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Is There A Referee In Golf?

golf referee - mallet
golf referee - mallet

Whenever you watch or play golf, it is possible that you never see any sort of referee or official hanging around. Maybe you did not even know a type of golf referee even exists.

That being said, you probably wondered, is there a referee in golf, and what does one do? Is there a rules official in golf?

In this article, you will learn the answer to this intriguing question about the existence of a referee in golf.

Is There A Referee In Golf?

The short answer is yes, but the long answer is more nuanced. In Golf, there is a type of referee called an official, and their duty is to moderate any issues raised with them by a player. Golf officials need to have perfect knowledge about the rules of golf, and take the final decisions when issues arise.

You might have expected golf officials to be the ones watching a player’s shots, noting their results on the scorecard. However, this could not be further from the truth: players note each other’s scores.

In competitive play, each golf player is assigned a playing partner (who happens to be an opponent).

At the start of a round of golf, you swap scorecards with your playing partner. During the whole round of golf, on the scorecard in your possession, you write both your scores and the scores of your playing partner.

You are required to accurately note your playing partner’s scores, even though they are your opponent. You cannot report that they got a octuple bogey on every 2 holes. An octuple bogey means they would have required 8 strokes over par to complete a hole.

You cannot give a playing partner preferential or malicious treatment; you need to be fair. If you do not give accurate, or honest scores to your opponent, you will have problems with the golf rules official.

At the end of the round, the scorecards are swapped back between you and your playing partner. The two of you then compare the scorecards to see if you noted the same scores, as would be expected from honest and ethical scoring.

However, if there is a difference between the scores you and your playing partner noted, the issue must be raised with the golf official so that they can look the problem over and take a decision.

At the end of the golfing round, if there is no litigation, players will then submit their filled scorecards to the governing agency so the scores can be added

In professional play, the golf official only intervenes when a player brings something to their attention. The golf official does not actively seek out errors in scoring; they fill a more passive role.

The golf rules official can be tasked with either moderating a certain set of holes during the entire round, or to moderate one or multiple groups of players for all the holes in the round of golf.

In recreational play, there is usually no golf official, and you will tend to not have a playing partner unless you want one.

Golf players are expected to know the rules of golf themselves, and to apply penalties themselves, like when they shoot a golf ball out-of-bound or into a water hazard.

Technically, you could call an official if you are not sure about certain rulings, but it is better to know all of them by memory yourself. Golf officials are more so to be invoked only in cases of litigation.

During PGA Tour Events, there are 6 golf officials at all times on the golf course. They know all the rules, and will apply them if someone requires their help.

Officials have scorecards, an evacuation plan, hole-by-hole notes, a pace of play time chart, a radio and earpiece, a rules assignment sheet, a rules notebook, a copy of the full Rules Of Golf, string, their credentials, a watch, and a golf umbrella & Rain Gear, if needed.

How Do I Become a Golf Rules Official?

The first step of becoming a golf official is to know all of the rules of golf by heart, and perfectly. Your main job as a golf rules official will be the go-to person for any litigation about rules, scoring, penalties, etc.

Next, if you live in the United States, you should contact your local PGA section, or the Allied Golf Association and ask them what the requirements are to become a rules official under their organization. Either way, you will have a much higher chance of being accepted if you can play golf, and know all of the rules by heart.

To figure out how well you know the rules of golf, you can take either the beginner, intermediate, or advanced quizzes on the R&A website. By taking these tests, you will learn how good you are at being a rules official, and learn from the mistakes you make.

If you live outside of the United States and Mexico, on the R&A website, you can also take an exam testing your knowledge of golf rules. If you manage to pass the exam, you will receive an official R&A certificate.


There you go! After reading this article, you have learned that golf does have a type of referee called an official, and that these officials are more likely to be present in competitive levels of golf.

You learned that the officials only intervene in case of litigation or any other issue raised with them by a player.

You also learned that golf officials do not count your score. Instead, you and your playing partner count each other’s score and compare your tallies at the end of the round.

Next time you watch or play golf, keep an eye out, and you might just see one of the rules officials, even if just for a second.

Are golf officials useful? Have you ever raised an issue with a golf referee or official? What for? Let us know in the comments down below!

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