The R&A - Working for Golf

Course Marking 1

Rule 33-2 states that the Committee must accurately define:

  1. the course and out of bounds,
  2. the margins of water hazards and lateral water hazards,
  3. ground under repair, and
  4. obstructions and integral parts of the course.

In this article we look at marking the course in general and out of bounds.


It is the responsibility of the Committee to ensure that the course has been properly and completely marked. If the Committee takes the time to accurately define the boundaries of the course and the margins of water hazards and clearly marks any areas which are to be treated as ground under repair, it reduces the possibility of awkward Rules situations arising. A properly marked golf course helps all golfers adhere to the Rules and, therefore, courses should be correctly marked at all times, not just for competitions.

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.

Objects defining out of bounds such as walls, fences, stakes and railings are not obstructions and are deemed to be fixed, therefore a part of a boundary fence that is bowed towards the course so that it is inside the boundary line is deemed to be fixed – it 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 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.

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.  As per the definition of out of bounds, a ball is out of bounds when all of it lies out of bounds.


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 stake can be reinstalled in the correct position.

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.  For example:

“Out of bounds (Rule 27-1) Beyond any wall defining the boundary of the course.”

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.

Lastly, 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.

Further guidance on course marking can be found in the ‘Marking the Course’ section of Guidance on Running a Competition section of the website.