The R&A - Working for Golf
Penalty Areas
Interpretations
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17.1
17.1a
17.1a/1
17.1a/2
17.1d
17.1d(2)/1
17.1d(3)/1
17.1d(3)/2
17.2
17.2b
17.2b/1

Purpose: Rule 17 is a specific Rule for penalty areas, which are bodies of water or other areas defined by the Committee where a ball is often lost or unable to be played. For one penalty stroke, players may use specific relief options to play a ball from outside the penalty area.

17.1
Options for Ball in Penalty Area
17.1a
When Ball Is in Penalty Area
17.1a/1
Ball Is in Penalty Area Even if Penalty Area Is Improperly Marked

If stakes defining a body of water as a penalty area are improperly located, a player is not allowed to take advantage of such an error by the Committee.

For example, a ball is found in an expanse of water that, because of the configuration of the ground, is clearly part of the penalty area but is outside the stakes and, thus, technically outside the penalty area. The player may not claim that the ball at rest in the water is in temporary water since a penalty area includes any body of water on the course, whether or not marked by the Committee (see definition of "penalty area").

17.1a/2
Ball Lost in Either Penalty Area or Abnormal Course Condition Adjacent to Penalty Area

If a player's ball is not found in an area where there is a penalty area and an adjacent abnormal course condition, the player must use reasonable judgment (Rule 1.3b(2)) when determining the location of the ball. If, after applying reasonable judgment, it is known or virtually certain that the ball has come to rest in one of those areas but both are equally likely, the player must take penalty relief under Rule 17.

17.1d
Relief for Ball in Penalty Area
17.1d(2)/1
Recommendation That Player Physically Marks Reference Point on Reference Line

Rule 17.1d allows a player to choose a reference point on the reference line that determines the relief area for back-on-the-line relief. Although the player should indicate the point by using an object (such as a tee), he or she may visually select a reference point.

If the player has visually selected a reference point, that point is used to determine the relief area and whether a ball must be dropped again.

The reason for recommending that the reference point is physically marked is that it assists with the relief procedure and determining whether the ball has been dropped in and has come to rest in the relief area (Rule 14.3).

17.1d(3)/1
Player May Measure Across Penalty Area In Taking Lateral Relief

In taking lateral relief where the ball last crossed the edge of a narrow red penalty area, it may be possible for the player to measure the two club-lengths from the reference point across the penalty area in determining the size of the relief area. However, any part of the penalty area within the two club-lengths as measured from the reference point is not part of the relief area.

17.1d(3)/2
Player Drops Ball Based on Estimate of Where the Ball Last Crossed Edge of Penalty Area That Turns Out to Be the Wrong Point

If the point where a ball last crossed the edge of a penalty area is not known, a player must use his or her reasonable judgment to determine the reference point.

Under Rule 1.3b(2), the player's reasonable judgment will be accepted even if that reference point turns out to be wrong. However, there are situations when, before the player has made a stroke, it becomes known that the reference point is wrong and this mistake must be corrected.

For example, in stroke play, it is virtually certain that a player's ball is in a red penalty area. The player, having consulted with the other players in the group, estimates where the ball last crossed the edge of the penalty area. The player takes lateral relief and drops a ball in the relief area based on that reference point.

But before making a stroke at the dropped ball, one of the players in the group finds the player's original ball in the penalty area in a position indicating that the ball last crossed the edge of the penalty area approximately 20 yards closer to the hole than the reference point the player had estimated.

Because this information became known before the player made a stroke at the dropped ball, he or she must correct the error under Rule 14.5 (Correcting Mistake Made in Substituting, Replacing, Dropping or Placing Ball). In doing so, the player must proceed under Rule 17.1 with respect to the correct reference point and may use any relief option under that Rule (see Rule 14.5b(2)).

17.2
Options After Playing Ball from Penalty Area
17.2b
When Ball Played from Penalty Area Is Lost, Out of Bounds or Unplayable Outside Penalty Area
17.2b/1
Examples of Options for Relief Allowed by Rule 17 .2b

In the diagram, a player plays from the teeing area and the ball comes to rest in the red penalty area at Point A. The player elects to play from the penalty area playing to Point B, which is out of bounds.

The player may take stroke-and-distance relief under Rule 18.2b by using Point A as the reference point for the relief area and will be playing 4.

