Playing the Round

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Playing the Round
Purpose of Rule: Rule 5 covers how to play a round – such as where and when a player may practise on the course before or during a round, when a round starts and ends and what happens when play has to stop or resume. Players are expected to:
  • Start each round on time, and
  • Play continuously and at a prompt pace during each hole until the round is completed.
When it is a player’s turn to play, it is recommended that they make the stroke in no more than 40 seconds, and usually more quickly than that.
Playing the Round

Practising on Course Before or Between Rounds

Meaning of “Completing Play of Their Final Round for That Day” in Stroke Play
In stroke play, a player has completed their final round for that day when they will not play any more holes that day on the course as part of the competition. For example, having completed play in the first round on the first day of a two-day 36-hole stroke-play competition, a player is permitted by Rule 5.2b to practise on the competition course later that day as long as their next round will not start until the next day. However, if the player finishes one round but will play another round or part of a round on the course on that same day, practicing on the course would breach Rule 5.2b. For example, having completed play in a stroke-play qualifying round for a match-play competition, a player practices on the course. After the conclusion of play, the player is tied for the last qualifying place for the match-play competition. The tie is to be decided by a hole-by-hole stroke-play play-off that is scheduled to be played immediately after play the same day on that course. If the player's practice on the course was their first breach of Rule 5.2b, the player gets the general penalty applied to the first hole of the play-off. Otherwise, the player is disqualified from the play-off under Rule 5.2b for practising on the course before the play-off.
Practising May Be Allowed on Course Before a Round in a Competition That Covers Consecutive Days
When a competition is scheduled on a course over consecutive days and the Committee schedules some players to play on the first day and others to play on a later day, a player is allowed to practise on the course on any day that they are not scheduled to play their round. For example, if a competition is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday and a player is only scheduled to play on Sunday, that player is allowed to practise on the course on Saturday.
Application of Penalty for Practising on Course Before Round in Stroke Play
Rule 5.2b explains when a player is not allowed to practise on the course before a round in stroke play. The penalty statement in Rule 5.2b is not limited to making a stroke as the term “practising on the course” also includes testing the surface of the putting green by rolling a ball or rubbing the surface. If a player rubs the surface of a single green, they have only breached Rule 5.2b once no matter how many times they rub the surface of the same green. (Added December 2022)
Meaning of “Course” in Rule 5.2
For the purpose of Rule 5.2, the word “course” (when not used as a definition in italics) is used to mean the holes being used for any rounds of the competition to be played on that day. Examples of when practising is allowed before a round include when:
  • A player who is due to play a competition on one course may play on the other course earlier on the same day, even if both courses are situated on the same property with no boundaries between the two.
  • A player who is due to play a competition on holes 1–9 may play on holes 10–18 earlier on the same day. (New)

