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Four-Ball Stroke Play Rules


By Ryan Gregg, Director of Education and Rules


The USGA announced that, beginning in 2015, it has added two new four-ball championships to its schedule. The 18-hole, stroke play, sectional qualifying rounds for these championships could begin as early as August 2014. The qualifying will be conducted by state and regional golf associations throughout the country. The NCGA’s extensive tournament program currently offers seven four-ball stroke-play tournaments of its own.


T


he Rules of Golf define four-ball stroke play as


a competition in which two competitors play as partners, each playing his or her own ball. The lower score of the partners is the score for the hole. If one partner fails to complete the play of a hole, there is no penalty. Why is it called four-


ball? Simply, it is because there are four balls involved in each pairing group. Since one team cannot play alone, another team in the competition plays alongside the other and acts as the marker. Four-ball stroke play


is covered by Rule 31 and needs its own rule, because there are certain situations that need to be addressed that the rest of the rules simply don’t cover. In four-ball competi-


tions, you and your partner are a side. The rules explain that one or both partners can represent the side at any time. An absent partner can only join between the play of two holes, not during a hole. The side can play in any order it considers best. This means that a player with the ball closest to the hole could legally play before other players if the side chooses to. A player could tap in a short putt for a par allowing


Email RYAN at rgregg@ncga.org 64 / NCGA.ORG / SPRING 2013 YES


A player with the ball closest to the hole could legally play before other players if the side chooses to. A player could tap in a short putt for a par leaving the way for his partner to take an aggressive run at birdie from farther away.


for his partner to take an aggressive run at birdie from farther away. Partners can give each other advice and other- wise help the other out. As in most rules, there are exceptions that include the following: You cannot stand on


an extension of your part- ner’s line of play or line of putt behind the ball during a stroke. This is a breach of 14-2b that would apply to the partner playing the stroke, or to the side if the breach assisted the other. A partner can’t touch


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PENALTY


If one partner has 15 clubs, both players incur the penalty.


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