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2024 Match Guidelines for Coaches

USGA Rules apply to all competition – Please see the TMSGA Rules of Play 


  • General Guidelines
    • Approved Formats of Play for Regular Season
  • Pace of Play
  • Model Local Rules
    • Preferred Lies E3
    • Alternative to Lost Ball or Ball Out of Bounds E5
    • Ball Deflected by Power Lines E11
    • Bunker Filled with Temporary Water F16
    • Appointment of Advice Giver in Team Competition H2
    • Defining Abnormal Course Conditions and Integral Objects F1
  • Disqualification Penalties
  • Tiebreakers


General Guidelines

All matches shall be played as a 9-hole event unless inclement weather or darkness apply. In order to be counted as a date of competition, at least 5 holes must be completed by each competitor on the team.

The TMSGA will allow matches to be held on Par 3, Executive or Regulation courses. We suggest most matches be played on regulation courses since the District and Sectional championships will be played at approximately 2,400 yards for girls and 2,800 yards for boys. (per 9 holes)

Consideration should be made by the coaches on where tees are set, especially considering tee shots with forced carry over water. For pace of play purposes, tees may be set on the green side of penalty areas in these cases. 

Boys Matches: A team is allowed to play four or five players in a match. The four lowest scores are tabulated to calculate the team’s total score.

Girls Matches: A team is allowed to play two or three players in a match. The two lowest scores are tabulated to calculate the team’s total score. 

Approved formats for the regular season:

  • Stroke Play – USGA Rule 3.3

  • Match Play – USGA Rule 3.2

  • Foursomes (Alternate Shot - Stroke play or Match play) – USGA Rule 22

  • Three-Ball Match Play - USGA Rule 21.4

  • Four-Ball (Stroke or Match play) – USGA Rule 23

  • Stableford – USGA Rule 21.1

USGA Rule 21.2  (Maximum Score) will be in place for all competitions.   A maximum of triple bogey on each hole in all the above mentioned formats. Rule 3-3c (Failure to Hole Out) will NOT be in effect.  Once a competitor has reached this maximum, he/she must pick up his/her ball and record a triple bogey on the scorecard and move on to the next hole. 


Pace of Play 

A player shall be subject to penalty if he/she delays play. It is the coach’s responsibility to teach players how to play at a good pace. The following is a great list of pace of play tips. 

  • Be ready when it is your turn to play. You have 40 seconds to make all decisions and execute your shot.

  • Watch where your ball lands so you can find it easily.

  • Walk directly to your ball.

  • Think about what club you are going to hit while walking to your ball. 

  • Leave your clubs on the side of the green closest to the next tee.

  • Record scores while you are walking to the next tee – not on the green.

  • If a player believes his ball to be lost or out of bounds, hit a provisional ball (USGA Rule 18.3). 

  • Keep up with the group in front of you.

  • Once your score equals triple bogey, pick up your ball and move along with your group.

  • Putts within a close distance to the hole can be finished without marking.


Model Local Rules (found in the USGA Official Guide to the Rules of Golf)

Before the match begins, the coaches should decide if any local rules will be adopted for play that day.  Several options are listed below for your convenience.  More information can be found at  


E-3 Preferred Lies

Purpose. When occasional local abnormal conditions might interfere with fair play, the affected parts of the course can be defined as ground under repair. But adverse conditions such as heavy snows, spring thaws, prolonged rains or extreme heat can sometimes damage the course or prevent use of heavy mowing equipment.

When such conditions are widespread on the course, the Committee can choose to adopt a Local Rule for “preferred lies” (also known as “winter rules”) to allow fair play or help protect the fairway. Such a Local Rule should be withdrawn as soon as conditions allow.

The use of this Local Rule outside the fairway in the general area is not recommended as it may result in a player receiving free relief from areas where a ball might otherwise be unplayable (such as in areas of bushes or trees).

It is not authorized to implement this Local Rule once play has begun for a stroke-play round. Doing so would allow players who have more holes to play the advantage of using it for a longer period of time. The Local Rule could be implemented once a match has begun between the play of two holes as opponents have an equal benefit.

Model Local Rule E-3

“When a player’s ball lies in a part of the general area cut to fairway height or less [or identify a specific area such as ‘on the fairway of the 6th hole’], the player may take free relief once by placing the original ball or another ball in and playing it from this relief area:

  • Reference Point: Spot of the original ball.

  • Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: [Specify size of relief area, such as one club-length, one scorecard length or 6 inches] from the reference point, but with these limits:

  • Limits on Location of Relief Area:

    • Must not be nearer the hole than the reference point, and

    • Must be in the general area.

