What Is Ready Golf? Methods and Rules to Speed Up Your Round

Updated July 26, 2022
Three golfers wait on a bench
    Three golfers wait on a bench

Simply put, “ready golf” is a replacement for the traditional farthest-from-the-hole system of determining order of play in golf. When implementing ready golf, the first person ready to play their shot is free to play.

Playing “Ready Golf”

Ready golf coincides with the USGA and R&A’s new pace of play rules and stays within golf etiquette practices. Playing ready golf is intended to help maintain proper pace of play, but in a safe way. With this in mind, don’t just approach your ball and whack it; make sure your playing partners and any other groups are out of the way first.

Ready golf should not be confused with being “ready to play”, which according to the R&A Pace of Play Manual, consists of simple behaviors such as arriving to your ball with your glove on, assessing your shot and making a decisive club selection while playing partners are hitting their shots. By thinking ahead, golfers can be ready to play as soon as it’s their turn.


When to Play Ready Golf

Ready golf applies everywhere, including on the tee, in the fairway and on the green. Because of some match play technicalities in the Rules of Golf, ready golf is most commonly utilized in stroke play. However, if you choose to implement ready golf in match play, be sure to review the ready golf rules for match play to protect yourself from canceled strokes.

On the Tee

Ready golf doesn’t mean first come, first served on the tee. The player with the honor should still play first. However, when a longer hitter has the honor on the tee but elects to wait for a group ahead to clear the fairway, while a shorter hitter in the group can safely tee off, the shorter hitter should go ahead and play. Allowing the shorter hitters to play first helps maintain pace of play because they’ll most likely be the first to play the next shot as well.


In the Fairway

If the group is walking, everyone should get to their ball as soon as possible. Golfers can toss out the honor system as long as they remember to play safe. While waiting to hit, players should get their numbers, check the wind, grab their club and be ready for their shot.

When a group is using golf carts, the driver should drive their partner to their ball, let them get their clubs, and instead of waiting on them to hit, drive to their own ball and get ready to hit themselves.

Nothing slows down a round of golf like the dreaded “search party.” If someone loses a ball, the other players in the group should hit their shots before helping search. The player closest to the hole should be the first to help look since they will be the last to take the next shot. Odds are, the lost ball will be found by the time the other players play, minimizing the hit to the pace of play.


On the Green

Ready golf can be used on and around the green. If someone is on the green and another person is in the bunker, the player on the green can go ahead and putt while the playing partner gets ready to take their shot. Playing a more straightforward shot before a playing partner executes one that requires more planning and focus will help keep the pace of play moving along.

Putting doesn’t have to slow down the group. There is not a time limit when it comes to putting, but a simple rule to follow is to keep it to 20 seconds or less from when it's your turn. Line up the putt and read the green while the other players are putting, so when it’s time for you to go, you’re ready to roll.

While you’re on the green, try not to waste time marking putts within a couple feet of the hole. Instead, tap it in and clear the way for your partners to finish the hole.

Finally, be mindful of where your clubs are around the green. Remember to keep your clubs on the back of the green or nearest to the next tee, so you don’t have to walk around the green to collect any loose clubs you used for your green side shot.


Ready Golf in Match Play

The “ready golf” philosophy of playing when ready, regardless of the proper order, is great for stroke play. However, in match play, it can get tricky. The Rules of Golf state, under rule 6.4a, that if you play when it is your opponent’s turn in match play, your opponent may cancel the stroke, forcing you to replay the shot.

However, to work around this technicality, the USGA has included an exception to save time that states “the player may invite the opponent to play out of turn or may agree to the opponent’s request to play out of turn. If the opponent then makes a stroke out of turn, the player has given up the right to cancel the stroke.”

It is important to note that there is no blanket agreement to allow an opponent to play out of turn. This agreement must be made in each situation that the exception is to be made.


Final Thought

Ready golf applies to every aspect of the game regardless of where you are on the course. By playing ready golf is a safe manner, you can keep your round moving and have more fun on the course.

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