Rules of Golf Effective January 2023
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© 2022 R&A Rules Limited and The United States Golf Association. All rights reserved. CBP012768 Rules of Golf Effective January 2023
Together, The R&A, based in St Andrews, Scotland and the USGA, based in Liberty Corner, New Jersey govern the game worldwide, including writing and interpreting the Rules of Golf. While collaborating to issue a single set of Rules, The R&A and the USGA operate in separate working jurisdictions. The USGA is responsible for administering the Rules in the United States, its territories and Mexico, and The R&A, operating with the consent of its affiliated golfing bodies, has the same responsibilities for all other parts of the world. The R&A and the USGA reserve the right to amend both the Rules and their interpretations at any time. www.RandA.org www.USGA.org
3 Contents Contents Foreword to the 2023 Edition of the Rules of Golf 8 Principal Changes Introduced in the 2023 Rules of Golf 15 How to Use the Rule Book 17 I. Fundamentals of the Game (Rules 1-4) 19 Rule 1 – The Game, Player Conduct and the Rules 20 1.1 The Game of Golf 20 1.2 Standards of Player Conduct 20 1.3 Playing by the Rules 21 Rule 2 – The Course 25 2.1 Course Boundaries and Out of Bounds 25 2.2 Defined Areas of the Course 25 2.3 Objects or Conditions That Can Interfere with Play 27 2.4 No Play Zones 27 Rule 3 – The Competition 28 3.1 Central Elements of Every Competition 28 3.2 Match Play 29 3.3 Stroke Play 34 Rule 4 – The Player’s Equipment 38 4.1 Clubs 38 4.2 Balls 43 4.3 Use of Equipment 44 II. Playing the Round and a Hole (Rules 5-6) 49 Rule 5 – Playing the Round 50 5.1 Meaning of Round 50 5.2 Practising on Course Before or Between Rounds 50 5.3 Starting and Ending Round 51 5.4 Playing in Groups 52 5.5 Practising During Round or While Play Is Stopped 53 5.6 Unreasonable Delay; Prompt Pace of Play 54 5.7 Stopping Play; Resuming Play 55
4 Contents Rule 6 – Playing a Hole 59 6.1 Starting Play of a Hole 59 6.2 Playing Ball from Teeing Area 60 6.3 Ball Used in Play of Hole 63 6.4 Order of Play When Playing Hole 65 6.5 Completing Play of a Hole 68 III. Playing the Ball (Rules 7-11) 69 Rule 7 – Ball Search: Finding and Identifying Ball 70 7.1 How to Fairly Search for Ball 70 7.2 How to Identify Ball 71 7.3 Lifting Ball to Identify It 71 7.4 Ball Accidentally Moved in Trying to Find or Identify It 72 Rule 8 – Course Played as It Is Found 73 8.1 Player’s Actions That Improve Conditions Affecting the Stroke 73 8.2 Player’s Deliberate Actions to Alter Other Physical Conditions to Affect the Player’s Own Ball at Rest or Stroke to Be Made 77 8.3 Player’s Deliberate Actions to Alter Physical Conditions to Affect Another Player’s Ball at Rest or Stroke to Be Made 78 Rule 9 – Ball Played as It Lies; Ball at Rest Lifted or Moved 79 9.1 Ball Played as It Lies 79 9.2 Deciding Whether Ball Moved and What Caused It to Move 80 9.3 Ball Moved by Natural Forces 80 9.4 Ball Lifted or Moved by Player 81 9.5 Ball Lifted or Moved by Opponent in Match Play 82 9.6 Ball Lifted or Moved by Outside Influence 83 9.7 Ball-Marker Lifted or Moved 84 Rule 10 – Preparing for and Making a Stroke; Advice and Help; Caddies 85 10.1 Making a Stroke 85 10.2 Advice and Other Help 87 10.3 Caddies 90 Rule 11 – Ball in Motion Accidentally Hits Person, Animal or Object; Deliberate Actions to Affect Ball in Motion 94 11.1 Ball in Motion Accidentally Hits Person or Outside Influence 94 11.2 Ball in Motion Deliberately Deflected or Stopped by Person 96 11.3 Deliberately Removing Objects or Altering Conditions to Affect Ball in Motion 98
5 Contents IV. Specific Rules for Bunkers and Putting Greens (Rules 12-13) 99 Rule 12 – Bunkers 100 12.1 When Ball Is in Bunker 101 12.2 Playing Ball in Bunker 101 12.3 Specific Rules for Relief for Ball in Bunker 102 Rule 13 – Putting Greens 103 13.1 Actions Allowed or Required on Putting Greens 103 13.2 The Flagstick 108 13.3 Ball Overhanging Hole 112 V. Lifting and Returning a Ball to Play (Rule 14) 113 Rule 14 – Procedures for Ball: Marking, Lifting and Cleaning; Replacing on Spot; Dropping in Relief Area; Playing fromWrong Place 114 14.1 Marking, Lifting and Cleaning Ball 114 14.2 Replacing Ball on Spot 115 14.3 Dropping Ball in Relief Area 118 14.4 When Player’s Ball Is Back in Play After Original Ball Was Out of Play 123 14.5 Correcting Mistake Made in Substituting, Replacing, Dropping or Placing Ball 124 14.6 Making Next Stroke fromWhere Previous Stroke Made 125 14.7 Playing fromWrong Place 127 VI. Free Relief (Rules 15-16) 129 Rule 15 – Relief from Loose Impediments and Movable Obstructions (Including Ball or Ball-Marker Helping or Interfering with Play) 130 15.1 Loose Impediments 130 15.2 Movable Obstructions 131 15.3 Ball or Ball-Marker Helping or Interfering with Play 134 Rule 16 – Relief from Abnormal Course Conditions (Including Immovable Obstructions), Dangerous Animal Condition, Embedded Ball 137 16.1 Abnormal Course Conditions (Including Immovable Obstructions) 137 16.2 Dangerous Animal Condition 144 16.3 Embedded Ball 145 16.4 Lifting Ball to See If It Lies in Condition Where Relief Allowed 148
