A Committee may appoint referees to assist with the administration of a competition. A referee is an official named by the Committee to decide questions of fact and apply the Rules.
In match play, a referee's duties and authority depend on his or her assigned role:
In stroke play:
The Committee is the person or group in charge of the competition or the course, but within that Committee:
The Committee may limit a referee's duties in stroke play or match play (such as when it believes this will help make rulings consistent for all of the players) by identifying items that may be handled only by the Committee or by a particular set of referees.
Examples of such items are:
While a referee is not obliged to warn a player who is about to breach a Rule, it is strongly recommended that a referee should do so whenever possible in order to prevent a player from getting a penalty. A referee who acts in accordance with the recommendation by volunteering information on the Rules in order to prevent breaches of the Rules should do so uniformly to all players.
But, in match play where the referee has not been assigned to one match for the entire round, he or she has no authority to intervene. The referee should not warn the player unless asked, and if the player does breach the Rule, the referee should not apply the penalty without the opponent requesting a ruling.
If a player disagrees with a referee's decision in match play or stroke play, the player is generally not entitled to a second opinion, whether from another referee or the Committee (see Rule 20.2a), but the referee whose decision is questioned may agree to obtain a second opinion.
The Committee can adopt a policy of always allowing all players a second opinion where they disagree with a referee's decision.
Resolving questions of fact is among the most difficult actions required of a referee or the Committee.
If a judgment is made by a referee, the player is entitled to proceed on the basis of that ruling whether it is an interpretation of the Rules of Golf or a resolution of a question of fact. In situations arising in both circumstances, if the ruling is found to be incorrect, the Committee may have the authority to make a correction (see Rule 20.2d and Section 6C(10) or 6C(11)). However, in all circumstances, including both match play and stroke play, the referee or Committee is limited in its ability to make corrections by the guidance contained in Rule 20.2d.
Where there is a question relating to the Rules where it is one player's word against another's and the weight of evidence does not favour either player, the benefit of the doubt should be given to the player who made the stroke or whose score is involved.
If two players complete their match but do not agree on the result, they should refer the matter to the Committee.
The Committee should gather all available evidence and attempt to ascertain the true state of the match. If, after doing so, it is unable to determine the true state of the match, the Committee should resolve the situation in the fairest way, which could mean ruling that the match should be replayed if possible.
When a player proceeds under a Rule that does not apply to his or her situation and then makes a stroke, the Committee is responsible for determining the Rule to apply in order to give a ruling based on the player's actions.
Under Rule 20.2a, a player has no right to appeal a referee's ruling. But, if a ruling by a referee or the Committee is later found to be wrong, the ruling should be corrected if possible under the Rules (see Rule 20.2d). This section clarifies when an incorrect ruling should be corrected in match play.
Correction of Incorrect Ruling by a Referee During Match
Correction of Incorrect Ruling Made on Final Hole of Match Before Result Is Final
Where a referee makes an incorrect ruling on the final hole of a match, it should be corrected at any time up until the result of the match is final, or if the match goes to extra holes, until either player makes a stroke from the next teeing area.
Incorrect Ruling by Referee in Match Results in Player Making Stroke from Wrong Place
If a player in match play proceeds on the basis of a ruling from a referee, which involves dropping a ball and playing from a wrong place and the Committee then learns of the incorrect ruling, the following principles apply:
A player has no right to appeal a referee's ruling (see Rule 20.2a). But if a ruling by a referee or the Committee is later found to be wrong, the ruling should be corrected if possible under the Rules (see Rule 20.2d). This section clarifies when an incorrect ruling should be corrected in stroke play.
Correction of Incorrect Ruling by Referee in Stroke Play
When possible, a referee should correct an incorrect ruling in stroke play that involves the incorrect application of a penalty or failure to apply a penalty, provided the competition has not closed (see Rule 20.2e).
Player In Stroke Play Incorrectly Advised Stroke Does Not Count
Where a referee in stroke play incorrectly advises a player that his or her stroke does not count and to play again without penalty, the ruling stands and the player's score with the replayed stroke is the player's score for the hole.
Player in Stroke Play Makes Stroke from Wrong Place Due to Incorrect Ruling; Procedure for Player When Error Is Discovered
In stroke play when a player proceeds on the basis of a ruling from a referee, which involves dropping a ball and playing from a wrong place and the Committee then learns of the incorrect ruling by the referee, the following principles apply:
Referee Gives Player Incorrect Information; Player Acts on Information in Subsequent Play
Players are expected to recognize when they have breached a Rule and to be honest in applying their own penalties (see Rule 1.3b). But if a referee provides the player with incorrect information on the Rules, the player is entitled to act on such information in his or her subsequent play.
