Golf Education Library

Pace of Play

Playing ready golf and being aware of pace of play is important anytime you are on the golf course. It is essential that all players are aware and alert to what is going on for pace of play, etiquette, enjoyment of the game, and safety.

Keeping pace with and knowing where you are in relation to the group in front of you will indicate if you are maintaining proper pace of play. Your group is considered falling behind/out of position if the following occurs:
  • Par 3 - you reach the tee of a Par 3 and the group in front of you has already gone on to the next tee.
  • Par 4 - you reach the tee of a Par 4 and the group in front of you is already on the green.
  • Par 5 - you reach the tee of a Par 5 and the group in front of you is getting ready to hit into the green.
If you find that your group is falling behind, then you should pick up your ball when you have reached your Equitable Stroke Control (ESC) maximum and then approximate what it would have taken you to finish the hole from there. Click here for more information on ESC.

Pace of Play Tips
  • Always play "READY GOLF."
  • If your foursome is waiting for a player, and the foursome behind you is ready to go, then let that foursome go ahead.
  • Be at the first tee, ready to tee off, at your tee time.
  • Do not wait until it is your turn to play before putting your glove on.
  • Do not wait until it is your turn to play before calculating your yardage and selecting your club.
  • If you are not sure what club you will need, take all the clubs you think you might use to the shot.
  • If you are ready to shoot and someone behind you is not ready, then let that person know that you will shoot and take your shot.
  • Play a provisional ball if your ball may be lost outside a hazard or out of bounds.
  • Be aware of your position with regard to the group in front - it is your responsibility to keep up with the group in front.
  • If you feel that your group is falling behind, advise the other players in your group and try to catch up quickly.
  • If your group is falling behind or the group behind is waiting, and you have taken close to your maximum shots per hole - then pick up and take your maximum per hole score (Equitable Stroke Control - ESC).
  • If you lose a clear hole and are delaying the group behind, or if there is no group in front of you, invite the group behind to play through.
  • At the green, position your bags so as to allow quick movement off the green to the next tee.
  • Look at your own line of putt while the other players in the group look at theirs (within the bounds of normal etiquette).
  • Move off the green as soon as all players in your group have holed out; mark score cards at or on the way to the next tee.

Golf Etiquette

Golf is a game of honor, honesty and integrity.   Help us bring a new level of respect to women's golf by reviewing and adhering to the following golf etiquette tips.

