The Continuation Rule
By JimmerSD on 9/13/10
We asked for readers to send in blog posts- and Jim Daly didn't disappoint. Here is a lesson he learned recently. Enjoy!

I played in a casual tournament recently where I was paired with a newbie golfer. Since I've been swinging the stick for a while, I thought that I was pretty well versed in the rules of the game.

During the round my partner questioned whether one had the right to continue play after he had putted or was he required to relinquish the order of play to the player further away? My partner had always been polite enough to ask me for the right to putt out. I on the other hand, would more forcefully declare that I was going to “finish”, implicitly, whether he liked it or not.

Asserting my "many" years of experience, I insisted that I had the right to finish putting based on something called the "Continuation Rule". He differed; saying that USGA rules said that the player further from the hole had the right to play at all times. I insisted that although his point was technically correct that in this instance I was correct based on my superior knowledge and experience. He was happy to allow me to win the debate or maybe just got tired of arguing.

You might ask where I found this unique rule? I honestly don't know. I guess I picked it up over the years and never bothered to research its legitimacy. It just seemed natural.

There are a lot of golfers who are intent to play to the letter of golf law, to the exclusion of everyone else around them and this is fine if you have the course to yourself and your foursome. Then there are many more players, who like me, have struck an intermediate course between "real world" golf and the USGA hardcore interpretation of the game. In the name of expediency we've taken some latitude with the rules. Not to give ourselves an advantage over our compatriots or to cheat, but rather to keep from being hit in the back of the head by the players behind us. And as a matter course we all have become lawyers arguing interpretations of golf rules. Granted that can be part of the fun of the game!

Most of us have included "ready golf" rules into our regular rounds. Ready golf, although a good idea, is not golf by the rules as set forth by USGA and the R&A.

As it turns out though, we were both right.

There are justifiable reasons for both attitudes about putting out. And both can be valid under the USGA Rule Book.

Is there a "Continuation Rule"? Yes, but it only applies to play from the tee on an out of bounds shot. Does it apply on the green? No.

So, back to the original question "Do I have to ask to putt out?" Yes, and No. I'll reference stroke play first because that is the format common to most of us.
From 2010 USGA Rules of Golf:

10-2. Stroke Play

c. Playing Out of Turn

If a competitor plays out of turn, there is no penalty and the ball is played as it lies. If, however, the committee determines that competitors have agreed to play out of turn to give one of them an advantage, they are disqualified
This seems to indicate the decision to putt out is in the hands of the player who is in motion and even if he does play out of turn there is no penalty. What's done is done. Let's call it a breach of etiquette. But if the closer player makes his shot in an effort to give the further player a read on the line of putt, you both go off to DQ city.

There can be a real penalty in Match Play
From 2010 USGA Rules of Golf:

10-1 Match Play

c. Playing Out of Turn

If a player plays when his opponent should have played, there is no penalty, but the opponent may immediately require the player to cancel the stroke so made and, in correct order, play a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played (see Rule 20-5).
Here it depends on who you are playing and whether they want to make you make that birdie putt again. This is obviously a nod to gamesmanship.
The only instance that I can find where it is legal to continue your play is under Rule 22-2. But only if your competitor asks you to lift and mark your ball. If your putt is on the line of a competitor and inhibits their shot, you do have the option to putt out.
From 2010 USGA Rules of Golf:

22-2. Ball Interfering with Play

Except when a ball is in motion, if a player considers that another ball might interfere with his play, he may have it lifted.
A ball lifted under this Rule must be replaced (see Rule 20-3). The ball must not be cleaned, unless it lies on the putting green (see Rule 21).

In stroke play, a player required to lift his ball may play first rather than lift the ball.
Is there a Continuation Rule? No. But there is an answer; when in doubt, ask. It doesn't hurt and adds civility to the game.

Hit 'em straight and have fun!

