Rules of Golf

As the governing body of golf in Canada, Golf Canada holds the exclusive right to publish and distribute the Rules of Golf in Canada.

The Rules are updated every four years through the work of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, Scotland and the United States Golf Association. A joint committee of these associations, on which the Rules Chairman of Golf Canada sits, is charged with revising, modernizing and improving the Rules of Golf and the Decisions on the Rules of Golf. These two documents form the complete Rules of Golf that are used universally throughout the world of golf.

Golf Canada has the exclusive right to publish and distribute the Rules of Golf throughout Canada. All Rights Reserved. The Rules of Golf and Decisions on the Rules of Golf are available for purchase online or by calling us at 1-800-263-0009. You can also view a PDF version of the Rules of Golf.

In addition to publishing the Rules, Golf Canada has created a national Rules Education Program that leads to national certification as a Rules Official. The program description is contained on the Rules Education page on this website. You will also find links to the lists of conforming clubs and balls that are used by all associations and updated monthly by the USGA.

For clubs or committees in charge of competitions, the Conditions of Competition and Standard Local Rules that Golf Canada implements at all championships is posted for your reference. In addition, a list of local rules that should be considered is available on this website.

Ask an Expert

To ask a Rules question, please email us at smrules@golfcanada.ca.

If you have a Rules question regarding a competition that is currently taking place (the competition has not closed), then you may wish to use the Competition Hotline.

To contact Golf Canada for a ruling during a competition please call Adam Helmer, Director of Rules and Competitions at 416-450-6374.

If your call is not answered immediately, please leave a detailed message including your name, title (Rules Chair, Professional, etc.) phone number where you can be contacted and a description of the incident that requires a ruling. Your call will be returned as soon as possible.

Handicap

To ask a Handicap question, please email Craig Loughry at cloughry@golfcanada.ca.

Rules Education

Golf Canada offers several programs to learn the Rules of Golf. Our Education Program is designed for all golfers wishing to improve their level of knowledge of the Rules of Golf including recreational golfers, competitive golfers, professionals and rules officials, or those wishing to become a rules official.

Whether you have an interest in learning the basics or wish to pursue national certification as a rules official, Golf Canada offers the right program for you. Read about each level of education below and then click on the appropriate link for more information.

You can also view our Rules Education Pathway.

Level 1

Level 1 of the program is a beginner program that introduces the basic concepts and language of the Rules of Golf. Examples, videos, animations and exercises are used to introduce the student to the principles of the Rules and how to use the Rules book. The program is ideal for juniors, beginners and golfers who have had no previous experience with the Rules.

Start Level 1 Now!

Level 2

Level 2 of the program builds on the experience of Level 1 and introduces the key reference manual for officials: the Decisions on the Rules of Golf. This publication is the key to understanding how the Rules of Golf are applied on the course. In addition to introducing some of the fundamental rules through examples, videos and exercises, Level 2 teaches the student how to use the Decisions book effectively when the Rules book alone does not provide the answer.

Certification

  • Achieve 80% on the Level 2 Exam at www.rulesofgolf.ca
  • Complete 20 hours of satisfactory on-course experience as a Starter/Scorer/Official at club, regional or provincial events

Printable Tournament Work Record form.

Start Level 2 Now!

Level 3

Level 3 of the program is comprised of a three day seminar conducted by the provincial golf associations. The seminar covers the most common Rules of Golf and includes practical sessions that demonstrate how the Rules apply on the golf course. To be certified at Level 3 an official must successfully pass the exam and meet the minimum practical requirements. The Level 3 program leads to provincial certification as a tournament official. Once Level 3 certified, an official is qualified to attend the Level 4 national certification seminar. To find out about seminars in your area, please contact your provincial golf association.

Pre-requiste: Level 2 Certification

Certification

  • Complete Level 3 Rules of Golf Seminar
  • Achieve 85% on Level 3 Exam
  • 10 hours accompanying a Certified Rules Official as an observer at a regional or provincial event
  • Minimum of 50 hours of satisfactory on-course experience as a Rules Official at regional or provincial events

Note: Level 3 and Level 4 exams must be written in separate calendar years.