6 Contents VII. Penalty Relief (Rules 17-19) 149 Rule 17 – Penalty Areas 150 17.1 Options for Ball in Penalty Area 150 17.2 Options After Playing Ball from Penalty Area 155 17.3 No Relief Under Other Rules for Ball in Penalty Area 158 Rule 18 – Stroke-and-Distance Relief; Ball Lost or Out of Bounds; Provisional Ball 159 18.1 Relief Under Penalty of Stroke and Distance Allowed at Any Time 159 18.2 Ball Lost or Out of Bounds: Stroke-and-Distance Relief Must Be Taken 160 18.3 Provisional Ball 162 Rule 19 – Unplayable Ball 166 19.1 Player May Decide to Take Unplayable Ball Relief Anywhere Except Penalty Area 166 19.2 Relief Options for Unplayable Ball in General Area or on Putting Green 166 19.3 Relief Options for Unplayable Ball in Bunker 169 VIII. Procedures for Players and Committee When Issues Arise in Applying the Rules (Rule 20) 171 Rule 20 – Resolving Rules Issues During Round; Rulings by Referee and Committee 172 20.1 Resolving Rules Issues During Round 172 20.2 Rulings on Issues Under the Rules 176 20.3 Situations Not Covered by the Rules 178 IX. Other Forms of Play (Rules 21-24) 179 Rule 21 – Other Forms of Individual Stroke Play and Match Play 180 21.1 Stableford 180 21.2 Maximum Score 183 21.3 Par/Bogey 185 21.4 Three-Ball Match Play 187 21.5 Other Forms of Playing Golf 188 Rule 22 – Foursomes (Also Known as Alternate Shot) 189 22.1 Overview of Foursomes 189 22.2 Either Partner May Act for Side 189 22.3 Side Must Alternate in Making Strokes 190 22.4 Starting the Round 190 22.5 Partners May Share Clubs 191 22.6 Restriction on Player Standing Behind Partner When Stroke Made 191
7 Contents Rule 23 – Four-Ball 192 23.1 Overview of Four-Ball 192 23.2 Scoring in Four-Ball 192 23.3 When Round Starts and Ends; When Hole Is Completed 194 23.4 One or Both Partners May Represent the Side 195 23.5 Player’s Actions Affecting Partner’s Play 195 23.6 Side’s Order of Play 196 23.7 Partners May Share Clubs 196 23.8 Restriction on Player Standing Behind Partner When Stroke Made 196 23.9 When Penalty Applies to One Partner Only or Applies to Both Partners 197 Rule 24 – Team Competitions 199 24.1 Overview of Team Competitions 199 24.2 Terms of Team Competition 199 24.3 Team Captain 199 24.4 Advice Allowed in Team Competition 199 X. Modifications for Players with Disabilities (Rule 25) 201 Rule 25 – Modifications for Players with Disabilities 202 25.1 Overview 202 25.2 Modifications for Players Who Are Blind 203 25.3 Modifications for Players Who Are Amputees 205 25.4 Modifications for Players Who Use Assistive Mobility Devices 206 25.5 Modifications for Players with Intellectual Disabilities 210 25.6 General Provisions for All Categories of Disability 211 XI. Definitions 213 Index 239 Other Publications 256
8 Foreword Foreword to the 2023 Edition of the Rules of Golf Welcome to the Rules of Golf effective from January 2023 for golfers worldwide. This new edition, while adhering to the principles that have always guided The R&A and USGA in governing the game, continues the modernisation process that began a decade ago in providing plain language, a practical approach and intuitive answers. Our ongoing strategy remains to make the Rules more consistent, simple, accessible and, where possible, less penal. The principal changes are listed on Pages 15 and 16. You will see that the Modified Rules of Golf for Players with Disabilities are now incorporated in the main body of the Rules as Rule 25. This important development reflects our commitment to ensuring that the game welcomes all those who wish to participate and compete. A number of the latest revisions are designed to assist referees and committees in applying the Rules, while keeping the player as the primary focus. We have increased the use of diagrams to illustrate their application and simplified many of the penalty statements. Helpful information has also been transferred from the Clarifications into the relevant Rule. The retained Clarifications remain located in the Official Guide to the Rules of Golf and are now considerably reduced in number. Updates to these will continue to be released quarterly on the R&A and USGA websites. The information provided in the Player’s Edition of the Rules of Golf, which was introduced four years ago as a separate publication, is now provided in digital form, reflecting the way in which we source information and assisting in the drive to decrease our global carbon footprint by reducing hard copy printing and distribution. Our digital offerings contain numerous explanatory videos and diagrams, along with answers to frequently asked questions. All are aimed to assist in applying the Rules in situations most commonly encountered by players everywhere. Locating the required information is made easier through newly enhanced search functions. We express our grateful thanks for the wide ranging and rigorous work undertaken by our respective committees and staff in producing this new edition of the Rules of Golf and to all others who have made a contribution during the extraordinary and challenging circumstances created by the worldwide pandemic. Doug Norval Kendra B. Graham Chair Chair Rules of Golf Committee Rules of Golf Committee R&A Rules Limited United States Golf Association
The Rules of Golf have existed for over 270 years. Consistently evolving the Rules is a central tenet of golf, but this current iteration is a significant and laudable change, one that aspires to make the game more inclusive, approachable and welcoming to all. timeless Golf is a game that requires a certain mindset. A game in which precision is met with reward.Th Rules of Golf reflect this mindset – a set of precise standards to which every golfer holds themselves accountable. A code of honour and integrity, they are meant to be easily accessible so each golfer can be their own Rules authority. Precision l s f lf ist f r r rs. sist tl l i t l s is tr l t t lf, t t is rr t it r ti is si ifi t l l , t t s ir s t t r i l si , r l l i t ll.
