order of play golf rules

Order of Play: Whose Turn in Golf

Order of Play – Whose Turn Is It?

There are certain rules relating to how to take turns playing golf and it’s pretty simple to understand if you’re new to playing golf.

In Rule 6 of the USGA Golf Rules Book, you’ll find rules related to playing a hole on a golf course including the order of play.

There are 3 different components to consider when determining order of play.

  1. The Teeing Area
  2. On the Putting Green
  3. In Between the Teeing Area and Putting Green

For starters, most golfers will be playing what’s called “Stroke Play” where you count how many strokes you hit during your round of golf.

In stroke play, there is no rule for going out of order, but the general rule of golf is the furthest player from the hole gets their turn.

It’s encouraged in stroke play that golfers play “ready golf” which means being ready to hit your shot when it’s your turn. This keeps the pace of play up on a golf course and reduces golfers complaining about groups ahead of them playing slow.

Golfers can play out of order during stroke play to help speed up the golf round and there is no penalty for doing so.

But if you wish to play in a more formal order of play, here’s how it works for the 3 parts of a golf hole; tee box, fairway, green.

The Teeing Area Order of Play

When you finish a hole and head to the next tee box, the golfer who will hit first is considered to have honors. To receive honors, you must have the lowest golf score of the group for the previous hole.

In other words, if you scored a par on the last hole and your playing partner had a bogey, then you would have the lower score and receive honors to tee off first.

After the person with honors tees off, the remaining players tee off in a random order or an order agreed upon by the group. This could be based on everyone’s score on the last hole or based on who is ready and wants to tee it up to keep pace of play moving.

The Fairway Order of Play

After everyone has hit their tee shot, the order of play now defaults to the general rule of golf which is the player furthest from the hole.

Whoever is furthest will hit next. Once they hit, then the next person (or same person) who is now the furthest from the hole will hit.

This process repeats until all players are on the green. It allows everyone to stay caught up to each other so that one player isn’t on the green far ahead waiting for everyone else to catch up.

However, there is no penalty for playing out of turn in stroke play. Players can play in any order and it’s encouraged to play ready golf so that pace of play doesn’t slow down if one player isn’t playing very well.

The Green

Once players make it onto the putting green, they should resume the rule of letting the furthest player away from the hole putt first.

There’s also an advantage to this as you get time to see how the green plays by watching other golfers putt first. You can gather additional information to help you decide how to stroke your putt.

If you hit a long putt close to the hole within a few feet, you have the choice of marking the putt or finishing the hole.

If you mark the putt, then you’ll most likely putt last as you wait for everyone else to hit their putts since they are now farther away than you are. To save time, golfers usually just finish the hole, putting twice in a row to get the short putt over with.

Match Play – Order of Turn

During Match Play, players must play in order. If someone plays out of turn, their opponent could call them out for it and make them replay the shot over again once it’s their turn.

On the tee box, the player who hits first is determined by who won the previous hole. If the hole was halved (tied) then it defaults to the person who went first on the previous hole before that (as a result of them winning a hole that gave them honors).

In other words a player holds honors to tee off until they lose a hole. Then it changes hands to the winner of the hole.

On the putting green, the player furthest away will putt first. Players can concede putts of their playing partners if they wish, not making their partner finish the hole.

For example, if your opponent faces a short 1 foot putt, odds are they’re going to make that putt when it’s their turn. To save everyone the time of hitting the short putt and making it, you may decide to gift your opponent the putt saying “it’s good” and concede that putt so they count it as a make without actually hitting it.

If a player is playing really bad on a hole, they can forfeit the hole and give the win to their opponent for that hole to end play early and move on to the next hole. This is known as conceding a hole in match play.

What is Match Play?

Match play differs from stroke play in that it’s played between only two golfers. It’s a head to head match.

The lowest score on a hole, wins that hole and that player goes 1 up in the match. Think of it like a player wins 1 point.

The player with the most holes won (points) at the end wins the match. Strokes don’t get counted other than to determine who won a particular hole.

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