The 'Committee' in Golf and Its Duties

Illustration showing two golfers arguing
Sometimes there are arguments or disputes between golfers in competition, and one of the Committee's duties is settling such issues. Sarah Fabian-Baddiel/Heritage Images/Getty Images

The Rules of Golf make frequent reference to the "Committee," but what, exactly, is that nebulous body? The official definition of "Committee," as given by the USGA and R&A, is this:

Official Definition: "The 'Committee' is the committee in charge of the competition or, if the matter does not arise in a competition, the committee in charge of the course."

That clearly requires some expanding upon. So let's do that.

The Committee's Role and Make-Up

The Rules of Golf set down the way the game is supposed to be played. But the rules cannot and do not address every imaginable circumstance. Sometimes, disputes arise between golfers in competition, or a golfer self-reports a circumstance that requires clarification. (Perhaps the golfer is unsure whether a rules infraction occurred, or unsure how to proceed.)

The Committee that is frequently referenced in the rule book is the body that adjudicates such issues, as well as performing other duties such as overseeing golf course setup for competitions, implementing local rules, and scorekeeping for competitions (more below). 

Who makes up the Committee? Club members - your fellow golfers, perhaps even you if you belong to a club and volunteer or are selected for such duties.

Basically "committee" refers to those in charge - of your competition, of your course - of enforcing rules, settling disputes and the regulation of tournaments and handicaps.

Duties of the Committee in Golf

So what are the duties for which the Committee is responsible? Rule 33 in the Official Rules of Golf is entirely given over to the Committee, so that's a must-read.

The USGA has an info page on its website that the governing body states is intended to "remind the Committee of (its) responsibilities and to provide resources to assist the Committee in meeting its obligations."

That page divides the Committee's duties into four areas. You should check out the USGA page for the full info, but summarizing the four areas of Committee responsibility:

  1. Specifying the Competition: The format being used, eligibility requirements and entry forms/deadlines, setting flights and the schedule of play, handicapping issues.
  2. Preparing the Course: Properly marking the course for the competition.
  3. Local Rules, Notice to Players: Establish the Conditions of Competition and any Local Rules in place, and make sure all the golfers are aware of same.
  4. Starting and Scoring: Making available on the starting teeing grounds the info and scorecards golfers need; checking scorecards after the competition ends.

Many clubs and courses divide the Committee duties into committees that cover specific areas, such a rules committee, greens committee (in charge of course setup) and handicap committee.

If you're unsure about the Committee at your club, its duties, its membership, then talk to your club officials, tournament organizers or golf pros. And again, be sure to read Rule 33.