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The Game, Player Conduct and the Rules
Purpose of Rule: Rule 1 introduces these central principles of the game for the player:
  • Play the course as you find it and play the ball as it lies.
  • Play by the Rules and in the spirit of the game.
  • You are responsible for applying your own penalties if you breach a Rule, so that you cannot gain any potential advantage over your opponent in match play or other players in stroke play.
The Game, Player Conduct and the Rules

Standards of Player Conduct

Determining If a Player Has Committed Serious Misconduct
In determining whether a player has committed serious misconduct, the Committee must consider all the circumstances. Even if the Committee determines that the misconduct is serious, it may take the view that it is more appropriate to warn the player that a repeat of the misconduct or similar misconduct will result in disqualification, instead of disqualifying them in the first instance. Examples of actions by a player that are likely to be considered serious misconduct include:
  • Deliberately causing serious damage to a putting green.
  • Disagreeing with the course setup and taking it upon themself to move tee-markers or boundary stakes.
  • Endangering the safety of others, such as by throwing a club at another player or spectator.
  • Deliberately distracting other players while they are making strokes.
  • Removing loose impediments or movable obstructions to disadvantage another player after that other player has asked them to leave them in place.
  • Repeatedly refusing to lift a ball at rest when it interferes with another player in stroke play.
  • Deliberately playing away from the hole and then towards the hole to assist the player’s partner (such as helping the player’s partner learn the break on the putting green).
  • Deliberately not playing in accordance with the Rules and potentially gaining a significant advantage by doing so, despite incurring a penalty for a breach of the relevant Rule.
  • Repeatedly using vulgar or offensive language.
  • Using a handicap that has been established for the purpose of providing an unfair advantage or using the round being played to establish such a handicap.
  • Refusing to identify a found ball that might be the player’s ball.
Examples of actions by a player that, although involving misconduct, are unlikely to be considered serious misconduct include:
  • Slamming a club to the ground, damaging the club and causing minor damage to the turf.
  • Throwing a club towards a golf bag that unintentionally hits another person.
  • Carelessly distracting another player making a stroke.

Playing by the Rules

Disqualifying Players Who Know a Rule but Agree to Ignore It
If two or more players agree to ignore any Rule or penalty they know applies, they will be disqualified unless the agreement is made before the round and is cancelled before any player involved in the agreement begins their round. For example, in stroke play, two players agree to consider putts within a club-length of the hole holed, when they know that they must hole out on each hole. While on the first putting green, another player in the group learns of this agreement. That player insists the two players who made the agreement hole out, and they do so. Even though neither player who made the agreement acted on it by failing to hole out, they are still disqualified because they agreed to ignore Rule 3.3c (Failure to Hole Out).
In Order to Agree to Ignore a Rule or Penalty, Players Must Be Aware the Rule Exists
Rule 1.3b(1) does not apply and there is no penalty if players agree to waive a Rule that they are not aware of or fail to apply a penalty that they do not know exists. Examples where two players are unaware of a Rule, or where they have failed to apply a penalty, and therefore are not disqualified under Rule 1.3b(1), include:
  • In a match, two players agree in advance to concede all putts within a specific length but are unaware that the Rules prohibit them from agreeing to concede putts in this way.
  • Before a 36-hole match, two players agree that they will play only 18 holes and whoever is behind at that point will concede the match, not knowing that this agreement does not comply with the Terms of the Competition. The match goes forward on that basis and the player behind after 18 holes concedes the match. Since the players do not know such an agreement is not allowed, the concession stands.
  • In a stroke-play competition, a player and their marker, who is also a player, are unsure if the relief area for ground under repair is one club-length or two. Unaware of the Rule, they agree that it is two club-lengths and the player takes relief by dropping a ball almost two club-lengths from the nearest point of complete relief. Later in the round the Committee becomes aware of this. Although neither player is disqualified under Rule 1.3b(1) because they were unaware of the Rule, the player has played from a wrong place and gets the penalty under Rule 14.7 (Playing from Wrong Place). There is no penalty for accidentally giving incorrect information on the Rules of Golf.
Clarifications Related to Rule 1.3b(2): Reasonable Judgement
  • 9.6/2 – Where to Replace Ball When It Was Moved from Unknown Location
  • 17.1a/1 – Ball Lost in Either Penalty Area or Abnormal Course Condition Adjacent to Penalty Area
  • 17.1d(3)/2 – Player Drops Ball Based on Estimate of Where the Ball Last Crossed Edge of Penalty Area That Turns Out to Be the Wrong Point
Player Is Not Disqualified from a Competition When That Round Does Not Count
In competitions where not all rounds count, a player is not disqualified from the competition for being disqualified from a single round. For example, in a team competition with four-player teams, where the three best scores for each round are added up to make the team’s score for each round, a player is disqualified from the second round for not correcting the play of a wrong ball. That player’s score does not count for the team score in the second round but the player’s score would count for any other round of the competition.
Applying Disqualification Penalties, Concessions and Wrong Number of Strokes in a Stroke-Play Play-Off
During a play-off in a stroke-play competition the Rules are applied as follows:
  • If a player is disqualified (such as for making a stroke with a non-conforming club), the player is disqualified from the play-off only and the player is entitled to any prize that may have been won in the competition itself.
  • If two players are in the play-off, one player is allowed to concede the play-off to the other player.
  • If Player A mistakenly gives the wrong number of strokes to Player B and that mistake results in Player B lifting their ball (such as when Player B thinks they have lost the play-off to Player A), Player B is allowed to replace the ball without penalty and complete the hole. There is no penalty to Player A.
Action of Another Person Breaches a Rule for Player
A player is responsible when another person's action breaches a Rule with respect to the player if it is done at the player's request or if the player sees the action and allows it. Examples of when a player gets the penalty because they requested or allowed the action include:
  • A player asks a spectator to move a loose impediment near their ball. If the ball moves the player gets one penalty stroke under Rule 9.4b (Penalty for Lifting or Deliberately Touching Ball or Causing It to Move) and ball must be replaced.
  • A player's ball is being searched for in tall grass. A spectator finds the ball and presses the grass down around the ball, improving the conditions affecting the stroke. If the player, seeing that this is about to happen, does not take reasonable steps to try to stop the spectator, they get the general penalty for a breach of Rule 8.1a (Player's Actions That Improve Conditions Affecting the Stroke).
Player Gets Two One-Stroke Penalties When There Is an Intervening Event
If a player breaches a Rule with one penalty stroke, becomes aware of that breach and then breaches the same Rule or a different Rule with one penalty stroke, the player gets both penalties for a total of two penalty strokes. For example, a player lifts their ball in the general area to identify it without marking the spot of the ball. Another player tells the player about the penalty and that they get one penalty stroke under Rule 7.3. Before replacing the ball, the player cleans the ball more than necessary to identify it, also in breach of Rule 7.3. When the player was made aware of the first penalty, that was an intervening event and so the player also gets one penalty stroke for cleaning the ball, which means that the player gets two penalty strokes in total. (New)
Player Breaches Rule Then Breaches Another Rule as Part of Their Next Stroke
If a player breaches a Rule without becoming aware of that breach and then breaches the same Rule or another Rule in playing their ball, the player gets only one penalty. For example, in stroke play, a player takes relief from an immovable obstruction near a putting green but mistakenly drops a ball in a wrong place. Before playing the ball, the player removes sand on their line of play in the general area in breach of Rule 8.1a and then makes a stroke from the wrong place. As there was no intervening event between the removal of the sand and playing the ball from the wrong place, the player gets only one general penalty of two strokes. (New)