Who Plays and Putts First?

Keiser University Question of the Month:
Who Plays and Putts First?

By Brian Hughes, PGA Master Professional

Can’t we just be nice and decide among us whose turn it is to play? Outside of competition, I would say the answer is yes. Whoever is ready to play, provided the coast is clear, should go first, and the United States Golf Association agrees, especially if you are trying to catch up with the group in front of you.

In competition, it is a little more formal than that, since the order of play could help a player determine strategy. Rule 6.4 discusses how the order of play is determined and the differences in Stroke Play and Match Play. The short version is that the hole is started by whoever played the last hole best – meaning lowest score has the honor (fancy word for going first on the tee). After the initial shots, the ball farthest from the hole plays first, regardless of whether the ball is on the green or not.

Interestingly, in stroke play, this is a rule without a punishment – there is no penalty for playing out of turn unless there was an evil conspiracy to give one of the players an advantage – this results in a two-shot penalty for each player.

In match play, there is also no penalty, but there is a twist. The player who should have played first may require the offending player to replay the shot or allow it to count; it is up to them. In other words, if you play out of turn and hit a great shot against me, I will likely respond with “nice shot, please try it again!” Or I might say absolutely nothing if your ball ends up in a bad place. Good for me!

If you’d like to study with Brian Hughes and other PGA Master Professionals, contact  the College of Golf today.


  1. I was chastised today for telling another player–whose ball was on the fringe and pin high–that he was supposed to go first.
    My ball was in the fairway near the fringe, but not as far “forward” toward the flag.
    Distance-wise, his ball was definitely farther from the hole than mine.

    Who was supposed to play first? Also,is there EVER a case in any golf play where the “furthest forward” progress toward the flag, –where forward is determined by parallel lines that are perpendicular to the midline of the fareway just before the green–determines that the ball is “closer” to the pin regardless of the actual beeline distance from ball to flag?

  2. .? I am on the green 4 ft away. Another player is 20 ft away. He goes first and pass the cup
    By five fee, he feels he still goes because he can continue until he finishes. We are playing stoke play.
    Thanks Mike

  3. The group I play with refer to ready golf as whoever is ready to tee off hit their approach shot, or putt to go first, I am the only one that thinks ready golf is played by the rules and the honor system of whoever is away plays first, except for tee shot that is played first by the player with lowest score on the previous. Can this be clarified, please?

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