Golfers of all abilities are universally passionate about the game. The continuous efforts to enhance the Rules of Golf reflect and embrace that passion among all golfers who play, in every corner of the world. Passion
Golf is a game that requires a certain mindset. A game in which precision is met with reward.The Rules of Golf reflect this mindset – a set of precise standards to which every golfer holds themselves accountable. A code of honour and integrity, they are meant to be easily accessible so each golfer can be their own Rules authority. Precision
The evolving modernization of the Rules of Golf is the byproduct of listening to the voices of those who play the game. As a singular set of Rules, they embody and reinforce the special connections that exist among the golf community as a whole. Connection
Golf ’s greatest traditions will always reign, and the Rules will always evolve. Modernizing the Rules is integral to leading the game of golf into the future. Evolution
A game universally beloved for its elegance and splendour, golf will always be a game of honour.AlongsideThe R&A and USGA, Rolex is proud to be a part of, and stand behind, golf ’s rules and all that they represent for the future of the game, and those who love and play it. forever golf
15 Principal Changes Principal Changes Introduced in the 2023 Rules of Golf Specific Rules Rule 1.3c(4) Applying Penalties to Multiple Breaches of the Rules The Rule has been amended so that determining whether breaches are related or unrelated is no longer part of its application, meaning that there will be fewer instances where multiple penalties will be applied. Rule 3.3b(4) Player Not Responsible for Showing Handicap on Scorecard or Adding Up Scores The Rule has been amended so that a player is no longer required to show their handicap on their scorecard. The Committee is responsible for calculating the player’s handicap strokes for the competition and using that to calculate the player’s net score. Rule 4.1a(2) Use, Repair or Replacement of Club Damaged During Round The Rule has been amended to allow a player to replace a damaged club, provided the club has not been damaged through abuse. Rule 6.3b(3) Substitution of Another Ball While Playing a Hole The penalty for playing an incorrectly substituted ball has been reduced from the general penalty to one penalty stroke. Rule 9.3 Ball Moved by Natural Forces New Exception 2 provides that a ball must be replaced if it moves to another area of the course after being dropped, placed or replaced. This also applies if the ball comes to rest out of bounds. Rule 10.2b Other Help Rule 10.2b has been rewritten for clarity and to incorporate the key principles of the Clarifications issued in April 2019 to support the 2019 Rule. Rules 10.2b(1) and (2) have been amended to provide that neither the caddie nor any other person is allowed to set an object down to help the player with the line of play or other directional information (such as when the player cannot see the flagstick), and the player cannot avoid penalty by having the object removed before the stroke is made.
16 Rule 11.1b Ball in Motion Accidentally Hits Person or Outside Influence: Place fromWhere Ball Must Be Played Rule 11.1b has been rewritten for clarity. Rule 11.1b(2) has been amended to provide that if a ball played from the putting green hits an insect, the player or the club used to make the stroke, the ball is played as it lies – the stroke is not replayed. Rule 21.1c Penalties in Stableford The Rule is amended to provide that penalties in relation to clubs, time of starting and unreasonable delay will now be applied to the hole in the same way as regular stroke play. The same amendment is made to Rule 21.3c (Penalties in Par/Bogey). Rule 25 Modifications for Players with Disabilities The introduction of new Rule 25 means that the modifications provided in the Rule apply to all competitions, including all forms of play. General Changes Back-on-the-Line Relief Procedure The back-on-the-line relief procedure is amended to provide that the player is required to drop on the line. The spot on the line where the ball first touches the ground when dropped creates a relief area that is one club-length in any direction from that point. This amendment is reflected in changes to Rules 14.3b(3), 16.1c(2), 17.1d(2), 19.2b and 19.3, and the definition of relief area. How to Proceed When Stroke Must Be Replayed Several Rules that used the phrase “stroke does not count” (such as Rule 11.1b) have been amended so that the failure to replay a stroke when required to do so, while still a breach of the relevant Rule, no longer carries the potential for disqualification. Principal Changes
17 How to Use the Rule Book How to Use the Rule Book The Rules of Golf are intended to be comprehensive and provide answers to the many issues that arise in a game that is played worldwide on many different types of courses by players of all abilities. This Rules of Golf book is intended for those who administer the game, and who need to answer the variety of questions that can arise in relation to golf competitions. When looking to answer a question or resolve a Rules issue on the course, the Contents page (at the front of the book) can be a helpful tool to enable you to find the Rule that is relevant to the situation. The Index (at the back of the book) can also help you to identify quickly the Rule that is relevant to the situation. For example: • If a player has accidentally moved their ball on the putting green, identify the key words in the question, such as “ball moved” or “putting green”. • The relevant Rules (Rule 9.4 and Rule 13.1d) can be found under the headings “Ball Moved” and “Putting Green” in the Index. • A reading of these Rules will confirm the correct answer. In addition to using the Contents and the Index in the Rules of Golf, the following points will assist you in using this Rule book efficiently and accurately: Know the Definitions There are over 70 defined terms (for example, abnormal course condition, general area, etc.) and these form the foundation around which the Rules are written. A good knowledge of the defined terms (which are italicized throughout the book and contained in one section near the back of the book) is very important to the correct application of the Rules. The Facts of the Case To answer any question on the Rules you must consider the facts of the case in some detail. You should identify: • The form of play (is it match play or stroke play, single, foursome, four-ball, etc.). • Who is involved (is it the player, partner or caddie, the opponent or their caddie, or an outside influence). • What area of the course did the incident occur (was it on the teeing area, in a bunker, in a penalty area, on the putting green, etc.). • What actually happened.