  • Follow all USGA and course rules.
  • Always arrive at the golf course in plenty of time to be prepared for your golf game (at least 30 minutes before your tee time).
  • Before heading to the first tee, make sure that you have everything you need (plenty of balls, tees, ball markers, etc.).
  • Be at the tee box 5-10 minutes before your tee time.
  • Be courteous when another player is hitting. Do not move, talk or stand close to a player while that player is taking a stroke.
  • Try to play READY GOLF whenever possible. Be calculating your yardage and selecting your club while another golfer is hitting. Be ready to hit your ball the moment another player has completed his/her shot.
  • Take several clubs with you if you need to depart from the cart to avoid having to walk back to the cart to get a different club. Make sure you and your partner communicate who should drive the cart.
  • When confined to cart paths, always park your cart just a little ahead of where you hit the ball so you don't ever have to walk back.
  • Help each other spot your balls when they head for the woods to reduce the amount of search time.
  • If you suspect you will be unable to find your ball, hit a provisional ball. (Remember the penalty for a lost ball is one stroke and distance.)
  • Never spend more than 5 minutes looking for lost balls (and even less on a crowded golf course).
  • Always yell "FORE" if your ball is heading towards another player.
  • Make every effort to keep track of your own shots as you go along.
  • Always keep up with the group in front of you. If you find your group is lagging behind, take the initiative to suggest everyone speed up in order to catch up.
  • If your group is falling behind and the group behind you is always waiting, invite the group behind you to play through.
  • When asked by the ranger to speed things up, accept and respond to his request graciously; he wouldn't be asking if things were not getting backed up. Remember a little trimming of time here and there really keeps the game moving and makes for a more enjoyable day for everyone on the course!
  • Always park your cart or position your bag on the side of the green closest to the next tee so that you can exit the green quickly and so that the group behind you can continue play immediately upon your holing out.
  • Never record your scores while at the it at the next tee.
  • Whenever stopping for food and beverage (whether at the beverage cart or at the turn) try to avoid any delays on the course. Don't expect to take a break and then jump back in whenever you're done.
  • Whenever you strike the ball and tear up a divot, retrieve the divot and place it back in the spot and then step on it lightly. You can also use the sand mixture provided on some carts to fill the divot.
  • After playing a ball out of a bunker, always rake the bunker and then lay the rake back outside the bunker.
  • Once your ball has landed on the green always mark the spot with a marker or coin. When walking to and from that spot, never step in the path between another player's ball and the holer. Also, do not stand in another player's eye line (behind the player in line with the hole) when that player is putting.
  • Use a ball mark repair tool or tee to pry up and fix any dents made from balls landing on the green (yours or other's).
  • Do not drop clubs on the putting green. Leave clubs on the edge of the green on the side where you left your cart/bag.
  • Try to be aware when other players are putting for par, birdie, or eagle.
  • Remove and replace the flagstick carefully.
  • Move off the green as soon as all players in your group have holed out. Mark your score when you get to the next tee.
  • When it comes to advice on one's golf game, remember the phrase, "Don't ask, don't give." You have no reason to be offering advice, and the practice range is the only place where you should be receiving advice.
  • No swearing, no throwing or slamming clubs, and little-if any-alcoholic consumption.

Tips for On the Course

On the Tee
  • Men generally hit from the white or middle tees. They tee off first before the women, who generally hit from the red or forward tees.
  • Ready golf means that the first person with golf club, tee and ball in hand should step up and tee off, regardless of who won the previous hole. This speeds up play on the course.
  • If you believe your tee shot is out of bounds, hit a provisional ball at the tee box. This saves time later when you discover that the ball is indeed out of bounds. If you end up playing your provisional ball, you are lying 3.

On the Fairway
  • If you hit a shot from the fairway out of bounds, the same out of bounds or lost ball rules apply. Hit a provisional from the original position and then determine which ball is playable. Again - any time you play the provisional ball, it counts as an extra stroke.
  • Another example of ready golf that helps keep the game moving is for a player with a ball in the middle of the fairway to hit ahead of another player who is searching for a ball either in the woods or tall grass.
  • Players lined up similar distances from the green should always make their club selections then proceed directly to their balls. This helps players to get ready to hit when it is their turn

Sand Bunker (Green or Fairway)
  • Take a rake with you and put it near your ball location and outside the bunker so that it is easily available to rake the bunker after your shot.
  • When entering the sand bunker, always enter from the low side, so as not to damage the bunker edges.

In Front of the Green
  • Players on the fringe may hit onto the green while a player analyzes how to hit out of the sand; as long as you are safely out of the other player's way, this keeps play moving.
  • When a player hits toward the green, but the ball goes beyond the green, another player may hit up to the green to get his/her ball onto the putting surface. The first player will then have time to get to his/her ball and prepare to hit again.

