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.
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:
Pace of Play Policy.
Code of Conduct.
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 by digital communication methods. Otherwise they may be provided as handouts to players before they start their round.
When resources allow, the Committee should have a starter at the starting tees 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 referees to set their watches to the same time.
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 during play. 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.
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.
a. 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.
b. 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.
c. 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 located 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 location 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:
Have play continue with the hole position unchanged on the basis that the conditions are the same for all players in the competition.
Keep the hole in the same position but take some action to improve the situation such as watering the putting green between groups.
Declare the round null and void and have all players start the round again with the hole relocated.
Suspend play, relocate the hole and have the players who played the hole return at the conclusion of their rounds to replay the hole. The score for the hole for these players is the score achieved after the hole is relocated.
Have all players disregard their score for the hole in question and play an additional hole (whether on the competition course or elsewhere) for their score for the hole.
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.
d. 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. The Committee can then assess whether the hole needs to be moved prior to the next group playing the hole, such as when the damage is likely to worsen during play. If it does need to be moved, it should be moved to a nearby similar location that provides the same challenge as where the hole was originally located, and ideally by moving it as short a distance as possible from the original location.
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 to a nearby similar position if the hole cannot be repaired to the extent necessary to enable that group to complete the hole and relocating it 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 their 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.
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.
As detailed in the definition of “referee”, a referee’s duties and authority in match play depends on their assigned role, whereas in stroke play, a referee is responsible for acting on any breach of the Rules they see or are told about.
Whether or not a referee is assigned to one match, they cannot act on a request for a ruling if the facts were known to the opponent at the time and no request was made in time. See Clarification Committee/1 for limitations that can be put on the role of some referees or some Committee members.
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(9) or 6C(10) for situations where the error can be corrected
While a referee is not obliged to warn a player who is about to breach a Rule, to prevent a player from getting a penalty it is strongly recommended that a referee should do in stroke play so whenever possible in and in match play, when the referee has been assigned to one match for the entire round. A referee who acts in accordance with this recommendation by volunteering information on the Rules in order to prevent breaches of the Rules is acting fairly as they would try to do so uniformly to all players.
But, in match play where the referee has not been assigned to one match for the entire round, they have 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.
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 get 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.
A referee will often rely on the assistance of a player to determine the facts of a situation before making a ruling. In these situations, the player needs to do their best to provide correct information to the referee so that the referee can make a ruling.
If the ruling given turns out to have been wrong when additional information is brought to the attention of the Committee (such as by reviewing video), the action the Committee should take is based on whether the player did their best to provide the correct information to the referee.
If the player failed to do their best (such as by deliberately giving the referee misleading comments or deliberately withholding information) and this resulted in the referee directing the player to play from a wrong place, the Committee should correct the ruling so that the player is in breach of Rule 14.7 on the hole in question. The same would be true if a referee did not penalize the player when a penalty should have been applied (such as when the player improved their conditions affecting the stroke). The Committee should also consider whether the player should be disqualified for serious misconduct under Rule 1.2a.
However, if the player did do their best to provide correct information, and the referee made a ruling based wholly or in part on information the player provided, the player should not be penalized retrospectively for playing from a wrong place. But, the player may still be penalized retrospectively if their actions before speaking to the referee were a breach of the Rules.
For example, a player sees their ball at rest move in the rough before a stroke and does not believe they were the cause of the movement. They then speak to a referee and state that they do not think they touched the grass near the ball prior to its movement. Based on that information, the referee rules that the ball will be played as it lies without penalty. Later in the round, video evidence shows that the player did touch the grass very close to the ball causing it to move. By doing so, the player should have been given one penalty stroke and replaced the ball before making the next stroke. In this situation, the Committee should retrospectively add one penalty stroke to player’s score on that hole for causing their ball to move. But, because the player did their best to help the referee with the ruling, the player would not be penalized for playing from a wrong place.
A similar example would be when a player improves the conditions affecting their stroke while preparing to play (such as by walking across the fringe of the putting green and unknowingly stepping on and pressing down a small pile of sand on their line of play). A nearby referee with an incomplete view of the player’s actions is concerned the player may have improved their lie. When asking the player what they did, the player states they thought they stepped over the line of play. Based on this information the referee rules there is no penalty. It is later discovered the player did walk on their line and, in doing so, pressed down sand that improved their line of play. Even though the player did their best to provide the referee with correct information, the action had already occurred at the time of the conversation so the Committee should correct the ruling and retrospectively rule that the player gets the general penalty on that hole.
Resolving questions of fact is among the most difficult actions required of a referee or the Committee.
In all situations involving questions of fact, resolution of the doubt should be made based on all the relevant circumstances and information available at the time. When the Committee is unable to determine the facts to its satisfaction, it should treat the situation in a way that is reasonable, fair and consistent with how similar situations are treated under the Rules.
