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Rules Guy: Can scores on courses modified due to coronavirus concerns be posted for handicap purpose

Courses around the globe are making the game safer for golfers. @GreatRiver_Golf Twitter

The Rules of Golf are tricky! Thankfully, we’ve got the guru. Our Rules Guy knows the book front to back. Got a question? He’s got all the answers.

I’ve heard courses are responding to coronavirus concerns by making modifications to the hole, like placing plastic or styrofoam in the cup to keep players from having to reach into it to get their ball. Can the resulting scores still be posted for handicap purposes?

Plastic pipes, hole liners raised an inch or two above the green surface, swim noodles — it’s a brave new world. First things first: A ball that isn’t holed is still a ball that isn’t holed per the Rules of Golf, specifically, Rule 3.3c. Here’s the good news: A round played under these, er, holes barred conditions is A-okay for handicap purposes, at least for the moment, as the USGA says it will periodically update its guidance on this front. For that, we can thank not only the USGA’s responsiveness but, more specifically, the “most likely score guidelines” as laid out in Rule 3.3 of the Rules of Handicapping. This procedure is meant to support certain match-play formats in which a player isn’t required to hole out. (Think: concessions and four-ball partner play.) At present, it’s temporarily in effect when courses are employing the kinds of safety measures you referenced.

Got a question about the Rules? Ask the Rules Guy! Send your queries, confusions and comments to We promise he won’t throw the book at you.

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