Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Ryder Cup – Rules Situations to Observe

I guess that like me, many of you who receive my weekly blogs by email will be glued to your televisions from Friday to Sunday, watching The Ryder Cup unfold. This biennual competition is eagerly anticipated by most US and European golfers and usually provides enthralling competition, leading to compulsive viewing. Golf can be a very self-centred game, in which each player competes on their own against the rest of the field, week after week. But in match play, the players are often competing as a team and are just as involved in the performance of their playing partners and team members, as they are with their own. I am taking this opportunity to point out a few of the Rules situations that differ in match play from the stroke play format that we are more used to following.

First, I want to explain a situation concerning players practicing putts after they have completed a hole, which we do not see occurring in tour events, but will probably observe during the Ryder Cup. This is not a difference between the Rules for match play and stroke play, but is due to a Condition of Competition that applies to most PGA and European Tour events (and probably other tours), but not in major match play competitions, or usually, in the amateur game. I presume that this Condition of Competition is implemented to keep play moving, which is to be applauded. Exception to Rule 7-2 states;

Between the play of two holes a player must not make a practice stroke, except that he may practice putting or chipping on or near:
a. the putting green of the hole last played,
b. any practice putting green, or
c. the teeing ground of the next hole to be played in the round, provided a practice stroke is not made from a hazard and does not unduly delay play (Rule 6-7). 
And now for a few bullet points on the major differences in match play Rules to look out for;
  • In match play, players competing against each other are opponents, in stroke play other players in the same group are fellow competitors. 
  • In match play, the general penalty for a breach of the Rules is loss of hole; in stroke play it is two strokes. Breaches of Rules incurring a penalty of one stroke are also one stroke penalties in match play, with two minor exceptions, Note 2 to Rule 6-7 and …
  • … In match play, there is a penalty of one stroke for touching, or causing an opponent’s ball to move, other than during search for it, whereas in stroke play there is no penalty for touching a fellow competitor’s ball.
  • In match play, putts are often conceded and sometimes players will agree that a hole is halved when neither player has holed out, usually because their putts are at roughly equal distance from the hole. In stroke play the player must hole out on every hole.
  • In match play, it is important that the player (or side) whose ball is farthest from the hole plays first. A ball that is played out of turn may be recalled by the other side and then has to be played again in the correct order of play (e.g. Google "Annika Sorenstam reduced to tears at Solheim Cup"). In stroke play, there is no penalty for playing out of turn, unless players have agreed to do so to give one of them an advantage.
  • Finally, an unusual one. In match play, if a putt from the putting green hits another ball at rest on the putting green, whether it belongs to your side or your opponents', there is no penalty, whereas there is a two stokes penalty for the same occurrence in stroke play, Rule 19-5. However, you are unlikely to see this during Ryder Cup matches, as the players are likely to require that a ball that is in a position to assist an opponent is lifted, as is their right under this part of Rule 22-1b;
Except when a ball is in motion, if a player considers that a ball might assist any other player, he may:
    a. Lift the ball if it is his ball; or
    b. Have any other ball lifted.

Good golfing,




This is a good time for me to promote my eDocument, “So You Are Going to Play Match Play!”, which details of all the differences in the Rules for this format. It provides an essential guide for match players to avoid loss of hole penalties, or worse, the unnecessary loss of a match. Click here for more details.


The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2014 and may not be copied without permission.


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