Discontinuance of Play: Official Golf Rules

By Steve Silverman

golfer hits a shot from the fairway
There are specific rules for when a golfer can leave the golf course or stop playing during an official USGA (United States Golf Association) tournament or match. These rules have to be followed and golfers cannot just take it upon to leave the course because it is raining or windy. The only time a golfer may leave the course is if lightning has been seen.

Stopping play

When engaged in an official golf tournament or match, the USGA has a committee on hand to oversee any question on the rules. This includes the continuance of play. The committee will decide when to continue or stop play based on the weather and the weather report. A player who stops play on his own must report to the committee and explain his action. If the explanation is satisfactory, there is no penalty. If the explanation does not meet the committee's standards, than the player is disqualified according to the official rules.

Lifting the ball

When play is suspended during the middle of a match or a tournament, the player is allowed to pick his ball ("lifting the ball') up from the course. However, he must mark the course with a specific ball marker so he knows exactly where the ball was at the time play was stopped. If wind, rain or other weather conditions have moved the marker, the player must try to put the ball back in its original position. If the player has seen lightning or the committee has reported lightning, the player is to leave the course immediately without picking up his ball or marking it. If the ball is missing when he returns or it has moved, the player may return it to its original position as best he can without penalty.


When play is discontinued in a golf tournament or match because of darkness, the player is allowed to finish the hole he is on under most circumstances. There are some circumstances where the player will mark his ball and leave it at the spot at darkness and then resume play the next day, and that usually occurs when the word is put out to stop play and the news gets to the players later. That can happen if the group is spread out on a particular hole and the official walking with the group needs time to let everyone know. It could take more than five minutes for the official to let all players know what has been decided regarding continued play.

About the Author

Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman authored The Minnesota Vikings: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and Who's Better, Who's Best in Football -- The Top 60 Players of All-Time, among others, and placed in the Pro Football Writers of America awards three times. Silverman holds a Master of Science in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism.