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Rules and Handicapping Guidance During COVID-19 Era

March 20,2020 – Liberty Corner, NJ

The USGA stands with our entire golf community during this time. We all love the game for the escape it provides, and it is our great hope that we will all be able to play it, watch it and enjoy it together soon. We continue to urge everyone to follow the guidelines from health and governmental officials to keep you and those around you safe, and to minimize any possible exposure to coronavirus. This is especially true on a golf course, where golfers, workers and owners should heighten their level of awareness on exposure to surfaces like flagsticks, golf balls, bunker rakes, tees, carts and scorecards. We all need to do our part to respect expert advice and make the right decisions to protect each other.

It is not the intended purpose of the below guidance to either encourage or discourage anyone from playing the game, but rather, in our governance role, to help golf course operators, committees and golfers better understand how the Rules of Golf and Rules of Handicapping apply to the various questions we have received.

The 2019 Rules of Golf were drafted to offer each Committee the flexibility to make decisions as to how golf is played at their course or in competition and the Committee Procedures section of the Official Guide to the Rules of Golf (available online here) offers a significant amount of guidance and recommendations on how to address circumstances unique to each course or competition.

This flexibility will prove to be very helpful as Committees look to address many of the challenges they are facing within the current environment. While the Committee Procedures section is a tremendous resource and has much to offer, many of the current questions were not originally contemplated under the Rules of Golf and therefore there is no history or guidance provided. To better address the questions that have come about because of these unique circumstances and the related challenges, additional guidance can be accessed by clicking here. This will continue to be updated as additional questions are received.

From the perspective of the Rules of Handicapping, the most frequent questions received are primarily related to the acceptability of scores for posting to a player’s scoring record. In particular, relating to modifying the hole and not requiring the player to “hole out” as required under the Rules of Golf. These are founded in a desire to minimize the possibility of exposing golfers to coronavirus and have included leaving the hole liner raised above the putting surface or placing various objects into the hole so the ball can be more easily removed. In these specific cases, provided guidance from health and governmental officials is being followed, a temporary measure is in place within the United States to accept scores played under these conditions for handicap purposes using the most likely score guidelines, even though the player has not holed out. 

This temporary measure is now in effect within the United States until advised otherwise by the USGA.