A Guide to Golf Rain Delay Rules: Ensuring Fair Play in Unpredictable Weather

Colin McCarthy

Golf Rain Delay Rules

Golf, a sport deeply rooted in tradition and etiquette, often faces challenges from unpredictable weather. Rain delays are a common occurrence, and understanding the rules surrounding them is crucial for both players and organizers.

When adverse conditions halt play, the game must resume from the exact point it was suspended, ensuring fairness and continuity.

In team competitions, the handling of incomplete matches due to poor light or weather varies. Some competitions might allow completed matches to stand while rescheduling unfinished ones, while others might opt for a complete replay.

These decisions are typically outlined in the Terms of the Competition, emphasizing the importance of clear guidelines. Knowing these rules not only prepares players for unexpected delays but also maintains the integrity of the game.

Overview of Golf Rain Delay Rules

Rain delays in golf can be a bit complicated, as the rules can vary depending on the specific tournament and the decisions of the tournament officials.

However, there are some general guidelines that are often followed:

Understanding When Play is Suspended

Golf delays due to rain rely on specific triggers to maintain player safety and course integrity. Committees typically suspend play when conditions include lighting, standing water, or unplayable course areas.

Rule 5.7a of the Rules of Golf states players may stop play by agreement. Players can also halt if directed by the event committee.

Delays depend on course drainage efficiency. Inadequate drainage causing water pooling leads to immediate stoppage. Conversely, steady rain without lightning over a well-draining course doesn’t usually pause play.

Criteria for Resuming Play

Resumption follows clear guidelines ensuring conditions meet safety and fairness standards. Committees determine course readiness post-delay.

Players must return to the exact point of suspension. Events like PGA Tour resume as soon as the course becomes playable, sometimes leading to 36 holes played within a single day.

USGA procedures include a roll call for referees, airhorn signals for resuming play, and distribution of extra scorecards.

In team competitions, completed matches stand, and incomplete matches might be continued or replayed based on the competition’s terms.

Common Reasons for Delays in Golf

Delays in golf can occur for various reasons, ranging from weather-related issues to course maintenance or unforeseen circumstances.

Here are some common reasons for delays in golf:

Rain and Water Pooling Effects

Heavy rain can significantly impact golf course conditions, leading to delays. If water pools in fairways, bunkers, or greens, play must stop until the course is deemed playable.

Poor drainage exacerbates this issue and can extend delays. Steady rain without lightning typically doesn’t warrant a stoppage if the course drains well.

Professional events, like those on the PGA Tour, may see players resume play later the same day or the next day. In exceptional cases, tournaments may extend to Monday or even Tuesday if sufficient rounds aren’t completed within the scheduled days.

Lightning and Other Dangerous Conditions

Lightning poses a severe threat to players, staff, and spectators. When lightning is detected, play is suspended immediately to ensure safety.

The signal for suspension is typically three short blasts, repeated to ensure everyone hears it. Tournament officials use tools like lightning detectors and weather maps to monitor storm activity.

Other hazardous conditions, such as high winds, can also cause delays. In these cases, play resumes only when the course is safe, often resulting in significant schedule adjustments.

Procedures for Suspension and Resumption of Play

Procedures for the suspension and resumption of play in golf typically follow a structured protocol to ensure the safety of players and spectators and maintain the integrity of the competition.

Here’s an overview:

Immediate Steps for Players and Referees

After the suspension of play is declared, players and referees must promptly follow specific steps to ensure safety and fair resumption. Players should return to the designated evacuation vehicle parked at the clubhouse area.

Once there, they await further instructions over the radio. Referees assist players in retrieving their balls and resuming play in the correct position, adhering to the “Suspension Resumption of Play” rules.

A USGA staff member conducts a roll call to verify players’ positions, asking referees to respond with “YES, READY” or “NO, NOT YET.” Once all players confirm readiness, rovers sound air horns with two short notes, signaling the resumption.

If directives are unclear, referees must avoid extended replies to maintain clarity and efficiency. Rule 5.7 and Section 6E of the Committee Procedures provide additional guidance on these steps.

Managing Partially Completed Rounds

The management of partially completed rounds requires meticulous adherence to rules to ensure fairness. Even if over 50% of the field has completed their rounds, the Committee should not declare results based solely on completed scores.

All players must have the opportunity to finish their rounds for results to be valid. For instance, if one group remains in a stroke play competition, the round should continue at the earliest available time.

Alternatively, if play cannot resume promptly, the Committee may cancel the round and reschedule the competition. It’s essential to follow these protocols to prevent disputes and maintain the integrity of the competition.

Refer to USGA guidelines and competition rules for detailed procedures on managing such situations. This ensures all competitors are treated equally, and the competition maintains its integrity.

Impact of Delays on Tournament Scheduling

Delays in golf tournaments can have significant impacts on scheduling, affecting not only the current day’s play but potentially the entire tournament timeline.

Here are some of the key ways in which delays can affect tournament scheduling:

Adjustments to Tournament Completion

Delays, especially from poor weather, significantly impact tournament completion. When conditions force play to stop, the terms of competition dictate resumption protocols.

According to Rule 5.7a, play resumes from the exact point of suspension. This ensures fairness, maintaining the same conditions for all players. Completed matches’ results usually stand, but incomplete ones are continued later or replayed.

If entire rounds are impacted, tournament officials weigh options like extending play dates or compressing future round schedules. Decisions depend on factors like daylight hours, course conditions, and player safety.

Considerations for Multi-Day Events

Multi-day events face unique challenges with delays. For matches halted due to weather, the terms of competition outline how to handle these interruptions.

Matches may be tied if play can’t resume promptly. Officials also decide on potential team changes for restarted matches.

Further complexities include managing player fatigue and ensuring course readiness. Tournament staff must coordinate closely with grounds crews to restore playability.

They also must communicate updates clearly to players, ensuring everyone knows when and where play resumes.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the main reasons for suspending play in golf?

Play is typically suspended in golf due to lightning, standing water, high winds, or other dangerous conditions. Rule 5.7a of the Rules of Golf outlines these triggers to ensure player safety and fair play.

How do officials ensure the safety of players during storms?

Tournament officials use tools like lightning detectors to monitor storm activity. Play resumes only when the course is deemed safe, often requiring significant schedule adjustments.

When can play resume after a weather suspension?

Play can resume when officials determine the course is safe. Players must return to the exact point where play was suspended to ensure fairness and integrity of the competition.

Can a golf competition be canceled due to weather?

Yes, if weather conditions make the fair playing of the game impossible or dangerous, the Committee may decide to cancel the competition for the safety and fairness of all participants.


Golf rain delay rules are crucial for ensuring safety and fair play. By adhering to the established guidelines for suspensions and resumptions, players and officials can navigate weather disruptions effectively.

The use of technology and meticulous planning helps maintain the integrity of the competition despite unpredictable conditions.

Understanding and following these rules ensures that all participants are treated equally, preserving the sport’s fairness and competitive spirit.

Furthermore, courses often have specific protocols for shelter locations and communication during delays. Players should stay informed about these procedures to avoid confusion and ensure a smooth continuation once play resumes.

Photo of author

Colin McCarthy

Golf is about mastering your misses and learning from them. I seek answers on the how and why of the golf swing, gaining experience even when answers elude me. With over 11,000 hours of teaching and a hunger for learning, I welcome any questions. My goal is to introduce golf to as many as possible, simplifying the game for all to enjoy. Passionate, eager, and ambitious, I'm here to teach, listen, and learn. LinkedIn

Leave a Comment