USGA Rules 2 & 30
USGA Rule 2: Match Play
A match consists of one side playing against another over a stipulated round, unless otherwise decreed by the committee. In match play, the game is played by holes. Except as otherwise provided in the rules, a hole is won by the side that holes its ball in the fewest strokes. In a handicap match, the lower net score wins the hole. The state of the match is expressed by the following terms: so many “holes up’’ or “all square,’’ and so many “to play.’’
A side is “dormie” when it is as many holes up as there are holes remaining to be played.
2-2 Halved Hole
A hole is halved if each side holes out in the same number of strokes. When a player has holed out and his opponent has been left with a stroke for the half, if the player subsequently incurs a penalty, the hole is halved.
2-3 Winner of Match
A match is won when one side leads by a number of holes greater than the number remaining to be played.
If there is a tie, the committee may extend the stipulated round by as many holes as are required for a match to be won.
2-4 Concession of Match, Hole or Next Stroke
- A player may concede a match at any time prior to the start or conclusion of that match.
- A player may concede a hole at any time prior to the start or conclusion of that hole.
- A player may concede his opponent’s next stroke at any time, provided the opponent’s ball is at rest. The opponent is considered to have holed out with his next stroke, and the ball may be removed by either side.
- A concession may not be declined or withdrawn.
- Ball overhanging hole—see Rule 16-2.
2-5 Doubt as to Procedure; Disputes and Claims
In match play, if a doubt or dispute arises between the players, a player may make a claim. If no duly authorized representative of the committee is available within a reasonable time, the players must continue the match without delay. The committee may consider a claim only if the player making the claim notifies his opponent (i) that he is making a claim, (ii) of the facts of the situation and (iii) that he wants a ruling. The claim must be made before any player in the match plays from the next teeing ground or, in the case of the last hole of the match, before all players in the match leave the putting green.
A later claim may not be considered by the committee unless it is based on facts previously unknown to the player making the claim, and the player had been given wrong information (Rules 6-2a and 9) by an opponent.
Once the result of the match has been officially announced, a later claim may not be considered by the committee unless it is satisfied that the opponent knew they were giving wrong information.
The privilege of playing a second ball under Rule 3-3 does not exist in match play.
2-6 General Penalty
The penalty for a breach of a rule in match play is loss of hole, except when otherwise provided.
Decision 2-5/1 Player’s Obligation Regarding Lodging Claim
In match play, a player may disregard a breach of the rules by their opponent, provided there is no agreement between the players. There is a difference between overlooking an opponent’s breach and an agreement with the opponent to waive a penalty. Rule 1-3 prohibits the latter.
Decision 2-5/2 Procedure for a Valid Claim
For a claim to be valid, the claimant must notify their opponent (i) that they are making a claim, (ii) of the facts of the situation and (iii) that they want a ruling. They must do so within the time required by Rule 2-5. For example, Rule 16-1e prohibits putting from a stance astride an extension of the line of putt behind the ball. In a match between A and B, if A putts from a stance astride an extension of the line and B states “that is not allowed, you are penalized,” or, “I’m making a claim because of that stroke,” the committee should consider the claim.
Statements by B such as “I’m not sure that’s allowed,” or, “I don’t think you can do that,” do not by themselves constitute a valid claim, because each statement does not contain the notice of a claim, the facts of the situation and an indication that they want a ruling.
