6. During the Competition

Once the competition has started, the Committee is responsible for ensuring that players have the information needed to play under the Rules and to assist them in applying the Rules.

6A Starting

Before starting the round, players should be provided with all the information they need to be able to play the course under the Rules.

In stroke play, each player should be given a scorecard and, in net competitions such as Stableford, Maximum Score or Four-Ball, this should include the handicap stroke index allocation as set by the Committee.

When the Committee has prepared additional documents, it should make them available to players before the round, and if possible before players arrive at the first tee so that they have a reasonable amount of time to read them. These could include:

Depending on the resources available to them, the Committee may choose to make the documents available in a single location for players to read, for example on a notice board or website. Otherwise they may be provided as hand-outs to players before they start their round.

When resources allow, the Committee should have a starter at the starting tee to ensure the players have all the information they require and that they start on time.

When the time comes for starting the group, the starter should start the first player at the time assigned. If this is not possible due to the location of the group in front (such as when they are delayed by a ball search), the actual time of starting should be noted so that the Committee can use that information when applying a pace of play policy.

The Committee should adopt a consistent method for handling situations when players may be late in arriving at their first tee. This may include having Committee members or others attempt to locate the missing players or having a countdown in front of other players who are present so that it is clear to all when the player is late. It is good practice to have a clock set to the official time close to the tee and for all officials to set their watches to the same time.

6B The Course

(1) Course Maintenance During Round

While it is preferable to have all maintenance on the course completed before the first group reaches each hole to make sure that all players play the course in the same condition, this is sometimes not possible. Where course maintenance, such as cutting of putting greens, fairways or rough, or the raking of bunkers, takes place during a round, the results of the competition stand as played.

While the Committee should attempt to mark all areas that warrant being marked as ground under repair before the competition begins, there will be times when areas are not noticed until play has begun. There will also be times when weather, vehicles, players or spectators may cause additional damage to the course. In these cases, the Committee may decide to mark the areas as ground under repair. The decision to mark an area should be made regardless of whether a player has already played from that area.

(2) Setting Hole Locations and Teeing Areas

In a stroke-play competition, all players should play the course with the teemarkers and holes positioned in the same places. The Committee should avoid moving any tee-markers or holes after groups have played a hole, but there may be situations where this cannot be avoided or where they are moved by someone else in error.

Teeing Area Becomes Unusable After Start of Round

If a teeing area becomes covered in temporary water or for some other reason is not usable after the round has started, the Committee may suspend play or relocate the teeing area if this can be done without giving any player a significant advantage or disadvantage.

Tee-Markers or Hole Moved

If tee-markers or the hole are moved by a member of the course staff, or if tee-markers are moved by a player or anyone else, the Committee should determine if any players have been significantly advantaged or disadvantaged. If so, the round should generally be declared null and void. If the course has not been altered significantly and no player has been given a significant advantage or disadvantage, the Committee may choose to let the round stand.

Moving the Position of the Hole Due to Severity of Position

In stroke play, if it becomes apparent during a round that a hole is positioned such that the ball will not stop near the hole due to the severity of the slope, which has resulted in several players taking an excessive number of putts, the Committee has several options available.

The Committee should consider all factors, including how severe the position is, how many players have completed play of the hole and where the hole is in the round, and take the course of action that it considers to be the fairest to all the players. For example:

The last two options should be taken only in extreme circumstances because they alter the round for some or all players.

In match play, the Committee may move the hole between matches.

Relocating Hole After Ball Already Positioned Nearby on Putting Green

If a ball is on the putting green when the hole has been damaged, the Committee should attempt to repair the hole so that it conforms with the definition of “hole”. If this is not possible the players may complete the hole with the hole in its damaged state.

It is not desirable to relocate the hole before all players in the group have completed play of the hole. However, the Committee may relocate the hole in a nearby similar position if doing so is necessary to ensure the proper playing of the game. If this is done before the players in the group have completed the hole, the Committee should require any player whose ball is on the putting green to reposition his or her ball to a position that is comparable to that which the previous stroke had originally given the player. For a ball that lies off the putting green, the Committee should require that ball to be played as it lies.

6C Providing Rules Assistance to Players

A Committee may appoint referees to assist with the administration of a competition. A referee is an official named by the Committee to decide questions of fact and apply the Rules.

(1) Referees in Match Play

In match play, a referee’s duties and authority depend on his or her assigned role:

(2) Referees in Stroke Play

In stroke play:

(3) Limiting Role of Committee Members and Referees

The Committee is the person or group in charge of the competition or the course, but within that Committee:

Examples include:

The Committee may limit a referee’s duties in stroke play or match play (such as when it believes this will help make rulings consistent for all of the players) by identifying items that may be handled only by the Committee or by a particular set of referees.