18 How to Use the Rule Book • What were the player’s intentions (what was the player doing and what did they want to do). • The timing of the incident (is the player still on the course, has the player now returned their scorecard, has the competition closed, etc.). Refer to the Book As stated above, reference to the Rule book should provide the answer to the majority of questions that can arise on the course. But to assist referees, Committees and others wanting greater detail, we also publish the Official Guide, which contains Clarifications on the Rules of Golf and Committee Procedures with recommendations on how to organize general play and competitions.
Fundamentals of the Game RULES 1-4 I
20 Purpose of Rule: RULE 1.1 The Game of Golf Golf is played in a round of 18 (or fewer) holes on a course by striking a ball with a club. Each hole starts with a stroke from the teeing area and ends when the ball is holed on the putting green (or when the Rules otherwise say the hole is completed). For each stroke, the player: • Plays the course as they find it, and • Plays the ball as it lies. But there are exceptions where the Rules allow the player to alter conditions on the course and require or allow the player to play the ball from a different place than where it lies. 1.2 Standards of Player Conduct 1.2a Conduct Expected of All Players All players are expected to play in the spirit of the game by: • Acting with integrity – for example, by following the Rules, applying all penalties, and being honest in all aspects of play. • Showing consideration to others – for example, by playing at a prompt pace, looking out for the safety of others, and not distracting the play of another player. If a player plays a ball in a direction where there might be a danger of hitting someone, they should immediately shout a warning, such as the traditional warning of “fore”. Rule 1 introduces these central principles of the game for the player: • Play the course as you find it and play the ball as it lies. • Play by the Rules and in the spirit of the game. • You are responsible for applying your own penalties if you breach a Rule, so that you cannot gain any potential advantage over your opponent in match play or other players in stroke play. The Game, Player Conduct and the Rules 1 Rule 1
21 Rule 1 • Taking good care of the course – for example, by replacing divots, smoothing bunkers, repairing ball-marks, and not causing unnecessary damage to the course. There is no penalty under the Rules for failing to act in this way, except that the Committee may disqualify a player for acting contrary to the spirit of the game if it finds that the player has committed serious misconduct. “Serious misconduct” is player behaviour that is so far removed from what is expected in golf that the most severe sanction of removing a player from the competition is justified. Penalties other than disqualification may be imposed for player misconduct only if those penalties are adopted as part of a Code of Conduct under Rule 1.2b. 1.2b Code of Conduct The Committee may set its own standards of player conduct in a Code of Conduct adopted as a Local Rule. • The Code may include penalties for breach of its standards, such as a one-stroke penalty or the general penalty. • The Committee may also disqualify a player for serious misconduct in failing to meet the Code’s standards. See Committee Procedures, Section 5I (explaining the standards of player conduct that may be adopted). 1.3 Playing by the Rules 1.3a Meaning of “Rules”; Terms of the Competition The term “Rules” means: • Rules 1-25 and the definitions in these Rules of Golf, and • Any “Local Rules” the Committee adopts for the competition or the course. Players are also responsible for complying with all “Terms of the Competition” adopted by the Committee (such as entry requirements, the form and dates of play, the number of rounds and the number and order of holes in a round). See Committee Procedures, Section 5C (Local Rules) and Section 8 (Full set of authorized Model Local Rules); Section 5A (Terms of the Competition).
22 Rule 1 1.3b Applying the Rules (1) Player Responsibility for Applying the Rules. Players are responsible for applying the Rules to themselves: • Players are expected to recognize when they have breached a Rule and to be honest in applying their own penalties. » If a player knows they have breached a Rule that involves a penalty and deliberately fails to apply the penalty, the player is disqualified. » If two or more players agree to ignore any Rule or penalty they know applies and any of those players have started the round, they are disqualified (even if they have not yet acted on the agreement). • When it is necessary to decide questions of fact, a player is responsible for considering not only their own knowledge of the facts but also all other information that is reasonably available. • A player may ask for help with the Rules from a referee or the Committee, but if help is not available in a reasonable time the player must play on and raise the issue with a referee or the Committee when they become available (see Rule 20.1). (2) Accepting Player’s “Reasonable Judgment” in Determining a Location When Applying the Rules. • Many Rules require a player to determine a spot, point, line, edge, area or other location under the Rules, such as: » Estimating where a ball last crossed the edge of a penalty area, » Estimating or measuring when dropping or placing a ball in taking relief, » Replacing a ball on its original spot (whether the spot is known or estimated), » Determining the area of the course where the ball lies, including whether the ball lies on the course, or » Determining whether the ball touches or is in or on an abnormal course condition. • Such determinations about location need to be made promptly and with care but often cannot be precise. • So long as the player does what can be reasonably expected under the circumstances to make an accurate determination, the player’s reasonable judgment will be accepted even if, after the stroke is made, the determination is shown to be wrong by video evidence or other information. • If a player becomes aware of a wrong determination before the stroke is made, it must be corrected (see Rule 14.5).
