Rule of the Month: March Madness of Match Play

By Senior Rules Officials

Pete Scholz and Terry McEvilly


The month of March can’t get here soon enough for most golfers. The weather begins to produce a few marvelous days to enjoy the links without five layers of clothing on. And on the 12th, we set our clocks forward to gain an hour of evening sunlight for afternoon golfers to enjoy. March 1st is also when score posting begins again for golfers in Oregon and SW Washington.

March 2nd is National Read Across America Day. To celebrate, we suggest reading and re-reading the Rules of Golf, which are available online, in the USGA Rules of Golf app, or by ordering the book through the USGA. Begin by reading the definitions at the back of the book. It might not be the most exciting read, but it will certainly help you observe March 30th, which is National I am in Control Day. And in match play, being in control and using strategy can be very beneficial. And don’t forget that March 17th is St. Patrick’s Day, which celebrates the heritage and culture of the Irish. To show your respect, wear something green. One of the two authors of the Rule of the Month articles values this day above others. And with names like Terry McEvilly and Pete Scholz, it isn’t hard to figure out which one of us it is.

Test your knowledge of match play with the following questions.

Questions: True / False

1)  In a match, if a player declares a ball unplayable in a bunker, one option is to drop behind the bunker, back on the line for two penalty strokes.

2)  March 4th is Employee Appreciation Day and the boss invites an employee to the club for a friendly match.       On the third hole, the employee witnesses the boss touch sand in a bunker with the back swing for a stroke at the ball in the bunker. The employee chooses not to say anything and continues play. The              employee is disqualified for ignoring this breach.

3)  Similar to the requirement to announce the play of a provisional ball, a concession of the opponent’s next stroke must be verbally communicated by the       player.

4)  A concession of the opponent’s next stroke cannot be declined by the opponent or withdrawn by the player.

5)  In a match, the player and opponent are uncertain if the relief area for dropping away from a cart path is one or two club-lengths. They agree that it is two   and the opponent drops a ball nearly two club-lengths from the reference point. Later in the match, they ask a roving referee and the official informs them           that it is one club-length. The opponent loses the hole for playing from a wrong place.

6)  In a match, there is no penalty if the player plays from outside the teeing area when beginning a hole, but the opponent may cancel the stroke and require the player to play from inside the teeing area.

7)  On March 20th, the first day of spring, the sun is shining and the flowers are blooming. On a par 3, the opponent has the honor at the teeing area but the  player tees off first and holes the shot for a “hole in one”. The opponent may cancel the stroke and require the player to play in the proper order.

8)  If the player and opponent can’t decide on the proper procedure, the player may play two balls and ask for a later ruling when the Committee is available.

9)  In a match, if the player plays from a wrong place they incur the general penalty and, if the breach is serious, they must correct the error by playing from    the correct spot.

10)  On the 18th hole of a tied match, which is being played on March 26th, your opponent needs to hole their next putt in order to tie the hole and send the      match to extra holes. The opponent’s putt misses the hole and is continuing to roll down the slope of the green. There is no reasonable chance that the                  ball can be holed. You stop the opponent’s ball thinking that you have won the match. You have incurred a loss of hole penalty for deliberately deflecting                your opponent’s ball in motion and you lose the match.


1)  True. Rule 19.3. In this case, the two stroke penalty is for a relief option and is not considered to be a general penalty.

2)  False. Rule 3.2d(4). In this case, since no agreement was made between the boss and employee, the employee may choose whether or not to overlook the    breach and the hole stands as played. If the employee did not want to overlook the breach, he had up until one of them begins the next hole to inform the            boss of the breach. Once a stroke was made by either player on the fourth hole, the third hole stands as played.

3)  False. Rule 3.2b(2). A concession is made only when clearly communicated and verbally will certainly accomplish this. However, an action, (such as a gesture) by the player that clearly shows the player’s intent to concede the opponent’s next stroke is also allowed.      

4)  True. Rule 3.2b(2). Concessions are final. So be certain of the opponent’s number of strokes taken on the hole before conceding their next stroke.

5)  False. Rules 1.3c(3) and 20.1b(1). In match play only, the player and opponent may agree how to proceed if they are uncertain. The agreed procedure is binding on the players and the official that is later advised of the situation may not provide a ruling. The hole stands as played. It is important to note that the answer would be very different in stroke play and also very different if the two players in the match knew they were ignoring a Rule.

6)  True. Rule 6.1b(1). The cancellation must be done promptly and before either player in the match makes another stroke. In other words, if you just hit the best drive of your life, but you accidentally teed it up just in front of the tee-markers, your fate is in your opponent’s hands who may cancel your stroke. So, you should be hoping that your opponent didn’t read this month’s ROM article. If the opponent doesn’t cancel, the stroke counts and the ball is in play.

7)  True. Rule 6.4a(2). The sun might be shining and the flowers blooming, but all is not rosy for the player in this situation. Once again, their fate is in the hands of their opponent who may cancel the stroke. As you can see from this question, and question #6, make sure to be well inside the teeing area and playing in the proper order to keep your fate in your own hands.

8)  False. Rule 20.1b(4) and Clarification 20.1b(4)/1. The playing of two balls is only allowed in stroke play.       In a match, if the player decides to play two balls and the opponent doesn’t object, the original ball always counts. If the opponent objects to the player playing two balls, then the player loses the hole for playing a wrong ball.

9)  False. Rule 14.7a. A bit of a trick question. Once the player in a match incurs the general penalty, which is loss of hole, there is no point in correcting the error. The hole is over and won by the opponent as soon as the player played from a wrong place, serious breach or not.

10)  False. Rule 3.2a(1). When the opponent’s ball needed to be holed to tie the hole and there was no reasonable chance that the ball could be holed, there is no penalty for deliberately deflecting the opponent’s ball. You have won the hole and match when the opponent’s putt missed the hole. And since it is March 26th which is Make Up Your Own Holiday Day, celebrate the victory by doing exactly that.