In Depth: relating to the score card

ANYONE who plays regular competitions will have heard hard luck tales of prizes that would have been won if not for a mistake on the score card.

ANY golfer who regularly plays in their Club competitions will have heard hard luck tales concerning a prize that would have been won if there had not been a mistake concerning a score card.

There is usually no requirement to complete a score card in match play, so the following only applies to stroke play situations. Rule 6-6 and the Decisions thereon contain most of the important information concerning the score card.

Rule 33-5 verifies that it is the Committee’s responsibility to provide each competitor with a score card containing the date and the competitor's name or, in foursomes or four-balls, the competitors' names. But the competitor must ensure that their handicap is recorded on their score card.

If there is no handicap on the card before it is returned to the Committee following completion of the player’s round, or if the recorded handicap is higher than that to which they are entitled and this affects the number of strokes received, they are disqualified (Rule 6-2b).

If a competitor enters a handicap that is lower than that to which they are entitled the Committee will use that handicap to calculate their score. Note that Decision 6-2b/0.5 clarifies that the full handicap must be recorded on the card, notwithstanding the number of holes in the stipulated round or the competition format. The player should hand their card to their marker at the beginning of the round and after each hole the marker should check the score with the competitor and record it.

Before the score card is returned to the designated area (e.g. in a scorer’s tent, the pro shop, or a competition box) the player must ensure that the gross scores for each hole are accurately recorded and that both they and their marker have attested the scores by signing it.

If a score that is written on the score card is lower than the player’s actual score for that hole they are disqualified, but if a score that is written on the score card is higher than the player’s actual score for that hole then the higher score recorded on the score card stands. 

There are several common misconceptions about the score card. Here are the facts;

  • In foursomes and four-balls only the marker and one of the players in a side have to sign the card.
  • Full signatures are not mandatory, initials are acceptable.
  • The marker and player may sign anywhere on the card, although it obviously helps the scorer if they sign in the correct spaces provided.
  • A different card from the one issued may be returned (e.g. when the original card has been saturated by rain).
  • No initials are required for alterations made to the card. The player’s and marker’ signatures confirm any changes made.
  • It is not necessary to calculate the points scored in a Stableford competition as this is the responsibility of the Committee, as is the totalling of the gross scores for each hole and the application of the handicap. However, as someone who has had the job of checking the competition cards at my own Club, I urge you to do so; it makes life so much easier for the scorers when they only have to check them.
  • Surprisingly, there is no Rule making it mandatory for the competition date to be recorded on the card, but I recommend that it is, to avoid confusion.
  • A card may be marked by more than one person provided that each signs for the part of the round for which they are responsible.
  • The card must always be signed by both the marker and player after the round has been completed.

Note that a Committee may not, as a Condition of Competition, require that competitors must enter their scores into a computer and so players cannot be penalised for failing to do so (Decision 6-6b/8).

However, a Committee may introduce a ‘club regulation’ to this effect and provide disciplinary sanctions, such as ineligibility to play in the next club competition, for failure to enter scores in a computer provided for this purpose.


Barry Rhodes

Barry is the author of ‘999 Updated Questions on the Rules of Golf', the easiest and most enjoyable way to absorb and understand the Rules. He is an enthusiastic, high handicap golfer, resident in Dublin, Ireland, who developed an interest, then a fascination, and now an obsession with the Rules of Golf.

Barry’s relationship with the Rules began in 2000 with his participation in the inter-club Rules of Golf quiz competitions, organised by the Royal & Ancient for Golf Clubs in Great Britain and Ireland. This then led to him writing articles, running quizzes, and delivering presentations on the Rules at a variety of Golf Club and corporate functions.

In March 2008, Barry became the first person to achieve a 100% correct mark on the public Advanced Rules of Golf Course examination, run by the PGA in their headquarters at The Belfry, West Midlands, UK, and in April 2015, Barry received a ‘Pass with Distinction’ in the R&A’s Level 3, Tournament Administrators and Referees School examination, the highest certification awarded.

Barry is author of the eBook, ‘999 Updated Questions on the Rules of Golf 2012 - 2015’. To purchase the eBook, click here.

He writes a weekly web blog, containing interesting content for anyone who wishes to improve their knowledge and understanding of the Rules of Golf. To visit the blog, click here.

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