Golf Out of Bounds Penalty

Golf Out of Bounds

One of the most important rules of golf is for a player to try to keep their ball on the course at all times. Following the route of a hole makes golf easier to play and allows for more direct shots. In keeping with this rule, certain holes on a golf course have areas that are considered out of bounds, meaning that if a player’s ball lands in these areas, it will be considered removed from play.


Definition

The United States Golf Association (USGA) rules provide a comprehensive definition of what parts of a golf hole may be considered “out of bounds,” and thus unplayable if a player’s ball comes to rest there. In general, out of bounds is defined as any area that lies beyond the boundaries of the entire course. The respective course committee decides these boundary lines. 

USGA Rules state that the course boundary must be defined by “boundary objects” or lines. In the case of objects, these boundaries can consist of barriers such as stakes, a fence, or a wall. In the case of stakes or a fence, the boundary is considered to be the line between the points of the stakes or the fence posts, at ground level, on the course side. In the case of a wall or other barrier, the course committee decides where the boundary line lies.

Out of bounds areas can also be delineated by painted lines on the course. In these cases, the inside edge of the line is considered in bounds, while the line itself and anything beyond it is out of bounds.

According to USGA Rule 18, if a player plays their ball from any point on the course and causes it to land out of bounds, they have committed an out of bounds penalty. Once a ball lands or rolls out of bounds, it is no longer considered playable from that point and must either be replaced or brought back to the spot of the previous stroke and played again.

Result

As established by Rule 18 of the USGA Rules, if a player’s ball lands or rolls out of bounds after a stroke, the player must take what is known as “stroke-and-distance” relief and replay their ball. Stroke-and-distance relief means that the player must return their ball to where the previous stroke occurred and replay it. However, depending on where the stroke was made from, the player may have to move the ball. If the ball was played from the teeing area, stroke-and-distance relief allows the player to redo their stroke from any spot in the teeing area. In the general area of the course, a bunker, or a penalty area, the player must return their ball to the spot of the prior stroke and drop it within one club length of their previous spot, in any direction that is not closer to the hole. If on the green, a player taking stroke-and-distance relief returns their ball to the exact spot it was previously played from.

In addition to taking stroke-and-distance relief, any player whose ball lands out of bounds must take a one-stroke penalty, bringing their score one stroke closer to or past par.

Examples

  • Player 1 drives their ball from the teeing area. The ball hits a fence at the edge of the course, bouncing over it and landing on the opposite side of the fence posts. Player 1’s ball is considered out of bounds, and they must take a one-stroke penalty along with stroke-and-distance relief. Player 1 may replay their ball from any spot in the teeing area.
  • Player 2 is on the fairway and hits their ball towards the hole. It flies over the green and lands beyond it, rolling onto a white line demarcating the edge of the course. Since the ball stopped on the boundary line, it is considered out of bounds, and Player 2 must take a one-stroke penalty in addition to stroke-and-distance relief. Player 2 replaces their ball at the spot of their last stroke, dropping it within one club length from that spot in any direction that is not closer to the hole and replaying.
  • Player 3 hits their ball, which lands in the rough and rolls towards the edge of the course where there is a pathway marked by posts. Player 3 checks the location of their ball and sees that it lies just within the inner edge of the nearest post, still in the grass. Since it did not cross beyond the inner edge of the post, Player 3’s ball is still in bounds and can be played from that spot.

Similar Penalties to Out of Bounds

  • Lost Ball
  • Provisional Ball
  • Unplayable Ball

FAQ

What is an out of bounds penalty in golf?

In golf, an out of bounds penalty occurs whenever a player’s ball lands or rolls beyond the marked area of the course. The edge of a course may be marked by various objects, including stakes, a fence, a wall, or painted lines. If a player’s ball goes beyond any of the indicated boundary lines, it is considered out of bounds, and the player must replay their previous stroke, in addition to receiving a penalty.

What are the consequences of hitting a ball out of bounds in golf?

If a player hits their golf ball out of bounds, they receive an out of bounds penalty of one stroke. This brings them one stroke closer to or past par. In addition to this penalty, the player must take stroke-and-distance relief, replaying their ball by bringing it back to the spot of the prior stroke and placing it in a specific area. This area is dependent upon which part of the course they are playing from.

Is there out of bounds on every golf hole?

Whether there is an out of bounds area on every golf hole depends upon the course being played and the decision of the course committee that manages it. Out of bounds is defined as any area that is outside of the boundaries of the course itself. Therefore, if a certain hole on the course does not share any borders with the edge of the course property, it would not have any out of bounds areas. However, some courses have areas known as “in-course out of bounds areas.” In these cases, certain parts of a hole that are not on the external border of the course will be marked off as out of bounds. These areas would thus be considered out of bounds even though they are still technically on the course property.