Examples of such items are:

(4) Referee Authorizes Player to Breach a Rule

A referee’s decision is final and therefore if a referee authorizes a player to breach a Rule in error, the player will not be penalized. But see Rule 20.2d and Section 6C(10) or 6C(11) for situations where the error can be corrected.

(5) Referee Warns Player About to Breach Rule

While a referee is not obliged to warn a player who is about to breach a Rule, it is strongly recommended that a referee should do so whenever possible in order to prevent a player from getting a penalty. A referee who acts in accordance with the recommendation by volunteering information on the Rules in order to prevent breaches of the Rules should do so uniformly to all players.

But, in match play where the referee has not been assigned to one match for the entire round, he or she has no authority to intervene. The referee should not warn the player unless asked, and if the player does breach the Rule, the referee should not apply the penalty without the opponent requesting a ruling.

(6) Disagreement with Referee’s Decision

If a player disagrees with a referee’s decision in match play or stroke play, the player is generally not entitled to a second opinion, whether from another referee or the Committee (see Rule 20.2a), but the referee whose decision is questioned may agree to obtain a second opinion.

The Committee can adopt a policy of always allowing all players a second opinion where they disagree with a referee’s decision.

(7) How to Resolve Questions of Fact

Resolving questions of fact is among the most difficult actions required of a referee or the Committee.

If a judgment is made by a referee, the player is entitled to proceed on the basis of that ruling whether it is an interpretation of the Rules of Golf or a resolution of a question of fact. In situations arising in both circumstances, if the ruling is found to be incorrect, the Committee may have the authority to make a correction (see Rule 20.2d and Section 6C(10) or 6C(11)). However, in all circumstances, including both match play and stroke play, the referee or Committee is limited in its ability to make corrections by the guidance contained in Rule 20.2d.

Where there is a question relating to the Rules where it is one player’s word against another’s and the weight of evidence does not favour either player, the benefit of the doubt should be given to the player who made the stroke or whose score is involved.

(8) True State of the Match Not Determinable

If two players complete their match but do not agree on the result, they should refer the matter to the Committee.

The Committee should gather all available evidence and attempt to ascertain the true state of the match. If, after doing so, it is unable to determine the true state of the match, the Committee should resolve the situation in the fairest way, which could mean ruling that the match should be replayed if possible.

(9) Handling Ruling When Player Proceeds Under Inapplicable Rule

When a player proceeds under a Rule that does not apply to his or her situation and then makes a stroke, the Committee is responsible for determining the Rule to apply in order to give a ruling based on the player’s actions.

For example:

(10) Handling Wrong Rulings in Match Play

Under Rule 20.2a, a player has no right to appeal a referee’s ruling. But, if a ruling by a referee or the Committee is later found to be wrong, the ruling should be corrected if possible under the Rules (see Rule 20.2d). This section clarifies when an incorrect ruling should be corrected in match play.

Correction of Incorrect Ruling by a Referee During Match

Correction of Incorrect Ruling Made on Final Hole of Match Before Result Is Final

Where a referee makes an incorrect ruling on the final hole of a match, it should be corrected at any time up until the result of the match is final, or if the match goes to extra holes, until either player makes a stroke from the next teeing area.

Incorrect Ruling by Referee in Match Results in Player Making Stroke from Wrong Place

If a player in match play proceeds on the basis of a ruling from a referee, which involves dropping a ball and playing from a wrong place and the Committee then learns of the incorrect ruling, the following principles apply:

(11) Handling Wrong Rulings in Stroke Play

A player has no right to appeal a referee’s ruling (see Rule 20.2a). But if a ruling by a referee or the Committee is later found to be wrong, the ruling should be corrected if possible under the Rules (see Rule 20.2d). This section clarifies when an incorrect ruling should be corrected in stroke play.

Correction of Incorrect Ruling by Referee in Stroke Play

When possible, a referee should correct an incorrect ruling in stroke play that involves the incorrect application of a penalty or failure to apply a penalty, provided the competition has not closed (see Rule 20.2e).

Player In Stroke Play Incorrectly Advised Stroke Does Not Count

Where a referee in stroke play incorrectly advises a player that his or her stroke does not count and to play again without penalty, the ruling stands and the player’s score with the replayed stroke is the player’s score for the hole.