Testimony of the players involved is important and should be given due consideration. There is no set process for evaluating the testimony of the players or for assigning the weight to be given to such testimony and each situation should be treated on its own merits. The proper action depends on the circumstances in each case and should be left to the judgment of the referee, or the Committee. Where there is a question relating to the Rules in a situation 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.
Testimony of those who are not a part of the competition, including spectators, should be considered and evaluated. It is also appropriate to use television footage and the like to assist in resolving doubt, although the “naked eye” standard should be applied when using such evidence (see Rule 20.2c).
When a player has been required to determine a spot, point, line, edge, area or location under the Rules, the Committee should determine if the player used reasonable judgment in doing so. If so, that decision will be accepted even if, after the stroke is made, the determination is shown to be wrong (see Rule 1.3b(2)).
It is important that any questions of fact be resolved as soon as possible, therefore, a referee may be limited to evaluating the evidence available to them at the time. But any such ruling may be further reviewed by the referee, or the Committee, if additional evidence becomes available after the initial ruling.
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. If the ruling is found to be wrong, the Committee may have the authority to make a correction (see Rule 20.2d and Section 6C(9) or 6C(10)). 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.
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 determine the true state of the match. If the Committee is unable to determine the true state of the match, it should resolve the situation in the fairest way, which could mean ruling that the match should be replayed if possible.
When a player proceeds under a Rule that does not apply to their 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.
A player took relief away from a boundary object under Rule 16.1b. They have proceeded under a Rule that does not apply. As Rule 19.1 (Unplayable Ball) requires the player to have decided to proceed under it before taking relief, the Committee may not apply Rule 19 to the player’s actions. As there was no Rule that allowed the player to lift their ball in such a situation, the Committee should determine that Rule 9.4 applies and none of the Exceptions save the player from penalty.
A player decided that their ball was unplayable in a penalty area, dropped it according to the procedure of option b or c of Rule 19.2 and played it from within the penalty area. As Rule 17.1 is the only Rule that allows the player to lift their ball for relief in a penalty area, the Committee should determine that Rule 17 applies and rule accordingly. As a result, the player is considered to have played from a wrong place (see Rule 14.7) and, in addition, gets the one penalty stroke under Rule 17.1.
A player’s ball lay in temporary water that they mistook for a penalty area. The player dropped and played a ball according to the procedure in Rule 17.1d(2). As Rule 16.1b was the only Rule that allowed the player to lift their ball for relief in that situation, the Committee should determine that Rule 16.1b applies and rule accordingly. As a result, assuming that the player did not drop a ball in and play from an area that satisfied Rule 16.1b, the player is considered to have played from a wrong place (see Rule 14.7).
A player did not know the location of their original ball but assumed, without knowledge or virtual certainty, that it was in ground under repair. The player dropped and played another ball under Rules 16.1e and 16.1b. As the player did not know the location of their original ball, in these circumstances, Rule 18.1 was the only Rule that the player could have proceeded under. Therefore, the Committee should determine that Rule 18.1 applies and rule accordingly. As a result, the player is considered to have put a ball into play under penalty of stroke and distance and to have played from a wrong place (see Rule 14.7) and, in addition, gets the stroke-and-distance penalty under Rule 18.1.
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 a wrong ruling should be corrected in match play.
a. Correction of Wrong Ruling by a Referee During Match
A referee should not correct a wrong ruling after either player makes their next stroke. But if a player should have been disqualified and was not, that ruling may be corrected any time before the start of the player’s next match, or before the result of the competition is final (but there is no time limit on disqualifying a player under Rules 1.2 or 1.3b(1).
If no more strokes are made on a hole after a ruling has been made, a referee should not correct a wrong ruling once either player makes a stroke from the next teeing area.
If neither of the above bullet points apply, a wrong ruling by a referee should be corrected.
In a situation where a wrong ruling can be corrected, if the wrong ruling has resulted in one or more players lifting their ball, the referee is responsible for directing the players to replace their balls and complete the hole, with the correct ruling applied.
The principles above also apply where a referee fails to penalize a player for a breach of a Rule due to misunderstanding the result of a hole.
For example, a referee fails to advise a player of a loss of hole penalty for a breach of the pace of play policy as the referee believed the player had already lost the hole. On the next hole, the referee learns that the player had not lost the hole. If the player or the opponent has made a stroke from the teeing area of that next hole, the referee can no longer correct the error.
b. Correction of Wrong Ruling Made on Final Hole of Match Before Result Is Final
Where a referee makes a wrong ruling on the final hole of a match and no more strokes are played, it should be corrected at any time up until the result of the match is final, or if the match is tied and goes to extra holes, until either player makes a stroke from the next teeing area.
c. Wrong 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 results in the player making a stroke from a wrong place, and the Committee then learns of the wrong ruling, the following principles apply:
If a serious breach is not involved, and the player has not been seriously disadvantaged due to playing from a wrong place, it is too late to correct the ruling once the player has made a stroke from the wrong place. The strokes made after the wrong ruling stand with no penalty for playing from the wrong place.
