Rules of Golf advice from R&A to help golfers during coronavirus changes

practices aimed at beating the coronavirus pandemic have resulted in a lot of confusion over the Rules of Golf, the R&A has said
As well as putting with the flag in – some clubs have upturned the cup, allowing players to claim a holed putt when it strikes the plastic, leaving some unsure of the rules.

THE R&A has issued advice on the Rules of Golf affecting competitions and handicaps in light of the campaign to keep playing golf during the coronavirus.

The Home Golf Unions have been encouraging clubs to remove rakes from the course and getting players to observes rules on social distancing on and off the course, as well as following personal hygiene rules.

And some clubs have gone further than recommending players putt with the flag in by raising the cups to above the hole – meaning any ball that strikes the plastic cup is regarded as holed – to avoid having to remove the ball from the hole.

The last practice has raised questions over whether using raised holes in a competition comprised the scores for handicapping purposes.

So on Friday, the R&A published guidance on the Rules of Golf in view of the Covid-19 outbreak and the questions it has posed.

And in the case of rules regarding the absence of rakes in bunkers and changes to the hole, it advises clubs to contact CONGU – the Council of National Golf Unions – for an ultimate decision over how such changes affect handicapping.

A statement on its website said: “It is not the purpose of this communication to make recommendations or offer guidance in relation to the playing of golf at this time. Please refer to the appropriate body in your country for such guidance.

Scoring in Strokeplay (Rule 3.3b)
In view of concerns around handling and exchanging scorecards – which may be in paper or electronic form as already provided in the rules – on a temporary basis, committees may choose to allow methods of scoring in strokeplay that do not strictly comply with Rule 3.3b, or do not comply with the normal methods used under Rule 3.3b.

For example:–

  • Players may enter their own hole scores on the scorecard – it is not necessary for a marker to do it
  • It is not necessary to have a marker physically certify the player’s hole scores, but some form of verbal certification should take place
  • It is not necessary to physically return a scorecard to the committee provided the committee can accept the scores in another way.

Committees may choose to adopt the following policies on a temporary basis:–

  • Requiring players leave the flagstick in the hole at all times. It is a matter for the committee to decide whether it establishes this policy by way of a code of conduct or Local Rule, and whether it provides a penalty under the code of conduct or for a breach of the Local Rule
  • Not have flagsticks at all.

No modifications to the definition of hole are offered, but if a committee chooses not to follow the requirements in the definition of hole, which may also have an impact on the definition of “holed”, the committee should consult its national association for guidance on whether scores submitted in such circumstances are acceptable for handicapping purposes.

If rakes have been removed from the course, or if the committee has requested that rakes not be used, it is recognised that bunkers may not be smoothed as well as when there are rakes on the course.

But it is recommended that no modification is made to the Rules of Golf in such circumstances, and that players are requested to smooth bunkers using their feet or a club.

If, as a result of there being no rakes, the committee decides to introduce a Local Rule relating to bunkers, the committee should consult its handicapping authority for guidance on whether scores submitted under such Local Rule are acceptable for handicapping purposes.


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