In proceeding under this Local Rule, the player must choose a spot to place the ball and use the procedures for replacing a ball under Rules 14.2b(2) and 14.2e.

The player must mark the ball before lifting.

Penalty for Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Local Rule: General Penalty Under Rule 14.7a.”


E-5 Alternative to Stroke and Distance for Lost Ball or Ball Out of Bounds

Purpose. When a provisional ball has not been played, significant issues with pace of play can result for a player needing to take stroke-and-distance relief for a ball that is out of bounds or cannot be found. The purpose of this Local Rule is to allow a Committee to provide an extra relief option that allows a player to play on without returning to the location of the previous stroke.

The Local Rule is appropriate for general play where golfers are playing casual rounds or playing their own competitions. The Local Rule is not appropriate for competitions limited to highly skilled players (that is, professional competitions and elite amateur competitions). 

Where a Committee has introduced such a Local Rule for general play, and removes it for competitions, it should ensure that all players are aware of this before play begins.

A Committee may introduce such a Local Rule for all play on the course or only for one or two specific holes where it may be especially useful (for example, where players are unable to see the landing area and therefore may not know whether or not to play a provisional ball).

This option allows the player to drop in a large area between the point where the ball is estimated to have come to rest or gone out of bounds and the edge of the fairway of the hole being played that is not nearer the hole.

The player gets two penalty strokes when using this relief option. This means that the relief is comparable to what could have been achieved if the player had taken stroke-and-distance relief.

This Local Rule cannot be used for an unplayable ball, or for a ball that is known or virtually certain to be in a penalty area.

If a provisional ball is played and neither the original ball nor the provisional ball can be found, then the Local Rule may be applied for the provisional ball that cannot be found.

Model Local Rule E-5

“When a player’s ball has not been found or is known or virtually certain to be out of bounds, the player may proceed as follows rather than proceeding under stroke and distance.

For two penalty strokes, the player may take relief by dropping the original ball or another ball in this relief area (see Rule 14.3):

Two Estimated Reference Points:

a. Ball Reference Point: The point where the original ball is estimated to have:

b. Fairway Reference Point: The point of fairway of the hole being played that is nearest to the ball reference point, but is not nearer the hole than the ball reference point.

For purposes of this Local Rule, “fairway” means any area of grass in the general area that is cut to fairway height or less.

If a ball is estimated to be lost on the course or last crossed the edge of the course boundary short of the fairway, the fairway reference point may be a grass path or a teeing ground for the hole being played cut to fairway height or less.

Size of Relief Area Based on Reference Points: Anywhere between:

  • A line from the hole through the ball reference point (and within two club-lengths to the outside of that line), and

  • A line from the hole through the fairway reference point (and within two club-lengths to the fairway side of that line).

But with these limits:

Limits on Location of Relief Area:

  • Must be in the general area, and

  • Must not be nearer the hole than the ball reference point.

Once the player puts a ball in play under this Local Rule:

  • The original ball that was lost or out of bounds is no longer in play and must not be played.

  • This is true even if the ball is found on the course before the end of the three-minute search time (see Rule 6.3b).

But the player may not use this option to take relief for the original ball when:

A player may use this option to take relief for a provisional ball that has not been found or is known or virtually certain to be out of bounds.

Penalty for Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Local Rule: General Penalty Under Rule 14.7a.”


E-11 Ball Deflected by Power Line

Purpose. If a permanent overhead power line may interfere with the reasonable play of a hole, a Committee can require that if a ball hits the power line (and towers, support wires or poles supporting the power line), the stroke does not count and the player must play the stroke again. This Local Rule should not generally be used for power lines that do not interfere with play of a hole or are out of bounds.

A Local Rule that gives a player the option to replay the stroke for a ball that hits a power line should not be implemented.

Model Local Rule E-11

“If it is known or virtually certain that a player’s ball hit a power line [or tower or a wire or pole supporting a power line] during the play of [specify hole number], the stroke does not count. The player must play a ball without penalty from where the previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6 for what to do).

Penalty for Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Local Rule: General Penalty Under Rule 14.7a.”


F-16 Bunker Filled with Temporary Water

Purpose. If a bunker is flooded, free relief under Rule 16.1c may not be sufficient to allow for fair play. A Committee can choose to treat that bunker as ground under repair in the general area from which free relief is allowed outside the bunker.

The Committee should only use this Local Rule on a case-by-case basis and is not authorized to make a Local Rule providing generally that all flooded bunkers are ground under repair.

Model Local Rule F-16

“The flooded bunker on [insert location of bunker; for example, left of 5th green] is ground under repair in the general area. It is not treated as a bunker during the round.

