Let’s face it – slow golf is the worst and one of the few downsides to this great game. The solution to speeding up play on golf courses is to start playing ready golf more often.
But what is ready golf? How do you play it?
Today we’ll help you understand this common golf term and share tips on how to play ready golf (and when you should skip it).
Playing Ready Golf
So, what does it mean to play ready golf anyway?
Instead of waiting for whoever is farthest from the hole, whoever is ready to hit simply goes (even if they’re closer) to improve pace.
- Ready golf refers to being ready when it’s your turn to play – even if it’s out of turn.
- Playing ready golf can also mean hitting your shot even if you’re not the farthest person away from the hole.
- Ready golf isn’t allowed (or recommended) in match play competition.
Keep reading to learn how to speed up the pace of play.
Ready Golf vs. Honors Golf
First let’s understand playing ready golf vs. traditional, “honors” golf.
To determine who tees off on the first hole is usually a coin flip or tee toss. For example, all four players stand in a circle and one player will flip a tee and whoever it’s pointing at will go first. Repeat to determine who tees off 2nd, 3rd, and 4th in the group.
Here’s what the USGA recommends for order of play for the remainder of the round on the next tee.
“When starting a hole, generally the player with the lowest score on the previous hole plays first. After starting a hole, the ball farthest from the hole is usually played first. However, the Rules encourage ‘ready golf’ to help improve pace of play as long as it is done in a safe and responsible manner.”
This is known as honors (commonly spelled honours) golf. Let’s say you’re playing as a threesome and player A makes a par on the first hole while player B/C makes a bogey.
On the next hole, player A will tee off first in a traditional honors golf. But in ready golf whoever is ready to hit their tee shot will play first.
For approach shots it’s typically the person who is furthest away from the green plays first. In ready golf the person who is ready to hit first will go. Ready golf is encouraged in stroke play as long as it’s not disruptive to other players.
On the greens it’s common for the person who is furthest away to putt first. In ready golf someone who is ready will putt as long as they won’t interfere with the line of another golfer.
Ready golf isn’t encouraged in match play like it is in stroke play. In match play the person who won the hole (or tee off first and still has honors) continues to play first on the tee box.
If a golfer plays out of turn the other player can cancel the stroke and make them hit again.
However, if they want the player to continue that ball, they have the option too as well. Ready golf is only allowed in match play if both players agree to playing out of turn. This might happen if someone is waiting for a rules official or another situation.
Examples of Ready Golf
Now that you can see why ready golf can speed up play let’s give some examples.
Driveable Par 4 (or Reachable Par 5)
Let’s say there’s a short drivable par 4 that is reachable for a few longer hitters of the group. The golfers who are laying up and don’t need to wait for the green to clear would tee off first… even if they don’t have honors.
This could also apply to laying up on par 5s for shorter hitters as well.
If one of your playing partners hits out of a bunker and still is out (whether on the fringe or has a putt) other players can go. Since the person who hits out of the bunker still needs to rake and prepare for the next shot, it can take time.
If you have a challenging shot that might require more strategy involved, let others hit first.
Walking vs. Riding
If one or more members are using golf carts while others are walking, it’s okay to play out of turn. Not to mention people in the cart can help start the search party for a potential lost ball while the other players walk.
Taking a Drop
If a player is working with a rules official to take a drop from a cart path or lost ball in a penalty area, another golfer can go first. Even if they’re not the furthest out, it’s beneficial to play so you don’t lose the group ahead and save time.
Do you have more questions about pace of play and ready golf? If so, keep reading through the most common questions and answers now.
Can you play ready golf in competition?
Ultimately it depends on the type of competitive event. If it’s an informal event such as a men’s club or a 2-man scramble, ready golf usually works. But if it’s a bigger event like a USGA qualifier or club championship, you might want to skip ready golf.
Can you play ready golf in stroke play?
Yes, it’s a good idea to play ready golf on a normal round of stroke play with your friends. This will help improving pace of play and make the round more enjoyable.
Who goes first in a four ball competition?
If you’re playing with a friend in a four ball competition you’ll be paired with another twosome team. According to the USGA, it doesn’t matter if you or your partner goes first.
As they mentioned in the same article from above, “In four-ball play, you and your partner can play in whatever order you think is best when it is your side’s turn to play.”
This actually can work to your advantage in some scenarios. For example, let’s say player A has a four-foot putt for par and his teammate player B has a 12-footer for birdie.
It’d be beneficial for player A to putt out and hopefully make the short putt. This would effectively free up player B to hit a confident stroke focused on holing the putt.
Can you play ready golf in match play?
No, ready golf does not work in match play as much of each player’s strategy is dependent upon the other golfer. Since it’s just you vs. another player, you wouldn’t want to play ready golf as your strategy for the tee shot or approach shot might change.
But if one player is waiting on a rules official or has another situation ready golf is allowed if both players agree that one can play out of order.
How do you know who tees off first?
In a competitive event there is an official order who tees off first. On the first day it’s usually selected at random where the starter will announce the name and location of the player.
On multiple day events the order might change based on results. The lower the score, the later you will tee off and the leader will tee off in the final group.
Slow golf is the worst so make sure to play ready golf whenever possible. In tournaments, I tend to stick to a traditional order for a few reasons.
First, I like to keep the order of things and strive to be first off the box as it means I won the last hole (or previous holes). Second, ready golf is great if you’re playing second or third and want to learn about the wind, distance, and spin from other players once it hits the green.
Finally, I play honors golf because I believe in karma and don’t want the Golf Gods mad at me. I know it sounds ridiculous but if someone makes a birdie or eagle and I make par on the previous hole, I never want to be first to tee off.
With match play ready golf isn’t allowed as you’ll want to study their shot to learn how to play your next shot. To learn more about dominating match play read this article now.
Final Thoughts on Ready Golf Rules
As long as you can do it in a safe and responsible way, play ready golf to keep up the pace of play. It’ll make a day on the golf course much more enjoyable for you and everyone else out there.
Don’t forget, ready golf is even in the rule book now and there is strong evidence it’ll improve pace of play. Act sensibly and play out of turn at times – especially during stroke play to save time and make the round more enjoyable.