Starting and Ending Round

Exceptional Circumstances That Warrant Waiving Starting Time Penalty
The term "exceptional circumstances" in Exception 3 under Rule 5.3a does not mean unfortunate or unexpected events outside a player's control. It is a player's responsibility to allow enough time to reach the course and they must make allowances for possible delays. There is no specific guidance in the Rules for deciding what is exceptional, as it depends on the circumstances in each case and must be left to the determination of the Committee. One important factor not included in the examples below is that consideration should be given to a situation where multiple players are involved to the extent that the Committee should consider the situation to be exceptional. Examples of circumstances that should be considered as exceptional include:
  • The player was present at the scene of an accident and provided medical assistance or was required to give a statement as a witness and otherwise would have started on time.
  • There is a fire alarm at the player's hotel and they must evacuate. By the time the player can return to the room to dress or retrieve their equipment, the player is unable to make their starting time.
Examples of circumstances that would not generally be considered exceptional include:
  • The player gets lost or their car breaks down on the way to the course.
  • Heavy traffic or an accident results in the journey to the course taking longer than expected.
Meaning of “Starting Point”
In Rule 5.3a, the "starting point" is the teeing area of the hole where the player will start their round as set by the Committee. For example, the Committee may start some groups on the 1st tee and some groups on the 10th tee. In a "shotgun start", the Committee may assign each group a different hole to start on. The Committee may set a standard for what it means for the player to be at the starting point. For example, the Committee may state that, to be at the starting point, the player must be within the gallery ropes of the teeing area of the hole to be played.
Meaning of “Ready to Play”
The term "ready to play" means that the player has at least one club and ball ready for immediate use. For example, if a player arrives at their starting point by the starting time with a ball and a club (even if just the player's putter), the player is considered ready to play. Should the player decide to wait for a different club when it is their turn to play, they may get a penalty for unreasonably delaying play (Rule 5.6a).
Player at Starting Point but Then Leaves Starting Point
When a player is ready to play at the starting point, but then leaves the starting point for some reason, the Rule that applies depends if they are ready to play at the starting point at the starting time. For example, a player's starting time is 9:00 am and they are ready to play at the starting point at 8:57 am. The player realizes that they left something in a locker and leaves the starting point to get it. If the player does not arrive back at the starting point at 9:00:00 am, the player is late to their starting time, and Rule 5.3a applies. However, if the player was ready to play at the starting point at 9:00 am and then went to their locker, the player may get the penalty under Rule 5.6a (Unreasonable Delay) since they satisfied the requirement of Rule 5.3a by being ready to play at the starting point by the starting time.
Match Starts on Second Hole When Both Players Late
When both players in a match arrive at the starting point ready to play no more than five minutes after their starting time and neither has experienced exceptional circumstances (Exception 3), they both get a loss of hole penalty and the result of the first hole is a tie. For example, if the starting time is 9:00 am and the player arrives at the starting point ready to play at 9:02 am and the opponent arrives ready to play at 9:04 am, they both get a loss of hole penalty even though the player arrived before the opponent (Exception 1). Therefore, the first hole is tied and the match starts on the second hole all square. There is no penalty if they play the first hole to get to the teeing area of the second hole.

Practising During Round or While Play Is Stopped

Practice Stroke with Ball of Similar Size to Conforming Ball Is Breach
A "practice stroke" under Rule 5.5a covers not only hitting a conforming ball with a club but hitting any other type of ball that is similar in size to a golf ball, such as a plastic practice ball. Striking a tee or natural object with a club (such as a stone or a pine cone) is not a practice stroke.
Extra Practice Permissions No Longer Apply When Stroke-Play Round Resumed
In stroke play, when play is resumed by the Committee after it had been suspended, all players who had started their rounds prior to the suspension have resumed the play of their round. Consequently, those players are no longer allowed to practise other than as allowed by Rule 5.5b (Restriction on Practice Strokes Between Two Holes). For example, if the Committee suspends play for the day and play will resume at 8:00 am on the following day, a player whose group will be the third group to play from a particular teeing area is not allowed to continue practising on the designated practice area after play has resumed at 8:00 am. The player's round has resumed, even though players in their group will not be able to make their next strokes right away. The only practice that is allowed is putting or chipping on or near the putting green of the hole last completed, any practice putting green, or the teeing area of the next hole.

Unreasonable Delay; Prompt Pace of Play

Examples of Delays That Are Considered Reasonable or Unreasonable
Unreasonable delays in the context of Rule 5.6a are delays caused by a player's actions that are within the player's control and affect other players or delay the competition. Brief delays that are a result of normal events that happen during a round or are outside the player's control are generally treated as "reasonable". Determining which actions are reasonable or unreasonable depends on all the circumstances, including whether the player is waiting for other players in the group or the group ahead. Examples of actions that are likely to be treated as reasonable are:
  • Briefly stopping by the clubhouse or half-way house to get food or drink.
  • Taking time to consult with others in the playing group to decide whether to play out the hole when there is a normal suspension by the Committee (Rule 5.7b(2)).
Examples of actions that, if causing more than a brief delay in play, are likely to be treated as unreasonable delay are:
  • Returning to the teeing area from the putting green to retrieve a lost club.
  • Continuing to search for a lost ball for several minutes after the allowed three-minute search time has expired.
  • Stopping by the clubhouse or half-way house to get food or drink for more than a few minutes if the Committee has not allowed for it.
Player Who Gets Sudden Illness or Injury Is Normally Allowed 15 Minutes to Recover
If a player gets a sudden illness or injury (such as from heat exhaustion, a bee sting or being struck by a golf ball), the Committee should normally allow that player up to 15 minutes to recover before the player's failure to continue play would be unreasonably delaying play. The Committee should also normally apply this same time limit to the total time a player uses when they receive repeated treatments during a round to alleviate an injury.

