Like football, basketball, soccer and tennis, golf is a game
played with defined boundaries. Unlike other sports, however, golfers often find
their playing area boundaries are defined by things other than laser-straight,
Golf is a game played over a vast array of settings. No two
courses are the same, and how boundaries are defined vary as well. Thankfully,
the Rules of Golf are clear as to whether a ball is in or out of bounds.
Course boundaries can be defined in many ways. The most common
markings include white stakes and white lines. Boundaries may also be defined
by a wall, edge of a road, fence posts or other objects. In addition, certain
features, such as maintenance areas, clubhouses and practice grounds, may be
marked or defined by Local Rule as out of bounds even though they are on the
Boundary objects are artificial objects that define or show out of
bounds, such as the items listed above, from which free relief is not allowed. Boundary
objects are treated as immovable even if they are movable or any part of them
is movable. Boundary objects are not obstructions or integral objects.
A ball at rest is out of bounds only when all of it is outside the
boundary edge of the course. A ball is in bounds when any part of the ball:
Lies on or touches the ground or anything else (such
as any natural or artificial object) inside the boundary edge, or
Is above the boundary edge or any other part of the
The boundary edge of the course extends both above the ground and
below the ground:
This means that all ground and anything else (such as
any natural or artificial object) inside the boundary edge is in bounds,
whether on, above or below the surface of the ground.
If an object is both inside and outside the boundary
edge (such as steps attached to a boundary fence, or a tree rooted outside the
edge with branches extending inside the edge or vice versa), only the part of
the object that is outside the edge is out of bounds.
The boundary edge should be defined by boundary objects or lines:
Boundary Objects: When defined by
stakes or a fence, the boundary edge is defined by the line between the
course-side points of the stakes or fence posts at ground level (excluding
angled supports), and those stakes or fence posts are out of bounds. When
defined by other objects such as a wall or when the committee wishes to treat a
boundary fence in a different way the committee should define the boundary
Lines: When defined by a painted line on the ground, the
boundary edge is the course-side edge of the line, and the line itself is out
of bounds. When a line on the ground defines the boundary edge, stakes may be
used to show where the boundary edge is, but they have no other meaning.
Also, to maintain the character of a hole or to protect players on
adjacent holes, the Committee may establish boundaries between two holes. The
internal boundary may apply for the play of only one hole or more than one
Often, when your ball ends up close to the edge of the course your
next stroke will be impacted by the boundary object. Boundary objects often
make your next stroke more challenging.
Most of the time, you will use the Unplayable
Ball Rule – Rule 19. But, it’s important to remember that you may stand
out of bounds to play a ball on the course. Watch this!
If a ball is out of bounds, the player must take
stroke-and-distance relief by adding one penalty stroke and playing the
original or another ball from where the previous stroke was made. There are
some exceptions that apply, to learn more, check out Rule 18 in
the 2019 Rules of Golf.
For more on the Rules, click here.