Consequently, the Committee may be required to make a judgment as to both the duration of the player's entitlement and his or her proper score when, as a result of proceeding according to the incorrect information provided, the player is liable to a penalty under the Rules.
In these situations, the Committee should resolve the matter in whatever manner it considers most fair, in light of all the facts and with the objective of ensuring that no player receives an undue advantage or disadvantage. In cases where the incorrect information significantly affects the results of the competition, the Committee may have no option but to cancel the round. The following principles are applicable:
Player Lifts Ball Without Authority Due to Misunderstanding Referee's Instructions
If a player lifts his or her ball when not permitted to do so as a result of a reasonable misunderstanding of a referee's instructions, there is no penalty, and the ball must be replaced unless the player proceeds under another Rule.
For example, a player's ball comes to rest against a movable obstruction and he or she asks for relief. A referee correctly advises the player that the obstruction may be removed under Rule 15.2 and that the spot of the ball should be marked in case it moves during the removal of the obstruction. The player marks the position of the ball and lifts it before the referee can stop him or her.
The player will normally be penalized one stroke under Rule 9.4 for lifting his or her ball where it is not allowed, but, provided the referee is satisfied that the player misunderstood the instruction, the ball is replaced without penalty.
Player Incorrectly Advised to Continue with Provisional Ball by Referee
A player had reason to play a provisional ball from the teeing area and finds his or her original ball in a penalty area. The player is then incorrectly told by a referee that he or she must continue with the provisional ball and completes the hole with the provisional ball. The player incurs no penalty for playing a wrong ball (the provisional ball, which the player was required to abandon under Rule 18.3c).
If the Committee then becomes aware of the wrong ruling, it should rule that the player's score for the hole consists of the tee shot with the original ball plus the number of strokes the player took to complete the hole with the provisional ball after the incorrect ruling, with the second stroke with the provisional ball being the player's second stroke on the hole. However, if it would have been clearly unreasonable for the player to have played the original ball from the penalty area, he or she must also add one penalty stroke under Rule 17.1 to the score for the hole.
Committee Makes Incorrect Ruling When Player Has Played Two Balls Under Rule 20.1c(3); When Ruling May Be Corrected
In stroke play, a player plays two balls under Rule 20.1c(3), reports the facts to the Committee, and the Committee tells the player to score with the incorrect ball. Such a mistake is an incorrect ruling and not an administrative error. Therefore Rule 20.2d applies and the answer depends on when the Committee learns of its incorrect ruling:
Disqualification Penalty Wrongly Applied to Winner of Event; Error Discovered After Two Other Players Play Off for First Place
If, as a result of an incorrect ruling by the Committee, the rightful winner of a competition is disqualified and two other players play-off for first place, the best procedure depends on when the Committee realizes its error. If the Committee learns of its incorrect ruling before the result of the competition is final, the Committee should correct the incorrect ruling by rescinding the disqualification penalty and declaring the player to be the winner. If the Committee learns of the incorrect ruling after the result of the competition is final, the result stands, with the player disqualified.
Application of Disqualification Penalty in Competition in Which Not All Scores Used to Determine Winner
In a scenario such as a multiple round stroke-play team competition when not all the player's scores count towards the team's score for a round, a player's score cannot count for the round when he or she is disqualified but could count for other rounds. For example, where two scores of three team members count, if a player is disqualified in the first of four rounds, the disqualification applies only to the first round and his or her scores for the remaining rounds could still be used.
This applies to all competitions in which not all scores are used to determine the winner (for example, an individual competition in which the player counts his or her three best scores from four rounds).
If a player is disqualified for a breach of Rule 1.3b or the Committee's Code of Conduct, it is up to the Committee to determine whether the disqualification should be for the round or the entire competition.
The combining of match play and stroke play is discouraged as certain Rules are substantially different between the two formats. But there will be times when players either request to combine the two forms of play or, having done so on their own, request a ruling. The Committee should make its best efforts to support players at these times and should use the following guidelines in doing so.
When players request to combine match play and stroke play
If a Committee chooses to allow players to play a match while competing in a stroke-play competition, it is recommended that the players be advised that the Rules for stroke play apply throughout. For example, no concessions are allowed and if one player plays out of turn, the other does not have the option of recalling the stroke.
When players request a ruling having combined match play and stroke play
If the Committee is asked for a ruling when players have combined match play and stroke play, it should apply the Rules of Golf as they would apply to each of match play and stroke play separately. For example, if one player did not complete a hole for whatever reason then he or she is disqualified from the stroke-play competition for a breach of Rule 3.3c. But, for Stableford, Maximum Score and Par/Bogey see Rules 21.1c(2), 21.2c and 21.3c(2) respectively.