Purpose of Rule: Rule 23 covers Four-Ball (played either in match play or stroke play), where partners compete as a side with each playing a separate ball. The side’s score for a hole is the lower score of the partners on that hole.
Scoring in Four-Ball
Result of Hole When No Ball Is Correctly Holed Out
In Four-Ballmatch play, if no player completes a hole, the side whose player is last to pick up or be disqualified from the hole wins the hole.For example, Side A-B are playing against Side C-D in a Four-Ball match. On a given hole, by mistake Player A plays Player C's ball and then Player C plays Player A's ball and each hole out with that ball. Player B and Player D both play into penalty areas and pick up. During play of the next hole, Player A and Player C determine that both of them played a wrong ball on the prior hole.The ruling is that Player A and Player C are disqualified for the prior hole. Therefore, if Player B picked up before Player D, Side C-D won the hole and if Player D picked up before Player B, Side A-B won the hole. If it cannot be determined which player picked up first, the Committee should rule that the hole was tied.
Score for Hole Must Be Identified to the Correct Partner
In Four-Ballstroke play, partners are required to return a scorecard with correct hole scores that are identified to the correct partner. The following are examples of scoring in Four-Ball based on how the scorecard is completed and returned by Side A-B:
In a handicap competition, Player A and Player B both holed out in 4 strokes on a hole where Player B received a handicap stroke and Player A did not. The marker recorded a gross score of 4 for Player A, no gross score for Player B, and a net score for the side of 3. The scorecard was returned to the Committee. The ruling is that Player A's score of 4 is the side's score for the hole. Only the Committee has the responsibility to apply any handicap strokes. The side's score is 4 as it is identified to Player A. The marker's recording of the net 3 is irrelevant.
On a hole, Player A picks up and Player B holes out in 5 strokes. The marker records a score of 6 for Player A and a score of 5 for Player B. The scorecard is returned with these scores recorded. There is no penalty because the partner's score that counts for the side on that hole is correctly recorded.
On a hole, Player A picked up and Player B holed out in 4 strokes. By mistake, the marker recorded a score of 4 for Player A and no score for Player B. The scorecard is returned in this way. The ruling is that the side is disqualified because the score for the side on that hole is identified to Player A, and Player A did not complete play of the hole.
Application of Exception to Rule 3.3b(3) for Returning Incorrect Scorecard
The following situations illustrate how Rule 3.3b(3) (Wrong Score for Hole) and Rule 23.2b are to be applied. In all cases, Side A-B returns a scorecard with an incorrect score on a hole and the mistake is discovered after the scorecard is returned but before the competition has closed.
Player A returns a score of 4 and Player B returns a score of 5. Player A touches sand in a bunker with a club in making the backswing for a stroke and was aware of the penalty for a breach of Rule 12.2b(1) (Restrictions on Touching Sand in Bunker) before returning the scorecard but failed to include it in their score for the hole. The Exception to 3.3b(3) does not apply as Player A was aware of the penalty and the side is disqualified under Rule 23.2b.
Player A returns a score of 4 and Player B returns a score of 5. Player A was in breach of Rule 12.2b(1) for touching sand in making a practice swing in a bunker but neither partner was aware of the penalty before returning the scorecard. The Exception to Rule 3.3b(3) applies. As Player A's score was the score to count on the hole, the Committee must apply the general penalty to Player A's score on that hole for a breach of Rule 12.2b(1). Therefore, the side's score for the hole is 6. The Rules only allow the side to revert to Player B's score if both partners' scores were the same on the hole (Rule 23.2b(2)).
Player A returns a score of 4 and Player B returns a score of 6. Player A moved their ball while removing a loose impediment in breach of Rule 15.1b. Player A replaced the ball but was unaware of the one-stroke penalty. Player B witnessed the entire incident and was aware of the penalty. The scorecard is returned with a score of 4 for Player A and 6 for Player B. Player A's score should have been 5 with the one-stroke penalty included. The Exception under Rule 3.3b(3) does not apply given Player B's awareness of the incident and the resulting penalty that should have been applied to Player A. The side is disqualified under Rule 23.2b.
Player A and Player B each return scores of 4. Player A lifted their ball for identification in the general area but the lifting was not reasonably necessary to identify the ball. Neither Player A nor Player B was aware of the penalty for a breach of Rule 7.3 before returning the scorecard. Since both scores on the scorecard are the same, the Committee may count either score. If the Committee had counted Player A's score that was later found to be wrong, the Committee will count Player B's score, which is correct, and there is no penalty to the side.
One or Both Partners May Represent the Side
Determining Handicap Allowance in Match Play If One Player Unable to Compete
If, in a Four-Ball match played under handicap, the player with the lowest handicap is unable to play, the absent player is not disregarded given that they may start play for the side between the play of two holes, which in match play means only before any player on either side has started play of a hole.The handicap strokes are calculated as if all four players are present. If a wrong handicap is declared for the absent player, Rule 3.2c(1) (Declaring Handicaps) applies.
Side’s Order of Play
Abandoning Right to Play in Any Order Side Determines Best
In a Four-Ball match, if a side states or implies that the player on that side whose ball is farthest from the hole will not complete the hole, that player has abandoned their right to complete the hole, and the side may not change that decision after an opponent has played.For example, Side A-B is playing Side C-D in a Four-Ball match. All four balls are on the putting green with Player A, Player B and Player D lying two while Player C lies four. The balls of Player A and Player C are about 10 feet from the hole, Player B's ball is two feet away and Player D's ball is three feet away. Player C picks up. Player A suggests that Player B and Player D should play.After Player D plays, Player A has abandoned the right to play and their score cannot count for the side (for example, if Player B missed their putt). The outcome would be different if Player B had been farther from the hole than Player D. If Player B putts first and misses, Player A would still have the right to complete the hole if they do so before Player D plays.