This was written by Jim Daly, a reader/follower/fellow oober and the opinions are 100% his and do not reflect those of oobgolf in anyway. Enjoy! I'm sure he's ready for your feedback.

photo source

[ comments ]
birdieXris says:
Well put. I think calling it a "continuation rule" is definitely a little misleading. It's more so a continuation "in equity", as you'll see throughout the ROG. People "finish" not only to be in the hole, but to get the mark out of the other players way because lets face it... it's maddening to have your putt bounce offline because someone wanted to mark when they're a foot away.

You can use finishing out to game the other guy too and actually give him a penalty. If you're over your putt and he says he'll finish and you say no and he putts anyway when you do, he's guilty of breach of rule 16-1f: playing while ball in motion on a putting green. Since it was your turn to play and he putted while your ball was in motion, he is assessed 2 strokes. I don't know why that rule was invented but maybe for just that reason. It's dick to use, but still within the rules. I think it's also because i've seen a lot of guys who want to "finish" from like 5 feet.
birdieXris says:
Another seldom enforced rules violation: saying "sure, take your time" when someone wants to finish is actually a penalty. it's considered giving information on how to play the shot. (not the "sure" part obviously, the take your time part).
Banker85 says:
i just ask "mind if i clean it up?" anything outside of 4 feet i will mark. if they say let me putt i will just mark it without regard to being in there line, if they want my to move my ball marker all they have to do is ask. I only do that if i have a 1 footer and they wont let me play it out. ya one dick move results in another.
bkuehn1952 says:
I putt and my ball is now 18 inches from the hole. I want to putt out but a jackass in the foursome says "no", he is away and he wants to play. Okay, leave your ball where it is. If the jackass putts and hits your ball, it is a 2 stroke penalty on him. If he asks you to mark, you then have the right to putt-out based on 22-2 ("In stroke play, a player required to lift his ball may play first rather than lift the ball".)
Sparker1969 says:
I thought this was going to be about the Calvin Johnson "touchdown pass" at the end of the Lions/ Bears game yesterday.
trikai says:
Friends don't let friends four putt.
jev says:
I always hole out if within a foot or so. Any further I ask.

On a sidenote, I am once again amazed by a statement like this: "to keep from being hit in the back of the head by the players behind us.".

Is that really that much of an issue in the US? I've never had that happen here in the Netherlands and with the sue-ing culture you guys got I would not expect this to be an issue there...
JimmerSD says:
@Jev You would be surprised how many golfers in the US are willing to surrender to their emotions and "send a message" to the perceived slow group. Slow play adds stress to what can be a stressful game. I have been hit into, through no fault of my own and I've played with guys who have actually hit the ball back at the offender. Considering the skill level of the average golfer, even if they do intentionally hit into the group, the odds are astronomical that they would do any damage.

Sue Culture? The Press may have oversold that image, I can't say I've personally known a party to a law suit that began on the golf course..
Tim Horan says:
The interpretation and etiquette handed down to me was always...You ask first in stroke play and in match play you mark. Putting out in match play should never happen anyway. If you are that close to holing your last putt the tap-in should be conceded. Match play - If you are putting long distance for a birdie and leave it 3'0 long/ shy and then putt out you have put pressure on your opponent to get a par. If your opponent then gets his par the pressure is back on you to make that 3'0 par. That 3'0 putt looks a whole lot harder as a must make half.
Tim Horan says:
I cannot see that a ball declared abandoned by the player can possibly be searched for by his opponents and brought back into play. I am thinking here of Tigers Putt a couple of years ago at the Masters where he de-greened into Raes Creek. He then placed another ball on the green took the penalty and putted out. His opponents all knew where his ball was but had no recourse to make him play it which would have meant taking a drop and chipping either from a DZ or some other point no nearer the hole. Once a ball is declared lost or abandoned that ball is not in play.
Tim Horan says:
Sorry guys- I cut and pasted the two comments into the wrong POST I am having difficulty sending in posts at the moment my computer kicks me out each time
salmonmaster says:
My playing partner play his shot from the fringe of the green with his putter and said he would finish when his ball came to rest three feet from the hole. Can you continue playing first if you start from off the green? My ball was away and we were playing match play. Would it make a difference if we were playing stroke play?
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