The 'Committee' in Golf and Its Duties

Illustration showing two golfers arguing
Sometimes there are arguments or disputes between golfers in competition, and one of the Committee's duties is settling such issues. Sarah Fabian-Baddiel/Heritage Images/Getty Images

The Rules of Golf make frequent reference to the "Committee," but what, exactly, is that nebulous body? The official definition of "Committee," as given by the USGA and R&A, is this:

Official Definition: "The person or group in charge of the competition or the course."

That clearly requires some expanding upon. So let's do that.

The Committee's Role and Make-Up

The Rules of Golf set down the way the game is supposed to be played. But the rules cannot and do not address every imaginable circumstance. Sometimes, disputes arise between golfers in competition, or a golfer self-reports a circumstance that requires clarification. (Perhaps the golfer is unsure whether a rules infraction occurred, or unsure how to proceed.)

The Committee that is frequently referenced in the rule book is the body that adjudicates such issues, as well as performing other duties such as overseeing golf course setup for competitions, implementing local rules, and scorekeeping for competitions (more below). 

Who makes up the Committee? Club members - your fellow golfers, perhaps even you if you belong to a club and volunteer or are selected for such duties.

Basically "committee" refers to those in charge - of your competition, of your course - of enforcing rules, settling disputes and the regulation of tournaments.

Duties of the Committee in Golf

So what are the duties for which the Committee is responsible? This used to be covered in Rule 33 in the Official Rules of Golf. However, as of the 2019 edition, Committee Procedures is given a separate section within the full rulebook.

The intro to that section expands a bit on the very brief definition of "committee":

"The Rules of Golf define the Committee as the person or group in charge of a competition or the course. The Committee is essential to the proper playing of the game. Committees have the responsibility of running the course on a day-to-day basis or for a specific competition and they should always act in ways that support the Rules of Golf. ... While many of the duties of a Committee are specific to running organized competitions, an important part of the Committee’s duties relates to its responsibility for the course during general or every day play."

During general play, the committee's responsibilities include making sure the course is properly marked and establishing any local rules; setting and enforcing the pace of play guidelines and conduct guidelines for the golf course; and providing rules support for golfers who have questions.

For competitions, the committee's responsibilities include making any desired adjustments to the golf course set-up for tournament play, including setting hole locations; deciding whether and where competition participants are allowed to practice on the course; and setting the groups and tee times and circulating that information to the golfers.

When competitions are in progress, the committee's responsibilities include making sure golfers are aware of pace of play requirements and code of conduct guidelines; starting matches or groups on time; enforcing pace of play guidelines and providing rules assistance; and setting up an area where golfers report scores, which the committee validates for stroke play.

And once competitions are done, the committee's responsibilities include procedures for settling ties in stroke play; confirming the final results and closing the competition; and awarding any prizes.

All of the above is greatly expanded upon (and additional responsibilites elucidated) in the Committee Procedures section of the rule book.

Many clubs and courses divide the Committee duties into committees that cover specific areas, such a rules committee or a greens committee (in charge of course setup).

If you're unsure about the Committee at your club, its duties, its membership, then talk to your club officials, tournament organizers or golf pros.