There is sometimes confusion amongst golfers as to who has the honour on the teeing ground. For example, many players observe a convention that the lowest handicap player has the honour on the first tee, which strictly speaking is incorrect. Rule 10-2 states that in stroke play;
"The competitor who has the honor at the first teeing ground is determined by the order of the draw. In the absence of a draw, the honor should be decided by lot."Deciding by lot can be achieved by such means as tossing coins, choosing different size tees from a closed hand, or throwing balls in the air to see which lands nearest to a predetermined spot. Of course, in stroke play there is no penalty for playing out of turn, which is why the convention referred to above has flourished; but it is not according to the Rules.
Another misunderstanding is that the competitor with the lowest score at a hole always takes the honor at the next teeing ground and if two or more competitors have the same score at a hole, they play from the next teeing ground in the same order as at the previous teeing ground. This is certainly true for ‘strokes’ competitions, where players have to hole out on every hole, with the handicap adjustments only being taken into account when the round is completed. However in handicap bogey, par and Stableford competitions it is different as Rule 32-1 confirms;
“In handicap bogey, par and Stableford competitions, the competitor with the lowest net score at a hole takes the honor at the next teeing ground.”For example, on the index 11 hole in a Stableford competition, player A (handicap 9), scores 4, and player B (handicap 14) scores 5, net 4. If player B had the honour on the hole he would retain it on the next teeing ground even though his gross score was higher than A’s.
What is the correct order of play if one player’s ball is in a bunker fourteen feet from the hole, another player’s ball is on the fringe ten feet away and a third player’s ball is thirty feet away, but on the putting green, as in the illustration above? Rule 10-2b states;
“After the competitors have started play of the hole, the ball farthest from the hole is played first. If two or more balls are equidistant from the hole or their positions relative to the hole are not determinable, the ball to be played first should be decided by lot.”So, in this example the player whose ball lies on the putting green should play first, the player in the bunker second, and the player on the fringe third. However, as previously noted, in stroke play there is no penalty for playing out of turn and, particularly where it helps to speed up play, there may be a case for inviting the player whose ball is in the bunker to play first.
There is also no penalty for playing out of turn in match play, but there is an important difference in that an opponent may immediately require the player who has played out of turn to cancel the stroke so made and, in correct order, play a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played. Probably the most famous incident of this occurred during the 2000 Solheim Cup, which brought Annika Sorenstam to tears. Click here for an account of the incident by a Sports Illustrated journalist.
I have three more reminders concerning order of play; First, in four-ball competitions balls belonging to the same side may be played in the order the side considers best (Rules 30-3b and 31-4). Second, in stroke play, a player required to lift his ball may play first rather than lift the ball (Rule 22-2). Third, if a player plays a provisional ball or another ball from the teeing ground, they must do so after their opponent or fellow-competitor has made their first stroke.
Here are some of the comments that I received in during August relating to my free email series, ‘Rhodes Rules School’ where I use photos to illustrate and answer Rules situations that you are likely to encounter on the golf course. You can subscribe here.
- Barry, you found the best and most effective way to explain the rules! Thanks. Eric T
- I really enjoy your emails. Jeff S
- May I request permission to copy your brilliant questions and answers? My idea is to leave one or two copies around the bar for members to read after the I must say your emails are a wealth of information. Jeffrey R
- Really enjoy your info about the rules, it makes the game so much more fun. I am a volunteer coach for the younger kids between 6 and14 and this is very helpful. John H
- I appreciate your rules update & hope that others in our club do too! Paul D
- Nice group of questions - no doubt about the answers when the rules are applied. Bob K.
- I am delighted that a friend of mine (and a fine golfer) forwarded this to me. I was pleasantly surprised that I did with your 'quizzes'. I am still a novice to 'true' golf. I love it and it's a challenge and knowing more about the rules makes me feel much better about playing the toughest game I am ever played. Thomas S