Printable Tournament Work Record form.

Level 4

Level 4 of the program leads to national rules certification. This is a necessary, but not sufficient qualification to work as a rules official at a Golf Canada national championship. The Level 4 program is intended for experienced rules officials who wish to improve both their technical and practical knowledge as a rules official. Considerable time is spent on the golf course discussing complex issues of the Rules of Golf. The optional 3 hour exam is a rigorous test of the Rules of Golf intended to identify those candidates with the highest level of knowledge. Registration is available online by clicking the Level 4 link below.

Pre-requiste: Level 3 Certification

Certification:

  • Complete Level 4 Rules of Golf Seminar
  • Achieve 85% on the Rules of Golf exam
  • 100 hours of satisfactory on-course experience as a Level 3 Rules Official at regional or provincial events.

Printable Tournament Work Record form.

Level 4 – Seminar Information

Golf Canada’s Level 4 Rules of Golf seminars are intended for experienced officials. Registration for a 2014 Rules of Golf Seminars is restricted to persons who:

  • are Level 3 certified officials;
  • have achieved 70% or better on the Level 4 Rules Exam or 80% or better on the USGA Rules Exam within the last four years; or
  • have achieved 92% or better on the USGA Rules Exam after January 1, 2003; or
  • are currently or have been previously certified at Level 4 or equivalent by Golf Canada.

NOTE: Those who have achieved a mark of 85% or higher since 2010 have the option to write the exam without the seminar. There will be a review session available on the Saturday afternoon prior to the exam, which will be written on the Sunday morning at each of the below scheduled seminars. The registration fee for writing the exam only is $100.00. Please check the appropriate box on the registration form.

The Level 4 Seminar will consist of a combination of classroom theory and sessions focusing on the practical application of tournament officiating. Participants are expected to have a good understanding of the Rules of Golf prior to attending. In order to take full advantage of the curriculum, in addition to the above criteria, participants should have some experience as a tournament official.

During the seminar, participants will have the option of writing the Level 4 Rules Exam. The exam will consist of a combination of multiple choice and word questions similar to the examples provided in the Seminar Workbook. The exam time limit is 3 hours. The Level 4 Rules Exam may be taken only once per calendar year and only at the seminar in which you are registered.

Applications are accepted on a first come, first served basis. To register on-line, please click the link at the bottom of this page (AVAILABLE DECEMBER 2nd) and ensure that you provide us with your full mailing address, including your postal code, as well as details of the credit card to which the registration fee of $250.00 is to be charged. Include the type of card (Visa/Mastercard/AmEx), name of the cardholder, full account number and date of expiry.

Your application will be confirmed by email. You can expect to receive the seminar materials (via email and post) at least 4 weeks prior to the seminar date.

If you register and must withdraw, please be kind enough to advise us as soon as possible. If you cancel at least two weeks prior to the first day of your seminar by notifying the Rules Seminar Administrator (ahelmer@golfcanada.ca), your fee will be refunded subject to a $50.00 (or $30.00 for exam-only participants) non-refundable fee to cover the cost of materials and administration. The seminar fee is fully non-refundable for anyone withdrawing less than 14 days prior to the seminar start date.

Note: The seminar fee includes all course materials, light breakfast and lunch each day.

If you require further information please call the Rules Seminar Administrator at (905) 849-9700 ext. 244 or 1-800-263-0009 ext. 244.

4-DAY SEMINARS – (Maximum 40 participants at each venue) – COST $250.00 for full seminar, or $100.00 to write the exam only.

Date & Location:

Register for Level 4 Now!

Local Rules

In addition to the Rules of Golf, clubs and committees may implement Local Rules that pertain specifically to their golf course or competition. Local Rules are created to deal with unusual or abnormal conditions on the golf course. At the club level, these often appear on the score card or posted in the locker rooms. For competition, local rules must not be introduced or altered after a stroke play round has started, but in some cases may be introduced or altered between rounds.