If a serious breach is involved or the player has been seriously disadvantaged due to playing from a wrong place:
If the opponent has not yet made their next stroke on the hole concerned, the Committee should correct the ruling.
If the opponent has not made a stroke on the hole after the ruling was given, the Committee should correct the ruling if neither player has made a stroke from the next teeing area, or in the case of the final hole of the match, if the result of the match is not yet final.
Otherwise it is too late to correct the ruling, and the strokes made after the wrong ruling stand with no penalty.
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 a wrong ruling should be corrected in stroke play.
a. Correction of Wrong Ruling by Referee in Stroke Play
When possible, a referee should correct a wrong 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).
b. Player in Stroke Play Wrongly Advised Stroke Does Not Count
In stroke play, a referee wrongly advises a player that their stroke does not count and to play again without penalty. Once the player has replayed the stroke, the ruling stands (including the referee’s cancellation of the stroke) and the player’s score with the replayed stroke is the player’s score for the hole.
c. Player in Stroke Play Makes Stroke from Wrong Place Due to Wrong Ruling; Procedure for Player When Error Is Discovered
In stroke play, if a player proceeds on the basis of a ruling from a referee, which results in the player making a stroke from a wrong place and the Committee then learns of the wrong ruling, the following principles apply:
If a serious breach is involved, or the player has been seriously disadvantaged due to playing from a wrong place:
If the player has not made a stroke to begin another hole or, for the final hole of the round, before returning their scorecard, the Committee should correct the ruling. The Committee should direct the player to cancel the stroke made from the wrong place and any subsequent strokes and proceed correctly. The player gets no penalty for playing from a wrong place.
Otherwise it is too late to correct the ruling and the strokes made after the wrong ruling stand with no penalty.
d. Referee Gives Player Incorrect Information; Player Acts on Information in Subsequent Play
If a referee provides a player with incorrect information on the Rules, the player is entitled to act on such information in their subsequent play.
Consequently, the Committee may be required to make a judgment as to both the duration of the player’s entitlement and their 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:
General guidance on the Rules
When a member of the Committee or a referee provides incorrect information in the nature of general guidance about the Rules, the player should not be exempt from penalty.
For example, a player asks a referee, for future reference, if they are allowed to remove sand surrounding their ball in the general area. The referee incorrectly advises the player they are allowed to do so. Because the question did not relate to a specific situation, the player would not be exempt from penalty if the player breached that Rule later in the round.
When a referee gives a wrong ruling, the player is exempt from penalty. The Committee should extend this exemption for the duration of the competition in circumstances where the player proceeds incorrectly on their own in exactly the same manner as advised by a referee earlier in the competition. However, that exemption ceases if, in that competition, the player becomes aware of the proper procedure or has their actions questioned.
For example, a player asks a referee for help in taking relief from a red penalty area and the referee incorrectly tells the player that they must drop again because their stance is in the penalty area. If the player drops again for that same reason when taking relief from a red penalty area later in the round or during the next round of the same competition the Committee should not penalize the player for playing from a wrong place.
Guidance on Local Rules or Terms of the Competition
When a member of the Committee or a referee gives incorrect information on whether a Local Rule or Term of the Competition is in effect, the player is exempt from penalty for acting on that information. This exemption applies for the duration of the competition unless corrected earlier, in which case, the exemption ends at that point.
For example, if the player is told by a referee that distance-measuring devices are allowed even though the Local Rule prohibiting their use is in effect, that player does not incur a penalty for using the distance-measuring device during the competition. However, if the Committee learns of the wrong ruling, the player should be informed of the mistake as soon as possible.
When a member of the Committee or a referee rules that a non- conforming club is conforming, the player is exempt from penalty for using the club. This exemption applies for the duration of the competition unless corrected earlier, in which case, the exemption ends at the completion of the round during which the correction was made.
e. Player Lifts Ball Without Authority Due to Misunderstanding Referee's Instructions
If a player lifts their ball when not allowed 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 they ask 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 them. The player will normally be penalized one stroke under Rule 9.4 for lifting their ball when it is not allowed, but provided the referee is satisfied that the player misunderstood the instruction, the ball is replaced without penalty.
f. Player Wrongly Advised to Continue with Provisional Ball by Referee
A player had reason to play a provisional ball from the teeing area and finds their original ball in a penalty area. The player is then wrongly advised by a referee that they must continue with the provisional ball and completes the hole with the provisional ball. Although the provisional ball was a wrong ball which the player was required to abandon under Rule 18.3c, the player gets no penalty for playing the provisional ball.