If the player takes stroke-and-distance relief by dropping a ball back into the penalty area and then decides not to play the dropped ball from where it comes to rest:

  • The player may take back-on-the-line relief anywhere on dotted line X-Y outside the penalty area under Rule 17.1d(2), take lateral relief using point X as the reference point under Rule 17.1d(3) or play another ball from where the last stroke was made outside the penalty area (in this case the teeing area) under Rule 17.2a(2).
  • If the player takes any of these three options, he or she gets one more penalty stroke, for a total of two penalty strokes: one stroke for taking stroke-and-distance relief plus one stroke for taking any back-on-the-line relief, lateral relief or for playing another ball from where the last stroke was made outside the penalty area (in this case the teeing area). Thus, the player will be playing 5 under any of these options.

The player also has the option to take relief outside the penalty area without first dropping a ball in the penalty area, but will still get a total of two penalty strokes for doing so.

Penalty Area

An area from which relief with a one-stroke penalty is allowed if the player’s ball comes to rest there.

A penalty area is:

  • Any body of water on the course (whether or not marked by the Committee), including a sea, lake, pond, river, ditch, surface drainage ditch or other open watercourse (even if not containing water), and
  • Any other part of the course the Committee defines as a penalty area.

A penalty area is one of the five defined areas of the course.

There are two different types of penalty areas, distinguished by the colour used to mark them:

  • Yellow penalty areas (marked with yellow lines or yellow stakes) give the player two relief options (Rules 17.1d(1) and (2)).
  • Red penalty areas (marked with red lines or red stakes) give the player an extra lateral relief option (Rule 17.1d(3)), in addition to the two relief options available for yellow penalty areas.

If the colour of a penalty area has not been marked or indicated by the Committee, it is treated as a red penalty area.

The edge of a penalty area extends both up above the ground and down below the ground:

  • This means that all ground and anything else (such as any natural or artificial object) inside the edge is part of the penalty area, whether on, above or below the surface of the ground.
  • If an object is both inside and outside the edge (such as a bridge over the penalty area, or a tree rooted inside the edge with branches extending outside the edge or vice versa), only the part of the object that is inside the edge is part of the penalty area.

The edge of a penalty area should be defined by stakes, lines or physical features:

  • Stakes: When defined by stakes, the edge of the penalty area is defined by the line between the outside points of the stakes at ground level, and the stakes are inside the penalty area.
  • Lines: When defined by a painted line on the ground, the edge of the penalty area is the outside edge of the line, and the line itself is in the penalty area.
  • Physical Features: When defined by physical features (such as a beach or desert area or a retaining wall), the Committee should say how the edge of the penalty area is defined.

When the edge of a penalty area is defined by lines or by physical features, stakes may be used to show where the penalty area is, but they have no other meaning.

When the edge of a body of water is not defined by the Committee, the edge of that penalty area is defined by its natural boundaries (that is, where the ground slopes down to form the depression that can hold the water).

If an open watercourse usually does not contain water (such as a drainage ditch or run-off area that is dry except during a rainy season), the Committee may define that area as part of the general area (which means it is not a penalty area).

Committee

The person or group in charge of the competition or the course.

See Committee Procedures, Section 1 (explaining the role of the Committee).

Penalty Area

An area from which relief with a one-stroke penalty is allowed if the player’s ball comes to rest there.

A penalty area is:

  • Any body of water on the course (whether or not marked by the Committee), including a sea, lake, pond, river, ditch, surface drainage ditch or other open watercourse (even if not containing water), and
  • Any other part of the course the Committee defines as a penalty area.

A penalty area is one of the five defined areas of the course.

There are two different types of penalty areas, distinguished by the colour used to mark them:

  • Yellow penalty areas (marked with yellow lines or yellow stakes) give the player two relief options (Rules 17.1d(1) and (2)).
  • Red penalty areas (marked with red lines or red stakes) give the player an extra lateral relief option (Rule 17.1d(3)), in addition to the two relief options available for yellow penalty areas.

If the colour of a penalty area has not been marked or indicated by the Committee, it is treated as a red penalty area.

The edge of a penalty area extends both up above the ground and down below the ground:

  • This means that all ground and anything else (such as any natural or artificial object) inside the edge is part of the penalty area, whether on, above or below the surface of the ground.
  • If an object is both inside and outside the edge (such as a bridge over the penalty area, or a tree rooted inside the edge with branches extending outside the edge or vice versa), only the part of the object that is inside the edge is part of the penalty area.

The edge of a penalty area should be defined by stakes, lines or physical features:

  • Stakes: When defined by stakes, the edge of the penalty area is defined by the line between the outside points of the stakes at ground level, and the stakes are inside the penalty area.
  • Lines: When defined by a painted line on the ground, the edge of the penalty area is the outside edge of the line, and the line itself is in the penalty area.
  • Physical Features: When defined by physical features (such as a beach or desert area or a retaining wall), the Committee should say how the edge of the penalty area is defined.