Each year Golf Canada adopts a set of Standard Local Rules which are in place at all competitions conducted by Golf Canada. These Standard Local Rules (often referred to as the “hard card”) form part of the Rules under which Golf Canada competitions are conducted, regardless of the location. Clubs and Committees may wish to consider these Local Rules for their own use.

In addition, clubs and committees should consider several other items when designing local rules for their golf course. The list to the right is not comprehensive and reference should also be made to Appendix 1 of the Rules of Golf and Rule 33-8 of Golf Canada’s Decisions on the Rules of Golf.

Young Trees

Many courses have newly planted trees that require protection. If the club or committee wishes to protect these trees, they should be identified in some manner (usually a stake or ribbon tied around the tree) and a Local Rule implemented.

Suggested wording:

“Protection of young trees identified by ______ — If such a tree interferes with a player’s stance or the area of his intended swing, the ball must be lifted, without penalty, and dropped in accordance with the procedure prescribed in Rule 24-2b (Immovable Obstruction). If the ball lies in a water hazard, the player must lift and drop the ball in accordance with Rule 24-2b(i) except that the nearest point of relief must be in the water hazard and the ball must be dropped in the water hazard, or the player may proceed under Rule 26. The ball may be cleaned when lifted under this Local Rule.

Exception: A player may not take relief under this Local Rule if (a) it is clearly unreasonable for him to make a stroke because of interference by anything other than the tree or (b) interference by the tree would occur only through use of an unneccessarily abnormal stance, swing or direction of play.

Ties

It is up to the Committee to decide how to determine a winner in the event of a tie. The Committee may use any method it sees fit, however, under Rule 33-6, it MUST announce the manner and time for a decision. If a playoff is not possible, the Committee must announce what method it will use to determine a winner.

When a playoff is not possible, in stroke play, Golf Canada recommends matching score cards. There are many methods of matching score cards, one example of which is contained in Appendix 1, Part C, Section 11 of the Rules of Golf.

Stones in bunkers

If stones in bunkers may pose a danger to players, the Committee may implement a local rule deeming stones in bunkers to be movable obstructions and therefore provide relief under Rule 24-1. Relief should be granted throughout the course and not restricted to a particular bunker or hole.

Suggested wording:

Stones in bunkers are movable obstructions (Rule 24-1 applies).

Preferred Lies (Winter Rules)

One of the basic principles of golf is that the ball be played as it lies. Preferred Lies (often referred to as Winter Rules) are common in Canada in early spring, late fall and throughout the winter in those parts of the country where winter golf is played, and should only be used when playing golf by the Rules would be unfair or the rule is necessary to protect the course from excessive damage. Winter Rules are commonly implemented for too long a period or when conditions do not warrant such a rule. Implementing Winter Rules when conditions do not warrant has the effect of artificially lowering players’ handicaps because it allows players to create a “perfect” lie for every stroke. This puts them at a disadvantage when playing at a course where no such rule is in effect.

Suggested wording:

“A ball lying on a closely-mown area through the green [or specify a more restricted area, e.g., at the 6th hole] may be lifted without penalty and cleaned. Before lifting the ball, the player must mark its position. Having lifted the ball, he must place it on a spot within [specify area, e.g., six inches, one club-length, etc.] of and not nearer the hole than where it originally lay, that is not in a hazard and not on a putting green.

Practice Area

The Rules of Golf allow a player to practice between the play of two holes by putting or chipping on near:

  • the putting green of the hole last played;
  • any practice putting green; or
  • the teeing ground of the next hole to be play.

No practice stroke may be made from a hazard and practice must not delay play. The Committee may implement a local rule prohibiting practice on the putting green of the hole last played during a stroke play competition. This is a common local rule in place, including at all Golf Canada competitions and on most professional tours.

