Date: August 03, 2016
Author: Golf Australia

Rules: The importance of competition conditions

The importance of the Conditions of Competition should not be underestimated. When Golf Australia or State Associations are contacted regarding a situation that has arisen, invariably the first question asked of the club or the individual is “What do the conditions state?”. Unfortunately, the answer to this question on many occasions is “We don’t have any conditions” or “The conditions do not cover this situation”.

The Conditions of Competition are the foundations on which every competition, whether it be the local Saturday competition or the Australian Open, are built. The conditions should be established in advance of the competition, ideally when entries to an event are opened.

The Committee must be able to interpret any conditions they establish, so it is important that they are clear and precise, and include any penalties should a breach of a condition occur.

Conditions which must be covered include:

· Eligibility: who is eligible (gender, age, handicap limit, club members only, amateur golfers only, etc.)

· Size of the field: is there a minimum or maximum number?; if there is a maximum number and entries exceed that number, how will entrants be balloted out (based on handicap, first-come-first-served, etc)?

· Format: stroke play, match play, number of holes, etc and whether there is a cut.

· Entry: how players must enter (i.e. is an entry form required, do they simply turn up on the day, etc).

· Handicaps: what handicap applies.

· Rules Governing Play (i.e. Driving Clubs, Conforming Golf Balls)

· Prizes: are Divisions or Grades in operation?

· Determining Ties

· Caddies (if there are restrictions)

· Motorised Transport (if there are restrictions)

· Practice

An interesting condition which needs more discussion is determining ties. In determining the winner of an event, for a major stroke play competition, if time permits, the fairest way to decide the winner is by a play-off. Ideally a three or four holes cumulative play-off is the fairest so that the winner is less likely to be determined on a fluke or by luck. If time does not permit, a hole-by-hole sudden death play-off is suitable. If a play-off is not practicable, joint winners could be declared, or the method of count-back applied. It may be that the winner is determined by a play-off, and second and third placings decided by count-back or declared joint runners-up.

With respect to deciding ties for a cut in a stroke play competition, the internationally accepted practice is to include any players tied for the cut position (e.g. 60 players plus ties). However if there is a desired maximum number of players to contest the final rounds, an acceptable condition is to state that “a maximum of xx players will contest the final rounds”. For example, if it is the desire that no more than 60 players contest the final rounds, and there are 8 players on a score tied for positions 58 to 65, those players in tied 58th position are eliminated, leaving 57 players to contest the final rounds.

In determining ties for a match play draw following stroke play qualifying (i.e. the numerical draw for 4, 8, 16, 32 or 64 players), it is recommended ties be decided by the order in which scores are returned, the first score to be returned receiving the lowest available number in the draw. ‘Order’ means the time that a score is returned, or more practically, the time in which the player commenced their round (i.e. if Players A and B are tied for 3rd position and Player A’s card was returned (or he teed off) at 12.10 pm and Player B’s card was returned (or he teed off) at 12.45 pm, Player A would be given position 3 in the draw, and Player B would be given position 4 in the draw.) If it is impossible to determine when scores are returned or when players commenced their round, ties should be determined by blind draw (i.e. out of a hat). If players start from the 1st and 10th tees during stroke play qualifying, or if players are split over more than one course in the final qualifying round, it is recommended that ties be split by lot when making the match play draw. (See Rules of Golf, Appendix I, Part C, Point 11.) A count-back to determine these positions is also acceptable.

Should there be ties for the last qualifying position, the customary method to decide the qualifiers is by a sudden death hole-by-hole play-off. If there are three players for two positions, the play-off determines the two players to make up the draw. If on the first play-off hole A has 3, B has 4, and C has 5; A will take the second-last qualifying position and B will take the last qualifying position.  If on the first play-off hole A and B have 3, and C has 5; A and B will make up the draw, with their position determined by the time in which scores from the last qualifying round are returned (i.e. the first score to be returned receiving the lowest available number).  A count-back to determine these positions is also suitable.

In conclusion, having precise Conditions of Competition for all events is crucial to the smooth running of the competition. More often than not, all circumstances, including those sometimes awkward situations, can be managed and resolved if thorough conditions are in place.

NOTE: Further information about count-back can be found on the Golf Australia website at the following link: