Out of Bounds
It is essential that course boundaries are clearly defined so that there can be no doubt as to whether a ball is in or out of bounds. If the Committee leaves an area undefined on the basis that it seems unlikely that a player will hit a ball into that area, it can be sure that, at some stage during the competition, a question concerning the boundary on that part of the course will arise.
Where a fence defines the boundary, the out of bounds line is determined by the nearest inside points of the fence posts at ground level, excluding any angled supports to the fence. An angled support or guy wire that is in bounds is an obstruction. If angled supports or guy wires exist, the Committee may wish to consider declaring them to be integral parts of the course so that a player does not get incidental relief from a boundary fence. A part of a boundary fence that is bowed towards the course so that it is inside the boundary line is not an obstruction. Where fence posts are set into concrete, the concrete bases are considered to be part of the boundary fence and thus are not obstructions. In these circumstances, the Committee should be clear on the location of the boundary line (see Decision 24/3).
Angled supports in bounds may be declared integral parts of the course.
For example, if the Committee wishes to use the concrete base, situated above ground level, to define the boundary, it should introduce a Local Rule along the following lines:
“Out of Bounds (Rule 27-1)
Concrete bases of boundary fence posts are part of the fence and are not obstructions. Where such a concrete base is above ground, out of bounds is defined by the inside points, at ground level, of the concrete bases.”
When stakes are used to define out of bounds, these stakes should be painted white. The out of bounds line is determined by the nearest inside points of the stakes at ground level.
The distance between boundary stakes may vary, but it is of paramount importance that it is possible to sight from one stake to the next as it may be necessary to use a length of string between the inside points of two stakes in order to determine whether a ball is out of bounds. Therefore, it is important to check that bushes, trees or the like do not obscure stakes. As a precaution, it is recommended that a white circle is painted around the base of each boundary stake so that, if the stake is removed without the Committee’s authority, the Committee will know exactly where the stake had been located and can reinstall it.
Out of bounds may be defined by a line on the ground and such a line should be white. The white line itself is out of bounds. A line will certainly provide a clear definition of the boundary, however, due to the terrain, establishing a line may prove difficult and its upkeep may be time consuming.
The Committee may define the boundary with a white line.
If out of bounds is defined by a wall, the Committee must clarify in the Local Rules whether the inside face of the wall defines the boundary or, alternatively, whether a ball is only out of bounds if it is beyond the wall.
It is not uncommon for the boundary line to be defined by a trench, with a ball being out of bounds if it is in or beyond the trench. If stakes are used to draw players’ attention to a boundary trench, rather than define the boundary itself, they should be painted white with black tops. As such stakes do not define the boundary they will be movable obstructions. This point should be clarified in the Local Rules.
It is a common misconception that it is not permissible to define areas within the course as out of bounds. However, it is not unusual for features such as maintenance areas, clubhouses and practice grounds to be marked as out of bounds. In addition, it may be necessary to establish boundaries between two holes to maintain the character of a hole or to protect players on the adjacent fairway. In these cases, it is important to consider where the boundary starts and finishes so that there is no doubt where it begins and ends. Where there is no natural start/finish point, e.g. the boundary exists in isolation and is not “tied” into other boundaries on the course, often it is necessary to place two stakes, side-by-side and at a right angle to the first and last stake, to indicate that the boundary extends indefinitely in that direction.
It is not permissible to make an area out of bounds only for certain strokes at a given hole, for example, a stroke from the teeing ground (see Out of Bounds, Chapter 3).