Practice areas are commonly located on or near the actual golf course. In stroke play the penalty for practicing on the golf course before the round on the day of a competition is disqualification. If the practice area is not located out of bounds, then the Committee should clarify where players are allowed to practice. This could be as simple as stating, “practice is permitted on the practice range and on the practice putting green next to the clubhouse”.

Out of Bounds

If the Committee has defined the boundary in any manner not described in the definition, it is necessary to clarify this by a Local Rule. For example, if a road, a wall, pavement or the like is being used to define the boundary, it is necessary to specifically state this and clarify whether it is the inside edge of the wall or beyond the wall, whether it is the inside edge of curbing or beyond the curbing (a ball lying on the road). Be as specific as possible to avoid confusion during the competition.

Overhead Power lines

When elevated power lines have the potential to interfere with the play of a hole, the Committee should consider implementing a local rule per Decision 33-8/13 providing relief for a ball that strikes the power line. It is important to note that if such a local rule is in place, the player is not given a choice of whether to cancel the stroke; if the ball strikes the power line, the stroke MUST be cancelled and replayed.

The following text is suggested:

“If a ball strikes the power line during the play of the hole, the stroke is canceled and the player must play a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was played in accordance with Rule 20-5 (Making Next Stroke from Where Previous Stroke Made).”

In some cases the Committee may wish to include in the Local Rule the towers or poles supporting such lines when the towers or poles are positioned such that they interfere with the play of the hole.

Obstructions

Integral Parts of the Course / Close to Putting Greens

The Committee must clarify in the Local Rules which objects are integral to the course and therefore not covered by Rule 24-2, i.e. relief under the obstruction rule. Common examples of this would be walls surrounding teeing grounds or roads that are adjacent to boundary fences. The most famous example of this is the road adjacent to the 17th green on the Old Course at St Andrews, Scotland. The road is such a fundamental part of the character of the hole that players are not entitled to relief without penalty when their ball comes to rest on it. It also happens to run adjacent to the boundary wall and the Committee does not want a player to consequently get relief from the wall if their ball happens to lie on the road next to it.

Some courses have drains or sprinkler heads located very close (on the fringe) of putting greens. If these obstructions are close enough that they could interfere with a player’s line of play when their ball is close to (but not on) the putting green, the Committee may implement a local rule permitting relief for line of play when the obstruction is within two club-lengths of the putting green and the player’s ball lies within two club-lengths of the obstruction. See Appendix 1, Part B, Section 6 for wording.

Ground Under Repair

In addition to marking ground under repair (usually with white paint), the club or committee may deem some areas to be ground under repair even though the area may not be marked. Narrow ditches filled with stones, called French drains, can be defined as ground under repair and provide relief without penalty under Rule 25-1.

If the club or committee wishes to protect flower beds or other sensitive areas of the course, a local rule deeming the area to be ground under repair from which play is prohibited may be introduced.

Suggested wording:

“The ____________ (defined by ____) is ground under repair from which play is prohibited. If a player’s ball lies in the area, or if it interferes with the player’s stance or the area of his intended swing, the player must take relief under Rule 25-1.

Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESA)

When the Committee is required to prohibit play from environmentally-sensitive areas (ESA) that are on or adjoin the course, it should make a Local Rule clarifying the relief procedure. ESA’s are areas declared by an appropriate government agency or the like. The Committee does not have the authority to declare an area to be an ESA. If the Committee wishes to protect an area by preventing play from it, a local rule deeming the area to be ground under repair from which play is prohibited may be implemented. See Ground Under Repair section. If an area has been designated as ESA, the Committee must determine how to define the area. There are three choices, either ground under repair, water hazard or out of bounds. In order to declare an ESA as a water hazard, it must meet the definition of a water hazard, otherwise the Committee must deem the area to be ground under repair or out of bounds.

When an area is deemed to be ESA, the local rule must clarify how the area is defined and how the player must proceed.

Embedded Ball

Rule 25-2 gives relief for a ball embedded in its own pitch mark in any closely mown area (cut to fairway height or less). A Local Rule may be introduced that provides relief anywhere through the green.

