PGA Tournament Rules

By M.L. Rose
Bill Haas won the 2011 PGA FedEx Cup championship.
Bill Haas won the 2011 PGA FedEx Cup championship.

The term “PGA” can take different meanings with respect to golf in the United States. The Professional Golfers’ Association of America, for example, is an organization of golf club and teaching professionals which runs numerous tournaments at the local level across the United States. The PGA Tour is a separate organization of professional players that runs elite men’s competition, including the PGA Tour, Champions Tour and Nationwide Tour. Top-level women’s competition is run by the Ladies Professional Golf Association. Rules for the organizations’ various events can differ slightly, but the basic guidelines are consistent.


PGA-sanctioned competition is played according to the Rules of Golf, as published by the United States Golf Association. The rules include general etiquette provisions, stating in Section 1, for example, that “all players should conduct themselves in a disciplined manner, demonstrating courtesy and sportsmanship at all time.” The rules also advise golfers to “play at a good pace” and to take care of the course, including smoothing over bunkers after playing from the sand, and repairing divots and ball marks.


While the Rules of Golf cover a variety of situations, a few provisions apply specifically to tournaments. For example, Rule 7 forbids players from practicing on the tournament course between rounds of a stroke play tournament, but permits practice between rounds of a match play event. The more general rules provide basic guidance. Rule 13-1, for example, focuses on playing the ball where it lies, while Rule 14-1 discusses striking the ball with the club head.


Players qualify for PGA tournaments in various ways. On the PGA Tour, for example, many players qualify by earning a PGA Tour card via the annual Q School competition. Each tournament has some leeway with respect to its qualification standards. For example, the 2012 Bridgestone Invitational PGA Tour event’s eligibility rules state that the top 50 players in the Official World Golf Rankings may play in the event, along with winners of specified tournaments or tour championships in the year preceding the Bridgestone. Most events also feature pre-tournament qualifying competitions. For example, the Champions Tour rules allow a maximum of seven players to qualify for a tournament through an 18-hole stroke play event.


During most PGA Tour events, the field is reduced after 36 holes to the 70 lowest-scoring professionals, including ties. In accordance with a PGA Tour rule enacted in February 2008, if more than 78 professionals make the 36-hole cut, another cut to the lowest-scoring 70 professionals plus ties is made after 54 holes.

Local Rules

Local PGA sections, while following the Rules of Golf, also enact their own standards. For example, the PGA’s Colorado Section prohibits male players from wearing “shorts, cutoffs or denim” during local PGA events, while women may not wear “halters, midriffs, tank tops, short shorts, running shorts or denim.” Colorado PGA Section major championships are limited to 144 players, with the low 50 percent and ties advancing past 36 holes. Ties are broken with sudden death playoffs.

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