Purpose: Rule 3 covers the three central elements of all golf competitions:
Playing either match play or stroke play,
Playing either as an individual or with a partner as part of a side, and
Scoring either by gross scores (no handicap strokes applied) or net scores (handicap strokes applied).
Players Must Not Concede Holes to Deliberately Shorten a Match
Although a player is allowed to concede a hole to his or her opponent at any time before that hole is completed, a player and opponent are not allowed to agree to concede holes to each other to deliberately shorten the match.For example, before starting a match, a player and his or her opponent agree to alternate the concession of holes 6, 7, 8 and 9 to one another.If they know that the Rules do not allow them to make concessions in this way and start the match without cancelling the agreement, both players are disqualified under Rule 1.3b(1) (Player Responsibility for Applying the Rules).If the players are unaware that this is not allowed, the match stands as played.
Concession Is Not Valid When Caddie Attempts to Make Concession
One of the actions a caddie is not allowed to take is to concede the next stroke, a hole or the match to the opponent. If a caddie attempts to concede, that concession is not valid. There is no penalty to the player for this action of the caddie since Rule 10.3b(3) (Actions Not Allowed By Caddie) does not specify a penalty.If the opponent takes an action based on the caddie's attempt to concede, such as lifting a ball in play or a ball-marker, this would be a reasonable misunderstanding under Rule 3.2b(2). There is no penalty and the ball or ball-marker must be replaced unless the player then makes a concession.However, if the caddie who made the invalid concession lifted the opponent's ball or ball-marker or the ball or ball-marker of his or her player, that caddie's player would get a penalty if that act was a breach of Rule 9.4 or Rule 9.5.
Declaring Higher Handicap Is a Breach Even If Affected Hole Has Not Been Played
If a player declares a higher handicap to his or her opponent before playing the hole that would be affected, the player is still disqualified since this could have affected the opponent's strategy.For example, while waiting on the first tee to start the match, Player A declares that his or her handicap is 12, when it is really 11. Player B declares that his or her handicap is 10, and Player B makes a stroke to start play of the 1st hole.Player A is disqualified under Rule 3.2c(1) because Player B made a stroke in the match with the understanding that Player A gets two handicap strokes.
Handicap Stroke Not Applied During a Match Is Discovered Later in Match
Handicap strokes that a player fails to apply are treated in the same way as those that are mistakenly applied.
Number of Strokes Taken During Play of a Hole Does Not Need to Be Given by Player if It Is the Player’s Turn to Play
If the opponent asks the player for the number of strokes taken when it is the player's turn to play, the player is not required to give this information right away.The player is required to provide the number of strokes taken only before the opponent makes his or her next stroke or takes a similar action. The player may play his or her shot before giving such information.
Meaning of the “No Penalty if No Effect on Result of Hole” Exception
During play of a hole, a player must give the right number of strokes taken so his or her opponent can decide how to play the hole. However, after a hole is completed, if a player gives the wrong number of strokes taken, there is no penalty under the Exception to Rule 3.2d(1) if doing so did not affect the opponent's understanding of whether the hole was won, lost or tied.For example, after completing a hole at which the opponent scored a 7, the player mistakenly states that he or she scored a 5, when the player actually scored a 6. After starting the next hole, the player realizes that he or she scored a 6. Since the wrong number of strokes taken did not change the fact that the player had won the hole, there is no penalty.
Wrong Number of Strokes Given by Player After Hole Completed and the Mistake Is Discovered Several Holes Later
If a player gives the wrong number of strokes taken after a hole is completed, the player gets the general penalty if the mistake affects the result of the hole and is not corrected in time. In such a case, the match score must be corrected.For example, after completing the 1st hole the player tells the opponent that he or she scored a 4 but actually scored a 5. The opponent scored a 5 on the hole. After playing several more holes, the player realizes that he or she gave the opponent the wrong number of strokes taken on the 1st hole. Even though the hole would have been a tie if the right number of strokes taken had been given, the player gets a loss-of-hole penalty on the first hole because the mistake affected the understanding of the result of the hole. The match score must be corrected.
