A little bit of concentration is all that is required to avoid falling foul of golf's Rules when it come to the scorecard

16 Important Golf Scorecard Rules To Remember

Unlike many sports, it is the players and their designated markers who bear the responsibility for recording their scores in golf, but the burden isn’t too great as there are a few key things to remember to avoid a costly golf scorecard Rules breach (Rule 3.3).

Scoring during the pandemic

Before we get into those, things have, of course, been a little different playing golf during the Covid pandemic when we have sought to minimise potential points of contact between players as much as possible.

The R&A has issued guidance on scoring in stroke play events while the customary exchanging of scorecards is not advisable. The advice reads as follows:

Scoring in Stroke Play (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 stroke play 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 if at all possible.
  • It is not necessary to physically return a scorecard to the Committee provided the Committee can accept the scores in another way.

But as and when normality returns, here’s what you really need to know about the scorecard…

16 Important Golf Scorecard Rules To Remember

1. Recording the correct handicap on the card is solely your responsibility as the player.

2. If you fail to record your handicap, or play off a handicap higher than that to which you are entitled (and this affects the number of strokes received), you will be disqualified from the handicap element of a strokeplay competition, though your score will still stand in any concurrent scratch competition.

Related: Rules of Golf Scorecard Essentials

3. If you record too low a handicap on your card, your net score will stand based on that handicap.


WATCH: Scorecard Do’s and Don’ts


4. At the end of the round, all you are signing for is your gross score on each hole.

5. You do not have to add your scores up, record your net score, or allocate Stableford points in a Stableford.

6. Most golfers do mark such things on their cards (and that’s fine), but you cannot be penalised for getting the maths, the net score or the Stableford points wrong.

7. Should you sign for a gross score on a hole lower than that actually taken, unfortunately you will be disqualified.

8. Should you sign for a higher score on a hole than that taken, the higher score stands, but you will not be disqualified.

9. Contrary to what some believe, you do not need to initial mistakes or corrections on the scorecard.

Related: 10 Golf Rules Myths

You and your marker(s) must sign your scorecard (Getty Images)

10. The scorecard must be signed by you and your marker (or markers if another person has had to take over) and returned as soon as possible on completion of the round.

11. Sometimes, this will be to a recorders’ area, but often simply to a box in the clubhouse or changing room.

12. Once it has been returned, no alterations can then be made to the scorecard.

13. If one or both of the required signatures are missing, you will be disqualified under Rule 3.3b.

Related: 7 Simple Golf Rules Mistakes

14. Returning the card “as soon as possible” doesn’t mean immediately, nor does it mean hours later. You might have a long trek to the area where it is to be returned if, for example, you have started on a tee some way from the clubhouse.

15. And even if computerised scoring is in operation, it is what is recorded on the physical scorecard that is all-important, rather than what might be input in error into a computer.

16. Finally if the scorecards are prepared for you, do make sure you swap before you mark and sign, or you’ll end up signing for the wrong scores a la Mark Roe in the 2003 Open at Royal St George’s.

So, there you have some important golf scorecard rules to be aware of. It is always worth an extra dose of concentration to make sure everything is spot-on before signing and returning your card, especially in the excitement of a good round.

There is nothing worse than the round of a lifetime being scuppered by an elementary scorecard mistake! Just ask Roberto de Vicenzo who signed for a par where he’d made birdie on the 71st hole in the 1968 Masters, costing him a spot in the play-off.