When the edge of a penalty area is defined by lines or by physical features, stakes may be used to show where the penalty area is, but they have no other meaning.

When the edge of a body of water is not defined by the Committee, the edge of that penalty area is defined by its natural boundaries (that is, where the ground slopes down to form the depression that can hold the water).

If an open watercourse usually does not contain water (such as a drainage ditch or run-off area that is dry except during a rainy season), the Committee may define that area as part of the general area (which means it is not a penalty area).

Penalty Area

An area from which relief with a one-stroke penalty is allowed if the player’s ball comes to rest there.

A penalty area is:

  • Any body of water on the course (whether or not marked by the Committee), including a sea, lake, pond, river, ditch, surface drainage ditch or other open watercourse (even if not containing water), and
  • Any other part of the course the Committee defines as a penalty area.

A penalty area is one of the five defined areas of the course.

There are two different types of penalty areas, distinguished by the colour used to mark them:

  • Yellow penalty areas (marked with yellow lines or yellow stakes) give the player two relief options (Rules 17.1d(1) and (2)).
  • Red penalty areas (marked with red lines or red stakes) give the player an extra lateral relief option (Rule 17.1d(3)), in addition to the two relief options available for yellow penalty areas.

If the colour of a penalty area has not been marked or indicated by the Committee, it is treated as a red penalty area.

The edge of a penalty area extends both up above the ground and down below the ground:

  • This means that all ground and anything else (such as any natural or artificial object) inside the edge is part of the penalty area, whether on, above or below the surface of the ground.
  • If an object is both inside and outside the edge (such as a bridge over the penalty area, or a tree rooted inside the edge with branches extending outside the edge or vice versa), only the part of the object that is inside the edge is part of the penalty area.

The edge of a penalty area should be defined by stakes, lines or physical features:

  • Stakes: When defined by stakes, the edge of the penalty area is defined by the line between the outside points of the stakes at ground level, and the stakes are inside the penalty area.
  • Lines: When defined by a painted line on the ground, the edge of the penalty area is the outside edge of the line, and the line itself is in the penalty area.
  • Physical Features: When defined by physical features (such as a beach or desert area or a retaining wall), the Committee should say how the edge of the penalty area is defined.

When the edge of a penalty area is defined by lines or by physical features, stakes may be used to show where the penalty area is, but they have no other meaning.

When the edge of a body of water is not defined by the Committee, the edge of that penalty area is defined by its natural boundaries (that is, where the ground slopes down to form the depression that can hold the water).

If an open watercourse usually does not contain water (such as a drainage ditch or run-off area that is dry except during a rainy season), the Committee may define that area as part of the general area (which means it is not a penalty area).

Temporary Water

Any temporary accumulation of water on the surface of the ground (such as puddles from rain or irrigation or an overflow from a body of water) that:

  • Is not in a penalty area, and
  • Can be seen before or after the player takes a stance (without pressing down excessively with his or her feet).

It is not enough for the ground to be merely wet, muddy or soft or for the water to be momentarily visible as the player steps on the ground; an accumulation of water must remain present either before or after the stance is taken.

Special cases:

  • Dew and Frost are not temporary water.
  • Snow and Natural Ice (other than frost), are either loose impediments or, when on the ground, temporary water, at the player’s option.
  • Manufactured Ice is an obstruction.
Penalty Area

An area from which relief with a one-stroke penalty is allowed if the player’s ball comes to rest there.

A penalty area is:

  • Any body of water on the course (whether or not marked by the Committee), including a sea, lake, pond, river, ditch, surface drainage ditch or other open watercourse (even if not containing water), and
  • Any other part of the course the Committee defines as a penalty area.

A penalty area is one of the five defined areas of the course.

There are two different types of penalty areas, distinguished by the colour used to mark them:

  • Yellow penalty areas (marked with yellow lines or yellow stakes) give the player two relief options (Rules 17.1d(1) and (2)).
  • Red penalty areas (marked with red lines or red stakes) give the player an extra lateral relief option (Rule 17.1d(3)), in addition to the two relief options available for yellow penalty areas.

If the colour of a penalty area has not been marked or indicated by the Committee, it is treated as a red penalty area.

The edge of a penalty area extends both up above the ground and down below the ground:

  • This means that all ground and anything else (such as any natural or artificial object) inside the edge is part of the penalty area, whether on, above or below the surface of the ground.
  • If an object is both inside and outside the edge (such as a bridge over the penalty area, or a tree rooted inside the edge with branches extending outside the edge or vice versa), only the part of the object that is inside the edge is part of the penalty area.