Wrong Number of Strokes Given by Player After Hole Completed and the Mistake Is Discovered After Result of the Match Is Final
If a player unknowingly gives the wrong number of strokes taken after a hole is completed but the mistake is not realized until after the result of the match is final (Rule 3.2a(5) - When Result Is Final), the result of the match stands as played.For example, after completing the 17th hole, the player tells the opponent that he or she scored a 3, but actually scored a 4. The opponent scored a 4 on the hole. The players play the 18th hole, and the result of the player winning the match 1 up is made final. The player then realizes that he or she gave the opponent the wrong number of strokes taken on the 17th hole.Because the player unknowingly gave the wrong number of strokes and the result of the match is final, there is no penalty and the match result stands, with the player as the winner (Rule 20.1b(3) - Ruling Request Made After Result of Match Is Final).
Changing Mind About Taking Penalty Relief Is Not Giving Wrong Number of Strokes Taken
The right number of strokes taken means only the strokes a player has already made and any penalty strokes already received.For example, the player's ball lies in a penalty area and the opponent asks how the player intends to proceed. Although not required to answer the question, the player advises that he or she will take penalty relief. After the opponent plays, the player decides to play the ball as it lies in the penalty area.The player was entitled to change his or her mind and there was no penalty for doing so since stating future intentions is not the same as giving the number of strokes taken.
“As Soon as Reasonably Possible” Is Not Always Before the Opponent’s Next Stroke
The broad phrase of "as soon as reasonably possible" allows for consideration of all relevant circumstances, especially how near the player is to the opponent.For example, if the player takes unplayable ball relief when the opponent is on the opposite side of the fairway and the opponent plays before the player can walk over to tell the opponent about the penalty, "as soon as reasonably possible" may be while they are walking up to the hole to make their next strokes.There is no set procedure for determining what is "as soon as reasonably possible", but it does not always mean before the opponent makes the next stroke.
Deliberately Giving Incorrect Match Score or Failing to Correct Opponent’s Misunderstanding of Match Score May Result in Disqualification
Rule 3.2d(3) expects players to know the match score, but does not require a player to give the match score to the opponent.If a player deliberately gives an incorrect match score or deliberately fails to correct the opponent's misunderstanding of the match score, he or she has not given the wrong number of strokes taken. But the Committee should disqualify the player under Rule 1.2a (Serious Misconduct).
Agreement to Wrong Match Score at a Prior Hole Discovered Later in Match
If a player and his or her opponent agree to a wrong match score, the match score stands. This is not the same as giving an incorrect number of strokes taken.For example, after the 10th hole, a player mistakenly says to his or her opponent that the match score is tied and his or her opponent agrees to this score. Before starting the 12th hole, the opponent realizes that he or she was actually 1up after the 10th hole and requests a ruling on the basis that the player gave the wrong match score.Players are expected to know the match score and, because the players agreed to the wrong match score and this was not corrected before starting the 11th hole, the wrong match score stands. There is no penalty to the player who mistakenly gave the wrong match score.
Marker Should Be Disqualified if He or She Knowingly Certifies a Wrong Score For Another Player
If a marker, who is a player, knowingly certifies a wrong score for a hole (including a hole score that does not include a penalty that the marker knew the player received on that hole), the marker should be disqualified under Rule 1.2a (Serious Misconduct).For example, a player returns a scorecard with a hole score that is lower than actually taken because he or she was unaware of a penalty that should have been included. However, the player's marker was aware of the penalty before the scorecard was returned, but knowingly failed to notify the player and certified the scorecard anyway.Although Rule 3.3b(1) does not apply a penalty for knowingly certifying a wrong score for another player, it is not in the spirit of the game. Therefore, the Committee should disqualify the marker under Rule 1.2a (Serious Misconduct).The player's score is then revised as provided in Rule 3.3b(3) (Wrong Score for a Hole).