Partners Must Not Unreasonably Delay Play When Playing in Advantageous Order
Examples of situations where the partners of Side A-B play in an order they determine is best but may get a penalty under Rule 5.6a for unreasonably delaying play include when:
Player A's tee shot on a par-3 that is played entirely over a penalty area comes to rest in the penalty area while Player B's tee shot comes to rest on the putting green. The side proceeds to the putting green without Player A playing a ball under the penalty area Rule. Player B takes four putts to complete the hole. Player A then decides to leave the putting green, go back to the tee and put another ball in play.
After their tee shots, Player A's ball is 220 yards from the hole and Player B's ball is 240 yards from the hole. Player A makes their second stroke before Player B plays. Player A's ball comes to rest 30 yards from the hole and the side decides to have Player A walk forward and make their third stroke.
When Side in Match Play May Have Stroke Cancelled by Opponent
When both players of a side play from outside the teeing area in a Four-Ball match, only the last stroke played may be cancelled under Rule 6.1b.For example, in a Four-Ball match with Side A-B playing Side C-D, if Player A and Player B both play from outside the teeing area with Player A playing first followed by Player B, Side C-D may cancel the stroke of Player B, but not Player A.Rule 6.1b requires that cancelling the stroke must be done promptly. This also applies if Player A and Player B both played when it was either Player C's turn or Player D's turn to play during play of the hole.
Partners May Share Clubs
Partners May Continue to Give Advice and Share Clubs After Concurrent Match Ends
When concurrent Four-Ball and single matches are being played, the two players of a side are no longer partners after the Four-Ball match ends. However, the two players that were partners are still allowed to give each other advice and share clubs for the remainder of both single matches.For example, Side A-B is playing Side C-D in a Four-Ball match with concurrent single matches of Player A playing Player C and Player B playing Player D, both matches of 18 holes. Player A and Player B are sharing clubs, all 14 of which Player A brought. If the Four-Ball match ends on the 16th hole, but both single matches are tied, Player A and Player B may continue to use the clubs they selected for play (the shared clubs) and give advice to each other, despite Player A and Player B no longer being partners.
Restriction on Player Standing Behind Partner When Stroke Made
Application of Penalty When Player Stands on or Close to an Extension of the Line of Play Behind Partner
In four-ball, when a player stands on or close to an extension of the line of play behind their partner in breach of either Rule 10.2b(4) or 23.8, how a penalty is applied depends on the reason the player stood there, and if there is a breach, whether either the player or their partner was helped by that breach.Examples include:
The player gets the general penalty under Rule 23.8 if they stood on or close to an extension of the line of play to help themself with their next stroke (such as to learn information about how their upcoming putt might break based on how their partner’s ball breaks on the putting green).
The partner gets the general penalty under Rule 10.2b(4) if the player stood in the restricted area to line up their partner for their (the partner’s) next stroke and the stroke was made without both the player and their partner backing away.
If the player stood in the restricted area to align their partner for their (the partner’s) next stroke, and while doing so also happened to see how their (the player’s) next stroke might break on the putting green, both the player and the partner get the general penalty. This is because the partner’s breach of Rule 10.2b(4) also helped the player, so the player would get the same penalty (see Rule 23.9a(2)). (New)
When Penalty Applies to One Partner Only or Applies to Both Partners
Examples of When Player’s Breach Helps Partner’s Play
In both Four-Ballmatch play and stroke play, when a player's breach of a Rule helps their partner, the partner gets the same penalty.Examples of when both partners of Side A-B get the same penalty include:
With Side A-B playing Side C-D, Player B's ball is near the hole and in a position to help Player A aim their putt. Player C requires Player B to mark and lift Player B's ball. Player B declines to lift the ball and Player A putts with Player B's ball helping them to aim. Player B gets the general penalty under Rule 15.3a (Ball on Putting Green Helping Play) for failing to lift the helping ball and, since this helped Player A, Player A also gets the general penalty.
Player A's ball is out of bounds and Player A decides not to complete the hole. Player B's ball is a similar distance from the hole. Player A drops a ball near Player B's ball and plays to the putting green and, by doing so, helps Player B. As the hole is not complete and the result has yet to be decided, Player A's further play is considered practice in breach of Rule 5.5a (Practice Strokes While Playing Hole). As Player A's practice helped Player B, Player B also gets the general penalty.
Example of When Player’s Breach Hurts Opponent’s Play
In Four-Ballmatch play, if a player's breach of a Rule hurts an opponent's play, the player's partner also gets the same penalty.For example, Side A-B are playing Side C-D in a Four-Ball match. Player A provides the wrong number of strokes they have taken to either Player C or Player D while all four players are in contention during a hole. Side C-D bases its strategy on this information and one of them makes a stroke.Player A gets the general penalty under Rule 3.2d(1) (Telling Opponent about Number of Strokes Taken) for not giving the right number of strokes taken. Player B gets the same penalty because the breach hurt an opponent's play. Side A-B therefore loses the hole.
Giving Wrong Number of Strokes Taken or Failing to Tell Opponent about Penalty Is Never Considered to Hurt Opponent When Player Is Out of Contention
When a player in a Four-Ball match is out of contention on a hole and they either give the wrong number of strokes taken or fail to notify an opponent about a penalty, it is never considered to hurt the opponent’s play since the player’s score on the hole will not be relevant in the match.For example, Side A-B is playing Side C-D in a Four-Ball match. Player A gets one penalty stroke and fails to tell the opponents about it. If Player B then holes out before either Player C or Player D makes another stroke or takes a similar action and Player B’s score is lower than Player A could have made without the penalty being applied, Player A is considered out of contention and only they are disqualified from the hole under Rule 3.2d.