Decision of Ties
Rule 33-6 states in part “the Committee must announce the manner, day and time for the decision of a halved match or of a tie, whether played on level terms or under handicap”. It is essential that such decisions are taken in advance of the competition and established in the conditions. The recommended methods of settling ties are detailed in Appendix I, Part C of the Rules of Golf.
In stroke play competitions involving qualification for a subsequent stage of the event it is not uncommon for a number of competitors to be tied for the last qualifying place. This is the case in Regional and Final Qualifying for The Open Championship and the conditions state that a hole-by-hole play-off is used to determine the qualifiers.
Whilst there is no Rule stating how many competitors should be in a group in a stroke play play-off, it is recommended that normally there should be no more than five. Consequently, if there are seven competitors in the play-off, the Committee should divide them into a group of three and a group of four and have the first player to finish in the previous round teeing off first, the second to finish teeing off second, and so on.
A hole-by-hole play-off with seven competitors playing off, for example, for four places would operate as follows: Group 1, comprising A, B and C play the first hole and then wait for Group 2, comprising D, E, F and G to play the first hole. A, C and F score 4 at the first hole, B, D and G score 5 and E scores 6. Based on this result, A, C and F have won places, E is eliminated and B, D and G must play on for one place.
Even if there are only two competitors in a play-off, under the Rules, the play-off is conducted under the Rules for stroke play. Rule 33-6 states in part: “A halved match must not be decided by stroke play. A tie in stroke play must not be decided by a match”. Competitors in a play-off must return cards if they are issued by the Committee (see Decision 33-5/1), but it is not essential for the Committee to issue score cards provided it appoints someone to administer the scoring.
In a stroke play play-off, the Committee should ensure that the competitors are clear as to the purpose of the play-off and know exactly what they are playing for. For example, in Local Final Qualifying for The Open Championship, a play-off involving five players may be for one place in the Championship and a reserve place only.
The Committee must establish, in advance of the competition, the method for settling a tie. In The Open Championship, a four-hole play-off is used.