How to avoid signing an incorrect scorecard

The pros don’t take many shots, but even they sometimes get disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard. Here’s advice from Guidance Guru Gail.

Image of woman signing scorecard

DEAR GGG: My club’s first tournament is this month, and I have noticed that several tour players have been disqualified for signing incorrect scorecards. If they can’t get it right, how can I?

A: In 2011, I was assigned to the scoring area for the last two days of the United States Women’s Open at Oakmont Country Club in Pennsylvania. The job requires maintaining a quiet area for the players and encouraging them to stay within the area until every detail is checked, even as emotions run the gamut from pure joy to total frustration or even anger.

When players arrive I normally say, “Ladies, I ask that you remain within the scoring area until all scorecards are checked and I am certain we have the two correct signatures on each card and that each hole by hole score is legible and correct. If you have a rules concern we also need to resolve that before you leave.”

The Women’s Open is the biggest stage for professional and amateur players alike. The depth of experience varies widely. With players competing from all over the world, English is sometimes a second language or even not understood by a player. Caddies, walking scorers and the rules official with each group sometimes have to help if there are questions that need clarification. After five hours in sweltering conditions with the fastest greens of the year on the longest course they will play, not to mention the largest purse they will see, the players arrive at the scoring area with one more important part of their round to complete.

Each scorecard needs to be reviewed by the player with her marker, the player in the group appointed to record her scores. At the Open scorecards can be checked against the computer that receives the score for each hole transmitted by the walking scorer as the round progresses.

A player frequently hands her scorecard to an official wanting to recite from memory her score for each hole. Players sometimes even say the scores backwards from 18.

Remember, an incorrect scorecard with a mistake that is too high in a box has to be lived with and a mistake too low means Disqualification. Either error can result in a player losing a tournament. (Rule 6-6)

Those of us who do not play a lot of tournament golf can learn to be like a professional by keeping score for one other player in our group with each round in stroke play. We have two responsibilities, knowing the correct score of the person we are marking for as well as our own score. Keep your own score at the bottom of the card. At the end of each hole compare scores and resolve any misunderstandings.

Eliminate the idea of one person keeping a master card. Learn to be a responsible marker by observing your fellow-competitor’s play so that you can truly confirm her score as well as your own. Then if you do play in a tournament, keeping score for yourself and one other player will be a familiar task and will free you to focus more completely on your game.

When is a scorecard considered returned? Guidelines can be found in Decision 6-6c/1. At the Women’s Open the scorecard is not considered returned until a player walks out the door of the scoring area. This means she can hand her signed card to an official, but can still take it back and make corrections if a mistake is found as long as she remains within the designated space. Note: A professional who is later discovered, perhaps by high-def and slow-motion replay, to have unknowingly violated the rules is no longer penalized for a violation she could not possibly have known she committed.

At your club, the Committee can consider a card returned when it is given to the person in charge of the tournament, or if it is to be left with the pro shop, when you leave the pro shop. Some clubs use a box designated for scorecard return. It would be considered returned when you drop it in the box.

For your club championship, have a table with two people with rules knowledge available to collect the cards and to check them before letting the players in a group leave. Put bright blue or yellow tape on the floor to indicate the scoring area, or rope it off. If possible put this in a quiet place where the players can ask questions and review their cards without distraction.

Many rules questions happen during club events. Be certain to ask if you need clarification with any ruling in your round. It is better to add a stroke or two in scoring than to later be disqualified for a score that did not include a penalty stroke.

Remember, take time to finish your round with an accurate scorecard.

–Gail Rogers

This article first appeared in the April 2011 edition of GottaGoGolf Magazine.

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