On the Putting Green
  • When all players but one are on the green, and the one is on the fringe but closer to the hole than the others - who hits first? Per USGA rules, the person farthest away on the putting surface hits first. In ready golf however, the player on the fringe may prefer to have the flagstick left in the hole. The player on the fringe may therefore go first, after which the flagstick can be removed from the hole for all players. Or the player farthest away may hit first and another player can tend the flag and then replace the flag for the player yet to hit from the fringe. Again in ready golf, if the player farthest from the hole is not ready, another player may putt first to keep the pace moving.
  • Tending the Flag: Stand out of all players' lines of putting and be aware of your shadow. Do not allow it to cover the hole or the line of the putting for the player. Also, hold the flag itself so it does not blow in the wind. Flagsticks must be out of the hole whenever a ball is putted from the green.
  • Marking your ball: When a ball reaches a green, each player should mark his/her ball; the proper place for the marker is directly behind the ball. Be aware of other player's lines and do not walk on those lines. If another player prefers you to move your mark out of their line, then ask them in which direction. First mark the ball where it lies and then move it one putter foot or club length in the direction requested. Remember that you must remark to putt your ball from its original position (it is a penalty if you do not putt from the original position). Use the putter foot or club length to put the mark back to the original position. Once the original position is marked you can place your ball and putt.
  • If a player hits a long putt and the ball stops within four feet of the hole or closer, that player can choose to finish putting out (it can be faster to do this than marking the ball and waiting for another player to get ready to putt). This is however a choice and is completely up to the player as some putts may require more analysis and/or the player may choose to wait.
  • After you finish the hole, leave the green as quickly as possible. Record your score when you reach the next tee box.

Golf Play Formats

There are many different golf play and golf tournament formats, and some of the oddest are played at company outings, golf association playdays and the like. What are the
most popular? And how are they played?

Stroke Play
Stroke play refers to a round of golf in which the score is kept by adding the cumulative total of strokes taken throughout the round.  In stroke play, the golfer counts each stroke taken on a hole, until the ball is in the cup.  At the end of the round, the strokes taken on each hole played are added together for the total strokes.

Gross score in golf refers to the total number of strokes taken during your round of golf, plus any penalty strokes. In other words, your total score without adjustments: add up the numbers on your scorecard at the end of the round, and that's your gross score.   When "gross score" is used it is usually with in conjunction with or in contrast to net score.   

Net score refers to a golfer's score after handicap strokes have been deducted. Put more technically, the net score is a player's gross score minus the strokes his or her course handicap allows to be deducted during the course of the round.

Match Play
Match Play is second only to stroke play as the most popular form of competition in golf. There are many different ways to play match play, all built around its core principle: players (or teams) compete to win individual holes, with the side winning the most holes claiming the match.

Singles Match Play - Singles match play pits Player A against Player B, hole after hole. If Player A scores a 4 on the first hole while Player B records a 5, Player A wins the hole.

Fourball Match Play - In Fourball, each side consists of two players. Each player hits his or her own golf ball throughout the round. On each hole, the low ball of the two players serves as that side's score. For example, on the first hole for Team A, Player 1 scores a 4 and Player 2 scores a 5, so the team score is 4. If Team A gets a 4 while Team B scores 5, then Team A wins the hole.

Foursomes Match Play - Foursomes match play is one of the best-known forms of match play.  Foursomes matches pit 2-person teams against each other, with each team playing one ball, the two teammates alternating hitting the shots. Example: Player A and Player B are partners. On the first hole, A tees off; B plays the second shot; A plays the third shot; and so on until the ball is holed. After both teams have completed the hole, the side with the lower total strokes wins the hole.

The Scramble is probably the most-common format for team tournaments. It can be played by 2-, 3- or 4-person teams, and involves choosing the one best shot following every stroke, with each team member then playing again from that one spot.

Best Ball
In a Best Ball tournament, all members of each team play their own balls on each hole. At the completion of the hole, the lowest score among all team members serves as the team score. Best Ball can also be called Four Ball. One variation, 1-2-3 Best Ball is a tournament for 4-person teams. Each golfer on a team plays his own ball throughout the round. On each hole, a predetermined number of the low scores is used, and combined for one team score.

Alternate Shot
Alternate Shot is a format for 2-person teams. The two players on a team alternate hitting shots, playing the same ball.

Bingo Bango Bongo
This is one of the most popular formats for golf association tournaments and league tournaments. Bingo Bango Bongo rewards players for three things on each hole: being the first player in the group to get onto the green; being closest to the hole once all group members are on the green; and being the first player in the cup.