Player in Stroke Play Makes Stroke from Wrong Place Due to Incorrect Ruling; Procedure for Player When Error Is Discovered

In stroke play when a player proceeds on the basis of a ruling from a referee, which involves dropping a ball and playing from a wrong place and the Committee then learns of the incorrect ruling by the referee, the following principles apply:

Referee Gives Player Incorrect Information; Player Acts on Information in Subsequent Play

Players are expected to recognize when they have breached a Rule and to be honest in applying their own penalties (see Rule 1.3b). But if a referee provides the player with incorrect information on the Rules, the player is entitled to act on such information in his or her subsequent play.

Consequently, the Committee may be required to make a judgment as to both the duration of the player’s entitlement and his or her proper score when, as a result of proceeding according to the incorrect information provided, the player is liable to a penalty under the Rules.

In these situations, the Committee should resolve the matter in whatever manner it considers most fair, in light of all the facts and with the objective of ensuring that no player receives an undue advantage or disadvantage. In cases where the incorrect information significantly affects the results of the competition, the Committee may have no option but to cancel the round. The following principles are applicable:

Player Lifts Ball Without Authority Due to Misunderstanding Referee’s Instructions

If a player lifts his or her ball when not permitted to do so as a result of a reasonable misunderstanding of a referee’s instructions, there is no penalty, and the ball must be replaced unless the player proceeds under another Rule.

For example, a player’s ball comes to rest against a movable obstruction and he or she asks for relief. A referee correctly advises the player that the obstruction may be removed under Rule 15.2 and that the spot of the ball should be marked in case it moves during the removal of the obstruction. The player marks the position of the ball and lifts it before the referee can stop him or her.

The player will normally be penalized one stroke under Rule 9.4 for lifting his or her ball where it is not allowed, but, provided the referee is satisfied that the player misunderstood the instruction, the ball is replaced without penalty.

Player Incorrectly Advised to Continue with Provisional Ball by Referee

A player had reason to play a provisional ball from the teeing area and finds his or her original ball in a penalty area. The player is then incorrectly told by a referee that he or she must continue with the provisional ball and completes the hole with the provisional ball. The player incurs no penalty for playing a wrong ball (the provisional ball, which the player was required to abandon under Rule 18.3c).

If the Committee then becomes aware of the wrong ruling, it should rule that the player’s score for the hole consists of the tee shot with the original ball plus the number of strokes the player took to complete the hole with the provisional ball after the incorrect ruling, with the second stroke with the provisional ball being the player’s second stroke on the hole. However, if it would have been clearly unreasonable for the player to have played the original ball from the penalty area, he or she must also add one penalty stroke under Rule 17.1 to the score for the hole.

Committee Makes Incorrect Ruling When Player Has Played Two Balls Under Rule 20.1c(3); When Ruling May Be Corrected

In stroke play, a player plays two balls under Rule 20.1c(3), reports the facts to the Committee, and the Committee tells the player to score with the incorrect ball. Such a mistake is an incorrect ruling and not an administrative error. Therefore Rule 20.2d applies and the answer depends on when the Committee learns of its incorrect ruling:

Disqualification Penalty Wrongly Applied to Winner of Event; Error Discovered After Two Other Players Play Off for First Place

If, as a result of an incorrect ruling by the Committee, the rightful winner of a competition is disqualified and two other players play-off for first place, the best procedure depends on when the Committee realizes its error. If the Committee learns of its incorrect ruling before the result of the competition is final, the Committee should correct the incorrect ruling by rescinding the disqualification penalty and declaring the player to be the winner. If the Committee learns of the incorrect ruling after the result of the competition is final, the result stands, with the player disqualified.

Application of Disqualification Penalty in Competition in Which Not All Scores Used to Determine Winner

In a scenario such as a multiple round stroke-play team competition when not all the players’ scores count towards the team’s score for a round, a player’s score cannot count for the round when he or she is disqualified but could count for other rounds. For example, when two scores of three team members count, if a player is disqualified in the first of four rounds, the disqualification applies only to the first round and his or her scores for the remaining rounds could still be used.

This applies to all competitions in which not all scores are used to determine the winner (for example, an individual competition in which the player counts his or her three best scores from four rounds).

If a player is disqualified for a breach of Rule 1.3b or the Committee’s Code of Conduct, it is up to the Committee to determine whether the disqualification should be for the round or the entire competition.

(12) Combining Match Play and Stroke Play

The combining of match play and stroke play is discouraged as certain Rules are substantially different between the two formats. But there will be times when players either request to combine the two forms of play or, having done so on their own, request a ruling. The Committee should make its best efforts to support players at these times and should use the following guidelines in doing so.

When players request to combine match play and stroke play

If a Committee chooses to allow players to play a match while competing in a stroke-play competition, it is recommended that the players be advised that the Rules for stroke play apply throughout. For example, no concessions are allowed and if one player plays out of turn, the other does not have the option of recalling the stroke.

