Out of Bounds Golf Rule

Out of Bounds Golf Rules: Understanding the Rules: Out of Bounds & Lost Balls

By: Dan Davis, PGA Professional Thousand Hills Golf Resort

The out of bounds golf rule, in my opinion, is one of the harshest rules in golf. It is also one of the most common golf rules that are violated. The rules for both Lost Balls and the Out of Bounds golf rule are essentially the same. The penalty for either infraction is called Stoke and Distance. In this article I will provide a checklist that should help bring you closer to a correct ruling. Remember, any rules advice should always be reinforced by a quick check of the rules book. This will also promote good practice on using the book.

  • In an effort to speed up play the first thing to do, if there is any question on a ball’s final destination, is to always hit a provisional. When hitting a provisional ball a player must always announce to your fellow players of your intentions to do so. Remember that out of bounds is designated by white stakes or lines. Also balls lost within a water hazard are subject to different rules which are usually more advantageous to the golfer. See my other articles on this subject on my Most Common Golf Rules page.
  • If after a search, which has lasted no more than five minutes, your ball is deemed lost or out of bounds the player must return to the spot in which the ball was last played and may put a new ball into play. Hopefully this second ball has already been played as the provisional ball. The following is a play by play on how this should be played when following the out of bounds golf rule. We will assume that the shot in question was made on the tee shot:
    • My tee shot has hooked wildly left of the fairway and appeared to be rolling toward the parking lot which is marked by white stakes as being Out of Bounds.
      Stroke #1
    • After searching for my ball I find that it has crossed the Out of Bounds markers and is lying in the parking lot. I now must return to the spot from which the ball was last played to put a new ball in play.
      Stroke #2
    • In my case I had previously announced my intentions and hit a provisional ball from the tee box which has saved time on walking back. This now becomes the official ball in play.
      Stroke #3

My shot was hit Out of Bounds in one, back to the tee in two, the provisional was hit from the tee and put back into play in three.

As you can see, the out of bounds golf rules place a stiff penalty for leaving the boundaries of the course. You can also see why it’s a good idea to always hit a provisional when the first shot is in question. The small bit of time it takes to hit a provisional is negligible compared to the time it takes to return to that spot after finding out that your first shot violated the out of bounds golf rule.