Get out of line with this addition to the 2023 Rules of Golf and you might not get past the opening tee shot. Steve Carroll explains

It’s a ritual in match play as old as handicaps itself. Let’s call it ‘the revelation of the shots’. You meet on the first tee and work out who gets what.

We might be bit more carefree about this pre-match exchange than we probably should be – as there’s always been a stiff penalty in player-to-player combat for declaring an incorrect handicap.

As the Rules of Golf stand, Rule 3.2c (1) says if you declare a wrong handicap either before or during the match, and don’t correct it before your opponent makes their next stroke, you are disqualified if that declared handicap is too high and affects the number of strokes the player gives or gets.

If you declare a handicap that’s too low, you escape the ultimate sanction but must play off that mark for the whole encounter.

From January 1, though, when the 2023 Rules of Golf come into effect, there’s a subtle elucidation to this process that chiefs at the R&A and USGA say now “more accurately reflects handicap-related conversations during a match”.

What’s afoot? Rule 3.2c (1) is written almost identically in the new book, but a new clarification found in the Official Guide to the Rules of Golf has the ominous looking title of ‘Player Gives Opponent Incorrect Handicap Information Before Handicap Match’.

golf match play rules

It says: “If a player gives the opponent incorrect information in relation to their handicap and this results in the player giving too few or getting too many strokes, the player is disqualified under Rule 3.2c (1).”

The clarification outlines an example where a player tells an opponent an incorrect handicap index, course handicap, or playing handicap that “they calculated incorrectly” and which is then used to determine how many strokes there will be in the match.

It goes on: “If this means the player will get too many or give too few handicap strokes because of the incorrect information, and this error is not corrected before the opponent makes their next stroke, the player is disqualified.”

So whether it’s poring over that handicap chart for a little longer, or double checking those allowances in the computer, make sure when you come together for your knockout that everyone’s clear on how shots are allocated for the match.

Otherwise, you might not make it past the first tee.

More on the 2023 Rules of Golf update

We’ve painstakingly been through every update to make sure you have everything you need to know about the biggest changes, from penalties in Stableford, handicaps on scorecards, back-on-the-line relief, and much, much more.

Rules of Golf podcast

Steve Carroll and Tom Irwin sat down to discuss the 2023 updates on the From the Clubhouse podcast.

Listen in the player below, or on your preferred podcast platform.

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 23 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former captain and committee member, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the national Tournament Administrators and Referee's Seminar. He has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying and the PGA Fourball Championship. A member of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap.

Handicap: 10.9

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