Did You Know You Can Get Disqualified For Serious Misconduct?

Golf is built on the foundations of conduct, honesty and integrity but the very first rule dictates that you can be disqualified for misconduct. We'll take a closer look

Golfer throws club in anger
(Image credit: Future)

The first rule of Fight Club and the first rule of golf are surprisingly similar. Whilst you are encouraged to talk about golf as much as humanly possible, they are both about conduct. Raymond Floyd once said “they call it golf because all other four letter words were taken” and as true as that may be, if your actions are considered to be misconduct, you can be disqualified.

The rules of golf can be complex but the first rule is simple. Firstly, you must play the course and the ball as it lies and play by the rules and the spirit of the game. Within that you must act with integrity, honesty and show consideration to others and the golf course.

Strictly speaking there is no penalty within the rules for failing to act in this way, except that the Committee may disqualify a player for acting contrary to the spirit of the game if it finds the player has committed serious misconduct.

Penalties other than disqualification may be imposed for player misconduct if those penalties are adopted as part of a Code of Conduct under Rule 1.2b. If the Committee does not set a Code of Conduct, the only penalty available for an act that is contrary is disqualification.

What Is Serious Misconduct in golf?

In short, misconduct is behaviour and actions that are far removed from the expected norm in golf where the most severe sanction of removing a person from a competition is justified. By and large this includes dishonesty, deliberately interfering with another player’s rights, causing damage or endangering the safety of others.

When considering a disqualification, the Committee will take into account all facts before determining its severity. Even if the Committee determines the misconduct to be serious, it may take the view that it is appropriate to warn the player instead of disqualifying in the first instance.  

Whilst the R&A don't provide an exhaustive list of possible actions that could be deemed misconduct, and it is down to the Committee to determine the severity of the actions, this might help:

  • Intentionally causing serious damage to a putting green
  • Slamming a club to the ground and causing damage to the turf
  • Disagreeing with the course setup and taking action to move tee-markers or boundary stakes 
  • Throwing a club towards another player or spectator
  • Deliberately distracting another player whilst they are making a stroke
  • Repeatedly refusing to lift a ball at rest when it interferes with another player
  • Deliberately playing away from the hole and then towards the hole to assist the player's partner (such as helping the player's partner learn the break on the putting green)
  • Deliberately not playing in accordance with the rules and potentially gaining a significant advantage by doing so, despite incurring a penalty for a breach of the relevant rule
  • Repeatedly using vulgar or offensive language
  • Using a handicap that has been established for the purpose of providing an unfair advantage or using the round being played to establish such a handicap

Disqualification for misconduct is rare but cast your mind back to the 2019 Saudi Invitational where Sergio Garcia was disqualified for intentionally damaging the green in frustration. 

See more
James Hibbitt

James joined Golf Monthly having previously written for other digital outlets. He is obsessed with all areas of the game – from tournament golf, to history, equipment, technique and travel. He is also an avid collector of memorabilia; with items from the likes of Bobby Jones, Tiger Woods, Francis Ouimet, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Adam Scott and Ernie Els. As well as writing for Golf Monthly, James’ golfing highlight is fist bumping Phil Mickelson on his way to winning the Open Championship at Muirfield in 2013. James grew up on the east coast of England and is the third generation of his golfing family. He now resides in Leeds and is a member of Cobble Hall Golf Club with a handicap index of 1.7. His favourite films are The Legend of Bagger Vance and Tin Cup.