Rules Review – Four-Ball Match Play

Rules to Remember


Since it’s Ryder Cup weekend, let’s discuss a very popular form of play in women’s golf and a huge part of the Ryder Cup format: Four-Ball Match Play.  As always, we’ll start with the definition: A four-ball match is a match in which two players play their better ball against the better ball of two other players. Often times this format is referred to as “better ball” or “best ball.”  Most ladies’ interclub leagues have a four-ball match play format, so you have likely played this format before. Below are a few Rules to remember when playing your next four-ball match.

Putting Out After Concession of Stroke – If your next stroke has been conceded, you are entitled to putt out if you would like. HOWEVER, in four-ball match play, if putting out would assist your partner in any way (help them read the line, for example), you are not entitled to putt out. If you do, your partner is disqualified for the hole. (Decision 2-4/6)

Representation of Side – Is your partner running late? No problem, play away. A side may be represented by one partner for all or any part of the match. Furthermore, an absent partner may join a match between holes, but not during the play of a hole. (Rule 30-3a)

Order of Play – Balls belonging to the same side may be played in the order the side considers best. This means that if your partner has a shorter putt for par and you have a longer putt for birdie on the same line, your partner can putt out first to give you a look at the line (but be careful – if your opponents decide to concede the shorter putt, your partner can’t putt out). (Rule 30-3b)

Advice – Players can give and receive advice from their partner or from either of their caddies. (Rule 8-1)

Player Plays Partner’s Ball – In four-ball match play, if a player plays the wrong ball he is disqualified for the hole. If that wrong ball happens to be his partner’s ball, his partner incurs no penalty and he must place a ball on the spot from which the wrong ball was played and play from there. (Rule 30-3c)

Breach of Rule Assists Partner – If a player’s breach of a Rule assists his partner’s play or adversely affects an opponent’s play, the partner incurs the applicable penalty in addition to any penalty incurred by the player. For example, let’s pretend that A and B are partners and they both lie in the same bunker. A picks up and moves several pine cones (loose impediments) in the bunker that are between both of their balls and the green. As you know from a previous Rules Review, this is a breach of Rule 23. Player A is disqualified for the hole because she moved loose impediments in a bunker. AND, because Player A’s action ASSISTS Player B (the pine cones were between BOTH of their balls), Player B is now also disqualified for the hole. With both players disqualified for the hole, the side will automatically lose the hole. (Rule 30-3f, Decision 30-3f/1)

Make sure to check back next week for another Rules Review!
Questions about four-ball match play? Email Maggie.

Rules Review – Embedded Ball

How do I know if it’s embedded and how can I get relief?


If you have ever played a course that is unusually wet, chances are you’ve had one or two embedded balls.  There are a few key points to understand about embedded balls and just like most rules in the Rules of Golf, the most important point to understand is the definition.

Rule 25-2 states that “a ball is “embedded” when it is in its own pitch-mark and part of the ball is below the level of the ground. A ball does not necessarily have to touch the soil to be embedded (e.g., grass, loose impediments and the like may intervene between the ball and the soil).” There is also a very handy decision (Decision 25-2/0.5) that expands on the definition of an embedded ball.  The decision goes on to state that a ball is deemed to be embedded in the ground ONLY IF 1. the impact of the ball landing has created a pitch-mark in the ground 2. the ball is in its own pitch-mark AND 3. part of the ball is below the level of the ground.


Now that we know the definition and we can determine that the ball is, in fact, embedded, we need to know how to take relief from that embedded ball. Relief is simple: the player may lift, clean and drop the ball, without penalty, as near as possible to the spot where it lay but not nearer the hole. The ball when dropped must first strike a part of the course through the green.

Your first question: do I have to mark it when I lift it?
Answer: No, but you can.  There is no harm in marking the position of the ball if you would like.

Your next question: can I clean it?
Answer: YES! And you should – it’s probably dirty!

Your last question: How close do I have to drop it to the pitch mark?
Answer: Your best bet is to try and drop that ball directly back into its pitch-mark. (If you’re able to get it back in the pitch-mark, send me a video)

Make sure to check back next week for another Rules Review!
Questions about embedded golf balls? Email Maggie.

**Note: This post does not address the difference between Rule 25-2 and the local Rule found in Appendix I that allows relief through the green for an embedded ball. Because most amateur events (and all CGA events) utilize the local Rule, this distinction was left out of this post for the purpose of clarity.

Handicapping Help: What is ESC and why is it important?


