Stumped by something you’ve seen out on the course? Our rules expert will find you the answers

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. Mike Rigby got in touch on email and asked: “If a player tees off out of order – for example, before the person who has the honour – can they then play another shot when it is their correct time to tee off? Would this be without a penalty?

Rules of golf explained: Our expert says…

My scores usually mean that grabbing the honour is both a fleeting and unusual experience. You didn’t say, Mike, whether the format was stroke play or match play and it does make a difference. In match play, the order of play is fundamental. Makes sense if you think about it. You can base your strategy depending on what your opponent does. So the Rules of Golf, under Rule 6.4 ‘Order of Play When Playing Hole’, state that in match play “if a player plays out of turn, the opponent may cancel that stroke and make the player play again”. We’ve seen a couple of high profile examples of that pretty recently. Remember Justin Thomas in the Presidents Cup? There’s no penalty for playing out of turn, but don’t mess about if you’re making that decision whether to cancel a shot. Rule 6.4a (2) says “this must be done promptly and before either player makes another stroke. When the opponent cancels the stroke, he or she cannot withdraw the cancellation”. If a stroke is cancelled, the player must – when it’s actually their turn – play a ball from where that stroke was made. If it isn’t, the stroke counts and the ball is in play and must be played as it lies. In stroke play, there is also no penalty for playing out of turn, and you’re encouraged to do so with the Ready Golf initiative, but there is an exception. Rule 6.4b (1) says that if “two or more players agree to play out of turn to give one of them an advantage, each of them gets the general penalty (two penalty strokes)”. And if you’ve got a stickler in your group who will be offended if they don’t get their right to lead you all off, let them crack on. “If the player whose turn it is to play…is ready and able to play and indicates that he or she wants to play first, other players should generally wait until that player has played”, the Rule finishes. Your question also asks if you can play another shot when it’s the ‘correct time’. We’ve answered that for match play, but don’t do it in stroke play – unless, of course, your initial effort has gone awry and you’ve declared a provisional ball. Firing again without doing that would mean taking stroke and distance, the original ball would no longer be in play and must not be played.

Have a question for our Rules of Golf expert?

Click here for the full Rules of Golf explained archive and details of how to submit a question to our expert. Follow NCG on TwitterFacebook and Instagram – and don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel for free online golf instruction, the latest equipment reviews, and much, much more.