USGA Rule 30: Three-Ball, Best-Ball and Four-Ball Match Play
30-3. Best-Ball and Four-Ball Match Play
a. Representation of Side: A side may be represented by one partner for all or any part of a match; all partners need not be present. An absent partner may join a match between holes, but not during play of a hole.
b. Order of Play: Balls belonging to the same side may be played in the order the side considers best.
c. Wrong Ball: If a player incurs the loss-of-hole penalty under Rule 15-3a for making a stroke at a wrong ball, he is disqualified for that hole but his partner incurs no penalty, even if the wrong ball belongs to him. If the wrong ball belongs to another player, its owner must place a ball on the spot from which the wrong ball was first played.
d. Penalty to Side: A side is penalized for a breach of any of the following by any partner:
• Rule 4: Clubs
• Rule 6-4: Caddie
• Any local rule or condition of competition for which the penalty is an adjustment to the state of the match.
e. Disqualification of Side:
(i) A side is disqualified if any partner incurs a penalty of disqualification under any of the following:
• Rule 1-3: Agreement to Waive Rules
• Rule 4: Clubs
• Rule 5-1 or 5-2: The Ball
• Rule 6-2a: Handicap
• Rule 6-4: Caddie
• Rule 6-7: Undue Delay; Slow Play
• Rule 11-1: Teeing
• Rule 14-3: Artificial Devices, Unusual Equipment and Unusual Use of Equipment
• Rule 33-7: Disqualification Penalty Imposed by Committee
(ii) A side is disqualified if all partners incur a penalty of disqualification under any of the following:
• Rule 6-3: Time of Starting and Groups
• Rule 6-8: Discontinuance of Play
(iii) In all other cases where a breach of a rule would result in disqualification, the player is disqualified for that hole only.
f. Effect of Other Penalties: If a player’s breach of a rule assists his partner’s play or adversely affects an opponent’s play, the partner incurs the applicable penalty in addition to any penalty incurred by the player. In all other cases where a player incurs a penalty for breach of a rule, the penalty does not apply to his partner. Where the penalty is stated to be loss of hole, the effect is to disqualify the player for that hole.
Decision 30-3/1 Examples of Rulings in Four-Ball Match with Concurrent Singles Matches
When players are involved in concurrent matches, whenever possible the rules are applied only to the match affected. When it is not possible to separate the matches, the four-ball match takes precedence.
A and B are playing C and D in a four-ball match. There are also concurrent singles matches between A and C and between B and D. The following are examples of the application of the rules in such a format:
(1) A concedes the match, a hole or a stroke to C but stipulates that the concession is solely for their singles match. The concession is not valid in the four-ball match.
(2) A concedes the match, a hole or a stroke to C and does not specify which match the concession is intended for. The concession applies to both the four-ball and the singles matches.
(3) A concedes the match, a hole or a stroke to D. The concession applies only to the four-ball match, as A has no authority to make a concession in the B-D singles match.
(4) The balls of all four players lie on the putting green, and A's ball is the farthest from the hole, with B's ball on the same line. Side C-D concedes B's next stroke for the four-ball match only, but B goes ahead and putts before A. In the four-ball match, A is disqualified for the hole (see Decision 2-4/6).
(5) B moves A's ball without authority under the rules. In the four-ball match, A incurs a penalty stroke (Rule 18-2a) but, in A’s singles match against C, A incurs no penalty. B incurs no penalty in any match.
(6) Other than during search, A moves D's ball. In the four-ball match, A incurs a penalty stroke (Rule 18-3b) but, in A’s singles match against C, A incurs no penalty.
(7) On the 3rd hole it is discovered that B started the round with 15 clubs. In the four-ball match, Side A-B has two holes deducted from the state of the match (Rules 4-4a and 30-3d) after the 3rd hole. B has two holes deducted from the state of the singles match against D. A incurs no penalty in the singles match against C.
(8) During the round, B made a stroke with a non-conforming club. In the four-ball match, Side A-B is disqualified (Rules 4-1 and 30-3e). B is disqualified in the singles match against D. A incurs no penalty in the singles match against C.
(9) (Revised) On the 5th hole, B holes out in 3 to win the hole for Side A-B in the four-ball match. A has a putt left to win or halve the hole in the singles match against C and asks B for advice. There is no penalty to either player. A and B may exchange advice at any time until the four-ball match has been concluded, at which point A and B are no longer partners and become outside agencies with respect to each other.