players being treated differently.

Section 2 provides detailed guidance and recommendations on how to mark the course for general play, but it also applies equally to competitions and should be referenced by the Committee when preparing for competitions.

Where changes are made to the course’s marking for a competition, the Committee should ensure these are clearly communicated to any players who regularly play the course so that they are not confused and inadvertently proceed incorrectly.

In addition to the information in Section 2, the Committee may wish to consider the following items:

(1) Out of Bounds

The Committee is responsible for ensuring that all boundaries are marked properly. It is a good practice to paint a small white circle around the base of any white stake or other boundary object that could get moved during play so that it can be returned to its original location. If lines or paint dots are being used to mark a boundary, they should be refreshed so that they can easily be seen. The Local Rules should clarify any boundaries that are defined in any manner other than stakes or fences (see Model Local Rule A-1).

(2) Penalty Areas

Before a competition, the Committee may wish to reassess the marking of some or all penalty areas.

(3) Bunkers

For most courses, the Committee should not need to do anything special to prepare bunkers for the competition. They should be freshly raked on the morning of the competition and the rakes placed where the Committee prefers (see Section 2D). If the edge of a bunker is difficult to determine, the Committee should consider whether it could be more clearly defined (either through maintenance practices, marking or a Local Rule) to avoid confusion among players and referees.

(4) Abnormal Course Conditions and Integral Objects

The Committee should review the entire course to ensure that any areas that should be marked as ground under repair are properly marked. It should also clarify the status of any obstructions or integral objects using Local Rules (see Model Local Rule F-1).

Ideally a Committee should mark any areas of ground under repair before the start of a competition. But a Committee can define an area to be ground under repair during the round in match play or stroke play if it is warranted.

Where relief is given from such an unmarked area during the round, the Committee should mark the area as ground under repair as soon as possible to ensure that all other players in the field are aware of the revised status of the area.

(5) No Play Zones

If there are no play zones on the course, the Committee should make sure they are properly identified. The Committee may also consider putting notices in these areas to ensure that players are fully aware that they are not permitted to play from them.

(6) Temporary Obstructions

Temporary structures such as tents or grandstands may be constructed for some competitions. The status of these structures will need to be clarified in the Local Rules as either Immovable Obstructions or Temporary Immovable Obstructions (TIOs). If they are to be treated as TIOs, the Local Rule regarding Temporary Immovable Obstructions should be used (see Model Local Rule F-23). This Local Rule gives a player additional relief if there is interference on the line of sight so that he or she will not be required to play around or over the obstruction.

5C Local Rules (Including Modified Rules of Golf for Players with Disabilities)

The Committee is responsible for deciding whether to adopt any Local Rules and for making sure they are consistent with the principles found in Section 8. A Local Rule is a modification of a Rule or an additional Rule that the Committee adopts for general play or a particular competition. The Committee needs to make sure that any Local Rules are available for players to see, whether on the scorecard, a separate handout, a notice board or the course’s website.

When considering adopting a Local Rule, the Committee should keep in mind the following:

A full list of authorized of Model Local Rules can be found at the start of Section 8.

Local Rules that may be adopted for competitions fall into the following general categories:

The Committee should also take note of Section 8L – Unauthorized Local Rules.

Modified Rules of Golf for Players with Disabilities

A set of Modified Rules is available for players with disabilities. The Modified Rules only apply if adopted by the Committee and they do not automatically apply to every competition involving players with disabilities.

It is up to each Committee to decide whether to adopt any of the Modified Rules for players with disabilities who are taking part in a competition.

The goal of the Modified Rules is to allow a player with a disability to play fairly with players who have no disabilities, the same disability or different types of disabilities.

See the Modified Rules for players with disabilities for further information and guidance.

5D Defining Practice Areas

Many courses have specific practice areas, such as a practice range and practice greens for putting, bunker play and chipping. Players are permitted to practise in these areas, whether they are inside or outside the boundaries of the course. It is recommended that practice areas that are located on the course be specified in the Local Rules to clarify whether players may practise on those areas before and after their rounds. The Committee may need to define the edges of these areas to limit where players may practise.

The Committee may also change the permissions in relation to when and where practice is allowed as follows:

5E Teeing Areas and Hole Locations

(1) Selecting Teeing Areas

In selecting which teeing areas to use for a competition, the Committee should seek to balance the difficulty of the course with the strength of the field. For example, it would not be advisable and could have a significant effect on pace of play to choose a teeing area that required a forced carry that many of the players in the field are unlikely to be able to make with anything other than their very best stroke.

The Committee may decide to use different teeing areas for competitions than those used for general play. If this is done, the Committee should consult the rules or recommendations contained within the Handicap System operating in the local jurisdiction for guidance on how the issued Course Rating might be impacted. Otherwise, the scores may not be acceptable for submission for handicapping purposes.

The locations of the teeing areas may be changed between rounds, including when more than one round is played on the same day.

It is a good practice to place a small mark, such as a paint dot, behind or under the tee-markers to ensure that if they get moved they can be returned to their original position. When there are multiple rounds, a different number of dots can be used for each round.

If a competition is being played on a course where there are no signs identifying the holes, or where the Committee has decided to play the course in a different order, signs should be installed to identify the holes clearly.

(2) Selecting Hole Locations

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

Some additional considerations include:

5F Draw, Groups and Starting Times

(1) The Draw

In a match-play competition the draw is used to establish the overall order of matches and which players will make up each first-round match. The draw may be done in a number of ways including:

The draw should be arranged so that the two highest seeded players are on opposite sides of the draw and so on down the line as shown in the following table.







1 vs. 64

2 vs. 63

1 vs. 32

2 vs. 31

32 vs. 33

31 vs. 34

16 vs. 17

15 vs. 18

16 vs. 49

15 vs. 50

8 vs. 25

7 vs. 26

17 vs. 48

18 vs. 47

9 vs. 24

10 vs. 23

8 vs. 57

7 vs. 58

4 vs. 29

3 vs. 30

25 vs. 40

26 vs. 39

13 vs. 20

14 vs. 19

9 vs. 56

10 vs. 55

5 vs. 28

6 vs. 27

24 vs. 41

23 vs. 42

12 vs. 21

11 vs. 22

4 vs. 61

3 vs. 62


29 vs. 36

30 vs. 35

1 vs. 16

2 vs. 15

13 vs. 52

14 vs. 51

8 vs. 9

7 vs. 10

20 vs. 45

19 vs. 46

4 vs. 13

3 vs. 14

5 vs. 60

6 vs. 59

5 vs. 12

6 vs. 11

28 vs. 37

27 vs. 38


12 vs. 53

11 vs. 54

1 vs. 8

2 vs. 7

21 vs. 44

22 vs. 43

4 vs. 5

3 vs. 6

For purposes of determining places in the draw, ties in qualifying rounds other than those for the last qualifying place can be decided by:

When there is a tie for the final place in the draw, the Committee may choose to have a play-off or add another round of matches to reduce the field to an even number of players. This should be specified in the Terms of the Competition.

In some events, the Committee may choose to seed the defending champion. When this is done, it is typical to seed the champion as either the first or second seed. The Committee should also decide if it will permit the champion to play in the qualifying event and, if so, he or she forfeits the seeding.

Multiple Draws (also known as Flights or Divisions)

While many competitions have all players competing against all the other players, there are times when a Committee can choose to divide the competition into multiple draws (sometimes called flights or divisions). This may be in order to have players of similar abilities compete against each other or in order to have multiple winners.

The makeup of these draws may be determined by handicap, through qualifying or by another method determined by the Committee. The Committee should set out how the draws will be set up in the Terms of the Competition.