Suggested wording:

“Through the green, a ball that is embedded in its own pitch-mark in the ground may be lifted without penalty, cleaned and dropped as near as possible to where it lay but not nearer the hole. The ball when dropped must first strike a part of the course through the green.

Distance Measuring Devices

The Rules of Golf allow a club or committee in charge of a competition to implement a local rule permitting the use of distance measuring devices (range finders and the like). If no such local rule is implemented, use of distance-measuring devices remains a breach of the Rules for which the penalty is disqualification.

In the event that a club or Committee in charge of a competition chooses to permit the use of distance-measuring devices, Golf Canada recommends the following wording for the local rule:

”Distance-Measuring Devices:

[Specify as appropriate, e.g., In this competition, or For all play at this course, etc.], a player may obtain distance information by using a device that measures distance only. However, if, during a stipulated round, a player uses a distance-measuring device that is designed to gauge or measure other conditions that might affect his play (e.g., gradient, wind-speed, temperature, etc.), the player is in breach of Rule 14-3, for which the penalty is disqualification, regardless of whether any such additional functions are actually used.”

Golf Canada’s Rules & Amateur Status Committee has approved the use of Distance Measuring Devices (DMD’s) for all amateur championships beginning in 2014.

This Local Rule will be introduced at CN Future Links junior championships as well as Canada’s national amateur competitions. Competitors will not be allowed to use DMD’s at Golf Canada’s professional championships including Canadian Women’s Tour events, the TOUR Championship of Canada presented by Freedom 55 Financial, the RBC Canadian Open and the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open, including their respective qualifiers.

This Local Rule allows competitors to use Distance Measuring Devices that measure distance only – not those devices that can measure other conditions such as wind speed or direction, temperature or elevation.

Dropping Zones

When it is not feasible or practical to proceed under the Rules when taking relief from an immovable obstruction (Rule 24-2, 24-3), an abnormal ground condition (Rule 25-1), a water hazard or lateral water hazard (Rule 26-1), or when taking relief for an unplayable ball (Rule 28), the Committee may establish a dropping zone.

Dropping Zones may be used in the following situations:

a. to provide an additional option when proceeding under Rule 26-1 taking relief from a water hazard. An example would be when the player’s only option under the Rule would be to play a ball as nearly as possible from the spot the original ball was last played. When proceeding under the water hazard rule, the Committee should endeavor to provide the player with at least two options. The Committee may wish to use a dropping zone if the nearest point of relief would force the player to drop a ball in a bunker or in an area that would make it very difficult to play the dropped ball.

Note: A dropping zone may not be used to negotiate a water hazard. i.e. on the green side of a water hazard for a player that fails to negotiate the water hazard.

b. to provide an additional option when taking relief from a protective fence, including providing a dropping zone that gives the player line of play relief from the fence. (Decision 33-8/18)

c. to provide an additional option when taking relief from an abnormal ground condition or immovable obstruction when proceeding under the Rule is not practical. This should not be used simply to ensure a player gets “good” relief from a condition, but rather to ensure a player is able to take relief of some sort from the condition. “Good” relief is not guaranteed.

Suggested wording:

“If a ball is in or it is known or virtually certain that a ball that has not been found is in the water hazard (specify location), the player may:

(i) proceed under Rule 26; or

(ii) as an additional option, drop a ball, under penalty of one stroke, in the Dropping Zone.

For protective screens:

If the screen protecting the _____________ (10th tee, for example) interferes with the player’s line of play, the player may drop the ball, without penalty, not nearer the hole in the Ball drop located ___________.

Conditions of Competition and Standard Local Rules

Play is governed by the Rules of Golf of Golf Canada, the Decisions on the Rules of Golf and where applicable, by the following Local Rules and Conditions of Competition, subject to changes, additions or deletions for particular Championships by the Rules of Golf Committee of Golf Canada. The player’s attention is drawn to Conditions of Competition as printed on the forms accompanying applications for entry. Complete text of Rules and Appendix I, Part A, B, C may be found in the Rules of Golf.

