September 15, 2018

Rules of Golf - Match Play is Unique

Freshen up on some differences between match play and stroke play

With the Ryder Cup just weeks away, I felt it was great timing to discuss some Rules that are unique to match play. Stroke play and match play are very different forms of play so it is fitting that many rules differ when between the two forms of play.

Holing Out – In stroke play, each player must hole out on every hole. If a player does not then they are disqualified. 
In match play, holing out is not necessary. If your opponent concedes your next stroke then you may pick your ball up, or you may proceed to play the hole, but your strokes will not count. Additionally, if your opponent has holed out in less strokes then you can possibly score, then you lost the hole and may pick your ball up. Once a hole has begun opponents may consider the hole halved (tied), pick their balls up and move on to the next hole.

Rulings – In stroke play, if a player accidentally breaches the Rules, the appropriate penalty must be applied. 
In match play, if opponents are unsure of the correct ruling they may “figure it out” on their own if they are able to come to an agreement. They may not waive the Rules; however, if they are ignorant of the Rules, and they agree, there is no penalty.

Order of Play – In stroke play there is no penalty for playing out of order; however, order of play is very important in match play. If a player plays out of turn in match play, their opponent may recall the shot and make them play the shot again, but in the correct order. (This happened at the Solheim Cup many years ago).

Ball Striking Another Ball on the Putting Green – In stroke play if you putt from the putting green and your ball strikes another ball on the green you are penalized two strokes.
In match play there is no penalty if make a stroke from the putting green and your ball strikes another ball lying on the putting green, even if that ball belongs to your partner!

Penalties – There are one-stroke penalties in both match play and stroke play and there is disqualification penalties in both as well. Stroke play has many two stroke penalties, but match play does not; match play has loss of hole penalties. Referred to in the Rules as “general penalty” are two stokes in stroke play and loss of hole in match play.

Match play is unique because it is between just two players (sometimes four) and the Rules allow the players some latitude in some instances. In stroke play, you are normally competing against many players, and many that are not playing in the same group, so the Rules must be the same to everyone competing.

Excited for the New Rules beginning in 2019? Starting October 1st, these Rules articles will be focusing on the 2019 Rules and the major changes. You may be surprised to see that the Rules are not that much different. They are simpler, kinder, and easier to understand.


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