Rules Guy: If you have the honor on the tee, can you opt to watch your playing partner hit first?

What do the rules say about gaining an advantage from watching your playing partners tee off first?

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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.

It’s the tee of a reachable par-4. Player A is up. He says he’s going for the green; with the group ahead still putting, he offers to let Player B, who’s planning to lay up, play first. B agrees and hits a terrible shot. Player A now changes his mind and lays up too. Is this ethical? Legal? Are the rules different in stroke versus match play? Can Player A “fake” wanting to use driver on the tee to try to get the other player to hit first and adjust accordingly?
—Julien Noel, Quebec, Canada

In stroke play, the order of play (see Rule 6.4[b]1) is less important, since everyone is competing against the field. You can even agree to play ready golf if your group or pairing is fine with that.

Golfers putting
Rules Guy: Can you refuse a conceded putt in order to show your partner the break?
By: Rules Guy

Order of play is more important in match play (see Rule 6.4[b]2). It’s fine to invite an opponent to play out of turn to save time; once he or she accepts and makes a stroke, however, it stands no matter the outcome and cannot be canceled.

An opponent, of course, is always free to decline said invitation and wait it out. The rules don’t contemplate a player’s change of heart regarding shot selection, real or fake. We’ll end as we often do, with a reminder that golf is the great game of honor.

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