The edge of a penalty area should be defined by stakes, lines or physical features:

  • Stakes: When defined by stakes, the edge of the penalty area is defined by the line between the outside points of the stakes at ground level, and the stakes are inside the penalty area.
  • Lines: When defined by a painted line on the ground, the edge of the penalty area is the outside edge of the line, and the line itself is in the penalty area.
  • Physical Features: When defined by physical features (such as a beach or desert area or a retaining wall), the Committee should say how the edge of the penalty area is defined.

When the edge of a penalty area is defined by lines or by physical features, stakes may be used to show where the penalty area is, but they have no other meaning.

When the edge of a body of water is not defined by the Committee, the edge of that penalty area is defined by its natural boundaries (that is, where the ground slopes down to form the depression that can hold the water).

If an open watercourse usually does not contain water (such as a drainage ditch or run-off area that is dry except during a rainy season), the Committee may define that area as part of the general area (which means it is not a penalty area).

Course

The entire area of play within the edge of any boundaries set by the Committee:

  • All areas inside the boundary edge are in bounds and part of the course.
  • All areas outside the boundary edge are out of bounds and not part of the course.
  • The boundary edge extends both up above the ground and down below the ground.

The course is made up of the five defined areas of the course.

Committee

The person or group in charge of the competition or the course.

See Committee Procedures, Section 1 (explaining the role of the Committee).

Penalty Area

An area from which relief with a one-stroke penalty is allowed if the player’s ball comes to rest there.

A penalty area is:

  • Any body of water on the course (whether or not marked by the Committee), including a sea, lake, pond, river, ditch, surface drainage ditch or other open watercourse (even if not containing water), and
  • Any other part of the course the Committee defines as a penalty area.

A penalty area is one of the five defined areas of the course.

There are two different types of penalty areas, distinguished by the colour used to mark them:

  • Yellow penalty areas (marked with yellow lines or yellow stakes) give the player two relief options (Rules 17.1d(1) and (2)).
  • Red penalty areas (marked with red lines or red stakes) give the player an extra lateral relief option (Rule 17.1d(3)), in addition to the two relief options available for yellow penalty areas.

If the colour of a penalty area has not been marked or indicated by the Committee, it is treated as a red penalty area.

The edge of a penalty area extends both up above the ground and down below the ground:

  • This means that all ground and anything else (such as any natural or artificial object) inside the edge is part of the penalty area, whether on, above or below the surface of the ground.
  • If an object is both inside and outside the edge (such as a bridge over the penalty area, or a tree rooted inside the edge with branches extending outside the edge or vice versa), only the part of the object that is inside the edge is part of the penalty area.

The edge of a penalty area should be defined by stakes, lines or physical features:

  • Stakes: When defined by stakes, the edge of the penalty area is defined by the line between the outside points of the stakes at ground level, and the stakes are inside the penalty area.
  • Lines: When defined by a painted line on the ground, the edge of the penalty area is the outside edge of the line, and the line itself is in the penalty area.
  • Physical Features: When defined by physical features (such as a beach or desert area or a retaining wall), the Committee should say how the edge of the penalty area is defined.

When the edge of a penalty area is defined by lines or by physical features, stakes may be used to show where the penalty area is, but they have no other meaning.

When the edge of a body of water is not defined by the Committee, the edge of that penalty area is defined by its natural boundaries (that is, where the ground slopes down to form the depression that can hold the water).

If an open watercourse usually does not contain water (such as a drainage ditch or run-off area that is dry except during a rainy season), the Committee may define that area as part of the general area (which means it is not a penalty area).

Abnormal Course Condition

Any of these four defined conditions:

  • Animal Hole,
  • Ground Under Repair,
  • Immovable Obstruction, or
  • Temporary Water.
Known or Virtually Certain

The standard for deciding what happened to a player’s ball – for example, whether the ball came to rest in a penalty area, whether it moved or what caused it to move.

Known or virtually certain means more than just possible or probable. It means that either:

  • There is conclusive evidence that the event in question happened to the player's ball, such as when the player or other witnesses saw it happen, or
  • Although there is a very small degree of doubt, all reasonably available information shows that it is at least 95% likely that the event in question happened.

"All reasonably available information" includes all information the player knows and all other information he or she can get with reasonable effort and without unreasonable delay.

 

Interpretation Known or Virtually Certain/1 - Applying "Known or Virtually Certain" Standard When Ball Moves

When it is not "known" what caused the ball to move, all reasonably available information must be considered and the evidence must be evaluated to determine if it is "virtually certain" that the player, opponent or outside influence caused the ball to move.

