Referee Challenge – Who is it to Play?

Surely the easiest decision in golf is whose turn it is to play. While “Ready Golf” is to be very much encouraged in stroke play, in match play it should be strictly the farthest from the hole at all times (and you can have your stroke recalled by your opponent if you play out of turn).

I also though it was easy until the match I was refereeing in the final of a season long team inter-club matchplay tournament became the deciding game when it went into extra holes. For consecutive shots we had to laser the distances (which were identical so the decision was on the toss of a coin), and then get out the “Gotcha” putting measure (difference less than 1/2″ in 20 feet) and all this in front of all the players, supporters, referees, club and county officials from the other matches.

Anyway, here is a scenario presented during the role playing sessions at the Level 3 Rules School. I’m just glad I wasn’t presented with this during my final – although thankfully there were plenty of other referees available from whom I would have sought help!

The two players are all square and playing the 18th in the final of the summer scratch knockout. Player 1 splits the fairway from the tee, while Player 2 ends up on the far side of a Red Penalty Area on the right of the fairway.

Player 1 then slices their second into the RPA, crossing in at Point X and coming to rest at Point A. Player 2 goes for the green but also ends up in the RPA, crossing in at Point Y with the ball ending up at Point B.

While the Penalty Area is a fairly wide stream in the winter, at this time of year it is dry and most players, especially low handicappers, would attempt to play the ball where it lies rather than take a penalty drop.

As the Referee assigned to the match you have to decide: Who is it to play next?

Let me know your decision by adding a comment.

3 thoughts on “Referee Challenge – Who is it to Play?

  1. Hi Stuart,
    I can definitely corroborate your examples, as I was there for both of them! You were certainly worked hard in the county inter-club finals match on the 20th hole. Both players were equidistant from the hole when lasered (76 yards wasn’t it?) and, as you say, when on the green the “Gotcha” measuring string had to be deployed. You handled it very well under quite a bit of pressure if I may say so.
    The role-playing I also remember clearly because, when the ruling was discussed, I realised that I had incorrectly answered a similar question in the exam. I won’t spoil it for others by giving the answer other than to say that this rule changed in 2019.


    1. OK, It’s been a while, so unless Stuart has set a trap that I haven’t spotted, the answer is Player 1 (the ball at point A) is next to play.

      R6.4d explains…
      When a player Has Choice to Play the Ball as it Lies or Take Relief: The players’s order of play is based on the spot where the original ball lies (which if not known must be estimated).
      This applies even when the player has already decided to take stroke and distance relief or to play from a different place than where the ball lies (such as when the ball is in a penalty area…).


      1. Hi Matt

        Thanks for the comment – I think you have it spot on. My reason for putting this one up is that my memory says that our demonstrator during the role play at Woodhall Spa a year ago made the decision based on the reference points, rather than the position of the balls. Have I misremembered? (I do remember being confused at the time).

        I do like the thought that if two players fail to carry a large lake they have to estimate who got the ball furthest into the lake to sort out order of play…


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