Is it now just a free-for-all on the tee or is there still a place for the old ways? Our Rules of Golf expert has the answer

Isn’t there something quite romantic about getting the honour in golf? Through your golfing endeavour, your superior skill on any given hole, you are handed the ancient rites of hitting the first ball from the next tee. It is, indeed, an honour.

But in these times of pace of play, and trying to trim some time off the arduous examination of 18 holes, is the honour in golf still a thing? Does it really matter? I might be able to spring a couple of surprises here, so let’s get stuck in…

Rules of Golf explained: What is the honour in golf?

I can hear you all yelling “READY GOLF!” at me and, yes, you are correct that, in stroke play, Rule 6.4b (2) says that players are “both allowed and encouraged” to play out of turn if it’s done in a “safe and responsible” way.

But – there’s usually a but somewhere in the rules – there are some important distinctions to be made.

One of these will be obvious to you all. In match play, the honour is of primary importance and players are compelled to play according to it. You can cancel your opponent’s stroke if they sneak a shot in when it’s your turn.

It goes further, though, in stroke play. What if you get a player who has hit the lowest gross score on the previous hole and they don’t want to share the love? They want their time to shine.

Well, generally you should step aside and let them get on with it. Rule 6.4b (2) reveals that if it is their turn, they’re ready to go, and “indicate that he or she wants to play first”, you should wait until they’ve been.

What if you were trying to get ahead to gain an advantage? That’s also a no-no. “A player should not play out of turn to gain an advantage over other players.”

If two or more players make an agreement to that effect, each of them are going to be hit with the general penalty, or two shots in layman’s terms. 

Have a question for our Rules of Golf expert?

Despite the simplification of the Rules of Golf at the beginning of 2019, there are still some that leave us scratching our heads. And as I’ve passed the R&A’s level 2 rules exam with distinction, I am more than happy to help.

If you’ve sent me an email and are yet to hear back from me, I will try to answer your query. I’m still inundated with requests and trying to get through them.

Just to reiterate, I continue to receive emails from players hoping I can intervene in a club rules dispute. For fairly obvious reasons, I can’t do that and would direct those players either to their county or to the rules department at the R&A for a definitive judgement.

Click here for the full Rules of Golf explained archive and details of how to submit a question to our expert.

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