When players request a ruling having combined match play and stroke play

If the Committee is asked for a ruling when players have combined match play and stroke play, it should apply the Rules of Golf as they would apply to each of match play and stroke play separately. For example, if one player did not complete a hole for whatever reason then he or she is disqualified from the stroke-play competition for a breach of Rule 3.3c. But, for Stableford, Maximum Score and Par/Bogey see Rules 21.1c(2), 21.2c and 21.3c(2) respectively.

6D Enforcing Pace of Play

Where a Pace of Play policy is in place for a competition, it is important the Committee understands and actively enforces the policy to ensure that players adhere to the policy and play proceeds in an orderly manner.

For more information and example polices, see Model Local Rule Section 8K.

6E Suspensions and Resumptions

(1) Immediate and Normal Suspensions of Play

There are two types of suspensions of play that a Committee can order, each with different requirements for when players must stop play (see Rule 5.7b).

The Committee should use a way of signalling an immediate suspension that is different than that used for a normal suspension. The signals to be used should be communicated to the players in the Local Rules.

See Model Local Rule J-1 – Methods for Suspending and Resuming Play

When play is suspended, the Committee will need to evaluate if the players should be left in position on the course or brought in to the clubhouse.

Whether a suspension is immediate or normal, the Committee should resume play when it is possible to do so. Players will resume play from where they stopped (see Rule 5.7c).

(2) Deciding When to Suspend and Resume Play

Deciding when play should be suspended and then resumed can be difficult decisions for a Committee. A Committee should take the following guidelines into consideration:


The Committee should use whatever means it has available to determine if there is a danger from lightning and take what actions it believes are appropriate. Players may also stop play on their own when they believe there is a danger from lightning (see Rule 5.7a).

When the Committee concludes there is no further danger from lightning and orders play to be resumed, players must resume play. See Interpretation 5.7c/1 for what to do if a player refuses to start because he or she feels there is still a danger from lightning.


It is recommended that, if landing areas are no longer visible to players (for example, due to fog or darkness), play should be suspended. Similarly, if players are unable to read the line of play on a putting green due to a lack of visibility, play should be suspended.


If all the area around a hole is covered in temporary water and it cannot be removed, in stroke play the course should be considered unplayable and the Committee should suspend play under Rule 5.7.

In match play, if the water cannot be removed, the Committee may suspend play or relocate the hole.


Several balls being moved by the wind may be a reason to suspend play, but only one or two balls moving due to the wind on one green would not usually merit the Committee suspending play. On the putting green there are Rules in place to help players avoid getting penalties or for being advantaged if the ball is blown closer to the hole or disadvantaged if the ball is blown farther from the hole (see Rules 9.3 and 13.1).

The Committee should consider suspending play due to wind only if there are several instances of balls moving and players are having problems with replacing the ball on the spot from which it was blown, or at least reasonably close to that spot if the ball will not remain at rest on the original spot.

(3) Resumption of Play

When play is to be resumed following a suspension, players will resume play from where they stopped (see Rule 5.7d).

The Committee should be prepared to consider the following:

(4) Whether to Cancel Round

Match Play

A match should not be cancelled once play has begun as both players in a match are playing in the same conditions, without one having an advantage over the other.

If the players stop play by agreement as allowed in Rule 5.7a or the Committee feels that conditions are such that play should be suspended, the match should resume from where it was suspended.

In a team competition, if some matches are completed while others cannot be completed on the arranged day due to poor light or weather, the Terms of the Competition should clarify how the complete and incomplete matches will be treated (see Section 5A(4)). For example:

Stroke Play

In stroke play there is no set guidance for when a Committee should cancel a round. The proper action depends on the circumstances in each case and is left to the judgment of the Committee.

A round should be cancelled only in a case where it would be very unfair not to cancel it. For example, a small number of players begin a round under extremely bad weather conditions, conditions subsequently worsen and further play that day is impossible, but when play will resume the next day the weather is ideal.

When a round is cancelled, all scores and penalties during that round are cancelled. That would normally include any disqualification penalty, but, if a player is disqualified for a serious misconduct (see Rule 1.2) or for a breach of the Code of Conduct, that disqualification should not be cancelled.

(5) Player Refuses to Start or Picks Up Due to Weather Conditions

If, because of bad weather, a player refuses to start at the time arranged by the Committee or picks up during the round and the Committee later cancels that round, the player gets no penalty as all penalties in a cancelled round are cancelled.

