Governing Bodies Clarify Covid-19 Golf Competition Rules

Playing in a golf competition soon? Be sure to read what you can and can't do in accordance with the Rules of Golf...

Covid-19 Golf Competition Rules
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Playing in a golf competition soon? Be sure to read what you can and can't do in accordance with the Rules of Golf...

Governing Bodies Clarify Covid-19 Golf Competition Rules

With competitions beginning to return again at club level, the R&A and USGA, the game's governing bodies, have clarified the rules relating to competition golf to ensure that there are no confusions.

There are a number of key points, including that scores can be recorded by players as oppose to markers, preferred lies can be used in bunkers and shots that bounce out of holes are not counted as holed.

Golf has had to make plenty of changes to ensure safety during these Covid-19 times and some of these changes are not quite viable for competition golf.

For example, if a club has raised cups where the ball simply bounces off and is considered holed during social play, it cannot hold competitions.

The R&A and USGA say that the ball must come to rest with some of it below the surface.

Below, we list what you need to know from the latest guidance:


Players can now enter their own scores and it doesn't seem like markers need to sign cards for the time being.

Many clubs will operate electronic scoring systems for competitions and this will mean that scorecards are not physically returned.

Perhaps playing partners will be asked to cast their eye over your physical or digital card and give you a verbal 'yep, that looks fine.'

Clubs will all have their own approaches to this so be sure to see what yours says.


Some clubs could give out penalty strokes if players touch the flagstick, although this is highly unlikely as we are now all so used to not touching them.

Interestingly, the R&A and USGA say that clubs could get rid of their flags altogether. Again, this is highly unlikely but it would be very interesting to see if any club does so.

Flagsticks with snazzy devices to allow balls to be easily retrieved are fully within the rules.

You are allowed to touch the flagstick if it leans over or is off-centre, although you can't use your hand even if you're wearing a glove or holding a towel. Perhaps the best practice is to use your arm or foot.

Hole and Definition of Holed

Hole liners are fully within the rules for competitions to ensure players avoid touching the flagstick.

However, gimmes are not allowed - even though they have been recommended for social play.

Clubs with hole liners that sit above the surface cannot hold competitions, clubs must have holes that allow some of the ball to fall below the surface.

If your ball does fall below the surface but then pops up, tough luck.


Rakes are no longer in use at clubs, with players asked to smooth the sand with your foot or club after hitting. The R&A say that imperfect lies in bunkers is a normal part of the game.

However if the condition of the bunkers due to this is considered unreasonable , the committee does have the power to either declare the bunkers as Ground Under Repair or operate preferred lies in the sand within one club length no nearer to the hole.

Lifting your ball, smoothing the sand and then placing it is against the rules.

Read the full guidance from the R&A and USGA

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