Written by Joyce McCann, 18ers Rules Chair.

First published in 2017. Updated to conform to 2019 Rules.

Rules may be applied differently in Stroke Play and Match Play – an example involving an errant drive and a careening golf cart at a team match play event.

In a recent Rossmoor team play Four Ball match at Crow Canyon Country Club, a player hooked her drive into the rough. Driving the golf cart towards her ball with her partner as passenger, she needed to quickly move the cart out of the line of play of another player. In the process, she inadvertently ran over her ball with the golf cart. The result was that the ball was moved. How does she proceed? The simplest thing would be just to replace the ball and move on, no penalty. That would be the result if this incident had occurred while searching for a ball (Rule 7.4). However, that was not the case. So the question becomes whether there is a penalty, and if so, who gets the penalty?

To solve this mystery, the first point to understand is that it was the golf cart (equipment) that moved the ball. Then, the next question is “Who did the golf cart belong to?” This is key because, if there is or is not a penalty, that will be determined by the answer to that question (Hint: It’s not necessarily the owner of the golf cart!). 

Who the golf cart belonged to may be different depending on whether the incident occurred during Stroke play or Match play, and during what kind of Match play. 

In Stroke play and individual Match play, the golf cart is the equipment of the driver, even if the golf cart owner is sitting in the passenger seat. However, in 4-Ball Match Play, as was the case in this incident, the golf cart is the equipment of both partners. 

So, what is the Ruling?. 

In Stroke Play, if the ball belonged to the driver of the cart, she would receive a 1-stroke penalty for causing her ball to move (Rule 9.4). But, if a “fellow competitor” was driving the cart, the “fellow competitor” is an outside influence, and there would be no penalty (Rule 9.6). 

In Match Play, the situation is even more complicated.  If the Match was just you against an opponent (i.e., individual match play), the penalty is different depending on who was driving the cart. If you were driving, you get the penalty; if your opponent was driving, the opponent gets the penalty (Rules 9.4 and 9.5). But, in 4-ball match play, regardless of whether you or your partner are driving the cart, the cart is the equipment of both you and your partner, and the partner whose ball it is will get the penalty (Rule 9.4 and 23.5b). 

In general, different applications of the Rules to situations in Stroke and Match play can be boiled down to the difference in defining the “unit”, as either a single player playing against the entire field (Stroke play), or, depending on the type of Match play, a player vs her opponent, or in this example a player and her partner vs an opponent and partner.