Depending on the circumstances, reasonably available information may include, but is not limited to:

  • The effect of any actions taken near the ball (such as movement of loose impediments, practice swings, grounding club and taking a stance),
  • Time elapsed between such actions and the movement of the ball,
  • The lie of the ball before it moved (such as on a fairway, perched on longer grass, on a surface imperfection or on the putting green),
  • The conditions of the ground near the ball (such as the degree of slope or presence of surface irregularities, etc), and
  • Wind speed and direction, rain and other weather conditions.

Interpretation Known or Virtually Certain/2 - Virtual Certainty Is Irrelevant if It Comes to Light After Three-Minute Search Expires

Determining whether there is knowledge or virtual certainty must be based on evidence known to the player at the time the three-minute search time expires.

Examples of when the player's later findings are irrelevant include when:

  • A player's tee shot comes to rest in an area containing heavy rough and a large animal hole. After a three-minute search, it is determined that it is not known or virtually certain that the ball is in the animal hole. As the player returns to the teeing area, the ball is found in the animal hole.
  • Even though the player has not yet put another ball in play, the player must take stroke-and-distance relief for a lost ball (Rule 18.2b - What to Do When Ball is Lost or Out of Bounds) since it was not known or virtually certain that the ball was in the animal hole, when the search time expired.
  • A player cannot find his or her ball and believes it may have been picked up by a spectator (outside influence), but there is not enough evidence to be virtually certain of this. A short time after the three-minute search time expires, a spectator is found to have the player's ball.

The player must take stroke-and-distance relief for a lost ball (Rule 18.2b) since the movement by the outside influence only became known after the search time expired.

Interpretation Known or Virtually Certain/3 - Player Unaware Ball Played by Another Player

It must be known or virtually certain that a player's ball has been played by another player as a wrong ball to treat it as being moved.

For example, in stroke play, Player A and Player B hit their tee shots into the same general location. Player A finds a ball and plays it. Player B goes forward to look for his or her ball and cannot find it. After three minutes, Player B starts back to the tee to play another ball. On the way, Player B finds Player A's ball and knows then that Player A has played his or her ball in error.

Player A gets the general penalty for playing a wrong ball and must then play his or her own ball (Rule 6.3c). Player A's ball was not lost even though both players searched for more than three minutes because Player A did not start searching for his or her ball; the searching was for Player B's ball. Regarding Player B's ball, Player B's original ball was lost and he or she must put another ball in play under penalty of stroke and distance (Rule 18.2b), because it was not known or virtually certain when the three-minute search time expired that the ball had been played by another player.

Relief Area

The area where a player must drop a ball when taking relief under a Rule. Each relief Rule requires the player to use a specific relief area whose size and location are based on these three factors:

  • Reference Point: The point from which the size of relief area is measured.
  • Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: The relief area is either one or two club-lengths from the reference point, but with certain limits:
  • Limits on Location of Relief Area: The location of the relief area may be limited in one or more ways so that, for example:
    • It is only in certain defined areas of the course, such as only in the general area, or not in a bunker or a penalty area,
    • It is not nearer the hole than the reference point or must be outside a penalty area or a bunker from which relief is being taken, or
    • It is where there is no interference (as defined in the particular Rule) from the condition from which relief is being taken.

In using club-lengths to determine the size of a relief area, the player may measure directly across a ditch, hole or similar thing, and directly across or through an object (such as a tree, fence, wall, tunnel, drain or sprinkler head), but is not allowed to measure through ground that naturally slopes up and down.

See Committee Procedures, Section 2I (Committee may choose to allow or require the player to use a dropping zone as a relief area when taking certain relief).

Tee

An object used to raise a ball above the ground to play it from the teeing area. It must be no longer than four inches (101.6 mm) and conform with the Equipment Rules.

Relief Area

The area where a player must drop a ball when taking relief under a Rule. Each relief Rule requires the player to use a specific relief area whose size and location are based on these three factors:

  • Reference Point: The point from which the size of relief area is measured.
  • Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: The relief area is either one or two club-lengths from the reference point, but with certain limits:
  • Limits on Location of Relief Area: The location of the relief area may be limited in one or more ways so that, for example:
    • It is only in certain defined areas of the course, such as only in the general area, or not in a bunker or a penalty area,
    • It is not nearer the hole than the reference point or must be outside a penalty area or a bunker from which relief is being taken, or
    • It is where there is no interference (as defined in the particular Rule) from the condition from which relief is being taken.

In using club-lengths to determine the size of a relief area, the player may measure directly across a ditch, hole or similar thing, and directly across or through an object (such as a tree, fence, wall, tunnel, drain or sprinkler head), but is not allowed to measure through ground that naturally slopes up and down.

See Committee Procedures, Section 2I (Committee may choose to allow or require the player to use a dropping zone as a relief area when taking certain relief).