23 Rule 1 1.3c Penalties (1) Actions Giving Rise to Penalties. A penalty applies when a breach of a Rule results from a player’s own actions or the actions of their caddie (see Rule 10.3c). A penalty also applies when: • Another person takes an action that would breach the Rules if taken by the player or caddie and that person does so at the player’s request or while acting with the player’s authority, or • The player sees another person about to take an action concerning the player’s ball or equipment that they know would breach the Rules if taken by the player or caddie and does not take reasonable steps to object or stop it from happening. (2) Levels of Penalties. Penalties are meant to cancel out any potential advantage to the player. There are three main penalty levels: • One-Stroke Penalty. This penalty applies in both match play and stroke play under certain Rules where either (a) the potential advantage from a breach is minor or (b) a player takes penalty relief by playing a ball from a different place than where the original ball lies. • General Penalty (Loss of Hole in Match Play, Two-Stroke Penalty in Stroke Play). This penalty applies for a breach of most Rules, where the potential advantage is more significant than where only one penalty stroke applies. • Disqualification. In both match play and stroke play, a player may be disqualified from the competition for certain actions or Rule breaches involving serious misconduct (see Rule 1.2) or where the potential advantage is too significant for the player’s score to be considered valid. (3) No Discretion to Vary Penalties. Penalties need to be applied only as provided in the Rules: • Neither a player nor the Committee has authority to apply penalties in a different way, and • A wrong application of a penalty or a failure to apply a penalty may stand only if it is too late to correct it (see Rules 20.1b(2), 20.1b(3), 20.2d and 20.2e). In match play, the player and opponent may agree how to decide a Rules issue so long as they do not agree to ignore any Rule or penalty they know applies (see Rule 20.1b(1)).
24 Rule 1 (4) Applying Penalties to Multiple Breaches of the Rules. Whether a player gets multiple penalties for breaching multiple Rules or the same Rule multiple times depends on whether there has been an intervening event and on what the player did. For the purpose of applying this Rule, there are two intervening events: • The completion of a stroke, and • Being aware or becoming aware of a breach of a Rule (this includes when a player knows they breached a Rule, when the player is told of a breach, or when the player is uncertain whether or not they have breached a Rule). Penalties are applied as follows: • Single Penalty Applied for Multiple Breaches Between Intervening Events: If a player breaches multiple Rules or the same Rule multiple times between intervening events, the player gets only one penalty. If the Rules breached have different penalties, the player gets only the higherlevel penalty. • Multiple Penalties Apply for Breaches Before and After Intervening Event: If a player breaches a Rule and then breaches the same Rule or another Rule after an intervening event, the player gets multiple penalties. Exception – Failure to Replace a Moved Ball: If a player is required to replace a moved ball under Rule 9.4 but fails to do so and plays from a wrong place, they get only the general penalty under Rule 14.7a. But any penalty strokes a player gets for taking penalty relief (such as one penalty stroke under Rules 17.1, 18.1 and 19.2) are always applied in addition to any other penalties.
RULE Purpose of Rule: 25 2.1 Course Boundaries and Out of Bounds Golf is played on a course whose boundaries are set by the Committee. Areas not on the course are out of bounds. 2.2 Defined Areas of the Course There are five areas of the course. 2.2a The General Area The general area covers the entire course except for the four specific areas of the course described in Rule 2.2b. It is called the “general area” because: • It covers most of the course and is where a player’s ball will most often be played until the ball reaches the putting green. • It includes every type of ground and growing or attached objects found in that area, such as fairway, rough and trees. Rule 2 introduces the basic things every player should know about the course: • There are five defined areas of the course, and • There are several types of defined objects and conditions that can interfere with play. It is important to know the area of the course where the ball lies and the status of any interfering objects and conditions, because they often affect the player’s options for playing the ball or taking relief. The Course 2 Rule 2
26 Rule 2 The general area covers the entire area of the course except for the following: The teeing area Penalty areas Bunkers The putting green 1 2 4 3 3 2 1 2 3 4 DIAGRAM 2.2: DEFINED AREAS OF THE COURSE 2.2b The Four Specific Areas Certain Rules apply specifically to the four areas of the course that are not in the general area: • The teeing area the player must use in starting the hole they are playing (Rule 6.2), • All penalty areas (Rule 17), • All bunkers (Rule 12), and • The putting green of the hole the player is playing (Rule 13).
27 Rule 2 2.2c Determining Area of Course Where Ball Lies The area of the course where a player’s ball lies affects the Rules that apply in playing the ball or taking relief. A ball is always treated as lying in only one area of the course: • If part of the ball is in both the general area and one of the four specific areas of the course, it is treated as lying in that specific area of the course. • If part of the ball is in two specific areas of the course, it is treated as lying in the specific area that comes first in this order: penalty area, bunker, putting green. 2.3 Objects or Conditions That Can Interfere with Play Certain Rules may give free relief (relief with no penalty) from interference by certain defined objects or conditions, such as: • Loose impediments (Rule 15.1), • Movable obstructions (Rule 15.2), and • Abnormal course conditions, which are animal holes, ground under repair, immovable obstructions and temporary water (Rule 16.1). But there is no free relief from boundary objects or integral objects that interfere with play. 2.4 No Play Zones A no play zone is a defined part of an abnormal course condition (see Rule 16.1f ) or a penalty area (see Rule 17.1e) where play is not allowed. A player must take relief when: • Their ball is in a no play zone, or • A no play zone interferes with their area of intended stance or area of intended swing in playing a ball outside the no play zone (see Rules 16.1f and 17.1e). See Committee Procedures, Section 5I(2) (a Code of Conduct may tell players to stay out of a no play zone entirely).
