Match Play Rules and Information

Match Play is a very different form of play to stroke play in which a player (or a side) and an opponent compete against each other based on holes won, lost or halved.  

Most of the Rules of Golf apply in both forms of play but certain rules apply in only one or the other.  Some Match Play Rules are highlighted below.

In all forms of Match Play : Singles, Foursomes and Four-ball

  • There is no penalty for playing outside the teeing area or from the wrong teeing area but you may be asked to replay the stroke.  This request must be made immediately
  • There is no penalty for playing out of order but you may be asked to replay the stroke and again this request must be made immediately. Order of play is sacrosanct in match play so always check with your opponent if unsure whose turn it is to play.
  • When both balls are on the putting green and at rest there is no penalty if a ball in motion after a putt then hits another player’s ball.  The ball at rest that was moved is replaced and the other ball is played as it lies.  Rule 11.1a
  • Practice is allowed on the course before and between rounds unless there is a local rule saying otherwise
  • Make sure you have an identifying mark on your ball as it is loss of hole if you play a wrong ball.  Use a ball with different markings if playing a provisional ball and announce clearly that you are playing a provisional ball
  • Make concessions clear as they cannot be withdrawn or declined and are final.  If a player lifts a ball under the mistaken impression that the opponent has conceded their next stroke due to the opponent’s statement being misunderstood, the player may replace the ball without penalty. Rule 3.2b
  • It is your responsibility to know at which holes shots are given or received.  Make sure you are clear about the state of the match before you tee off at the next hole.
  • You must give correct information re the number of strokes you have taken when asked by your opponent and if you make a mistake it must be corrected before your opponent makes another stroke or takes a similar action like conceding a stroke or hole.  If you give wrong information to your opponent without correcting it before they play, the penalty is loss of hole as it could affect your opponent’s playing strategy for the hole.  Inform your opponent as soon as practicable any time you get a penalty.  Rule 3.2d
  • You have three minutes to search for a ball from when the player or the player’s caddie reach the spot where the ball may be.  Spectators may always help search for a ball.  Make sure one of you starts the timer on your phone or watch so that there are no rows if the ball is found after three minutes as it is then no longer in play and a lost ball.
  • If you have a caddie they are not allowed stand behind you to help in aiming unless you back away before you make the stroke and the caddie is no longer in this ‘restricted area’.    Rule 10.2b
  • If a rules issue arises during a match do not concede a hole unless you are absolutely certain that the penalty for the disputed point is loss of hole or indeed if any penalty applies.  If you cannot resolve the issue you may ask for a ruling (previously called make a claim).  You must continue with the match and get a later ruling. This is covered in Rule 20.1b
  • A one stroke penalty in stroke play is also a one stroke penalty in match play
  • Limit of 14 clubs – if more than 14, the state of the match is adjusted after play of the hole when the discovery is made, the match score is revised by deducting one hole for each hole where a breach occurred with a maximum deduction of 2 holes.  Rule 4.1b
  • You may overlook a breach of a rule by your opponent but you may not both agree to waive any rule or penalty that applies. Rule 3.2

Foursomes (Alternate Shot)           Rule 22

  • Two partners compete as a side by playing one ball in alternating order on each hole
  • Penalty for playing in the wrong order is loss of hole, that is the general penalty
  • If the side decides to play a provisional ball it must be played by the partner whose turn it is to play the side’s next stroke.  Player A’s tee shot may be lost or out of bounds so Player B plays the provisional ball.
  • Penalty strokes do not affect the order of play
  • Either player may take any action for the side before a stroke is made for example mark, lift, replace or drop a ball
  • A partner must not stand on or close to an extension of the line of play behind the ball while their partner is making a stroke to gain information for the side’s next stroke.

Four-ball                                              Rule 23

  • Four-ball is a form of play where two partners compete together as a side with each playing their own ball.  A side’s score for the hole is the lower score of the two partners on that hole.
  • Partners may play in the order they consider best so if it is a side’s turn to play either the player or partner may play next
  • As in foursomes either player may take any action for the side before a stroke is made such as to mark, lift, replace or drop a ball
  • One player may represent the side so if a player is running late the other player can start the match.  When the partner arrives they can give advice to the player if it is during play of a hole and can start their match at the next tee.
  • As in foursomes a player must not stand on or close to an extension of the line of play behind the ball while their partner  is making a stroke to gain information for their (the player’s) next stroke
  • If one of the players plays a wrong ball and loses a hole the partner may continue play of the hole as the penalty applies only to the player.
  • Normally a penalty applies only to the player but there are a few exceptions, for example both players in the side are penalised if either breaches the 14 club rule see Rule 23.9
  • A player must not continue play of a hole after the player’s  next stroke has been conceded if it would help the partner.

If the player does so their score for the hole stands without penalty but the partner’s score for the hole cannot count for the side.  An example would be if a short putt was conceded and it was on the same line of play as the partners.  If the player went ahead and took the putt it would help the partner.

Have the R&A Rules of Golf App downloaded on your phone and most questions can be answered in the Player’s Rule Finder

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