Rules Of Match Play Explained
All matches played off 3/4 of your handicap.
In singles each golfer plays off 3/4 of their handicap and strokes given on the difference.
In fourball low man of the 4 to zero and all other players off 3/4 of the difference
Let’s start off with some definitions. In match play the game is played by holes. If you win a hole, you are “one (hole) up,” if you win two you are “two up.” If your opponent wins the next two, making the match even, the match is now “all square.” You are “dormie” when you are as many holes up as there are holes left to play, e.g., if you are three up after playing fifteen holes, making you “three up with three to play,” you are now “dormie.” (For those of you with a linguistic interest, “dormie” comes from the French “dormir,” meaning “to sleep.”) A hole is “halved” if you and your opponent have the same score for the hole. A match is won when you are more “holes up” than there are holes left to play. When a match finishes “all square,” sometimes it will stand as a tie, other times it will be extended until one player wins a hole and the match (sudden death). Ryder Cup matches, for example, may end in a tie; matches at your club to establish a club champion would be extended until a winner can be established.
You may concede your opponent’s next stroke at any time. Your opponent (for match purposes, not for handicap purposes), is considered to have holed out with his next stroke and either you or your opponent may pick up the ball.
You may concede a hole before you even start playing it. You may also concede a hole in the middle of playing it. Here’s an example of when you might want to do this: Your opponent hits his second shot onto the green. You hit your second shot into the creek. Your third shot (actually your fourth, since you have a penalty stroke to count) also goes into the creek. This would be a good time to concede the hole and get on with your match!
Here’s the most important thing you need to know about concessions: A concession may not be declined or withdrawn. There always seems to be some confusion about this rule, but it is really very simple. If you tell your opponent: “that’s good, pick it up,” he can’t say “no, you can’t give me that,” and you can’t say “oops, sorry, changed my mind.” Now we can move on to a more interesting situation. Suppose you concede the hole, and your opponent proceeds to putt anyway (and misses, of course, otherwise this question wouldn’t be any fun). The concession stands; the putt was good as soon as it was conceded.
III. Doubts on procedure, disputes, claims
Suppose you are in doubt as to how to proceed on a given hole because you are unsure of a rule, or suppose you believe you are proceeding correctly but your opponent insists that you are not. Keep in mind that there is no provision in match play (as there is in stroke play) for playing two balls. You must make a decision and continue play of the hole. If your opponent disagrees with your choice, he must make a claim BEFORE ANY PLAYER TEES OFF AT THE NEXT HOLE. He must notify his opponent he is making a claim, explain the facts (as he sees them), and state that he wants a ruling. You might want to carry a pencil and paper for such situations. There are a few situations where a late claim can be considered (such as when your opponent gives you wrong information). Just write everything down and the Committee will sort it out for you later.
IV. Loss of Hole
In match play, the penalty for breaking a rule is often loss of hole. Even if your opponent is on his way to a 13 and your ball is lying 3 on the green, if you break one of these rules you are done, finished, kaput – pick up your ball, put the catastrophe out of your mind, and get psyched for the next hole. This is the beauty of match play–you get a fresh start on each hole. No matter how badly you botched the last hole, a one point swing in the match is the worst that can happen.
Let’s get down to business. If you do any of the following in match play, you lose the hole (the number in brackets is the rule reference):
1. Taking any action to influence the position or movement of the ball. (Here’s an example from Decision 1-2/4: James’ putt is overhanging the lip of the hole. He starts jumping up and down close to the hole, and the ball falls in. James has broken the rules and he loses the hole.) [1-2].
2. Carrying more than fourteen clubs. (Note that the maximum penalty is loss of 2 holes. If your extra club is discovered on the 8th hole, the match is adjusted two holes in your opponent’s favour. In other words, if you were 2 up after 8 holes, the match is now all square.) [4-4]
3. Taking a practice stroke during play of a hole. You may practice your swing to your heart’s content, but don’t hit a practice shot while you’re still playing the hole. Once the hole is finished, however, you are permitted to practice putting or chipping on or near the green you just played or the teeing ground of the next hole, provided you are not delaying anyone’s play.) [7-2]
4. Giving advice to or asking advice from anyone other than your partner. Advice is something you might say that would influence your opponent’s choice of club or method of play. (For example, you may not ask an opponent what club she used before you hit your shot, and you may not tell him that a particular hole plays longer than the actual yardage.) The following information is not considered advice, and may be shared at any time: (1) matters of public information, such as the position of hazards or the flagstick; (2) information about the rules; (3) distance information. [8-1 and Definition of Advice]
5. Giving wrong information to your opponent. You have given wrong information if (1) you do not inform your opponent when you have incurred a penalty, unless (a) you were obviously proceeding under a rule involving a penalty and your opponent observed you doing so (e.g., your tee shot landed in the middle of the lake), or (b) you inform your opponent before he hits his next stroke; (2) you give your opponent wrong information about how many strokes you have taken during play of a hole, and you don’t correct that information until after he hits his next shot; or (3) you give your opponent wrong information about how many strokes it took you to complete the hole, and this affects his understanding of the result of the hole, unless you correct your mistake before anyone tees off on the next hole. Decision 9-2/3.5 explains that if B asks A how many strokes he (A) has taken during play of a hole or on a hole just completed, and A refuses to give B the information requested, A loses the hole. [9-2]
6. Moving a tee marker. [11-2]
7. Improving the area of your swing by moving or breaking anything growing or fixed (an example of the latter would be a boundary stake); removing sand or loose soil (except on the putting green); removing dew, frost or water. There is no penalty, however, if some of these things happen when you are fairly taking your stance, so bear with me while I give you some examples. You may: (1) back into a branch if that is the only way to take your stance, even if it bends or breaks; (2) bend a branch with your hands in order to get under a tree to play your ball; (3) fix irregularities on the teeing ground (but don’t move that tee marker!). You may not: (1) deliberately move, bend, or break branches or stand on them to get them out of the way of your backswing or stroke; (2) bend a branch if your stance could have been taken without bending it. If a branch breaks on your backswing, but you complete your stroke, there is no penalty, but if you discontinue your swing when you break the branch, you lose the hole. [13-2]
8. If your ball is in a hazard (whether a sand bunker or a water hazard), you may not (1) test the condition of the hazard; (2) touch the ground or water with your hand or club; or (3) touch or move a loose impediment lying in the hazard. There are exceptions to these rules. For example, it’s okay to touch the hazard if you trip and fall; if you’ve taken several clubs with you, you may lay the extra ones down in the hazard. [13-4]
9. Making a stroke at a wrong ball. Note that when you are asked to move your ball marker on a green, if you forget to move it back when it is your turn to putt, and you putt the ball from there, you are considered to have played a wrong ball and you lose the hole (Decision 20-4/2). Note also that one of the changes to the rules in 2008 allows you to lift a ball for identification in a hazard. Therefore, you are no longer exempt from penalty for hitting a wrong ball that lies in a hazard. [15-3]
10. Hitting an attended flagstick; hitting the person attending the flagstick; or hitting a flagstick in the hole, unattended, when the stroke has been made on the putting green. [17-3]
11. Making a stroke from a wrong place. (Examples: (1) the wind blows your ball to a new position and you move it back to its original position and hit it; (2) you drop a ball and it rolls closer to the hole, but you hit it anyway.) [20-7]
12. Making further strokes at a provisional ball after you find the original ball and it is not out of bounds. [27-2]
Situations where the penalty or procedure is different from that of stroke play
1. Playing Out of Turn
We all know that when you win a hole you have the honour at the next tee, and that during play of a hole the player whose ball is furthest from the hole plays first. If your opponent plays out of turn, there is no penalty. However, you may require your opponent to cancel the stroke and replay it in the correct order. [10-1]
2. Playing from Outside the Teeing Ground
There is no penalty, but you may immediately require your opponent to cancel her stroke and replay it from within the teeing ground. [11-4]
3. Purposely Touching or Moving your Opponent’s Ball at Rest
There is no penalty if you touch your opponent’s ball in the process of searching for it. However, if you (or your equipment) touch or move your opponent’s ball at any other time, you incur a one-stroke penalty. If the ball is moved, it must be replaced [18-3].The purpose of this rule is to encourage you to help your opponent find his ball in such annoying places as dense rough and under piles of leaves, and to protect you from penalty should you happen to move it while searching.
4. Ball in Motion Accidentally Deflected or Stopped by Opponent or her Equipment
There is no penalty for accidentally deflecting or stopping your opponent’s ball. If this happens, your opponent has two choices: he may play the ball as it lies, or cancel the stroke and play from the spot where the ball was last played. [19-3]
5. Ball in Motion Hits Ball at Rest
If your ball in motion after a stroke is deflected or stopped by a ball in play and at rest, there is no penalty and you must play the ball as it lies. This also holds true if your putt from on the green hits your opponent’s ball on the green. You would play your ball as it lies, your opponent would have to replace his ball, and there is no penalty to anyone. (The moral of this story, of course, is to always be sure your opponent marks and lifts his ball before you putt, unless his ball is sitting behind the hole and you are hoping for a favourable ricochet.) [19-5]
6. Ball Assists or Interferes with Play
You may mark and lift your ball if you feel it will assist your opponent’s play. You may mark and lift your ball at your opponent’s request if it is interfering with his play. You may do this anywhere on the golf course, including in the rough or in a sand bunker or water hazard. If his shot alters your lie, you are entitled to restore the lie to its original condition. For example, let’s say that your opponent asks you to mark your ball that is lying on the apron prior to hitting her ball out of a sand bunker. If his shot knocks sand all over the area where your ball lay, you are entitled to remove that sand, even though sand is not considered to be a loose impediment except on the putting green.