What Is the 'Cut Line' in Golf Tournaments?

A golf scoreboard that shows the current cutline
This leaderboard says the cutline is 'currently' at 2-under because the cutline can move up or down during play. Paul Kane/Getty Images

The "cut line" is the score that represents the dividing point between golfers who continue playing and those who are cut from the field in a golf tournament.

Many golf tournaments employ a cut that trims the field down to only the top scorers at a certain point in the tournament. After two rounds of a 4-round tournament, for example, the field might be cut, with the bottom half going home and the top half continuing through completion of the tournament.

The cut line is the score that players must have in order to continue playing. For example, if the cut line is +4, then all golfers in the tournament who are at +4 or better continue; those worse than +4 are cut from the field.

That specific number is not known prior to the start of the tournament - only the cut rule used in the tournament is known. On the European Tour, the cut rule is that the Top 65 players plus ties advance; those players outside the Top 65 are cut. So in this example, the cut line is the score that gets the player inside the Top 65 plus ties. That might be 3-under, 1-over or 12-over, depending on the scores of the leaders and the field.

For some specific cut rules, see:

How The Cut Line Works

So the cut line is a fluid number that changes depending on how well, or poorly, the field as a whole is scoring.

At the midway point of the second round, it might appear that +3 will be the cut line; but if players on the course start making a lot of birdies or a lot of bogeys, that number might move in either direction, higher or lower. The cut line can change to +2 or +4 or some other number.

The cut rule stays the same, but the specific score it takes to make the cut - the cut line - changes depending on scores being posted by the players.

This is why it is not uncommon to hear television announcers on broadcasts of pro tournaments refer to the cut line "moving" or saying "the cut line just moved" to a new score.

The cut line "moves" - goes up a stroke or down a stroke - in reaction to scores being posted on the golf course. Remember the European Tour example above? That tour's cut rule is Top 65 golfers plus ties. The golfer(s) in 65th place might be at, say, 4-over par. But then a bunch of birdies are recorded, causing the cut line to change to 3-over (the birdies mean a better score is required to get into the Top 65). Or, conversely, if golfers still on the course start making bogeys, the cut line can move higher, in this example to 5-over (because those bogeys allow golfers with higher scores to move into the Top 65). Just remember: The cut line is fluid, the cut rule is not.