The R&A - Working for Golf

Course Marking and Local Rules for Penalty Areas

Marking the golf course and refreshing those markings as needed is an ongoing task for which the Committee is responsible. A well-marked course allows the players to play by the Rules and helps to eliminate confusion for players.It is therefore good practice for the Committee in charge of the course and / or competitions to regularly review both the course marking and the Local Rules. Now that the 2019 Rules of Golf have been in play for several months, it is worth considering such a review.

While there are no course marking changes that a Committee must make to reflect the 2019 Rules of Golf, there are several changes relating to the marking of penalty areas which Committees should be aware of when considering how to mark the golf course.

Course Marking

Red or Yellow Penalty Areas?

From 2019, most penalty areas should be marked red (and not yellow) as this will give players the additional option of lateral relief (see Rule 17.1d(3)).

However, where a part of the challenge of the hole is to carry over a penalty area, such as a stream that crosses close to the front of the putting green, the Committee may decide to mark such a penalty area yellow. This ensures that a ball that lands on the far side of the penalty area before rolling back into the penalty area cannot be dropped on the green side under the lateral relief option.

The Committee should therefore consider every existing penalty area on the golf course, to assess which of these should now be marked as red, instead of yellow. For simplicity, many Committees may even decide to mark all penalty areas on the course as red so there is no confusion for players as to what relief options are available.

Opposite Margin

It is also important to be aware that the Rules of Golf no longer allow the option of dropping within two club-lengths of the opposite edge of the penalty area to the point where it last crossed. This additional option may be permitted by Local Rule, but only where the design of a penalty area would merit it.

Committees should consider if there are any penalty areas on the course where the options available to the player are such that the player would have no reasonable option other than to take stroke and distance relief. Examples of situations where this may be the case are where a penalty area borders a boundary (as is shown in the image above) or thick bushes and shrubs.

For further guidance, see Model Local Rule B-2 .

Marking Additional Areas as Red Penalty Areas

Committees also now have the option to mark areas that do not contain water as penalty areas. The following are just a few of the key aspects that the Committee should take into consideration before making such a change:

  • Will the challenge of the hole and the integrity of the original design be retained?
  • Will the outcome for balls hit into similar areas throughout the course be consistent?For example, if a jungle borders the fairway on one hole and it has been marked as a red penalty area, the Committee should consider treating similar areas in the same way on other holes.
  • It is important to remember that a player who loses his or her ball outside a penalty area will have a greater penalty than someone whose ball is lost in the penalty area. If there are areas of thick rough close to the edge of the penalty area where balls could be lost, the Committee may way to consider including such areas in the penalty area.
  • The Committee should not mark properties bordering the course as a penalty area where the properties would normally be marked as out of bounds.

If moving the edges of existing penalty areas or adding new penalty areas, the Committee should consult the handicapping authority to determine if the changes will have an impact on the Course Rating.

For other considerations, see Section 2C of the Committee Procedures.

Local Rules

It is expected that each course will have a core set of Local Rules that apply throughout the year and this should be made widely available on the likes of the Scorecard, a prominent noticeboard and the Club website. The Local Rules should include details of any special course markings, for example, if there are any penalty areas for which opposite side relief is available.

If your Committee is seeking help in writing new Local Rules, including those that relate to Penalty Areas, assistance is available, in the form of a Local Rules Creator. However, please ensure that you pay close attention to the purpose of each Local Rule to ensure that it is being introduced for the right reasons. These are available in section 8 of the Committee Procedures.