What Does Ready Golf Mean?

We look into the concept of 'ready golf' and discuss what is meant by the term and if it really can help with pace of play

A golfer hits a drive
(Image credit: Future)

'Ready golf' is a term used in stroke play golf only, which encourages golfers to play when they are ready to go if they can do so safely and it might assist with pace of play, rather than strictly following the procedure of “farthest from the hole should play first” under Rule 6.4b in the Rules of Golf.

Indeed, you will now find 'ready golf' specifically mentioned in that Rule and many think we should now adopt 'ready golf' more often.

'Ready golf' is not appropriate in match play golf due to the strategy involved between opponents and the need to have a set method for determining which player plays first (hence you have no right to tap in an unconceded three-footer in match play if your opponent lies farther away).

If you do, you may be asked to replace the ball and play again (at your opponent’s discretion).

There is, however, an exception under Rule 6.4a that you may agree with each other to play out of turn in match play to save time.

While 'ready golf' is now being actively encouraged at many clubs, players have to act sensibly to ensure that playing out of turn does not endanger other players.

 4 examples of ready golf:

1. Hitting a shot when safe to do so if a player farther away faces a challenging shot and is taking time to assess their options.

2. Shorter hitters playing first from the tee or fairway if longer hitters have to wait.

ready golf shorter hitters play first

In ready golf, shorter hitters can go first off the tee in stroke play even if it's not their honor

(Image credit: Future)

3. Hitting a tee shot if the person with the honor is delayed in being ready to play.

4. Hitting a shot if a person who has just played from a bunker is still farthest from the hole but is delayed due to raking the bunker.

A golfer rakes a bunker

In ready golf, someone else still nearer to the hole could play first while you rake the bunker

(Image credit: Future)

The R&A says there is strong evidence to suggest 'ready golf' does improve pace of play, quoting a survey conducted by Golf Australia, which showed that 94% of clubs that had promoted 'ready golf' to members had enjoyed some success in improving pace of play, with 25% stating that they had achieved "satisfying success".

A golfer looks down at their ball on a path

In ready golf, someone else nearer the hole could play first while you sort out a tricky ruling

(Image credit: Future)

It is worth saying that 'ready golf' is likely to have most impact on a less busy course to help prevent groups losing touch with the group in front.

But on a packed course where no-one is really going anywhere fast, it will probably only have any significant impact if the groups towards the front of the field are adopting it, as playing out of turn to complete a hole quicker will only see you potentially having to wait longer on the next tee!

Finally, a word of caution in stroke play. If you agree to play out of turn to deliberately give one of the players an advantage, that would be a breach of Rule 6.4b and would attract the general penalty of two strokes for both players.

An example of this might be someone closer to the hole putting before someone else farther away on the same line who perhaps has a good score going to show them the line.

Just like the R&A, we'd encourage all golfers to play ready golf where possible and safe, as it's definitely one of many ways to improve golf's pace of play.

Jeremy Ellwood
Contributing Editor

Jeremy Ellwood has worked in the golf industry since 1993 and for Golf Monthly since 2002 when he started out as equipment editor. He is now a freelance journalist writing mainly for Golf Monthly. He is an expert on the Rules of Golf having qualified through an R&A course to become a golf referee. He is a senior panelist for Golf Monthly's Top 100 UK & Ireland Course Rankings and has played all of the Top 100 plus 91 of the Next 100, making him well-qualified when it comes to assessing and comparing our premier golf courses. He has now played 1,000 golf courses worldwide in 35 countries, from the humblest of nine-holers in the Scottish Highlands to the very grandest of international golf resorts. He reached the 1,000 mark on his 60th birthday in October 2023 on Vale do Lobo's Ocean course. Put him on a links course anywhere and he will be blissfully content.

Jezz can be contacted via Twitter - @JezzEllwoodGolf

Jeremy is currently playing...

Driver: Ping G425 LST 10.5˚ (draw setting), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 55 S shaft

3 wood: Ping G425 Max 15˚ (set to flat +1), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 65 S shaft

Hybrid: Ping G425 17˚, Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro Orange 80 S shaft

Irons 3-PW: Ping i525, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts

Wedges: Ping Glide 4.0 50˚ and 54˚, 12˚ bounce, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts

Putter: Ping Fetch 2021 model, 33in shaft (set flat 2)

Ball: Varies but mostly now TaylorMade Tour Response