Preparation is important in golf. Making sure you are mentally and physically ready for a competitive round could give you the edge. Ensuring you have all your kit ready to go, having a clear game plan and a positive mindset will stand you in good stead to perform at your best. One thing you might like to do is to get out on the course to play at least a few holes as a warm-up and to get an idea how the layout is playing. How receptive are the greens and how quick are they? Are the fairways running? This would be useful information to have – but are you allowed to go out and play the course before a competition?
In stroke play, the answer is no. You are not permitted to play/practise on the course on the day of a competition before you play. You are permitted to play on the course on the day of a competition after your competitive effort is over. If you are playing a 36-hole competition you can’t play on the course between rounds.
In The Rules of Golf – Rule 5.2b states on stroke play competition: “Players must not practise on the course before a round on the day of a competition, as they may not have an equal chance to do so because they usually play in different groups at different times. But they are allowed to practise on a day of the competition after their competition play for the day is complete.”
You can, of course, play on the course in the days leading up to a stroke play competition, just not on the day of the comp itself.
In match play, the answer is yes. You are permitted to play/practise on the course on the day of a competition.
Rule 5.2a states on match play competition: “Players in a match may practise on the course before or between rounds, as they usually will have an equal chance to do so because they play at the same time.”
Generally speaking then, you can play the course on the days leading up to a competition whether stroke play or match play. On the day of the competition, you can’t play beforehand if it’s stroke play, you can play beforehand if it’s match play.
Club committees may on occasion adopt a Local Rule that modifies those default rulings to either allow or prohibit practise on the course, either completely or by clearly indicating when, where or how such practice can take place.
The Rules of Golf give the following examples:
To prevent players practising on the course before match play -
"Rule 5.2a is modified in this way: A player must not practise on the competition course before or between rounds. [Or, if players are allowed to practise in limited ways: Describe those limits and when, where and how a player may practise on the course.]”
To allow players to practise on the course before or between competition stroke play rounds -
"Rule 5.2b is modified in this way: A player may practise on the competition course before or between rounds. [Or, if players are allowed to practise in limited ways: Describe those limits and when, where and how a player may practise on the course.]
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Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly.
Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?
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