Golf's Rule 3 Addresses 'The Competition'

In the Official Rules of Golf, jointly written and maintained by the United States Golf Association and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, Rule 3 is titled "The Competition."

The purpose of the rule, as explained in the rule book, is this:

Rule 3 covers the three central elements of all golf competitions:
*Playing either match play or stroke play,
*Playing either as an individual or with a partner as part of a side, and
*Scoring either by gross scores (no handicap strokes applied) or net scores (handicap strokes applied).

It is the responsibility of golfers to know the rules, and the USGA and R&A have tons of resources on their respective websites to help us learn and understand.

To that end, these are links directly to the text of Rule 3 that is found on the governing bodies' websites:

Summarizing Rule 3: The Competition

In our Quick Intro to the Rules of Golf, we summarize Rule 3 as follows:

  • In stroke play, the competitor with the lowest total score is the winner. You must play your ball into the hole in progress before starting the next hole.
  • In match play, each hole is a separate contest. You have won the match when you are more holes up than there are left to play. For example, if you are three-up and there are only two holes left to play, you have won “three and two."
  • It is not possible to play match play and stroke play at the same time.
  • Know your tee time or starting time, and be there ready to play at that time.
  • Always use your correct handicap.

There are three sections contained within Rule 3. Rule 3-1 is titled "Central Elements of Every Competition." Rule 3-2 focuses on Match Play and Rule 3-3 on Stroke Play.

Rule 3-1 notes that the form of play is either match play or stroke play, and that while most rules of golf apply to both, certain rules may apply only to one or the other. (Hence: Read the rulebook!)

Rule 3-1 also notes that golfers compete either individually or as part of a "side" (with a partner), and that Rules 1 through 20 address individual play while Rules 22, 23 and 24 address partner play and team play.

Also under Rule 3-1 it is noted that golfer compete either in scratch competitions (gross scores, no handicaps applied) or handicap competitions (net scores, handicaps applied).

Rules 3-2 goes into concessions in match play and information as to stroke taken, plus handicaps in match play. Your responsibilities in match play include:

Tell your opponent the right number of strokes you have taken when asked,
Make your opponent aware as soon as reasonably possible after you get a penalty, and
Know the match score.

Rule 3-3 includes the admonition that in stroke play the golfer must always hole out; how to keep score, with an example of a scorecard; the marker's responsibilities; what to do when a wrong score is written down; and using handicaps.

Be sure to read the full Rule 3, interpretations of Rule 3, and definitions of important terms either on or