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6
Playing a Hole
Purpose: Rule 6 covers how to play a hole - such as the specific Rules for teeing off to start a hole, the requirement to use the same ball for an entire hole except when substitution is allowed, the order of play (which matters more in match play than stroke play) and completing a hole.
6
Playing a Hole
6.1

Starting Play of a Hole

a

When Hole Starts

You have started a hole when you make a stroke to begin the hole.
b

Ball Must Be Played from Inside Teeing Area

When starting a hole, if you play a ball from outside the teeing area (including from a wrong set of tee markers on the same hole or a different hole): Match Play. There is no penalty and you play your ball as it lies, but your opponent may cancel the stroke in which case you must play from inside the teeing area. See Full Rules For more information on an opponent cancelling your stroke. Stroke Play. You get the general penalty (two penalty strokes) and must correct the mistake by playing a ball from inside the teeing area. If you do not correct the mistake, you are disqualified. See Full Rules For more information on the status of strokes made from outside the teeing area and the disqualification penalty for failing to correct the mistake.
6.2

Playing Ball from Teeing Area

a

When Teeing Area Rules Apply

The teeing area Rules apply whenever you are required or allowed to play from the teeing area. See Full Rules For more information on when the teeing area Rules apply.
b

Teeing Area Rules

Your ball is in the teeing area when any part of the ball touches or is above any part of the teeing area. You may stand outside the teeing area in making the stroke at a ball in the teeing area. You may play the ball from a tee placed on the ground or from the ground itself. See Full Rules For more information on the teeing area, including certain conditions that can be improved, the restrictions on moving the tee-markers and the treatment of a ball at rest within the teeing area after a stroke.
6.3

Ball Used in Play of Hole

Purpose: A hole is played as a progression of strokes made from the teeing area to the putting green and into the hole. After teeing off, you are normally required to play the same ball until the hole is completed. You get a penalty for making a stroke at a wrong ball or a substituted ball when substitution is not allowed by the Rules.
a

Holing Out with Same Ball Played from Teeing Area

You may play any conforming ball when starting a hole from the teeing area and may change balls between two holes. You must hole out with the same ball played from the teeing area, except when:
  • That ball is lost or comes to rest out of bounds, or
  • You substitute another ball (whether or not allowed to do so).
You should put an identifying mark on the ball to be played.
b

Substitution of Another Ball While Playing Hole

When taking relief by dropping or placing, you may use either the original ball or another ball. When playing again from where a previous stroke was made, you may use either the original ball or another ball. When replacing a ball on a spot, you are not allowed to substitute a ball and must use the original ball, with certain exceptions contained in Rule 14.2a. If you make a stroke at an incorrectly substituted ball:
  • You get the general penalty.
  • In stroke play, you must then play out the hole with the incorrectly substituted ball.
c

Wrong Ball

You must not make a stroke at a wrong ball. See Full Rules For information on the Exception for Ball Moving in Water. Penalty for Playing Wrong Ball: General Penalty. In match play:
  • If you and your opponent play each other's ball during the play of a hole, the first to make a stroke at a wrong ball gets the general penalty (loss of hole).
  • If it is not known which wrong ball was played first, there is no penalty and the hole must be played out with the balls exchanged.
In stroke play, you must correct the mistake by continuing play with the original ball by playing it as it lies or taking relief under the Rules:
  • The stroke made with the wrong ball and any more strokes before the mistake is corrected do not count.
  • If you do not correct the mistake before making a stroke to begin another hole or, for the final hole of the round, before returning your scorecard, you are disqualified.
6.4

Order of Play When Playing Hole

Purpose: Rule 6.4 covers the order of play throughout a hole. The order of play from the teeing area depends on who has the honour, and after that is based on which ball is farthest from the hole.
  • In match play, the order of play is fundamental; if you play out of turn, your opponent may cancel that stroke and make you play again.
  • In stroke play, there is no penalty for playing out of turn, and you are both allowed and encouraged to play "ready golf", that is to play out of turn in a safe and responsible way.
a

Match Play

Starting First Hole. The honour is decided by the order of the draw or, if there is no draw, by agreement or by using a random method (such as tossing a coin). Starting All Other Holes. The player who wins a hole has the honour at the next teeing area. If the hole was tied, the player with the honour at the previous teeing area keeps it. After Both Players Start a Hole. The ball that is farther from the hole is to be played first. In all cases, if you play when it was your opponent's turn to play, there is no penalty and you play your ball as it lies, but your opponent may cancel the stroke. Exception - Playing Out of Turn by Agreement to Save Time: To save time, you and your opponent may agree to play out of turn. See Full Rules For more information on an opponent cancelling your stroke. 
b

Stroke Play

Starting First Hole. The honour is decided by the order of the draw or, if there is no draw, by agreement or by using a random method (such as tossing a coin). Starting All Other Holes.
  • The player in the group with the lowest gross score at a hole has the honour at the next teeing area; the player with the second lowest gross score should play next; and so on.
  • If two or more players have the same score at a hole, they should play in the same order as at the previous teeing area.
  • The honour is based on gross scores, even in a handicap competition.
After All Players Start a Hole. The ball that is farthest from the hole should be played first. In all cases, there is no penalty if you play out of turn, except that if you and another player agree to play out of turn to give one of you an advantage, you both get the general penalty (two penalty strokes). "Ready Golf".In stroke play, you are both allowed and encouraged to play out of turn in a safe and responsible way, such as when:
  • You agree with another player to do so for convenience or to save time,
  • Your ball comes to rest a very short distance from the hole and you wish to hole out, or
  • You are ready and able to play before another player whose turn it is to play under the normal order of play, so long as in playing out of turn you do not endanger, distract or interfere with any other player.
But if the player whose turn it is to play is ready and able to play and indicates that he or she wants to play first, other players should generally wait until that player has played. See Full Rules For information on order of play when playing another ball from the teeing area, a provisional ball or when taking relief.
6.5

Completing Play of a Hole

See Full Rules For information on when a hole has been completed.
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