(6) Removal of Temporary Water or Loose Impediments from Putting Green

If temporary water, sand, leaves or other loose impediments accumulate on a putting green during a round, the Committee may do what is necessary to remove the condition, for example by using a squeegee, or by brushing or blowing the putting green. It is not necessary for the Committee to suspend play to take these actions.

In such cases, the Committee may, when necessary, get the help of players to remove the loose impediments or sand. However, a player is in breach of Rule 8.1 if he or she removes temporary water on the line of play without the Committee’s permission.

A Committee may adopt a policy that clarifies what actions are considered appropriate for a Committee member, someone designated by the Committee (for example, a member of the maintenance staff), or players, to remove temporary water on the putting green.

See Model Local Rule J-2: Model Local Rule for Allowing Temporary Water on Putting Green to be Removed by a Squeegee.

(7) Match Begun in Ignorance Course Closed

If players begin a match when the course is closed and the Committee then learns of their action, the match should be replayed in its entirety as play on the closed course is considered null and void.

6F Scoring

(1) Match Play

It is usually the players’ responsibility to report the result of their match at a location designated by the Committee. If a referee has been assigned to the match, he or she may be assigned this duty instead of the players.

If a player makes a request for a ruling during the match that has not been resolved, the Committee should determine if the request meets the requirements in Rule 20.1b(2) and make its ruling. This may result in the players needing to return to the course to continue the match.

Once the result has been reported, it is considered final and no request for a ruling can be accepted unless it meets the requirements in Rule 20.1b(3).

(2) Stroke Play

In stroke play, players should be given an opportunity to resolve any issues that need to be clarified with the Committee (see Rules 14.7b and 20.1c(4)), check their scorecards and have any mistakes corrected. If there is a mistake on the scorecard, a player may ask the marker or the Committee to make or ratify a change to his or her scorecard (see Rule 3.3b(2)) up to the time that it is returned.

Once the scorecard has been returned, the Committee should check it to make sure that it has the player’s name, handicap (if it is a net competition), the required signatures and correct hole-by-hole scores. The Committee should total the scores and apply the handicap in a net competition.

In other forms of stroke play, such as Stableford or Par/Bogey, or in a Four- Ball competition, the Committee should determine the final result for the player or side. For example, in a Stableford competition, the Committee is responsible for determining the number of points that the player scores for each hole and in total for the round.

6G Making Cuts; Establishing Draws; Creating New Groups

(1) Making Cuts and Creating New Groups

For a competition played over multiple rounds, the Terms of the Competition may state that:

In both cases, the Committee should generate new groupings and publish them. It is customary for the players with the highest scores to tee off first and the players with the lowest scores to tee off last, although the Committee may choose to alter this.

The Committee can choose how to regroup players who finish with the same total score. For example, the Committee may decide that the first player to return a specific score will receive a later tee time than those who complete the round later with the same score.

If two tees are to be used for later rounds (for example, half the field starts on the first hole and the other half starts on the tenth hole), the Committee may decide to arrange the groups such that the players with the highest scores tee off last on one side (such as from the 10th tee) and the players with the lowest scores tee off last on the other side (such as the 1st tee). This results in the players in the middle of the field being the first to tee off on each tee.

(2) Dealing with Withdrawals and Disqualifications in Match Play

In match play, if a player withdraws or is disqualified from the competition before the start of his or her first match and the Committee has not specified how such a situation is dealt with in the Terms of the Competition, the Committee’s options are as follows:

If both finalists in a match-play competition are disqualified, the Committee may decide to conclude the competition without a winner. Alternatively, the Committee could elect to have the defeated semi-finalists play a match to determine the winner of the competition.

If a player in a match-play competition is disqualified, the player should be entitled to any prize he or she won previously in the competition, for example, for winning the stroke-play qualifying competition.

(3) Dealing with Withdrawals and Disqualifications in Stroke Play

If a player withdraws or is disqualified before the first round in a competition (for example, due to failure to start on time), the Committee may replace the player with another player not currently in the field (often called an alternate or reserve) if one is available. Once the player has started his or her first round he or she should not be replaced.

(4) Qualifying for Match Play

When stroke-play qualifying is used to determine the draw(s) for match play, the Committee can choose to break ties for various positions in the draw randomly or by using a scorecard count-back or play-off. This should be specified in the Terms of the Competition.

(5) Misapplication of Handicap Affects Match-Play Draw

In a stroke-play qualifying round for a match-play competition, if the Committee misapplies a player’s handicap on a scorecard which results in an incorrect draw, the Committee should deal with the matter in the fairest way possible. The Committee should consider amending the draw and cancelling the matches affected by the error.

If the error is discovered after the second round of the match play starts, it is too late to correct the draw.