Unless otherwise noted, penalty for breach of a Local Rule or Condition is:

Match play – Loss of hole; Stroke play – Two strokes

SECTION A: CONDITIONS OF THE COMPETITION

  1. Specification of the Ball – The ball the player plays must be named on the current List of Conforming Golf Balls recognized by Golf Canada. The current List of Conforming Golf Balls is available in the Golf Canada Tournament Office. Penalty for Breach of Condition: Disqualification
  2. Specification of Driver Head – Any driver the player carries must have a clubhead, identified by model and loft, that is named on the current List of Conforming Driver Heads recognized by Golf Canada. The current List of Conforming Driver Heads is available in the Golf Canada Tournament Office. Penalty for Breach of Condition: See Penalty Statement for Rules 4-1 and 4-2
  3. Caddies In stroke play competition, a player is prohibited from having another competitor serve as his caddie during the stipulated round. Penalty for Breach of Condition: See Penalty Statement for Rule 6-4
  4. Pace of Play See the posted Pace of Play Policy.
  5. Discontinuance of Play – Note to Rule 6-8b is in effect. All practice areas are closed when play is suspended for a dangerous situation until the Rules Committee has declared them open. A player using such practice areas will be subject to disqualification. Note: A suspension for a dangerous situation will be signalled by one prolonged air horn note. All other types of suspension will be signalled by three consecutive air horn notes. Resumption of play will be signalled by two short air horn notes.
  6. Practice – Note to Rule 7-1b is in effect. In stroke play competition, a player may not practice on or near the putting green of the hole last played or roll a ball on the putting green of the hole last played.
  7. Transportation – Players must not ride on any form of transportation during a stipulated round unless authorized by the Committee. See Transportation Policy for senior competitions and medical exemptions. Penalty for Breach of Condition: See Penalty Statement in Appendix 1, Part C, Section 9.
  8. Close of Competition The competition is deemed to have closed when the trophy has been presented to the winner or, in the absence of a prize ceremony, when all scores have been approved by the Committee.

SECTION B: LOCAL RULES

  1. Abnormal Ground Conditions – Rule 25 Ground Under Repair includes: a. Areas defined by white lines; b. French drains filled with stones; c. Seams of Cut Turf – Through the green, seams of cut turf (not the turf itself) are deemed to be ground under repair. However, interference by a seam with the player’s stance is deemed not to be, of itself, interference under Rule 25-1. If the ball lies in or touches the seam or the seam interferes with the area of intended swing, relief is available under Rule 25-1. All seams within the cut turf area are considered the same seam.
  2. Embedded Ball Through the Green – Local Rule as prescribed in Appendix I, Part B, Section 4a is in effect.
  3. Obstructions – Rule 24 White lined areas tying into artificially surfaced roads, paths or obstructions are deemed to have the same status as the road, path or obstruction and are not ground under repair.
  4. Wood Chips and Mulch Wood chips and mulch are loose impediments.
  5. Integral Parts of the Course a. Wrappings, wires, cables and other objects when closely attached to trees; b. Artificial walls and/or pilings when used to define the margin of bunkers. Such walls and/or pilings are through the green.
  6. Permanent Elevated Power Lines or Cables If a ball strikes a permanent elevated power line or cable, the stroke MUST be cancelled and the player must play a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played in accordance with Rule 20-5.
  7. Temporary Obstructions – Local Rule as prescribed in Appendix I, Part B, Section 7 is in effect.

Equipment

The List of Non-Conforming Drivers, Conforming Drivers and Conforming Golf Balls are universal lists used by all golf associations.

  1. List of non-conforming drivers
  2. List of conforming driver heads
  3. List of conforming golf balls

New Groove Rules FAQ

Q. What is the plan for implementing the groove condition at Golf Canada championships?

A. The groove rules, effective January 1, 2010, will be adopted as a condition of competition for the Canadian Men’s Amateur and Canadian Women’s Amateur beginning in 2014. The condition will be in effect at all other Golf Canada’s national championships beginning in 2016.