RULE Purpose of Rule: 28 3.1 Central Elements of Every Competition 3.1a Form of Play: Match Play or Stroke Play (1) Match Play or Regular Stroke Play. These are very different forms of play: • In match play (see Rule 3.2), a player and an opponent compete against each other based on holes won, lost or tied. • In the regular form of stroke play (see Rule 3.3), all players compete with one another based on the total score – that is, adding up each player’s total number of strokes (including strokes made and penalty strokes) on each hole in all rounds. Most of the Rules apply in both forms of play, but certain Rules apply in only one or the other. See Committee Procedures, Section 6C(11) (considerations for the Committee if it runs a competition that combines the two forms of play in a single round). (2) Other Forms of Stroke Play. Rule 21 covers other forms of stroke play (Stableford, Maximum Score and Par/Bogey) that use a different scoring method. Rules 1-20 apply in these forms of play, as modified by Rule 21. 3.1b How Players Compete: Playing as an Individual or as Partners Golf is played either by individual players competing on their own or by partners competing together as a side. Although Rules 1-20 and Rule 25 focus on individual play, they also apply: • In competitions involving partners (Foursomes and Four-Ball), as modified by Rules 22 and 23, and • In team competitions, as modified by Rule 24. Rule 3 covers the three central elements of all golf competitions: • Playing either match play or stroke play, • Playing either as an individual or with a partner as part of a side, and • Scoring either by gross scores (no handicap strokes applied) or net scores (handicap strokes applied). The Competition 3 Rule 3
29 Rule 3 3.1c How Players Score: Gross Scores or Net Scores (1) Scratch Competitions. In a scratch competition: • The player’s “gross score” for a hole or the round is their total number of strokes (including strokes made and penalty strokes). • The player’s handicap is not applied. (2) Handicap Competitions. In a handicap competition: • The player’s “net score” for a hole or the round is the gross score adjusted for the player’s handicap strokes. • This is done so that players of differing abilities can compete in a fair way. 3.2 Match Play Purpose of Rule: Match play has specific Rules (particularly about concessions and giving information about the number of strokes taken) because the player and opponent: • Compete solely against each other on every hole, • Can see each other’s play, and • Can protect their own interests. 3.2a Result of Hole and Match (1) Winning a Hole. A player wins a hole when: • The player completes the hole in fewer strokes (including strokes made and penalty strokes) than the opponent, • The opponent concedes the hole, or • The opponent gets the general penalty (loss of hole). If the opponent’s ball in motion needs to be holed to tie the hole and the ball is deliberately deflected or stopped by any person at a time when there is no reasonable chance it can be holed (such as when the ball has rolled past the hole and will not roll back there), the result of the hole has been decided and the player wins the hole (see Rule 11.2a, Exception). (2) Tying a Hole. A hole is tied (also known as “halved”) when: • The player and opponent complete the hole in the same number of strokes (including strokes made and penalty strokes), or • The player and opponent agree to treat the hole as tied (but this is allowed only after at least one of the players has made a stroke to begin the hole).
30 Rule 3 (3) Winning a Match. A player wins a match when: • The player leads the opponent by more holes than remain to be played, • The opponent concedes the match, or • The opponent is disqualified. (4) Extending a Tied Match. 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 5.1 (an extended match is a continuation of the same round, not a new round). • The holes are played in the same order as in the round, unless the Committee sets a different order. But the Terms of the Competition may say that the match will end in a tie rather than be extended. (5) When Result Is Final. The result of a match becomes final in the way stated by the Committee (which should be set out in the Terms of the Competition), such as: • When the result is recorded on an official scoreboard or other identified place, or • When the result is reported to a person identified by the Committee. See Committee Procedures, Section 5A(7) (recommendations on how the result of a match becomes final). 3.2b Concessions (1) Player May Concede Stroke, Hole or Match. A player may concede the opponent’s next stroke, a hole or the match: • Conceding Next Stroke. This is allowed any time before the opponent’s next stroke is made. » The opponent has then completed the hole with a score that includes that conceded stroke, and the ball may be removed by anyone. » A concession made while the opponent’s ball is still in motion after the previous stroke applies to the opponent’s next stroke, unless the ball is holed (in which case the concession does not matter). » The player may concede the opponent’s next stroke by deflecting or stopping the opponent’s ball in motion only if that is done specifically to concede the next stroke and only when there is no reasonable chance the ball can be holed. • Conceding a Hole. This is allowed any time before the hole is completed (see Rule 6.5), including before the players start the hole.
31 Rule 3 But a player and opponent are not allowed to agree to concede holes to each other for the purpose of shortening the match. If they do so knowing this is not allowed, they are disqualified. • Conceding the Match. This is allowed any time before the result of the match is decided (see Rules 3.2a(3) and (4)), including before the players start the match. (2) How Concessions Are Made. A concession is made only when clearly communicated: • This can be done either verbally or by an action that clearly shows the player’s intent to concede the stroke, the hole or the match (such as making a gesture). • If the opponent lifts their ball in breach of a Rule because of a reasonable misunderstanding that the player’s statement or action was a concession of the next stroke, a hole or the match, there is no penalty and the ball must be replaced on its original spot (which if not known must be estimated) (see Rule 14.2). A concession is final and cannot be declined or withdrawn. 3.2c Applying Handicaps in Handicap Match (1) Declaring Handicaps. The player and opponent should tell each other their handicaps before the match. If a player declares a wrong handicap either before or during the match and does not correct the mistake before the opponent makes their next stroke: • Declared Handicap Too High. The player is disqualified if this affects the number of strokes the player gives or gets. If it does not, there is no penalty. • Declared Handicap Too Low. There is no penalty and the player must use the declared lower handicap to calculate the number of strokes the player gives or gets. (2) Holes Where Handicap Strokes Applied. • Handicap strokes are given by hole, and the lower net score wins the hole. • If a tied match is extended, handicap strokes are given by hole in the same way as in the round (unless the Committee sets a different way of doing so). Each player is responsible for knowing the holes where they give or get handicap strokes, based on the stroke index allocation set by the Committee (which is usually found on the scorecard). If the players fail to apply or mistakenly apply handicap strokes on a hole, the agreed result of the hole stands, unless the players correct that mistake in time (see Rule 3.2d(3)).