Drop

To hold the ball and let go of it so that it falls through the air, with the intent for the ball to be in play.

If the player lets go of a ball without intending it to be in play, the ball has not been dropped and is not in play (see Rule 14.4).

Each relief Rule identifies a specific relief area where the ball must be dropped and come to rest.

In taking relief, the player must let go of the ball from a location at knee height so that the ball:

  • Falls straight down, without the player throwing, spinning or rolling it or using any other motion that might affect where the ball will come to rest, and
  • Does not touch any part of the player’s body or equipment before it hits the ground (see Rule 14.3b).
Drop

To hold the ball and let go of it so that it falls through the air, with the intent for the ball to be in play.

If the player lets go of a ball without intending it to be in play, the ball has not been dropped and is not in play (see Rule 14.4).

Each relief Rule identifies a specific relief area where the ball must be dropped and come to rest.

In taking relief, the player must let go of the ball from a location at knee height so that the ball:

  • Falls straight down, without the player throwing, spinning or rolling it or using any other motion that might affect where the ball will come to rest, and
  • Does not touch any part of the player’s body or equipment before it hits the ground (see Rule 14.3b).
Relief Area

The area where a player must drop a ball when taking relief under a Rule. Each relief Rule requires the player to use a specific relief area whose size and location are based on these three factors:

  • Reference Point: The point from which the size of relief area is measured.
  • Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: The relief area is either one or two club-lengths from the reference point, but with certain limits:
  • Limits on Location of Relief Area: The location of the relief area may be limited in one or more ways so that, for example:
    • It is only in certain defined areas of the course, such as only in the general area, or not in a bunker or a penalty area,
    • It is not nearer the hole than the reference point or must be outside a penalty area or a bunker from which relief is being taken, or
    • It is where there is no interference (as defined in the particular Rule) from the condition from which relief is being taken.

In using club-lengths to determine the size of a relief area, the player may measure directly across a ditch, hole or similar thing, and directly across or through an object (such as a tree, fence, wall, tunnel, drain or sprinkler head), but is not allowed to measure through ground that naturally slopes up and down.

See Committee Procedures, Section 2I (Committee may choose to allow or require the player to use a dropping zone as a relief area when taking certain relief).

Penalty Area

An area from which relief with a one-stroke penalty is allowed if the player’s ball comes to rest there.

A penalty area is:

  • Any body of water on the course (whether or not marked by the Committee), including a sea, lake, pond, river, ditch, surface drainage ditch or other open watercourse (even if not containing water), and
  • Any other part of the course the Committee defines as a penalty area.

A penalty area is one of the five defined areas of the course.

There are two different types of penalty areas, distinguished by the colour used to mark them:

  • Yellow penalty areas (marked with yellow lines or yellow stakes) give the player two relief options (Rules 17.1d(1) and (2)).
  • Red penalty areas (marked with red lines or red stakes) give the player an extra lateral relief option (Rule 17.1d(3)), in addition to the two relief options available for yellow penalty areas.

If the colour of a penalty area has not been marked or indicated by the Committee, it is treated as a red penalty area.

The edge of a penalty area extends both up above the ground and down below the ground:

  • This means that all ground and anything else (such as any natural or artificial object) inside the edge is part of the penalty area, whether on, above or below the surface of the ground.
  • If an object is both inside and outside the edge (such as a bridge over the penalty area, or a tree rooted inside the edge with branches extending outside the edge or vice versa), only the part of the object that is inside the edge is part of the penalty area.

The edge of a penalty area should be defined by stakes, lines or physical features:

  • Stakes: When defined by stakes, the edge of the penalty area is defined by the line between the outside points of the stakes at ground level, and the stakes are inside the penalty area.
  • Lines: When defined by a painted line on the ground, the edge of the penalty area is the outside edge of the line, and the line itself is in the penalty area.
  • Physical Features: When defined by physical features (such as a beach or desert area or a retaining wall), the Committee should say how the edge of the penalty area is defined.

When the edge of a penalty area is defined by lines or by physical features, stakes may be used to show where the penalty area is, but they have no other meaning.

When the edge of a body of water is not defined by the Committee, the edge of that penalty area is defined by its natural boundaries (that is, where the ground slopes down to form the depression that can hold the water).

If an open watercourse usually does not contain water (such as a drainage ditch or run-off area that is dry except during a rainy season), the Committee may define that area as part of the general area (which means it is not a penalty area).

Club-Length

The length of the longest club of the 14 (or fewer) clubs the player has during the round (as allowed by Rule 4.1b(1)), other than a putter.

For example, if the longest club (other than a putter) a player has during a round is a 43-inch (109.22 cm) driver, a club-length is 43 inches for that player for that round.

