Rules of Golf—Slow Play


Author: Keri Schmit

How long should it take you to hit a golf shot?

It may sound like an easy question, but do you know the answer? Do some research and you’ll find a lot on the subject of “timing,” but not a whole lot on “time.”

In the book “Golf’s 8 Second Secret: What Separates Golf’s Greatest Champions,” written by PGA Pro Mike Bender and amateur Michael Mercier, creates some debate about how long it should take to make a shot. The authors argue that from the time you set your lead foot, step over the ball, and swing to the finish, it should only take eight seconds. Now tell that to the pros!

The Rules of Golf, published by the U.S. Golf doesn’t specify a time limit in which a golfer must play a shot. The rules make it clear that slow play is discouraged. There are individual tournament committees to set more specific regulations to encourage a reasonable rate of play, also known as the tournament’s “pace-of-play” policy.

Below are the Rules of Golf pertaining to slow play:

Undue Delay/Slow Play

The player must play without undue delay and in accordance with any pace-of-play guidelines that the Committee establishes. Between completion of a hole and playing from the next tee, the player must not delay play.

Rules of Golf - Slow Play


  • Match play – Loss of hole (committee may modify the penalty).
  • Stroke play – Two strokes (committee may modify the penalty).
  • Bogey and par competitions – Deduct one hole from the aggregate of holes.
  • Stableford competitions – Deduct two points from the total points scored for the round.
  • For subsequent offence – Disqualification.

Note 1: If the player unduly delays play between holes, he is delaying the play of the next hole and the penalty, except for bogey, par and Stableford competitions, applies to that hole.

Note 2: For the purpose of preventing slow play, the Committee may, in the conditions of a competition, establish pace of play guidelines including maximum periods of time allowed to complete a stipulated round, a hole or a stroke.

(See Rule 6-7)

Ball Overhanging Hole

When any part of the ball overhangs the lip of the hole, the player is allowed enough time to reach the hole without unreasonable delay and an additional ten seconds to determine whether the ball is at rest. If the ball falls into the hole before 10 seconds of player reaching the hole passes, then the player is considered to have holed out without penalty. If the player reaches the ball, waits 10 seconds, then the ball falls into the hole, then the player is penalized one stroke.

(See Rule 16-2)

Golf ball at edge of hole


Other Delays

a. Stroke and Distance

A player may at any time play a ball as close as possible to the spot where the original ball was last played under a one stroke penalty.

b. Ball Out of Bounds

If a ball is out of bounds, the player must play a new ball under penalty of one stroke, as close as possible to the spot from which the original ball was last played.

Rules of Golf: out of bounds

c. Lost Ball

If you lose your ball, you only have five minutes to locate it. A player’s team or their caddies can assist in the search. But if the ball can’t be located in those five minutes, the player suffers a one-stroke penalty.

The player then must play a new ball as close as possible to the spot where the original ball was last played. For example, if a player tees off and loses their ball in the woods, he must go back to the tee and hit again.


  • Match pay results in loss of hole
  • Stroke play results in a two stroke penalty

(See Rules 20-5, 27-1)

Who Governs the Rules of Golf

Together with the United States Golf Association, The R&A governs the sport of golf worldwide, operating in separate jurisdictions. Their adoption of a single set of Rules established a common code by which all of golf is played worldwide.

It’s more than just a Rules book, it helps inform and guide a game that always seeks to challenge and inspire.

Click for the full details of the rules listed in this article.

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