Rule 10 of Golf: Order of Play

Stanley Ladies Golf Tournament - Round Two
Atsushi Tomura / Stringer Getty

According to the United States Golfers' Association (USGA)'s "The Official Rules of Golf," the 10th rule of golf defines the order in which players tee-off and play through a hole, depending on which type of game the players are engaging in against one another.

Rule 10-1 dictates match play, which takes place between two players keeping track of how well they are doing relative to one another, and that players must draw to determine who goes first. Similarly, Rule 10-2 dictates rules for stroke play, where players must also draw to see who goes first initially but proceed through each hole with the person with the lowest score at the prior hole taking the first shot at the next tee-off.

In both of these cases, there are a few subtle differences between the rules for each type of game, which will be explained in more detail below, but both are equally important to playing a fair and cordial round of golf with friend or competitor alike.

Rule 10-1: Match Play

In the first round of match play, a draw should be used to determine which side has the honor at the first teeing ground, but in subsequent holes during the match, the side which scored the lowest should tee off — unless the hole is halved, in which case the first side retains the honor at the next hole.

During play after the first stroke of each player, the ball furthest from the hole continues to play first, but if the balls somehow end up equidistance from the hole, the first stroke should be determined by lot.

However, there are exceptions to this rule contained in Rule 30-3b, wherein best-ball and four-ball match play are considered. Also, it's important to note that if a ball is not played as it lies, the distance from the previous stroke is used to determine who goes first and the player then takes a penalty if applicable per Rule 20-5.

If a player happens to play out of turn, though, there is no penalty, but the opponent may immediately require the player cancel his or her stroke and play a ball in the correct order as nearly as possible to its last played location.

Rule 10-2: Stroke Play

In the first round of stroke play, the competitor who has the honor is determined by the order of the draw or a lot if a draw is absent. Like in match play, the next hole is played by the competitor with the lowest score on the previous hole, and the second-lowest plays next, and so on until all players have gone. If more than one player scores the same on the prior hole, they continue in their original order behind anyone who scored lower than themselves.

During play of the hole, the competitor whose ball is farthest from the hole is played first, again like in match play, but there are again exceptions to both of these rules — Rule 32-1 for handicap bogeys, par and Stableford competitions, Rules 22 for ball assisting or interfering with play, and Rule 31-4 for four-ball stroke play.

It's important to note that, like with match play, balls that are not played as they lie are gauged from the location the original ball was played per Rule 20-5. Also, if a competitor plays out of turn and the Committee determines that competitors have agreed to play out of turn to give one of them an advantage, they are disqualified.