ESC stands for Equitable Stroke Control. All scores for handicap purposes, including tournament scores, are subject to the application of Equitable Stroke Control (ESC). This mandatory procedure reduces high hole scores for handicap purposes in order to make handicaps more representative of a player’s potential ability. ESC is used when a player’s actual or most likely score exceeds the maximum number of strokes a player can post for a hole. Players should use the table below which shows their ESC stroke limit based on their course handicap from the tees played for an 18-hole round. IMPORTANT: maximum number of strokes are based on COURSE handicap, not Handicap Index. That means that your ESC may be higher or lower at different courses or when playing different tees based on your individual course handicap.


Need to figure out your course handicap? Use this super-easy course handicap calculator.

Rules Review: Loose Impediments

What are they and what can I do with them?


Every single time you step on the golf course, you encounter loose impediments. Pine needles, twigs, stones, worms and leaves are all loose impediments and can get in your way on the course. So what can you do about them? First, let’s look at the definition of loose impediments so we can understand exactly what they are.

Loose impediments are natural objects, including: 1. stones, leaves, twigs, branches and the like, 2. dung, and 3. worms, insects and the like, and the casts and heaps made by them, provided they are not: 1. fixed or growing, 2. solidly embedded, or 3. adhering to the ball.

Now that we know what a loose impediment IS, what do we do with them when they’re in the way? Rule 23 in the Rules of Golf tells us that except when both the loose impediment and the ball lie in or touch the same hazard, any loose impediment may be removed without penalty. That means that a leaf in the fairway, rough, on the putting green, on the teeing ground, ANYWHERE other than in a hazard with your ball, can be moved at any time for any reason (except when a ball is in motion and the removal of the loose impediment might influence the movement of the ball). However, if your ball lies in the same hazard (which includes both water hazards and bunkers) as the loose impediment, you CANNOT move it.

Alright, we know what they are and we know when we can (and cannot) move them. The last vital thing to remember about loose impediments is that when moving the loose impediment, you must make sure that your ball DOES NOT move. Rule 23 will tell us that if the ball lies anywhere other than on the putting green and the removal of the loose impediment by the player causes the ball to move, the player will incur a 1-stroke penalty and the ball MUST be replaced. So only move the loose impediment if you’re sure that you’re not going to move the ball.  Something like this:

Make sure to check back next week for another Rules Review!
Questions about loose impediments? Email Maggie.

TGA of Wake County, NC Partners with LPGA*USGA Girls Golf

Article contributed by Kevin Frisch, TGA Premier Junior Golf Public Relations


Wake County, NC – With the Olympic Games taking place recently in Brazil and women’s golf at the center of the world stage, two of the leading initiatives to grow the game are announcing they have come together in Wake County, N.C.

TGA Premier Junior Golf (TGA) and LPGA*USGA Girls Golf (Girls Golf) are partnering to create local programs that impact and inspire girls golf for the future and perhaps the Olympic Games of tomorrow.

Founded 25 years ago, Girls Golf is a non-profit 501-c3 junior golf program with sites in more than 300 communities across the country. Girls Golf provides girls with quality golf instruction led by LPGA and PGA teaching professionals and creating experiences that show girls just how much fun golf really is.

The upcoming fall session for the girls will take place at Knights Play in Apex beginning on Sept. 1. It goes for 10 weeks. Beginner programs will run from 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. and more experienced players will go from 6:45 p.m. – 7:45 p.m. The cost of the program is $219 and families can register at and also learn more about TGA’s other programs like camps and leagues.

Each girl will need to register at to become a member of the Girls Golf community.  The cost is $16 per year, and they receive a packet of goodies from the LPGA including a hat and sling bag.

TGA of Wake County currently has had 57 girls signed up for the Girls Golf program and hopes to reach 75 by the end of the year.

Wake County is one of 57 TGA markets across the country where thousands of youth are in full swing through its introductory school and community based golf programs, and more than 40 percent are girls. A partnership with Girls Golf where TGA transitions girls through its Player Pathway model into the LPGA*USGA initiative was a natural fit.

“As a golf coach for TGA, I knew it would be a good fit to bring the Girls Golf program together with TGA,” Karen Crisp, LPGA Teaching Professional, and a top teacher for TGA of Wake County, said. “Through TGA’s programs, we are seeing a large percentage of girls participating and to create the Pathway for them to the Girls Golf initiative is very exciting. ‘Girls Just Wanna Have FUN!’ and we want to empower them to be themselves while learning the game that will stay with them for a lifetime.”

Crisp started doing the Girls Golf programs with TGA last spring on Thursday evenings where 34 girls participated. The program was 10 weeks with one-hour classes that covered the basic golf swing, rules, golf etiquette, knowledge and history of the game. In addition, a summer Girls Golf Camp was put on the TGA camp schedule, which had 21 girls participate.

