Golf Rule 31, Four-Ball Stroke Play
    Golf Rule 31, Four-Ball Stroke Play – Simplified Version

  • Note: In four-ball stroke play, two-person teams (sides) compete for the lowest total score for an entire round. A team’s best score on each hole is counted toward the overall total.
  • Example: Adam and Luke are partners in a four-ball stroke play tournament. Adam scores a 4 on the first hole while Luke scores a 6. Adam’s 4 is the team’s score for hole No. 1.
  • 31-1. The Rules of Golf apply to four-ball stroke play competition, except where the rules are at odds with the specific rules in this section.

    31-2. A single player can represent a side (team) for any part of a round, or for an entire round. An absent partner can begin playing between holes on any tee, but not in the middle of a hole.

    31-3. On each hole, the marker (scorekeeper) only has to record the gross score of the partner whose score counts for the hole. If handicaps are being used and net scores counted, the score of the partner with the lower net score must be recorded.

  • Example: Teammates Janet and Maggie both make 4s on the ninth hole, but only Maggie gets a stroke by virtue of her handicap. Maggie’s 4 is recorded and counted as a net 3 at round’s end.

    31-4. 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.

    31-5. A golfer who plays a wrong ball incurs a two-stroke penalty on the hole, but his partner is not penalized (even if the wrong ball played was his ball).

    31-6. The team is penalized if either partner breaks Rule 4 (Clubs), Rule 6-4 (Caddie) or any local rule or condition of competition that carries a maximum per-round penalty.

    31-7. A team is disqualified if:

    Either of its players is disqualified under Rule 1-3 (Agreement to Waive Rules), Rule 3-4 (Refusal to Comply with a Rule), Rule 4 (Clubs), Rule 5-1 or 5-2 (the Ball), Rule 6-2b (Handicap), Rule 6-4 (Caddie), Rule 6-6b (Signing and Returning Score Card), Rule 6-6d (Wrong Score for Hole), Rule 6-7 (Undue Delay; Slow Play), Rule 7-1 (Practice Before or Between Rounds), Rule 10-2c (Sides Agree to Play Out of Turn), Rule 11-1 (Teeing), Rule 14-3 (Artificial Devices, Unusual Equipment and Unusual Use of Equipment), Rule 22-1 (Ball Assisting Play), Rule 31-3 (Gross Scores to Count Not Individually Identifiable), or Rule 33-7 (Disqualification Penalty Imposed by Committee).

    both of its players are disqualified for violating Rule 6-3 (Time of Starting and Groups) or Rule 6-8 (Discontinuance of Play), or if both partners are disqualified for a hole (or the round) on the same hole.

    In all other instances where breaking a rule would bring disqualification, the player is only DQ’d for that particular hole.

    31-8. If one player’s rule violation helps his partner, both players are penalized accordingly. In other cases of rules violations, only the rule-breaking partner is penalized.

  • 31-1. General
    The Rules of Golf, so far as they are not at variance with the following specific Rules, apply to four-ball stroke play.

    31-2. Representation Of Side
    A side may be represented by either partner for all or any part of a stipulated round; both partners need not be present. An absent competitor may join his partner between holes, but not during play of a hole.

    31-3. Scoring
    The marker is required to record for each hole only the gross score of whichever partner’s score is to count. The gross scores to count must be individually identifiable; otherwise, the side is disqualified. Only one of the partners need be responsible for complying with Rule 6-6b.

    (Wrong score – see Rule 31-7a)

    31-4. Order Of Play
    Balls belonging to the same side may be played in the order the side considers best.

    31-5. Wrong Ball
    If a competitor is in breach of Rule 15-3b for making a stroke at a wrong ball, he incurs a penalty of two strokes and must correct his mistake by playing the correct ball or by proceeding under the Rules. His partner incurs no penalty, even if the wrong ball belongs to him.

    If the wrong ball belongs to another competitor, its owner must place a ball on the spot from which the wrong ball was first played.

    (Placing and Replacing – see Rule 20-3)

    31-6 Penalty To Side

    A side is penalized for a breach of any of the following by any partner:Rule 4 Clubs
    Rule 6-4 Caddie

    Any Local Rule or Condition of Competition for which there is a maximum penalty per round.
    31-7. Disqualification Penalties
    a. Breach by One Partner

    A side is disqualified from the competition if either partner incurs a penalty of disqualification under any of the following:Rule 1-3 Agreement to Waive Rules
    Rule 3-4 Refusal to Comply with a Rule
    Rule 4 Clubs
    Rule 5-1 or 5-2 The Ball
    Rule 6-2b Handicap
    Rule 6-4 Caddie
    Rule 6-6b Signing and Returning Score Card
    Rule 6-6d Wrong Score for Hole
    Rule 6-7 Undue Delay; Slow Play
    Rule 7-1 Practice Before or Between Rounds
    Rule 10-2c Sides Agree to Play Out of Turn
    Rule 11-1 Teeing
    Rule 14-3 Artificial Devices, Unusual Equipment and Unusual Use of Equipment
    Rule 22-1 Ball Assisting Play
    Rule 31-3 Gross Scores to Count Not Individually Identifiable
    Rule 33-7 Disqualification Penalty Imposed by Committee

    b. Breach by Both Partners

    A side is disqualified from the competition:(i) if each partner incurs a penalty of disqualification for a breach of Rule 6-3 (Time of Starting and Groups) or Rule 6-8 (Discontinuance of Play), or
    (ii) if, at the same hole, each partner is in breach of a Rule the penalty for which is disqualification from the competition or for a hole.

    c. For the Hole Only
    In all other cases where a breach of a Rule would result in disqualification, the competitor is disqualified only for the hole at which the breach occurred.

    31-8. Effect Of Other Penalties
    If a competitor’s breach of a Rule assists his partner"s play, the partner incurs the applicable penalty in addition to any penalty incurred by the competitor.

    In all other cases where a competitor incurs a penalty for breach of a Rule, the penalty does not apply to his partner.