Marker May Refuse to Certify Player’s Score Based on a Disagreement
A marker is not required to certify a hole score that he or she believes is wrong.For example, if there is a dispute between a player and his or her marker about whether there was a breach of the Rules or the player's score for a hole and the marker reports the facts of the disagreement to the Committee, the marker is not required to certify the hole score for the hole that he or she believes is incorrect.The Committee will need to consider the available facts and make a decision as to the player's score on the hole in question. If the marker refuses to certify that hole score, the Committee should accept certification from someone else who saw the player's actions on the hole in question (such as another player) or the Committee itself can certify the player's score on that hole.
Players Are Required to Enter Only Scores on a Scorecard
There is a difference between requiring players to enter a score for a round into a computer (such as for handicapping purposes) and being required to enter hole scores using an electronic form of scorecard approved by the Committee (such as a mobile scoring application).The Committee may require players to use a scorecard other than a paper scorecard (such as an electronic form of scorecard), but the Committee has no authority to impose a penalty under Rule 3.3b(2) for failing to enter scores elsewhere.However, to help in administrative matters (such as the efficient production and communication of competition results), a Committee may apply a penalty under a Code of Conduct (Rule 1.2b) or provide disciplinary sanctions (such as revoking entry into the next competition) for failing to enter scores elsewhere.
No Extra Certification Is Required When Changes on Scorecard Are Made
When the marker or the Committee approves a change in a hole score on the scorecard, neither the player nor the marker is required to initial or make any extra certification of the changed score.The player's certification applies to all hole scores, including those that were changed.
Application of the Exception for Marker Failing to Carry Out His or Her Responsibilities
Under the Exception to Rule 3.3b(2), a player gets no penalty if there is a breach of the scorecard requirements because of a failure of the marker that is beyond the player's control.Examples of how the Exception operates include:
If a marker leaves the course with a player's scorecard after a round, the Committee should try to contact the marker. However, if unable to do so, the Committee should accept certification of the player's scores by someone who saw the round. If no one else is available, the Committee itself can certify the player's scores.
If a player needs to correct a hole score after the scorecard has been certified by the marker, but the marker is not available or has already left, the Committee should try to contact the marker. If unable to do so, the Committee should accept certification of the alteration by someone else who saw the player play that hole or, if no such person is available, the Committee itself can certify that score.
Scores on Scorecard Must Be Identifiable to Correct Hole
Under Rule 3.3b, each hole score on the scorecard must be identifiable to the correct hole.For example, if a marker enters the player's front nine scores in the back nine boxes and the back nine scores in the front nine boxes, the scorecard will still be acceptable if the mistake is corrected by altering the hole numbers so that they go with the right score for each hole.However, if this mistake is not corrected and, as a result, a hole score is lower than actually taken on that hole, the player is disqualified under Rule 3.3b(3).
Meaning of “Handicap” Player Must Show on Scorecard
In net-score stroke-play competitions, it is the player's responsibility to ensure that his or her handicap is shown on the scorecard. "Handicap" means the handicap for the course and tees being played, excluding any handicap allowances as set out within the Terms of the Competition. The Committee is responsible for applying any handicap allowances and adjustments.[Clarification available:National Association May Establish Meaning of “Handicap” Player Must Show on Scorecard]
Player Not Exempt From Penalty When Committee Provides a Scorecard With an Incorrect Handicap
If the Committee provides players with scorecards containing their handicaps, each player must make sure that the right handicap is shown on his or her scorecard before returning it.For example, as a courtesy, the Committee chooses to issue pre-printed scorecards containing the date and each player's name and handicap.If such a scorecard mistakenly has a player's handicap being higher than it actually is, and this affects the number of strokes he or she gets, the player is disqualified under Rule 3.3b(4) if he or she does not correct this mistake before returning the scorecard.[Clarification available:Player May be Exempt From Penalty When Committee Provides a Scorecard With an Incorrect Handicap]
No Penalty When a Higher Handicap Has No Effect
If a player returns his or her scorecard with a higher handicap than he or she is entitled to, but that higher handicap does not affect how many handicap strokes he or she gets, there is no penalty since it does not affect the competition.For example, a Term of the Competition is to use 90% of each player's handicap. A player is a 5 handicap, but the player returns his or her scorecard showing a handicap of 6. Since 90% of 5 or 6 equals 5 when rounded to the nearest whole number, using the handicap of 6 does not affect how many handicap strokes the player gets, so there is no penalty.
