By Lew Blakey
In stroke play, a player may discontinue play in only four circumstances: (1) the Committee has suspended play, (2) he believes there is danger from lightning, (3) he is seeking a decision from the Committee on a doubtful point or (4) there is some other good reason such as sudden illness. The penalty for discontinuance otherwise than in these four circumstances is disqualification.
When play is suspended by the Committee, if the players in a group are between the play of two holes, they must not resume play until the Committee has ordered a resumption of play. If one of the players has started a hole, the players may discontinue immediately or continue play of the hole. If they continue play, they may discontinue before completing the hole but must discontinue play after the hole is completed.
The Conditions of Competition almost always state that in the case of a suspension by the Committee for a dangerous situation, the players must discontinue play immediately.
When play is resumed, it must be from where it was discontinued. If resumption is during the play of a hole, the player must place a ball, the original ball or a substituted ball, on the exact spot where his original ball lay upon discontinuance. If the original ball or the ball-marker is missing, the player must estimate the spot and place a ball on that spot.
A question sometimes arises about the lie of the ball that might have been altered during suspension by natural conditions such as wind or rain. The player must accept these new conditions, whether they worsen or improve the lie. However, if the player?s ball lay in a bunker and the bunker has been altered by the greenkeeping staff, the original lie must be recreated, such as a buried lie or footprints around the ball. The player does not have to replace loose impediments or restore conditions such as a washed out area or casual water that is no longer present.
If the player has discontinued play and is now resuming play under orders from the Committee, he is not permitted to make a stroke until the Committee has ordered resumption. However, prior to resumption, he is permitted to proceed under a Rule, such as taking relief from interference by an immovable obstruction, which may involve lifting and dropping a ball.
Practice during a suspension is in accordance with the Rules of Golf, which includes the Conditions of Competition. Generally, the Committee will permit practice on the designated practice areas (perhaps a driving range or practice putting green) at an appropriate time prior to resumption. Once the time for resumption has occurred, this practice is no longer permitted, even if a player's group cannot play because more than one group is waiting ahead on the tee designated for the player's resumption.