32 Rule 3 3.2d Responsibilities of Player and Opponent (1) Telling Opponent About Number of Strokes Taken. At any time during play of a hole or after the hole is completed, the opponent may ask the player for the number of strokes (including strokes made and penalty strokes) the player has taken on the hole. This is to allow the opponent to decide how to play the next stroke and the rest of the hole, or to confirm the result of the hole just completed. When asked for the number of strokes taken, or when giving that information without being asked: • The player must give the right number of strokes taken. • A player who fails to respond to the opponent’s request is treated as giving the wrong number of strokes taken. The player gets the general penalty (loss of hole) if they give the opponent the wrong number of strokes taken, unless the player corrects that mistake in time: • Wrong Number of Strokes Given While Playing Hole. The player must give the right number of strokes taken before the opponent makes another stroke or takes a similar action (such as conceding the player’s next stroke or the hole). • Wrong Number of Strokes Given After Hole Completed. The player must give the right number of strokes taken: » Before either player makes a stroke to begin another hole or takes a similar action (such as conceding the next hole or the match), or » For the final hole of the match, before the result of the match is final (see Rule 3.2a(5)). Exception – No Penalty If No Effect on Result of Hole: If the player gives the wrong number of strokes taken after a hole is completed but this does not affect the opponent’s understanding of whether the hole was won, lost or tied, there is no penalty. (2) Telling Opponent About Penalty. When a player gets a penalty: • The player must tell the opponent about that penalty as soon as reasonably possible, taking into account how near the player is to the opponent and other practical factors. It may not always be possible to tell the opponent about the penalty before the opponent makes their next stroke. • This requirement applies even if the player does not know about the penalty (because players are expected to recognize when they have breached a Rule).
33 Rule 3 If the player fails to do so and does not correct that mistake before the opponent makes another stroke or takes a similar action (such as conceding the player’s next stroke or the hole), the player gets the general penalty (loss of hole). Exception – No Penalty When Opponent Knew of Player’s Penalty: If the opponent knew that the player had a penalty, such as when seeing the player obviously take penalty relief, the player gets no penalty for failing to tell the opponent about it. (3) Knowing Match Score. The players are expected to know the match score — that is, whether one of them leads by a certain number of holes (“holes up” in the match) or the match is tied (also known as “all square”). If the players mistakenly agree on a wrong match score: • They may correct the match score before either player makes a stroke to begin another hole or, for the final hole, before the result of the match is final (see Rule 3.2a(5)). • If not corrected in that time, that wrong match score becomes the actual match score. Exception – When Player Requests Ruling in Time: If the player makes a timely request for a ruling (see Rule 20.1b), and it is found that the opponent either (1) gave the wrong number of strokes taken or (2) failed to tell the player about a penalty, the wrong match score must be corrected. (4) Protecting Own Rights and Interests. The players in a match should protect their own rights and interests under the Rules: • If the player knows or believes that the opponent has breached a Rule that has a penalty, the player may choose whether or not to act on the breach. • But if the player and opponent agree not to apply the Rules or a penalty they know applies, and either of those players has started the round, they are both disquali ed under Rule 1.3b. • If the player and opponent disagree whether one of them has breached a Rule, either player may protect their rights by asking for a ruling under Rule 20.1b. If a referee is assigned to one match for the entire round, the referee is responsible for acting on any breach of the Rules that they see or are told about (see Rule 20.1b(1)).
34 Rule 3 3.3 Stroke Play Purpose of Rule: Stroke play has specific Rules (particularly for scorecards and holing out) because: • Each player competes against all the other players in the competition, and • All players need to be treated equally under the Rules. After the round, the player and the marker (who keeps the player’s score) must certify that the player’s score for each hole is right and the player must return the scorecard to the Committee. 3.3a Winner in Stroke Play The player who completes all rounds in the fewest total strokes (including strokes made and penalty strokes) is the winner. In a handicap competition, this means the fewest total net strokes. See Committee Procedures, Section 5A(6) (the Terms of the Competition should say how ties will be decided). 3.3b Scoring in Stroke Play The player’s score is kept on their scorecard by the marker, who is either identified by the Committee or chosen by the player in a way approved by the Committee. The player must have the same marker for the entire round, unless the Committee approves a change either before or after it happens. (1) Marker’s Responsibility: Entering and Certifying Hole Scores on Scorecard. After each hole during the round, the marker should confirm with the player the number of strokes on that hole (including strokes made and penalty strokes) and enter that gross score on the scorecard. When the round has ended: • The marker must certify the hole scores on the scorecard. • If the player had more than one marker, each marker must certify the scores for those holes where they were the marker, but if one of the markers saw the player play all of the holes, that marker may certify the scores for all the holes. A marker may refuse to certify a player’s hole score that the marker believes is wrong. In such a case, the Committee will need to consider the available evidence and make a decision on the player’s score on the hole. If the marker still refuses to certify the player’s score, the Committee may certify the hole score or accept certification from someone else who saw the player’s actions on the hole in question. If a marker, who is a player, knowingly certifies a wrong score for a hole, the marker should be disquali ed under Rule 1.2a.
