Explaining the Golf Rules Term 'Stipulated Round'

Map showing Oakmont Country Club's golf course and the order of holes played during stipulated rounds at a US Open
Do you know your way around the golf course? Playing the holes in their correct order is part of the definition of a 'stipulated round.'. Andrew Redington/Getty Images

"Stipulated round" was a term used in the Rules of Golf (and also in handicap systems) prior to 2019 that basically just meant playing the holes of a golf course in full (18 holes) and in their correct order (No. 1 through No. 18), unless otherwise authorized.

As of the new edition of the rule book published on Jan. 1, 2019, however, "stipulated round" was deprecated and replaced by simpler and more straightforward "round."

Official Definition of Stipulated Round/Round

Golf's governing bodies, the R&A and USGA, provided this definition of stipulated round in the rule book that was in effect through the end of 2018:

"The 'stipulated round' consists of playing the holes of the course in their correct sequence, unless otherwise authorized by the Committee. The number of holes in a stipulated round is 18 unless a smaller number is authorized by the Committee."

In the Rules of Golf in effect from 2019 forward, the definition of the now-preferred term "round" is this:

"18 or fewer holes played in the order set by the Committee."

Why Would a Stipulated Round Be Anything Other than 18 Holes Played in Order?

Some golf courses are nine holes (or 12), and a tournament played on such a course might, therefore, consist of 9-hole (or 12-hole) rounds.

Time constraints (such as in the case of bad weather) might require starting some golfers in a tournament field at holes other than No. 1. This is not uncommon in professional golf, where some tournaments use "split tees" that have half the field beginning on No. 1 (playing holes 1 through 18) and half beginning on No. 10 (starting on 10 and finishing on No. 9). A tournament using a shotgun start might have groups starting simultaneously from every tee. A group starting on No. 13 would finish on No. 12.

As for golfers showing up for a round of golf at the local course: The starter or pro in the pro shop might, due to traffic around the golf course, tell you to start on No. 10 or, rarely, some other hole other than No. 1.

But again, "stipulated round" means starting on No. 1 and playing the holes in order, unless otherwise authorized.

'Stipulated Round' vs. 'Round'

"Stipulated round" is not a term golfers use in conversation. Many golfers have probably never used the term at all. No golfer ever says to another, "Hey, let's go play a stipulated round!" Golfers use the informal "round," as in,"Let's go play a round of golf ," or, "If we hurry we can squeeze in a round before the sun goes down."

"Round" can also stand in for "score" in some usages, such as "I had a round of 84" rather than "I had a score of 84."

So, colloquially, "round" or "round of golf" means a completed 18 holes of golf, or the score you recorded for those 18 holes.

Today, though, in addition to the colloquial uses of "round," it is the term the governing bodies use in the rule book, replacing "stipulated round."