Carnoustie Day 1

How Match Play Rules are Different from Stroke Play 

The following is a general reminder of the principal rule differences between match and stroke play. It is not exhaustive. Refer to the Rules and Decisions for the complete applicable rule(s).

You know the basic difference: Match play is by holes, hole winner has the lowest net score. Winner is up by more holes than are left to play (Rule 2). However, in our interclub competition, we use the Nassau scoring system to determine which club wins the match. In each of the twelve four-ball matches, 3 points are awarded: One to the team winning the front nine, one for the back nine, and one for the 18. For any ties, both teams get ½ point. Whichever club has the most points wins the overall match.

The day of a match, a match player can practice on the course. A stroke player can’t. (Rule 7)

In match play, honors on the tee box are determined by whichever side last won a hole. When it is a match-play team’s turn to play, either player can play first, particularly for putting. A match player playing out of turn can be compelled to replay his stroke (Rule 10).

A match player must inform his opponents as soon as practicable if he incurs a penalty and must tell how many strokes he has taken on a hole whenever asked. A match player loses the hole if he gives wrong information about the number of strokes he has taken and does not correct it before the opponent makes his next stroke (Rule 9). If his wrong information results in the opponent wrongly picking up, the player’s side loses the hole (Rule 30).

A match player may give advice to or seek it from his partner. A stroke player can’t. (Rule 8)

A match player may concede a match, a hole, or a stroke, and such a concession may not be refused or withdrawn (Rule 2). In stroke play, concessions are not allowed, and a player who does not hole out is disqualified (Rule 3).

Lifting or replacing a ball may also be done by the match player’s partner. (Rule 20)

In four-ball match play, a player loses (is out of) the hole if his partner touches the surface of the green to indicate a line of putt. (Rule 8)

The general penalty for a breach of rules in match play is loss of hole except where otherwise provided, versus loss of two strokes in stroke play. The one-stroke penalties are generally the same in stroke and match play (Rule 2 and many other rules). However, note the following differences:

A match player who touches or moves his opponent’s ball (except while searching for it) incurs a one-stroke penalty, while there is no such penalty in stroke play (Rule 18).

In match play, there is no penalty for hitting someone else’s ball on the green with your putt, while it costs two strokes in stroke play (Rule 19).

In match play, there is no penalty for hitting a tee shot from outside the tee box, a mistake that would cost you two strokes in stroke play (Rule 11).

When asked to mark and lift his ball to prevent interference, a match player does not have the right to play it instead, which a stroke player does (Rule 22).

Penalties in four-ball match play usually apply to the offending partner only. Loss of hole means only the offending partner is out of the hole. Exceptions are when the infraction aids the other partner or adversely affects an opponent’s play. Then both partners incur the penalty. (Rule 30)

Both partners in four-ball match play are disqualified in many instances if one player is disqualified. See Rule 30 for specifics.

A match player does not have the option (which a stroke player has) of playing two balls when in doubt about the rules. He may consult on what the rules are, but ultimately he is responsible for following them. He must choose a course of action, which then could be challenged by his opponents, and he would incur the appropriate penalty if he is wrong. Any claim that a match player has not proceeded according to the rules must be notified to the player (or side) before anybody tees off on the next hole. (Rule 2)

USGA Rules Quizzes

The USGA has published a series of 10, 18 or 25 Question quizzes at basic and advanced levels. Click below to test your knowledge and learn the rules better!

USGA Rules Quizzes

Equitable Stroke Control

Equitable Stroke Control is the USGA’s system for limiting your maximum score on any one hole so that your handicap reflects your true proficiency. It is the first line of defense against sandbagging because it prevents a golfer from deliberately recording a high score on one hole.

A player with a Course Handicap of 9 or less can post up to a double bogey on any hole.

10-19 handicappers can have a maximum of 7 on any hole,.

20-29 an 8, 30-39 a 9 and 40 or more a max of a 10.

A player without an established USGA Handicap Index uses the maximum Handicap Index of 36.4 for men, or 40.4 for women, converted to a Course Handicap to determine his maximum number.

Click here to read 18 FAQs from Dean Knuth, “The Pope of Slope” in Golf Digest about your handicap.

Staying Put

Have You Ever Played On A Windy Day When, On A Relatively Fast Or Sloping Putting Green After Marking, Lifting And Perhaps Giving Your Golf Ball A Good Cleaning, You Attempt To Replace It, But It Won’t Stay In Place?

There is a Rule to help out: If the ball will not stay at rest after you replace it, you must proceed in accordance with Rule 20-3d (Ball Fails to Come to Rest on Spot), which says the following:

If a ball when placed fails to come to rest on the spot on which it was placed, there is no penalty and the ball must be replaced. If it still fails to come to rest on that spot: (More)

Proper Method Of Taking A Drop

What Is The Proper Method Of Taking A Drop During The Course Of A Round?

Dropping a ball during a round of golf is not uncommon. Whether taking free relief from a cart path or under penalty after hitting into a water hazard or deeming a ball unplayable, dropping is frequently the required method to put a ball back into play.  Regardless of the reason for dropping, it is as much a part of golf as actually making a stroke. In fact, an entire Rule is dedicated to who, how and where to correctly drop a ball (Rule 20-2: Dropping and Re-dropping).

During the second round of the LPGA Tour’s season-ending CME Group Titleholders, first-round co-leader Sun-Young Yoo hit her drive near a bush on the 14th hole. After a failed attempt to move her ball down the fairway, Yoo decided to deem her ball unplayable, take a one-stroke penalty and drop the ball within two club-lengths of where the ball originally lay (Rule 28c). (More)

Experts Explain:  Match Play Vs. Stroke Play: When Something Goes Wrong, Who Cares?