35 Rule 3 Committee Player Player and marker Responsibilities John Smith HOLE PAR SCORE 1 5 2 4 3 4 4 4 5 4 6 5 7 3 8 4 9 4 37 Out 5 5 5 4 3 5 4 3 4 38 6 Marker’s Signature: Player’s Signature: 6 6 HOLE PAR SCORE 10 3 11 4 12 5 13 3 14 4 15 5 16 3 17 4 3 4 18 4 Total In 35 36 74 72 3 4 4 4 5 5 4 NET: Handicap: Name: Date: 0 /04/23 5 DIAGRAM 3.3b: SCORECARD RESPONSIBILITIES IN HANDICAP STROKE PLAY (2) Player’s Responsibility: Certifying Hole Scores and Returning Scorecard. During the round, the player should keep track of their scores for each hole. When the round has ended, the player: • Should carefully check the hole scores entered by the marker and raise any issues with the Committee, • Must make sure that the marker certifies the hole scores on the scorecard, • Must not change a hole score entered by the marker except with the marker’s agreement or the Committee’s approval (but neither the player nor the marker is required to make any extra certification of the changed score), and • Must certify the hole scores on the scorecard and promptly return it to the Committee, after which the player must not change the scorecard. If the player breaches any of these requirements in Rule 3.3b, the player is disqualified. Exception – No Penalty When Breach Due to Marker Failing to Carry Out Responsibilities: There is no penalty if the Committee finds that the player’s breach of Rule 3.3b(2) was caused by the marker’s failure to carry out their responsibilities (such as the marker leaving with the player’s scorecard or without certifying the scorecard), so long as this was beyond the player’s control.
36 Rule 3 See Committee Procedures, Section 5A(5) (recommendations on how to define when a scorecard has been returned). See Committee Procedures, Section 8; Model Local Rule L-1 (reducing penalty for returning a scorecard without hole scores being certified). (3) Wrong Score for a Hole. If the player returns a scorecard with a wrong score for any hole: • Returned Score Higher Than Actual Score. The higher returned score for the hole stands. • Returned Score Lower Than Actual Score or No Score Returned. The player is disqualified. Exception – Failure to Include Unknown Penalty: If one or more of the player’s hole scores are lower than the actual scores because they excluded one or more penalty strokes that the player did not know about before returning the scorecard: • The player is not disqualified. • Instead, if the mistake is found before the close of the competition, the Committee will revise the player’s score for that hole or holes by adding the penalty stroke(s) that should have been included in the score for that hole or holes under the Rules. This exception does not apply: • When the excluded penalty is disqualification, or • When the player was told that a penalty might apply or was uncertain whether a penalty applied and did not raise this with the Committee before returning the scorecard. (4) Player Not Responsible for Showing Handicap on Scorecard or Adding Up Scores. There is no requirement for a player’s handicap to be shown on the scorecard or for players to add up their own scores. If the player returns a scorecard on which they have made a mistake in showing or applying a handicap, or on which they have made a mistake in adding up the scores, there is no penalty. Once the Committee receives the scorecard from the player at the end of their round, the Committee is responsible for: • Adding up the player’s scores, and • Calculating the player’s handicap strokes for the competition and using it to calculate the player’s net score. See Committee Procedures, Section 8; Model Local Rule L-2 (making player responsible for handicap on scorecard).
37 Rule 3 3.3c Failure to Hole Out A player must hole out at each hole in a round. If the player fails to hole out at any hole: • The player must correct that mistake before making a stroke to begin another hole or, for the final hole of the round, before returning the scorecard. • If the mistake is not corrected in that time, the player is disqualified. See Rules 21.1, 21.2 and 21.3 (Rules for other forms of stroke play (Stableford, Maximum Score and Par/Bogey) where scoring is different and a player is not disquali ed if they do not hole out).
RULE Purpose of Rule: 38 For detailed requirements for clubs, balls and other equipment and the process for consultation and submission of equipment for conformity review, see the Equipment Rules. 4.1 Clubs 4.1a Clubs Allowed in Making a Stroke (1) Conforming Clubs. In making a stroke, a player must use a club that conforms to the requirements in the Equipment Rules when: • It is new, or • Its playing characteristics have been changed in any way (but see Rule 4.1a(2) when a club is damaged during the round). But if the playing characteristics of a conforming club change because of wear through normal use, it is still a conforming club. The “playing characteristics” of a club are any part, feature, or property that affects how the club performs or aids in alignment, including but not limited to, weighting, lie, loft, alignment features and permissible external attachments. (2) Use, Repair or Replacement of Club Damaged During Round. If a conforming club is damaged during a round or while play is stopped under Rule 5.7a, except in cases of abuse, the player may repair it or replace it with another club. But no matter what the nature or cause of the damage, the damaged club is treated as conforming for the rest of the round (but not during a play-off in stroke play, which is a new round). Rule 4 covers the equipment that players may use during a round. Based on the principle that golf is a challenging game in which success should depend on the player’s judgment, skills and abilities, the player: • Must use conforming clubs and balls, • Is limited to no more than 14 clubs, and • Is restricted in the use of other equipment that gives artificial help to their play. The Player’s Equipment 4 Rule 4www.swingmakers.fi