Times of Starting and Groups
Under Rule 33-3 of the Rules of Golf, it is the responsibility of the Committee to establish the times of starting and, in stroke play, to arrange the groups in which competitors play. However, in both match play and stroke play the Committee may permit players to determine their own starting times and, in stroke play, to decide their own groupings.
(a) Starting Times
In the majority of Club match play competitions, the Committee does not establish starting times and the organisation of matches are left to the players. This is perfectly acceptable. However, it is essential that the Committee stipulate when each round must be played by and it is important that these time limits are strictly enforced. The Committee should also state which player in a match has the responsibility for arranging a date to play and, if the match is not played by the prescribed date, the Committee should have a method of determining whether one of the players should be allowed to advance or whether both are disqualified. This can be a difficult area for Committees. Strict and consistent enforcement of the conditions is vital to the proper organisation of such competitions.
Ideally, each round of a competition, whether match play or stroke play, is played on a certain day and in such circumstances it is normal for the Committee to establish starting times in both match play and stroke play and determine groupings in stroke play. Where possible, the Committee should make the times and groupings available to players well in advance of the competition. However, when there is a cut in a stroke play competition this will not always be possible.
When there is a ‘cut’, players should be made aware of when starting times and groupings will be made available, where the relevant information will be posted and, if appropriate, the telephone number they should contact for information (and at what time the telephone will cease to be manned). It is recommended that those persons taking telephone calls check player enquiries received against the draw sheet as this will give an indication of which players may be unaware of their starting times. If players are travelling to play in the event it may be helpful to email or fax a draw sheet to the hotels where the players are staying and have this displayed in a prominent place.
Appropriate starting-time intervals are a vital ingredient in helping to produce a satisfactory pace of play. If the intervals between matches or groups are insufficient the players in each group will be forced to wait constantly for the group in front to clear the driving area or the putting green. This will result in players losing their rhythm and being on the course for unnecessarily long periods of time. Committees frequently make the mistake of using short intervals in order to get as many players on to the course in as short a space of time as possible and to prevent the last starting time being too late in the day. However, this has the opposite effect with rounds taking an excessive amount of time leading to frustration for players and officials. For further information on starting times, see the “Pace of Play” section in this Guidance publication.
The Committee may wish to operate a two-tee start. Such a method of starting is useful when there is a large field as it allows more players onto the course more quickly – see Appendix B for an example of a two-tee starting sheet.
The Committee determines the groupings in stroke play, which will usually be in twos or possibly threes. Playing in fours is not recommended as it could have a detrimental effect on the pace of play. In 72-hole events where there is a large entry to be subject to a cut, the first two rounds are often played in threes with the last two rounds being played in groups of two. Normally the groups on the first two days are the same with a group having one earlier and one later starting time.
In the third round it is customary for the groups to be based on the competitor’s scores after 36 holes. If there is an even number of competitors, those with the highest and next to highest aggregate tee off first, and so on, with the competitors in first and second place teeing off last. If there are an odd number of players, the Committee may give the competitor with the highest score the option of playing as a single, accompanied by a non-playing marker, or with a playing marker, or it may insist that the competitor does one of the two.
In the fourth round the same procedure applies except based on the 54-hole aggregate scores. In determining the order of the draw for players with the same aggregate scores, normally the player with the lowest previous round score will play later. If players have the same aggregate score and the same previous round score, usually the first player to return the previous round score will go out last.
In many Amateur competitions players play 36 holes in one day. In these competitions the Committee should try to allow players sufficient time to rest and take refreshment between rounds. It is recommended that the Committee should determine the time they expect groups to complete a round and add one hour on to that time to give the duration between the two starting times. This means that there will still be sufficient time between rounds even if play falls behind the pace scheduled.
In match play competitions, players may be required to play two matches in one day. If an early match requires extra holes to determine a result this may mean that the winning player has little time before his next match. Such a situation is not uncommon and the Committee should decide in advance if it is prepared to give players a minimum period of time between matches in such cases. For example, the Committee may provide that a player is entitled to 15 minutes from reporting his match score until he is required to tee off again. Obviously, this may require the alteration of starting times and the order of the draw, but it would seem unreasonable for a player to be disadvantaged due to having played extra holes in his first match of the day.
Failure to start on time is covered by Rule 6-3, which provides that “the player must start at the time established by the Committee.” The penalty for a breach of this Rule was altered as of 1 January 2012 to state
“If the player arrives at his starting point, ready to play, within five minutes after his starting time, the penalty for failure to start on time is loss of the first hole in match play or two strokes at the first hole in stroke play. Otherwise, the penalty for a breach of this Rule is disqualification.
Bogey and par competitions – See Note 2 to Rule 32-1a.
Stableford competitions – See Note 2 to Rule 32-1b.
If the starter is not actually a member of the Committee, he should be instructed to report any late arrival on the tee to the Committee, who will then take the appropriate action. In such circumstances, the Committee, not the starter, should handle the communication of a penalty to a player. If a player is late, it is recommended that the starter hold the other player(s) in the group for the five-minute period if a player has not arrived at the time of starting.
It is important to note that all players in a group must be present and ready to play at the time established by the Committee, and that the order of play is not relevant. Therefore, a player in a group of three with a starting time of 9:00am will be in a breach of Rule 6-3 if he arrives at 9:01am even if he is third in the order of play (see Decision 6-3a/2). Additionally, if the starting time is listed as 9:00am, the player would be late if he arrived at 9:00:45 (see Decision 6-3a/2.5).