While the draws may be set by handicap, there is no requirement that the resulting play within the draw be a handicap competition since all the players should be of relatively equal ability.

In a match-play competition, it is a good idea to make the size of the draws so that it will not be necessary to give players byes and, ideally, a size that means all players will play the same number of matches in a knock-out format, such as 8, 16, 32, 64 or 128. If there are not enough players to fill the final draw, players should be given byes into the second round as needed. There is no requirement that all the draws have the same number of players. For example, the first or championship draw might have 32 players while the other draws might have 16.

(2) Starting Times and Playing Groups

The Committee can set the starting times and groups or allow the players to set their own.

When the Committee allows players to set their own starting time, it has the same status as a starting time set by the Committee (see Rule 5.3a).

There are many considerations in determining the number of players in a group and the interval between groups. When setting starting times and groups, pace of play is an important consideration as well as the amount of time available for play. Groups of two will play faster than groups of three or four. Starting intervals can be closer together for smaller groups. When the Committee chooses to start players on multiple holes (such as holes 1 and 10), it is important to ensure that players will not have an excessive wait if they arrive at the other starting tee before the final group has started.

When a match-play competition will be played over an extended period and players in a match are allowed to agree on when to play during that period, the Committee should:

In match play, the Committee sets the draw showing who will play in each match or otherwise specifies how matches are to be determined. When it is possible it is best for each match to have its own starting time, but there may be times when two matches will be started together.

(3) Markers

In stroke play, a player or side always needs to have someone other than the player or a member of the side to mark the scorecard. The Committee may specify or restrict who may act as the marker for each player by specifying that the marker must be a player in the same competition and group, a player with a handicap, or in some other way.

In a format where two or more partners compete together as a side (for example, in a Foursomes or Four-Ball competition), they are not permitted to act as the side’s marker. Where the number of sides for a partner format is not even, the Committee may need to find a marker for a side playing on its own or choose to have a group containing three sides.

(4) Starting Areas

The Committee may define a specific area at or near the first teeing area where players must be present and ready to play at the starting time (see Rule 5.3a).

This may be defined by painted lines on the ground, by ropes or in some other way.

5G Pace of Play Policy

The Committee can set its own Pace of Play Policy adopted as a Local Rule (see Rule 5.6b). In practice the nature of such a Policy will be dependent on the number of Committee members available to implement it (see Section 8K).

Pace of Play Policies may contain:

The Committee is responsible for making sure that a competition is played at a prompt pace of play. What is considered a prompt pace can be different based on the course, size of the entry and number of players in each group. To do this:

5H 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). If the Committee does not set a Code of Conduct, it is restricted in penalizing players for inappropriate conduct to using Rule 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 5H(4) for more information).

(1) Setting a Code of Conduct

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

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

The Committee may provide in the Code of Conduct that a warning will be given for the first breach of the Code and not a penalty, unless the Committee considers the breach to be sufficiently serious.

A Committee needs to determine whether the Code of Conduct applies to a player’s caddie, and whether the player can be penalized under the Code for actions of his or her caddie during the round.

It would not be appropriate to penalize a player under a Code of Conduct for a breach of a spectator code by the player’s family or supporters. For example, in a junior competition where family members are not allowed to walk on the fairway, or within a specified distance of the competitors, the player should not be penalized for any breach by a spectator.

(2) Determining Penalties for Breach of Code

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

(3) Sample Penalty Structure for a Code of Conduct

The following model penalty structures give an example 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 a one-stroke penalty, with other breaches resulting in the general penalty.

Model Penalty Structure

(4) 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 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.

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

5I 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 the course website.

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 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 pairings 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, consult the rules or recommendations contained within the Handicap System operating in the local jurisdiction.

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

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 Handicap System operating in the local jurisdiction. For example, if full handicap, or a percentage of the handicap, will be applied.

(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 go over them with 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. Additional information can be found in Model Local Rule J-1.