- Note: This section deals with three unique match-play formats.
Golf Rule 30, Three-Ball, Best-Ball and Four-Ball Match Play – Simplified Version
A three-ball match involves three golfers, each playing his own ball against the other two individuals; in other words, each player is competing in two separate matches, one against each competitor.
Best-ball match play pits one golfer against a two- or three-man team. The team’s best score on a hole is matched against the individual golfer’s score.
A four-ball match involves two teams of two players apiece. Each team’s best score (best ball) on a hole is matched against the other team’s best score.
30-1. The Rules of Golf apply to three-ball, four-ball and best-ball matches, except where the rules are at odds with the specific rules in this section.
30-2. In a three-ball match:
If an opponent is penalized for moving or purposely touching a player’s ball at rest, the penalty only applies in the match between the opponent and the player whose ball was affected.
There’s no penalty if a player’s ball is inadvertently stopped by his opponent, the opponent’s caddie or equipment. In his match with that opponent, the player can either cancel the shot and play his ball as it lies, or take a free drop as close as possible to the spot from which the last shot was played. He must play it as it lies in the match with the other opponent.
30-3. In a best-ball or four-ball match:
A single player can represent a side (team) for any part of a match, or for an entire match. An absent partner can begin playing on any tee, but not in the middle of a hole.
Partners can play their shots in any order they choose. In other words, the golfer who’s away (farthest from the hole) doesn’t have to hit first if it’s his team’s turn.
If a player on one team is penalized for hitting a wrong ball, he’s disqualified from the hole. However, his partner can play on without penalty.
A team is penalized if any of its players breaks Rule 4 (Clubs), Rule 6-4 (Caddie) or any local rule or condition of competition that calls for an adjustment to the state of the match as a penalty.
A team is disqualified if any of its players is disqualified under Rule 1-3 (Agreement to Waive Rule), Rule 4 (Clubs), Rule 5-1 or 5-2 (the Ball), Rule 6-2a (Handicap), Rule 6-4 (Caddie), Rule 6-7 (Undue Delay; Slow Play), Rule 11-1 (Teeing), Rule 14-3 (Artificial Devices, Unusual Equipment and Unusual Use of Equipment) or Rule 33-7 (Disqualification Penalty Imposed by Committee).
A team is disqualified if all of its players are disqualified for violating Rule 6-3 (Time of Starting and Groups) or Rule 6-8 (Discontinuance of Play).
In all other instances where breaking a rule would bring disqualification, the player is only DQ’d for that particular hole.
If a player breaks a rule by helping his partner or negatively impacting an opponent, both the player and his partner are penalized accordingly.
In all other cases where a player is penalized for a rule violation, his partner is not penalized. If the penalty is loss of hole, only the rule-breaker is disqualified for the hole; his partner plays on.
The Rules of Golf, so far as they are not at variance with the following specific Rules, apply to three-ball, best-ball and four-ball matches.
30-2. Three-Ball Match Play
a. Ball at Rest Moved or Purposely Touched by an Opponent
If an opponent incurs a penalty stroke under Rule 18-3b, that penalty is incurred only in the match with the player whose ball was touched or moved. No penalty is incurred in his match with the other player.
b. Ball Deflected or Stopped by an Opponent Accidentally
If a player’s ball is accidentally deflected or stopped by an opponent, his caddie or equipment, there is no penalty. In his match with that opponent the player may, before another stroke is made by either side, cancel the stroke and play a ball, without penalty, as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played (see Rule 20-5) or he may play the ball as it lies. In his match with the other opponent, the ball must be played as it lies.
(Ball purposely deflected or stopped by opponent – see Rule 1-2)
30-3. Best-Ball And Four-Ball Match Play
a. Representation of Side
A side may be represented by one partner for all or any part of a match; all partners need not be present. An absent partner may join a match between holes, but not during play of a hole.
b. Order of Play
Balls belonging to the same side may be played in the order the side considers best.
c. Wrong Ball
If a player incurs the loss of hole penalty under Rule 15-3a for making a stroke at a wrong ball, he is disqualified for that hole, but his partner incurs no penalty even if the wrong ball belongs to him. If the wrong ball belongs to another player, its owner must place a ball on the spot from which the wrong ball was first played.
(Placing and Replacing – see Rule 20-3)
d. Penalty to Side
f. Effect of Other Penalties
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.
In all other cases where a player incurs a penalty for breach of a Rule, the penalty does not apply to his partner. Where the penalty is stated to be loss of hole, the effect is to disqualify the player for that hole.