It seems that almost every golfer has a hard luck tale to recount about a prize that they would have won, had they not been disqualified for a mistake concerning their score card. Of course, there is no requirement to complete a score card in match play, so the following only applies to stroke play situations. Rule 6-6 and the Decisions thereon contain most of the important information concerning the score card.
It is the Committee’s responsibility to provide each competitor with a score card containing the date and the competitor's name or, in foursomes or four-balls, the competitors' names (Rule 33-5). The competitor must ensure that their handicap is recorded on his score card. If there is no handicap on the card before it is returned to the Committee following completion of the players’ round, or if the recorded handicap is higher than that to which they are entitled and this affects the number of strokes received, they are disqualified (Rule 6-2b). If they enter a handicap that is lower than that to which they are entitled the Committee will use that handicap to calculate their score. Note that the Rules require the full handicap to be shown on the card, notwithstanding the number of holes in the stipulated round or the competition format (e.g. four-balls are often played at ¾ handicap). Decision 6-2b/0.5 makes this clear. The player should hand their card to their marker at the beginning of the round and after each hole the marker should check the score with the competitor and record it.
Before the card is returned to the designated area (e.g. in a scorer’s tent, the golf shop, or a competition box) the player must ensure that the gross scores for each hole are accurately recorded and the card has been signed by both the player and their marker. If a score lower than the actual score on any hole is returned, the player incurs the penalty of disqualification. However, if a score higher than the actual score is recorded, that score stands.
There are several common misconceptions about the score card. Here are the facts; Only the marker and one player in a side have to sign the card. Full signatures are not mandatory, initials are acceptable. The marker and player may sign anywhere on the card, although obviously it helps the scorer if they sign in the correct spaces. A different card from the one issued may be returned (e.g. when the original card has been saturated by rain). No initials are required for alterations made to the card. The signature confirms all changes made. It is not necessary to calculate the points scored in a Stableford competition as this is the responsibility of the Committee, as is the totalling of the gross scores for each hole and the application of the handicap. However, as someone who regularly checks competition cards at my club, I urge you to do so; it makes life so much easier for us scorers. Surprisingly, there is no Rule making it mandatory for the competition date to be recorded on the card, but I recommend that it is, to avoid confusion. A card may be marked by more than one person provided that each signs for the part of the round for which they are responsible. The card must be signed by both the marker and player after the round has been completed.
Note that a Committee may not, as a condition of competition, require that competitors must enter their scores into a computer and so players cannot be penalised for failing to do so (Decision 6-6b/8). However, a Committee may introduce a ‘club regulation’ to this effect and provide disciplinary sanctions, such as ineligibility to play in the next club competition, for failure to enter scores in a computer provided for this purpose.