Because match play is a head-to-head contest, all players with an interest in the outcome are playing together and are able protect their rights. If a doubtful or disputed point arises between opponents, one of them can choose to make a claim.  Because match play is a sequence of one-hole contests, if a player sees his opponent violate a Rule and fails to make his claim about it until after the start of the next hole, the opportunity to make a claim is forfeited. Additionally, a player may choose to ignore any violation by an opponent if he feels it is insignificant.

With every player in a stroke-play contest potentially having an interest in the play of every other player, the Rules expect that all penalties will be enforced.  While, in most cases, the reporting of a penalty or its resolution does not need to be initiated during the play of the hole where it occurs, as it does in match play, it still must be done before the scorecard is returned. A player who incurs a penalty and doesn’t include it in his score before returning his score card will be disqualified. (More)

Experts Explain: Ball Moving After Address

On Jan. 1, 2012, The Rules Of Golf changed. One Change That Has Received Significant Interest Is To Rule 18-2b (Ball Moving After Address) Regarding A Ball That Moves After Address.

Rule 18-2b states: If a player’s ball in play moves after he has addressed it (other than as a result of stroke), the player is deemed to have moved the ball and incurs a penalty stroke.

The ball must be replaced, unless the movement of the ball occurs after the player has begun the stroke or the backward movement of the club for the stroke and the stroke is made.

This part of Rule 18-2b has not changed. What has changed is that an “Exception” has been added: Exception: If it is known or virtually certain that the player did not cause the ball to move, Rule 18-2b does not apply. (More)

I Am Standing On A Cart Path: Do I Get Relief?

The USGA Receives A Fair Number Of Calls And E-Mails Each Year Regarding Whether A Player May Take Relief From An Obstruction (I.E Cart Path, Sprinkler Head Or Something Similar) If The Interference Occurs Through The Use Of An Abnormal Stance, Swing Or Direction Of Play. Picture The Following Situation: (More)

Provisional Balls: How Do They Work?

We All Hate It When We Can’t Find Our Ball, Or When We Do Find It – Just Out Of Bounds. When Your Ball Goes Out Of Bounds Or Is Lost Outside A Water Hazard, Rule 27-1 Requires You To Return To The Spot From Which The Original Ball Was Last Played, And Under Penalty Of One Stroke, Put Another Ball Into Play. Since This Could Be More Than 200 Yards Back, It Takes Time To Go Back, Hit Another Ball And Return. (More)

Yellow-Staked Water Hazard – No Two Club-Length Relief

Have You Ever Struck Your Ball Into A Water Hazard? Of Course You Have. We All Have. However, Did You Know That Not All Water Hazards Are Treated The Same? (More)

Club Used In Determining Nearest Point Of Relief

If you play golf, you’ve had interference from an obstruction, abnormal ground condition or wrong putting green. You know that you must find the nearest point of relief, but how does one go about determining it?

First, the nearest point of relief is a spot which is not closer to the hole where, if the ball were on that spot, there would be no interference from the immovable obstruction, abnormal ground condition, or wrong putting green.  (More)

The Michael Aide Rule: Practice Between Holes (7-2)

Q.  During the stipulated round, is it permissible to practice putting or chipping between the play of two holes?

A.  Yes. Between the play of two holes, the player may practice putting or chipping on or near the putting green of the hole last played, any practice putting green or the teeing ground of the next hole to be played in the round, provided such practice is not from a hazard (water hazard or bunker) and does not unduly delay play. (Rule 7-2) However, be careful, sometimes the Committee may prohibit this practice as a Condition of the Competition (Note 2 to Rule 7-2).

Rule 12-1: Loose Impediments Moved in Hazard While Searching for Ball

Q.  While searching for her ball believed to be covered by loose impediments in a hazard, Heather moved some twigs and leaves. What is the ruling?

A.  Under Rule 12-1, Heather may move twigs or leaves while searching for her ball, but if the ball moves in the process she is penalized one stroke under rule 18-2a and must replace her ball. She must replace any twigs, leaves or other loose impediments moved. There is no penalty if the ball moves while she is replacing the loose impediments moved while searching, but the ball must be replaced.

 Rule 15-3: Both Players in Match Play play Wrong Ball

Q.  Dan and Mike are playing the third hole in a match. Their balls lie within a few inches of each other in the fairway. First, Dan plays the ball he believes is his, and then Mike plays the remaining ball. Upon reaching the green, they discover they exchanged balls back in the fairway. What is the ruling?

A.  As Dan was first to play a stroke with a wrong ball, he incurred the loss of hole penalty. All subsequent actions are irrelevant as the result of the hole had been determined.

Rule 14-2: Standing on Extension of Line of Play or Line of Putt

Q.  My opponent or fellow-competitor always stands behind me while I am playing a stroke? Isn`t this a penalty?

A.  Rule 14-2b only prohibits a player from allowing his partner or their caddies from standing in this position. While it may be a breach of Etiquette, there is no penalty under the Rules. A solution is to politely ask your opponent or fellow-competitor to move to one side or the other. (Rule 14-2b)

The Pope Of Slope

Former Senior Director of United States Golf Association Handicap Department Dean Knuth, as the developer of the USGA’s Course Rating and Slope Rating System, became known in golf circles as: The “Pope of Slope”.

The odds of scoring better than your handicap in any given round are one in five, according to Dean Knuth, the former USGA handicapping official who devised the Slope rating system and whose Web site, , is a fount of fun facts about handicaps. The chances of beating your handicap by three strokes? One round in 20. By eight strokes? One round in 1,138. For most of us, that’s once in a lifetime. Wall Street Journal,

“The Genius of Handicapping”, November 1, 2008, by John Paul Newport

Click here to visit the Pope of Slope’s Site.