In stroke play, A, B and C were scheduled to start at 9:00 am. All players were present at the 1st tee at 8:56am. Without being given authority to do so by the Committee, A started at 8:58, B started at 8:59 and C started at 9:00 am. What is the Ruling?
Unless the Committee considers that the players have started early as a result of an error by the Committee or its representative, A and B are subject to a penalty of disqualification for failing to start at the scheduled time (see penalty statement under Rule 6-3a). However, in view of the fact that starting within five minutes after the time of starting results in a penalty of two strokes in stroke play under Rule 6-3a, the penalty for starting early, but within five minutes of the starting time, should be the same. Therefore, under Rule 33-7, the Committee should modify the disqualification penalty to two strokes, unless there is good reason not to do so, e.g., the players ignored a direct instruction from the Committee not to start before 9:00 am. C incurs no penalty as he did start at 9:00 am, which was the time established by the Committee.