Club-lengths are used in defining the player’s teeing area on each hole and in determining the size of the player’s relief area when taking relief under a Rule.

 

Interpretation Club-Length/1 - Meaning of "Club-Length" When Measuring

For the purposes of measuring when determining a relief area, the length of the entire club, starting at the toe of the club and ending at the butt end of the grip is used. However, if the club has a headcover on it or has an attachment to the end of the grip, neither is allowed to be used as part of the club when using it to measure.

Interpretation Club-Length/2 - How to Measure When Longest Club Breaks

If the longest club a player has during a round breaks, that broken club continues to be used for determining the size of his or her relief areas. However, if the longest club breaks and the player is allowed to replace it with another club (Exception to Rule 4.1b(3)) and he or she does so, the broken club is no longer considered his or her longest club.

If the player starts a round with fewer than 14 clubs and decides to add another club that is longer than the clubs he or she started with, the added club is used for measuring so long as it is not a putter.

Penalty Area

An area from which relief with a one-stroke penalty is allowed if the player’s ball comes to rest there.

A penalty area is:

  • Any body of water on the course (whether or not marked by the Committee), including a sea, lake, pond, river, ditch, surface drainage ditch or other open watercourse (even if not containing water), and
  • Any other part of the course the Committee defines as a penalty area.

A penalty area is one of the five defined areas of the course.

There are two different types of penalty areas, distinguished by the colour used to mark them:

  • Yellow penalty areas (marked with yellow lines or yellow stakes) give the player two relief options (Rules 17.1d(1) and (2)).
  • Red penalty areas (marked with red lines or red stakes) give the player an extra lateral relief option (Rule 17.1d(3)), in addition to the two relief options available for yellow penalty areas.

If the colour of a penalty area has not been marked or indicated by the Committee, it is treated as a red penalty area.

The edge of a penalty area extends both up above the ground and down below the ground:

  • This means that all ground and anything else (such as any natural or artificial object) inside the edge is part of the penalty area, whether on, above or below the surface of the ground.
  • If an object is both inside and outside the edge (such as a bridge over the penalty area, or a tree rooted inside the edge with branches extending outside the edge or vice versa), only the part of the object that is inside the edge is part of the penalty area.

The edge of a penalty area should be defined by stakes, lines or physical features:

  • Stakes: When defined by stakes, the edge of the penalty area is defined by the line between the outside points of the stakes at ground level, and the stakes are inside the penalty area.
  • Lines: When defined by a painted line on the ground, the edge of the penalty area is the outside edge of the line, and the line itself is in the penalty area.
  • Physical Features: When defined by physical features (such as a beach or desert area or a retaining wall), the Committee should say how the edge of the penalty area is defined.

When the edge of a penalty area is defined by lines or by physical features, stakes may be used to show where the penalty area is, but they have no other meaning.

When the edge of a body of water is not defined by the Committee, the edge of that penalty area is defined by its natural boundaries (that is, where the ground slopes down to form the depression that can hold the water).

If an open watercourse usually does not contain water (such as a drainage ditch or run-off area that is dry except during a rainy season), the Committee may define that area as part of the general area (which means it is not a penalty area).

Relief Area

The area where a player must drop a ball when taking relief under a Rule. Each relief Rule requires the player to use a specific relief area whose size and location are based on these three factors:

  • Reference Point: The point from which the size of relief area is measured.
  • Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: The relief area is either one or two club-lengths from the reference point, but with certain limits:
  • Limits on Location of Relief Area: The location of the relief area may be limited in one or more ways so that, for example:
    • It is only in certain defined areas of the course, such as only in the general area, or not in a bunker or a penalty area,
    • It is not nearer the hole than the reference point or must be outside a penalty area or a bunker from which relief is being taken, or
    • It is where there is no interference (as defined in the particular Rule) from the condition from which relief is being taken.

In using club-lengths to determine the size of a relief area, the player may measure directly across a ditch, hole or similar thing, and directly across or through an object (such as a tree, fence, wall, tunnel, drain or sprinkler head), but is not allowed to measure through ground that naturally slopes up and down.

See Committee Procedures, Section 2I (Committee may choose to allow or require the player to use a dropping zone as a relief area when taking certain relief).

Penalty Area

An area from which relief with a one-stroke penalty is allowed if the player’s ball comes to rest there.

A penalty area is:

  • Any body of water on the course (whether or not marked by the Committee), including a sea, lake, pond, river, ditch, surface drainage ditch or other open watercourse (even if not containing water), and
  • Any other part of the course the Committee defines as a penalty area.

A penalty area is one of the five defined areas of the course.