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 wrong ruling, with the second stroke with the provisional ball being the player’s second stroke on the hole. But if it would have been clearly unreasonable for the player to have played the original ball from the penalty area, they must also add one penalty stroke under Rule 17.1 to the score for the hole.
g. Committee Makes Wrong 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 a wrong ruling and not an administrative error. Therefore Rule 20.2d applies and the answer depends on when the Committee learns of its wrong ruling:
If the Committee learns of the wrong ruling before the competition closes, it should correct the ruling by changing the score for the hole in question to that of the correct ball.
If the Committee learns of the wrong ruling after the competition has closed, the score with the incorrect ball remains the player’s score for the hole in question. Under Rule 20.2d, such a ruling is final once the competition has closed.
h. Disqualification Penalty Wrongly Applied to Winner of Event; Error Discovered After Two Other Players Play Off for First Place
If, as a result of a wrong 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 wrong ruling before the result of the competition is final, the Committee should correct the wrong ruling by rescinding the disqualification penalty and declaring that player to be the winner. If the Committee learns of the wrong ruling after the result of the competition is final, the result stands, with the player disqualified.
i. 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 they are 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 their scores for the remaining rounds can 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 their 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.
Combining match play and stroke play is discouraged as certain Rules are substantially different between the two forms of play. But if players either request to combine the two forms of play or, having done so on their own, ask for a ruling, the Committee should make its best efforts to support the players.
a. When players request to combine Match Play and Stroke Play
If a Committee allows players to play a match while competing in a stroke-play competition, the players should be told to apply the Rules for stroke play. 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.
b. When players request a ruling having combined Match Play and Stroke Play
When players request a ruling in a situation where they have combined match play and stroke play, the Committee should apply the Rules of Golf as they would apply to each of match play and stroke play, where possible. For example, if one player did not complete a hole for whatever reason then they are 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, 21.2c and 21.3c respectively.
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.
For more information and example policies, see Model Local Rule Section 8K.
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).
Immediate suspension (such as when there is imminent danger). If the Committee declares an immediate suspension of play, all players must stop play at once and must not make another stroke until the Committee resumes play.
Normal suspension (such as for darkness or unplayable course). If the Committee suspends play for normal reasons, what happens next depends on whether a group is between two holes or playing a hole.
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 back 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).
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 Clarification 5.7c/1 for what to do if a player refuses to start because they feel 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.
c. Temporary Water
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 temporary water sround the hole 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.
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:
If players were evacuated from the course, whether players should be given time to warm up before resuming play.
If the practice areas were closed during the suspension, when they should be reopened to give players sufficient time to get ready to play.
How to get players back to their positions on the course.
How to ensure that all players are back in position before resuming play. This might include having members of the Committee in position to observe and report when all players have returned.
a. 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:
The result of completed matches stand as played and incomplete matches are to be continued or replayed on a later date,
All matches are to be replayed, and each team is free to alter its original team, or
Any matches that cannot be completed as scheduled are considered to be tied.
b. 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, it would be reasonable to cancel a round if, a small number of players begin a round under extremely bad weather conditions, conditions subsequently worsen and play for the remainder of that day is impossible, but when play will resume the next day the weather is likely to be significantly better.
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.
If, because of bad weather, a player refuses to start at the time arranged by the Committee or stops play during the round and the Committee later cancels that round, the player gets no penalty as all penalties in a cancelled round are cancelled.
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 they remove 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.
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.
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, they 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).
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 their 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, the required signatures and correct hole-by-hole scores. The Committee should add up the player's scores, and in a net competition, calculate the player's handicap strokes and use it to calculate the player's net score.
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.
For a competition played over multiple rounds, the Terms of the Competition may state that:
Players will be regrouped for later rounds based on their total score to that point.
The size of the field will be reduced for the final round or rounds (often called the “cut”).
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 order.
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.
Details of how the application of penalties under the exception to Rule 3.3b(3) should impact on a cut line or match play draw after they have been made are available on usga.org.
In match play, if a player withdraws or is disqualified from the competition before the start of their 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:
Declare the player’s next opponent the winner by default, or
If the player withdraws before their first-round match:
If time permits, produce a new match-play draw, or
Replace the player with a player from the list of alternates or reserves, or
Where players have qualified through stroke play for the match-play competition, replace the player with the player who is now the final qualifier.
If the player withdraws or is disqualified after their first or subsequent match, the Committee could:
Declare the player’s next opponent the winner by default, or
Require all players eliminated by the player in match play to play off for that position.
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 they won previously in the competition, for example, for winning the stroke-play qualifying competition.
If a player withdraws or is disqualified before the first round in a stroke-play 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 their first round they should not be replaced.
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.
In a stroke-play qualifying round for a match-play competition, if the Committee calculates the player's handicap incorrectly or misapplies the player’s handicap 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 match play starts, it is too late to correct the draw.