If the player’s ball lies in or touches this ground under repair or the ground under repair interferes with the player’s stance or area of intended swing, the player may take free relief under Rule 16.1b.

All other bunkers on the course, whether they contain temporary water or not, are still bunkers for all purposes under the Rules.

Penalty for Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Local Rule: General Penalty Under Rule 14.7a.”


H-2 Appointment of Advice Giver in Team Competitions(the TMSGA allows for one advice giver)

Purpose. Under Rule 24.4a, in a team competition the Committee can allow each team to name one or two people who may give advice to team members while they are playing on the course:

  • Any “advice giver” must be identified to the Committee before giving advice.

  • The Committee can limit the types of advice that this person may give (such as not allowing the advice giver to point out the line of play when a ball lies on the putting green).

  • The Committee can prohibit an advice giver from walking on certain parts of the course (such as putting greens).

  • It is not normal for a Committee to allow two advice givers per team, unless the nature of the competition warrants it, for example in a competition where no caddies are permitted or there is a large number of players on each team.

  • The Committee should determine the appropriate penalty for a violation by an advice giver. This may be a penalty to a specific player who was assisted in a prohibited manner or an overall penalty for the team, for example the addition of two strokes to the team’s score in a stroke-play event.

Model Local Rule H-2

“Each team may name [one/two] advice giver[s] whom players on the team may ask for advice and receive advice from during the round. The team must identify each advice giver to the Committee before any player on the team begins his or her round.

[The team may change its advice giver during the round, but must tell the Committee when it is doing so.]

[The advice giver must not point out a line of play [or walk on the putting green] when the ball of a team player lies on the putting green.]”

F-1 Defining Abnormal Course Conditions and Integral Objects

Purpose. There are many ways in which a Committee can define abnormal course conditions (free relief) and integral objects (no relief) on the course and so it is not appropriate or possible to provide a complete list of Model Local Rules that can be used for this purpose.

The key is to be clear and specific when defining abnormal course conditions and integral objects in the Local Rules.

The Committee has the scope to adopt Local Rules for the following purposes without the need for them to fit with the Model Local Rules detailed in Section 2:

  • Clarifying the status of objects that may be obstructions.

  • Declaring any artificial object to be an integral object (and not an obstruction).

  • Declaring artificial surfaces and edges of roads to be integral objects.

  • Declaring roads and paths that don’t have artificial surfaces and edges to be obstructions if they could unfairly affect play.

  • Defining temporary obstructions on the course or next to the course as movable, immovable or temporary immovable obstructions.

No specific Model Local Rules are included in this section given the variety of options available, but some examples are provided below:


Starting Procedures

 At each match, coaches who are starting should review all of the bullets below with each group:

  • Have players introduce themselves to one another.

  • Hand out scorecards so a player is not given their own scorecard. 

  • Have players show their golf ball at the first hole to ensure players are not playing the same ball. Each ball should have a unique mark in order to identify the ball on the golf course (use of sharpie pen is best).

  • Inform players as to what colored tees they will be playing that day. 

  • Inform the players of any specific local rules (See options on Local Rules above).

  • Remind players of the pace of play and 40 seconds to play their shot.

  • Remind players to fix ball marks and divots and smooth bunkers.

  • Remind players of Rule 20.1c(3) if they have a Rules question and can’t find a coach to ask. Rule 20.1c(3) allows a player to hole out two (2) golf balls if they are in doubt on how to proceed. 

  • Remind players of the triple bogey maximum stroke rule. 

  • Make sure all players tee off on time.


Disqualification Penalties

Due to the nature of the team competition and maximum stroke rule, the TMSGA has determined that the only disqualification penalty that can be enforced is for an incorrect scorecard, Rule 3.3(b), or player etiquette (throwing clubs, swearing, etc.). If it is determined that a player has proceeded incorrectly under another rule, such as Lost Ball, Ball Out of Bounds or Wrong Ball, the player must record the maximum score for that hole.



District Tournaments – For teams, we will take the next score – 5th for boys and 3rd for girls to determine which team(s) will advance. If a tie still exists, or one of the teams doesn’t have an additional score (5th score for boys and 3rd score for girls) please contact the TMSGA office for further instruction. 

For individuals, if there is a tie for the second individual position (top two individuals on non-qualifying teams advance to Region Tournament) if possible, we will have a sudden death playoff to see who will advance to the regional. For all individual playoffs, the triple bogey maximum stroke rule is NOT in effect. If a sudden death playoff is not possible, we will use the USGA method for scorecard playoffs.  Match scorecards to determine the winner based on the score for the last 6 holes, last 3 holes and finally the 9th hole.

Sectional and State Tournaments – Information will be printed on the notice to competitors.