Rules of Golf

Rules of Golf Review: I'm on the green, my opponent is not. Who's away?

April 12, 2023

Ian Logan

Before stepping too far off the tee here, let’s preface everything we are writing with a simple message: Anything you can do to speed up a round that doesn’t impact the outcome of a competition, however serious the “competition” is, should be done. Period. Even the Rules of Golf encourages “ready golf” (Rule 5.6), meaning in stroke play, you can play in any order. So grab a club and hit already!

However, there are certain situations, specifically during a match-play competition where there is an order that needs to be followed. Rule 6.4 says that if you play when it's not your turn, your opponent has the right to cancel that stroke and make you replay in the proper order. It has happened in big moments. Annika Sorenstam chipped in for Team Europe during the 2000 Solheim Cup but was deemed to have played when it wasn't her turn. She had to hit the chip again, missed, and her European side eventually lost the match. Remember that the next time you're playing a match.


U.S. Solheim Cup captain Pat Bradley turns to Annika Sorenstam after the Americans said she played her shot out of turn during the compeltion in 2000.

Warren Little

It's worth noting that two sides in a match can agree to waive the order-of-play rule from shot to shot. You can't waive the rule entirely before the match, but if at any point, it makes sense to play out of order—for any reason—you can do so with the agreement.

Back to the question in the headline: Once play on a hole has begun, the player farthest from the cup should play first. It doesn't matter where the player's ball rests. If your ball is just off the green, say 30 feet from the hole, and your opponent is on the green but has a 35-foot putt, he or she is supposed to play first. This rule is often misunderstood. Being on the green is irrelevant.

What if both balls are equidistant from the hole? Then you and your opponent should decide who goes first. You can even flip a coin.