Terms of the Competition determine the structure of each competition including who may enter, how to enter, what the schedule and format of the competition will be and how ties will be decided. It is the responsibility of the Committee to:
Other than in exceptional circumstances, the Committee should avoid altering the Terms of the Competition once the competition has started .
It is the responsibility of each player to know and follow the Terms of the Competition.
Sample wording of Terms of the Competition can be found at RandA.org.
The Committee may make Terms of the Competition that restrict who is eligible to play in the competition.
A competition may be limited to players of a specific gender.
A competition may be limited to players within a specific age range. If so, it is important to specify the date on which the players must be of age . Some examples are:
Amateur or Professional Status
A competition may be limited to just amateurs, just professionals or allow all players. When a competition is open to anyone, the Committee should ensure that amateurs properly identify themselves and waive their right to any prize money in advance of the competition.
The Committee may set restrictions and/or limits on the handicaps eligible for entry or use in a competition. These may include:
Residence and Membership Status
The Committee may limit entry to players who reside in or were born in a specific county, state, country or other geographic area . It may also require that all players are members of a specific club, organization or golf union.
The way to enter the competition and the starting and ending dates for entry should be specified.
The following points in relation to the format of the competition should be specified where required:
Alternative Scoring Methods
When the form of play is Stableford, Maximum Score or Par/Bogey, the Terms of the Competition may need to specify certain aspects in relation to how points will be scored, or the maximum number of strokes that a player can score on each hole.
Stableford is a form of stroke play where points are awarded to a player for each hole by comparing the player's score to the fixed target score for the hole. The fixed target score is par unless the Committee sets a different fixed score (see Rule 21.1b).
If the Committee decides to set a different fixed target score, it may set it in the Terms of the Competition as bogey, birdie, or some other fixed score.
When the form of play is Maximum Score, the Terms of the Competition should specify the maximum number of strokes a player can score on each hole (see Rule 21.2).
The maximum may be set in one of the following ways:
When considering what maximum to set for a Maximum Score competition, the Committee should consider the following:
When the form of play is Par/Bogey, the Terms of the Competition should specify the fixed score against which the player's score on a hole is compared to determine whether the player wins or loses a hole. For a Par competition, the fixed score would normally be par, and for a Bogey competition the fixed score would normally be bogey (one over par).
Other Forms of Play
There are many other forms of play such as Scrambles and Greensomes. See Section 9 and/or RandA.org for more information on these and other forms of play.
When the form of play involves a team competition, the Committee should consider if additional Terms of the Competition are required . Examples include:
In stroke play, Rule 3.3b holds players responsible for ensuring the accuracy of their hole scores and promptly returning the scorecard to the Committee at the completion of the round.
The Committee should tell players where the scorecards should be returned, have someone available to resolve any potential issues the players might have with the Rules and validate the scores.
When possible, a quiet, private area should be provided for players to use in checking the validity of the scores on their scorecards, speaking with a member of the Committee, if needed, and returning their scorecards.
Specify When Scorecard Is Considered Returned
The Committee should specify when the scorecard is considered returned. Options include:
Requesting Players to Provide Other Information on Scorecards
The Committee may request that players assist the Committee by completing scorecard related tasks that are the Committee's responsibility. The Committee must not apply a penalty to a player under the Rules of Golf if he or she fails to comply with these requests or makes a mistake in doing so, but the Committee may provide a disciplinary sanction for a player who fails repeatedly to comply with such a request. For example, the Committee may ask players to:
Similarly, the Committee may request that players assist the Committee by entering their scores into a computer system at the end of the round, but a player should not be penalized under the Rules of Golf if he or she fails to comply with this request or makes a mistake in doing so. But the Committee may provide a disciplinary sanction, for example in a Code of Conduct, for a player who fails repeatedly to comply with such a request.
In match play and stroke play, the Terms of the Competition can be used to alter the way in which ties are decided.
If a match is tied after the final hole, the match is extended one hole at a time until there is a winner (see Rule 3.2a(4)), unless the Terms of the Competition state otherwise.
The Terms of the Competition should specify if the match may end in a tie or if the play-off method will differ from that specified in Rule 3.2a(4). Options include the following:
In a handicap match, the stroke index allocation as set by the Committee should be used to determine where handicap strokes should be given or received in extra holes unless the Terms of the Competition state otherwise.
A tie in a match should not be decided by a stroke-play play-off.
The Terms of the Competition should specify whether a competition may end in a tie, or if there will be a play-off or matching of scorecards to determine the winner and other finishing positions.
A tie in stroke play should not be decided by a match.
Play-off in Stroke Play
If there is to be a play-off in stroke play, the Terms of the Competition should set the following:
Matching Scorecards (Also Known as a Scorecard Count-Back)
If a play-off is not feasible or desired, the Terms of the Competition may specify that any ties will be decided by matching scorecards. Even when the winner of a competition is to be decided by a play-off, other positions in the competition may be decided by matching scorecards. The method of matching scorecards should also provide for what will happen if this procedure does not produce a winner.
One method of matching scorecards is to determine the winner based on the best score for the last round. If the tying players have the same score for the last round or if the competition consisted of a single round, determine the winner based on the score for the last nine holes, last six holes, last three holes and finally the 18th hole. If there is still a tie, then the last six holes, three holes and final hole of the first nine holes will be considered in turn. If the round is less than 18 holes, the number of holes used in matching scores may be adjusted.
If this process does not result in a winner, the Committee could consider the competition a tie, or alternatively could decide the winner by chance (such as tossing a coin).
Matching scorecards is also known as a card count-back or a scorecard play-off.
It is important for the Committee to clarify in the Terms of the Competition when and how the result of the competition is final as this will affect how the Committee will resolve any Rules issues that occur after play is complete in both match play and stroke play (see Rule 20).
Examples of when the Terms of the Competition may state that the result of a match is final include:
When a match is determined to be final once the result is recorded on an official scoreboard, the Committee may take responsibility for recording the winner's name on the scoreboard or it may pass that responsibility to the players. In some cases the official scoreboard will be a prominent structure and in other cases it might be a sheet of paper in the golf shop or locker room.
In cases where a referee has been assigned by the Committee to accompany a match, any announcement of the result of the match by the referee on the final putting green is not the official announcement unless it was stated as such in the Terms of the Competition.
Examples of when the Terms of the Competition may state the competition to be closed in stroke play include:
In stroke-play qualifying followed by match play, Rule 20.2e(2) stipulates that the stroke-play portion of the competition is closed when the player has teed off to start his or her first match.
The Terms of the Competition set out the structure of the competition and once a competition has started, the terms may be altered only in very exceptional circumstances.
An example of a situation where the Terms of the Competition should not be altered:
Examples of situations where there are exceptional circumstances and the Terms of the Competition may be altered:
The Terms of the Competition may require players to comply with an anti-doping policy. It is a matter for the Committee to write and interpret its own anti-doping policy, although guidance in developing such a policy can usually be provided by the national governing body.