Clarification: National Association May Establish Meaning of “Handicap” Player Must Show on Scorecard (Interpretation 3.3b(4)/1)
Until further notice, a National Association (Authorized Association as defined in the Rules of Handicapping) may adopt a policy that establishes the handicap that players must show on their scorecard in a net-score stroke play competition. This handicap does not have to be the handicap described in Interpretation 3.3b(4)/1, which is the Course Handicap (as defined in the Rules of Handicapping). The options for the National Association are the Handicap Index, the Course Handicap or the Playing Handicap. If no policy is adopted by the National Association, the Course Handicap is the handicap the player must show on the scorecard, in accordance with Interpretation 3.3b(4)/1.(Clarification added 4/2021)
Clarification: Player May be Exempt From Penalty When Committee Provides a Scorecard With an Incorrect Handicap (Interpretation 3.3b(4)/2)
Until further notice, a National Association (Authorized Association as defined in the Rules of Handicapping) may adopt a policy that alters the provisions in Interpretation 3.3b(4)/2. With such a policy in place, it means that if a Committee provides a player with a scorecard containing the incorrect handicap and the error is not corrected before the player returns the scorecard, this will be treated as an administrative mistake by the Committee. This means that the player is not penalized if the incorrect handicap on the returned scorecard is the handicap provided by the Committee. There is no time limit for correcting the mistake.(Clarification added 4/2021)
Players Must Be Accompanied by a Marker for the Entire Round
The purpose of a marker is to certify that a player's score for each hole is correctly shown on the player's scorecard. If a marker is not with the player for the entire round, the scorecard cannot be properly certified.For example, if a player plays several holes without his or her marker and the marker enters the player's scores for the holes the player played alone, the scorecard cannot be properly certified under Rule 3.3b.The player should have insisted that the marker accompany the player for all of the holes. If the marker was unable to do so, the player should have asked another person to serve as his or her marker. If that was not possible, the player was required to stop play and report to the Committee so that another marker could be assigned.
Information Put in Wrong Location on Scorecard May Still Be Acceptable
Although all requirements of Rule 3.3b must be met before a scorecard is returned, there is no penalty if the correct information is mistakenly entered on the scorecard in a place other than where it was expected to be, except that each hole score on the scorecard must be identifiable to the correct hole (see 3.3b(3)/1).For example:
If the player and marker certify the hole scores in the location where the other was meant to certify, the player's scores have been certified as required under Rule 3.3b. The same would be true if initials were used to certify, rather than the full name.
If the player's scores are recorded on the marker's scorecard and the marker's on the player's, but the scores are correct and both scorecards are certified, the scorecards are acceptable so long as the players tell the Committee which scorecard belongs to which player. As the nature of this mistake is administrative, there is no time limit on making such a correction (see 20.2d/1).
Another Scorecard May Be Used if Official Scorecard Is Misplaced
Although a player should return the scorecard that he or she was given by the Committee, Rule 3.3b does not require the same scorecard to be returned if it was damaged or misplaced.For example, if the marker misplaces a paper scorecard that had been handed out by the Committee, it would be acceptable to use another scorecard (such as a club scorecard) so long as that scorecard has the player's name and hole scores, and is certified by the player and marker.When an electronic scoring system is used and the player or marker loses internet connectivity or there is a technical issue, the players should raise the matter with the Committee as soon as possible and no later than immediately after the round is completed.