Stopping Play; Resuming Play

When a Player Has Stopped Play
Stopping play in the context of Rule 5.7a can either be an intentional act by the player or it can be a delay long enough to constitute stopping. Temporary delays, whether reasonable or unreasonable, are covered by Rule 5.6a (Unreasonable Delay). Examples where the Committee is likely to disqualify a player under Rule 5.7a for stopping play include when:
  • The player walks off the course in frustration with no intent to return.
  • The player stops in the clubhouse after nine holes for an extended time to watch television or to have lunch when the Committee has not allowed for this.
  • The player takes shelter from rain for a significant amount of time.
Dropping a Ball After Play Has Been Suspended Is Not Failing to Stop Play
After a suspension of play, if a player proceeds under a Rule, such as by dropping a ball, determining the nearest point of complete relief or continuing a search, there is no penalty. However, if the Committee has signalled an immediate suspension, in view of the purpose of Rule 5.7b(1), it is recommended that all players take shelter immediately without taking further actions.
Circumstances That Justify a Player’s Failure to Stop Play
Under Rule 5.7b(1), if the Committee declares an immediate suspension of play, all players must stop play at once. The intent of this suspension is to enable the course to be cleared as quickly as possible when a potentially dangerous situation, such as lightning, exists. However, there can be confusion or uncertainty when a suspension is declared and there can be circumstances that explain or justify why the player didn't stop at once. In these cases, the Exception to Rule 5.7b allows the Committee to decide that there is no breach of the Rule. If a player makes a stroke after play has been suspended, the Committee must consider all relevant facts in determining if the player should be disqualified. Examples where the Committee is likely to determine that continuing play after suspension is justified include when a player:
  • Is in a remote part of the course and does not hear the signal for suspension of play, or confuses the signal for something else, such as a vehicle horn.
  • Has already taken a stance with a club behind the ball or has begun the backswing for a stroke and completes the stroke without hesitation.
An example where the Committee is likely to determine that continuing play after suspension is not justified is when a player hears the signal to suspend play but wants to make a stroke quickly prior to stopping, such as to complete a hole with a short putt or to take advantage of a favourable wind.
Players Must Resume When Committee Concludes There Is No Danger from Lightning
The safety of players is paramount and Committees should not risk exposing players to danger. Rule 5.7a (When Players May or Must Stop Play) allows a player to stop play if they reasonably believe that there is danger from lightning. In this situation, if the player's belief is reasonable, the player is the final judge. However, if the Committee has ordered a resumption of play after using all reasonable means to conclude that danger from lightning no longer exists, all players must resume play. If a player refuses because they believe there is still danger, the Committee may conclude that the player's belief is unreasonable and they may be disqualified under Rule 5.7c.
Whether Player Must Accept Improved or Worsened Lie in Bunker During a Suspension
When replacing a ball in resuming play, Rule 14.2d (Where to Replace Ball When Original Lie Altered) does not apply and the player is not required to re-create the original lie. For example, a player's ball is embedded in a bunker when play is suspended. During the suspension of play the bunker is prepared by the maintenance staff and the surface of the sand is now smooth. The player must resume play by placing a ball on the estimated spot from which the ball was lifted, even though this will be on the surface of the sand and not embedded. However, if the bunker has not been prepared by the maintenance staff, the player is not necessarily entitled to the conditions affecting the stroke they had before play was stopped. If the conditions affecting the stroke are worsened by natural forces (such as wind or water), the player must not improve those worsened conditions (Rule 8.1d).