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How to Conduct a Competition


3. Format

A competition cannot be played until the Committee decides on the format.

a. Match Play

If the Committee wishes to conduct a match play competition, it must decide on the form of play, (i.e., singles, foursome or fourball), the number of flights, the number of players or sides in each flight, how the players or teams in each flight are to be determined, the pairing method for each flight and whether the competition is to be at scratch or on a handicap basis.

Customarily the number of players or sides in a flight is 8, 16, 32 or 64.

The players or sides in each flight may be determined on the basis of handicaps in which case, if there are to be flights of 16, the 16 players with the lowest handicaps (or the 16 sides with the lowest combined handicaps) should comprise the Championship Flight, the next best 16 players or teams based on handicaps should comprise the Second Flight, and so on.

The most commonly used method of determining the players or sides for each flight is a strokeplay qualifying round or rounds. If this method is used and there are to be flights of 16, the 16 players or teams with the lowest scores in the qualifying competition should comprise the Championship Flight. If there are to be flights other than the Championship Flight, the 16 players or teams with the next lowest scores should comprise the Second Flight, and so on. It is recommended that a tie for last place in a Championship Flight be decided by a hole-by-hole play-off and that players should be advised in advance as to the time and place of the play-off — see Section 2-7. If a play-off is not feasible, ties should be decided by matching score cards — see Section 2-7(iii) for the USGA’s recommended method.

In the case of a handicap match play competition in which flights are to be determined by a qualifying round, the qualifying round may be conducted at scratch or on a handicap basis. If it is desired not to have high- and low-handicap players competing against one another in matches, qualifying at scratch is recommended.

Although the draw for match play may be completely blind or certain players may be distributed throughout different quarters or eighths, the General Numerical Draw is recommended if flights are determined by a qualifying round. Under the General Numerical Draw, each player is assigned a number based on his qualifying score. The lowest qualifier is No. 1, the second lowest qualifier is No. 2, and so on.

For purposes of determining places in the draw, ties in qualifying rounds other than those for the last qualifying place must be decided by the order in which scores are returned, the first score to be returned receiving the lowest available number, etc. If it is impossible to determine the order in which scores are returned, ties must be determined by a blind draw. If players start from the 1st and 10th tees during stroke play qualifying, it is recommended that a blind draw be used for ties.

Under the General Numerical Draw, players are paired by number for matches as follows:


If there are insufficient players to complete a flight, byes are used to complete it. If there is one bye, the player in the No. 1 position in the draw should receive it. If there are two byes, the players in the No. 1 and No. 2 positions in the draw should receive them, and so on. If the competition is made up of numerous flights, the Committee should fill as many flights as possible before using the byes. The byes should be used in completing the last flight.

Appendix A contains the match play flight of 64 players for the 2003 U.S. Amateur Championship. In this event, the defending champion is not exempt from qualifying and the General Numerical Draw is used.

The question of whether a defending champion should be required to qualify is up to the Committee, which should announce its decision in advance. In a USGA match play championship, the defending champion is not exempt from qualifying because the event is a test of current ability and the strokeplay phase is considered an important part of the competition. If the defending champion is exempt from qualifying, it is customary, if the General Numerical Draw is used, for the defending champion to be given the No. 1 position, the lowest qualifier the No. 2 position, and so on.

If the defending champion is exempt from qualifying and elects to compete for a prize in the qualifying round, equity would seem to require that he forfeit his automatic qualification and compete on the same basis as all of the other competitors in that round. The Committee may prohibit an exempt defending champion from competing in the qualifying round.

The lowest qualifier for match play is known as the “medalist.” Typically, a prize of some sort is given in recognition of this accomplishment. At USGA championships, the lowest qualifying scorer is given a bronze medal. If there is a tie, duplicate prizes are awarded. There is no play-off for the No. 1 position in the draw. A blind draw should be used to determine who receives this spot.

Consolation Flights may be arranged for players who lose first-round matches. In making up the draw for the Consolation Flights, losing players take positions in the same sequence as in the original draw.

If a player defaults in the first round, the Committee must determine whether he is eligible to compete in a Consolation Flight. If the player has an acceptable reason for defaulting, he should be allowed to compete. If he has no acceptable reason, he should be considered to have eliminated himself from further competition.

There are many popular forms of play at the club and local level that are not expressly covered by the Rules of Golf. The following decisions are applicable only in the United States and speak to two very popular such forms of play.

It is recommended that a penalty in this form of play should be incurred only if related to the ball ultimately holed out by the side. Thus, as the ball played by B from the tee was ultimately holed out, the side should not have incurred a penalty because B played a stroke with a wrong ball instead of A’s ball.


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