Furthest Putts First

Consider the following situation. You and three friends are on the course and have made your way towards a long narrow green. Two of you are on the green, far from the hole. One is in the rough just off the green and one is in a greenside bunker. What is the order of play? Does the player that is off the green always play first?

The simple answer is, not always. A player on the green might be the next player in the group to play before a player off the green. But this is only the case if the player on the green is farther from the hole. It’s considered common golf etiquette that the player farthest from the hole plays first.

Anyone that has played the game knows that whoever is away will play first on the next stroke. However, this often becomes a confusion for many weekend players when it applies to the greens. Many believe that a player off the putting surface always plays first. However, if that player is in a greenside bunker near the cup and the other player has a putt longer in distance, the player on the green is first. By Rule 10, the golfer farthest from the hole, no matter where the ball lies, will play first.

One must be aware that the player on the green that is farther from the hole doesn’t have to play before someone closer that is off the green. A long, multiple break putt may be tricky to read. Therefore, the player facing this type of putt may agree to let the player off the green who is closer play first.

An interesting aspect of this is that in stroke play competition, there is no penalty for playing out of order, so long as the members in your group agree upon it. In a match play scenario, playing out of order is going against the rules. In fact, if you play your shot closer to the hole first in this situation, your opponent can require you to play your shot over.

To avoid confusion for the weekend golfers about the order or play, your group can agree to play when ready. That means as it sounds. If you are ready to play your shot, just play it without regards to who is farthest from the hole. This can make recreational golf much more enjoyable and quicker. However, this must be avoided in tournament play.