The full text of the condition of competition appears at the end of this document.

Q. What guidance does Golf Canada offer to provincial golf associations or clubs regarding adoption of the condition of competition for their competitions?

A. Although the condition of competition was included in the Rules of Golf as of January 1, 2010, Golf Canada has tiered implementation of the condition over a period of several years, beginning in 2010 with the RBC Canadian Open and the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open, and their regional and final qualifying events.

As indicated, Golf Canada will adopt the condition for the Canadian Men’s Amateur and Canadian Women’s Amateur championships and their associated team events beginning in 2014.

Golf Canada recommends that provincial golf associations review their situation and championships and implement the condition in the time-frame they consider appropriate. At amateur competitions below the provincial level, including the club level, it is recommended that implementation not occur until 2024, when the current condition will become part of the Rules of Golf.

Q. What are the basics of the new groove regulations?

A. Although the complete technical specifications of the new groove requirements are more detailed, the following statements summarize the key changes:

The volume of grooves is reduced.

Groove edge sharpness is reduced for clubs with lofts greater than or equal to 25 degrees.

A. A common misconception is that “V”-shaped grooves will be required under the new specifications and that “U”-shaped grooves will no longer be allowed. This is not the case. However, any “U”-shaped groove must conform to the new specifications for both cross-sectional area/spacing and edge radius.

The complete technical specifications can be found in the Test Protocols for Equipment section at http://www.usga.org/equipment/testing/protocols/Test-Protocols-for-Equipment/

Q. What clubs do these new specifications apply to?

A. These specifications apply to all clubs with a loft of 25 degrees or higher – irons, wedges, hybrids and fairway woods.

Q. How does a player determine if a club or set of clubs conforms to the groove specifications?

A. The USGA has developed a database, called the Informational Club Database (Grooves), to assist players in determining if their clubs conform to the specifications, provided the club or set of clubs has not been altered and is “as manufactured.” The database, which is available at http://www.usga.org/InfoClubsDB/intro.html is a searchable database of irons, wedges, fairway woods and hybrids, with lofts of 25 degrees or higher, submitted to the USGA and/or The R&A prior to January 1, 2010, and evaluated to determine whether they meet the new groove rules.

Please note that clubs submitted to the USGA and/or The R&A on or after January 1, 2010, are not included in the database. New models of golf clubs manufactured on or after January 1, 2010 are required to conform to the new groove and punch mark specifications effective from January 1, 2010. Although it is expected that they conform and meet the new groove specifications, it is the player’s responsibility to ensure their clubs meet all rules specifications.

Additionally, entrants with models of clubs which were available prior to January 1, 2010, that are either not listed in the database or have an indication that testing is required in order to determine conformance to the groove condition may submit their clubs to the USGA through open club testing (Note – this only applies to testing for conformance to the groove specifications). Information regarding open club testing is available at http://www.usga.org/equipment/testing/InviteForOpenClubTesting/.

Alternatively, a player may contact the manufacturer of the clubs for information regarding conformance to the groove condition.

Q. What is the protocol if a player needs to determine the conformity of a club, or the conformity of the club’s grooves is called into question on-site at the 2014 Canadian Men’s or Canadian Women’s Amateur?

A. Players are strongly encouraged to resolve any questions about club conformance prior to arriving on-site for any event that requires conformance with the 2010 groove condition.

As is the case with any question on the Rules of Golf or equipment, any player who is concerned about the conformity of grooves should find the Golf Canada official in charge of the event as soon as practicable. The first step will be to determine the make and model of the club in question and find out whether the club has been included in the USGA Informational Club Database. If the club is listed in the database as meeting the 2010 groove rules or the player can provide proof of conformance to the 2012-2015 Rules of Golf (e.g., a copy of a USGA or R&A decision letter, or a certificate provided by the USGA that the player’s specific club(s) have been tested and meet the 2012-2015 Rules of Golf), the club has not been altered, and there are no other extenuating circumstances or other evidence of non-conformance, the club will be presumed to conform.

If the club is not listed in the database as meeting the 2010 groove rules and has not been deemed conforming by the USGA or The R&A, and a determination cannot be made immediately, the player may choose to play with the club but risks disqualification if a determination is subsequently made that the club does not conform.

If another player calls into question the conformity of the grooves on a player’s club(s), as with any question that arises during the competition, the Golf Canada Tournament Rules Committee will take all pertinent facts into consideration in evaluating the situation, and the above procedure will apply if necessary. The decision of that Committee will be final, and will apply to that tournament only.

Q. Will Golf Canada be doing field testing at the site of championships.

A. No field testing will be conducted. As above, players are strongly encouraged to resolve any questions about club conformance prior to arriving on-site for any event that requires conformance with the 2010 groove condition.

Q. What are the plans of other major golf organizations with respect to the new condition of competition?

A. The PGA Tour (including the Champions and Web.com Tour), PGA European Tour and other members of the International Federation of PGA Tours, as well as the LPGA, adopted this condition of competition at their tournaments beginning Jan. 1, 2010. The PGA of America and Augusta National Golf Club also adopted this condition of competition at the PGA Championship and Masters Tournament, respectively, in 2010.

The USGA and R&A are adopting the condition of competition at all their Amateur Championships in 2014.

Q. What has been the timeline in making the change?

A. Work on this subject has been ongoing at the USGA and The R&A for many years. The following is an outline of key dates in the process, as well as future milestones:

  • 2005 – The USGA and The R&A announce they will be studying the effect of grooves.
  • August 2006 – The USGA publishes first of two major research reports on groove performance/characteristics.
  • January 2007 – The USGA publishes second major research report on groove performance/characteristics.
  • February 2007 – The USGA and The R&A propose limits on groove volume and edge radius, seeking feedback from manufacturers.
  • August 2008 – The USGA and The R&A adopt a revised proposal, incorporating manufacturer comments.
  • January 1, 2010 – All new clubs submitted to the USGA for approval must conform to new specifications. The PGA Tour, major championships and international federation tours adopted the rule as an “expert” condition of competition. Manufacturers were allowed to produce existing clubs and exhaust inventory until the end of 2010.
  • 2013 – Golf Canada decides to implement the condition of competition at the Canadian Men’s and Women’s Amateurs beginning in 2014, and at the other national championships in 2016.
  • 2014 – The USGA and The R&A have announced that they will implement the condition of competition at their amateur competitions.
  • 2024 – Earliest date the condition of competition will become a permanent equipment specification in the Rules of Golf.
  • 4-1/1 Groove and Punch Mark Specifications Effective January 1, 2010 Including Condition of Competition

“The player’s clubs must conform to the groove and punch mark specifications in the Rules of Golf that are effective from January 1, 2010.

*PENALTY FOR CARRYING, BUT NOT MAKING STROKE WITH, CLUB OR CLUBS IN BREACH OF CONDITION:

Match play – At the conclusion of the hole at which the breach is discovered, the state of the match is adjusted by deducting one hole for each hole at which a breach occurred; maximum deduction per round – Two holes.

Stroke play – Two strokes for each hole at which any breach occurred; maximum penalty per round – Four strokes.

Match or stroke play – In the event of a breach between the play of two holes, the penalty applies to the next hole.

Bogey and par competitions – See Note 1 to Rule 32-1a.

Stableford competitions – See Note 1 to Rule 32-1b.

*Any club or clubs carried in breach of this condition must be declared out of play by the player to his opponent in match play or his marker or a fellow competitor in stroke play immediately upon discovery that a breach has occurred. If the player fails to do so, he is disqualified.

PENALTY FOR MAKING STROKE WITH CLUB IN BREACH OF CONDITION:

Disqualification.

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