“The Girls Golf programs and summer camps are a ton of fun. We do some competitive games, but in a way that it is fun and non-competitive for the girls,” Crisp explained. “I made special targets for them to practice their shots involving hula hoops and noodles – the girls loved them! In honor of the Olympics we created the five-colored rings of the Olympic games for them to land their pitch shots in. We also honed their putting skills by playing Tic-Tac-Toe and other games with their putters.”

The TGA model, with its focus on youth ages 3-13, fits perfectly with the Girls Golf demographics, and has become a growing feeder system and pathway to introduce girls to national initiatives. The Wake County chapter has been doing an impressive job planting the seed for the future in 40 area schools with over 2,300 kids going through the after-school enrichment programs and 500 more participating in summer camps.

TGA, (Teach, Grow, Achieve), first launched its Player Pathway in 2003. TGA begins by delivering extended-day golf enrichment programs at Pre-K, Elementary and Middle Schools putting golf on the same menu for kids as the mainstream core sports. Parents are given the option to enroll their children in the sport through a before or after-school golf program they otherwise may not have considered.

For more information on the upcoming girls golf program and access to a photo of the girls, click on the link below:

About TGA Premier Junior Golf

TGA Premier Junior Golf (TGA) is one of the leading industry models bringing new players into the game. The franchise business model, the only one of its kind and recognized by Entrepreneur Magazine as a “Top 10 Franchise Value,” empowers entrepreneurs, PGA Professionals, PGA Sections and Golf Management Companies to activate youth (ages 3-13) and their parents (ages 25-45) through introductory programs at elementary and middle schools, childcare centers and community centers. TGA’s curriculum focuses on instilling a passion and skills development of golf while incorporating character development, STEM core academics, and physical activity. Introductory programs feed into recreational programs at golf courses that include camps and leagues. TGA has taught over 500,000 juniors while making the sport available to 1.5 million families nationwide.

For more information about TGA Premier Junior Golf, visit or follow @TGAJuniorGolf on Twitter.

Handicapping Help: Understanding the T-Score and how it has changed

Article contributed by Tom Johnson, CGA Director of Handicapping


The USGA first added Section 10-3, which deals with the reduction of handicap index based on exceptional tournament scores, to the USGA Handicap Manual in 1991.   This procedure was added to automatically reduce the USGA Handicap Index for any player who returned two or more exceptional tournament scores in a 12-month period.  The purpose for this procedure was to ensure fairness and make sure that players who performed exceptionally in a tournament atmosphere saw those results reflected in their Handicap Index, even if the scores they posted on a regular basis were higher.

The USGA conducted a study of more than 7.5 million scores to prepare for the 2016 version of the USGA Handicap Manual in order to refine and improve the USGA handicap system going forward.  One of the most obvious findings of this study was the need to clarify the definition of a tournament score.   The USGA found that designating too many competition rounds as Tournament Scores dilutes the table value in the Handicap Reduction Table for exceptional tournament performance; therefore the procedure was not performing the way it was originally intended because too many scores were being posted as tournament scores.

The USGA wants to make sure the Committee is cautious when determining whether an event is designated as a tournament score so that the integrity of the handicap system is maintained.   The Committee should only designate significant events as tournament scores, such as the club championship or member-guest.  (Tournament scores must be 18-hole stipulated rounds, so many member-guest events do not qualify as tournament scores.)

We are frequently asked about traditional tournament score designations for events such as interclub matches, league play and fundraising events.   These types of events MUST NOT be designated as tournament scores under the new USGA guidelines.  The 2016 tournament score definition now provides the Committee a flow chart to help determine which events should be designated as tournament scores (see below).


You can learn more about rules related to tournament scores in the USGA Handicap Manual by clicking here.



Welcome to the brand new CGA Ladies’ Corner Blog!  This blog is a companion publication to the CGA Ladies’ Latest newsletter that will expand on and explain some of your favorite golf topics.  Below are a few things to look forward to:

Rules Review
Every week from September 12 – March 28, there will be a Rules Review blog posted.  These blog entries will cover everything from the simplest rules situation to complex rulings that have actually been given out on the course.  Feel free to submit a question for the Rules Review to Maggie Watts at

Handicapping Help
The USGA Handicapping system can be very complicated, but with periodic blog posts under the tag Handicapping Help, CGA handicapping experts will explain some of the tougher concepts in easy-to-understand language.

Carolinas Stories
There are so many wonderful stories happening each and every day in the Carolinas golf world.  The Carolinas Stories tag will help bring some of those stories to light.

This blog will not be used to advertise or promote CGA events – it is simply an informational blog about important topics in women’s golf.  If you have any suggestions for stories, questions for the Rules Review or Handicapping Help, or anything else, please contact Director of Women’s Golf Maggie Watts at

Thanks for reading and stay tuned!