There are two different types of penalty areas, distinguished by the colour used to mark them:

  • Yellow penalty areas (marked with yellow lines or yellow stakes) give the player two relief options (Rules 17.1d(1) and (2)).
  • Red penalty areas (marked with red lines or red stakes) give the player an extra lateral relief option (Rule 17.1d(3)), in addition to the two relief options available for yellow penalty areas.

If the colour of a penalty area has not been marked or indicated by the Committee, it is treated as a red penalty area.

The edge of a penalty area extends both up above the ground and down below the ground:

  • This means that all ground and anything else (such as any natural or artificial object) inside the edge is part of the penalty area, whether on, above or below the surface of the ground.
  • If an object is both inside and outside the edge (such as a bridge over the penalty area, or a tree rooted inside the edge with branches extending outside the edge or vice versa), only the part of the object that is inside the edge is part of the penalty area.

The edge of a penalty area should be defined by stakes, lines or physical features:

  • Stakes: When defined by stakes, the edge of the penalty area is defined by the line between the outside points of the stakes at ground level, and the stakes are inside the penalty area.
  • Lines: When defined by a painted line on the ground, the edge of the penalty area is the outside edge of the line, and the line itself is in the penalty area.
  • Physical Features: When defined by physical features (such as a beach or desert area or a retaining wall), the Committee should say how the edge of the penalty area is defined.

When the edge of a penalty area is defined by lines or by physical features, stakes may be used to show where the penalty area is, but they have no other meaning.

When the edge of a body of water is not defined by the Committee, the edge of that penalty area is defined by its natural boundaries (that is, where the ground slopes down to form the depression that can hold the water).

If an open watercourse usually does not contain water (such as a drainage ditch or run-off area that is dry except during a rainy season), the Committee may define that area as part of the general area (which means it is not a penalty area).

Club-Length

The length of the longest club of the 14 (or fewer) clubs the player has during the round (as allowed by Rule 4.1b(1)), other than a putter.

For example, if the longest club (other than a putter) a player has during a round is a 43-inch (109.22 cm) driver, a club-length is 43 inches for that player for that round.

Club-lengths are used in defining the player’s teeing area on each hole and in determining the size of the player’s relief area when taking relief under a Rule.

 

Interpretation Club-Length/1 - Meaning of "Club-Length" When Measuring

For the purposes of measuring when determining a relief area, the length of the entire club, starting at the toe of the club and ending at the butt end of the grip is used. However, if the club has a headcover on it or has an attachment to the end of the grip, neither is allowed to be used as part of the club when using it to measure.

Interpretation Club-Length/2 - How to Measure When Longest Club Breaks

If the longest club a player has during a round breaks, that broken club continues to be used for determining the size of his or her relief areas. However, if the longest club breaks and the player is allowed to replace it with another club (Exception to Rule 4.1b(3)) and he or she does so, the broken club is no longer considered his or her longest club.

If the player starts a round with fewer than 14 clubs and decides to add another club that is longer than the clubs he or she started with, the added club is used for measuring so long as it is not a putter.

Relief Area

The area where a player must drop a ball when taking relief under a Rule. Each relief Rule requires the player to use a specific relief area whose size and location are based on these three factors:

  • Reference Point: The point from which the size of relief area is measured.
  • Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: The relief area is either one or two club-lengths from the reference point, but with certain limits:
  • Limits on Location of Relief Area: The location of the relief area may be limited in one or more ways so that, for example:
    • It is only in certain defined areas of the course, such as only in the general area, or not in a bunker or a penalty area,
    • It is not nearer the hole than the reference point or must be outside a penalty area or a bunker from which relief is being taken, or
    • It is where there is no interference (as defined in the particular Rule) from the condition from which relief is being taken.

In using club-lengths to determine the size of a relief area, the player may measure directly across a ditch, hole or similar thing, and directly across or through an object (such as a tree, fence, wall, tunnel, drain or sprinkler head), but is not allowed to measure through ground that naturally slopes up and down.

See Committee Procedures, Section 2I (Committee may choose to allow or require the player to use a dropping zone as a relief area when taking certain relief).

Penalty Area

An area from which relief with a one-stroke penalty is allowed if the player’s ball comes to rest there.

A penalty area is:

  • Any body of water on the course (whether or not marked by the Committee), including a sea, lake, pond, river, ditch, surface drainage ditch or other open watercourse (even if not containing water), and
  • Any other part of the course the Committee defines as a penalty area.

A penalty area is one of the five defined areas of the course.

There are two different types of penalty areas, distinguished by the colour used to mark them:

  • Yellow penalty areas (marked with yellow lines or yellow stakes) give the player two relief options (Rules 17.1d(1) and (2)).
  • Red penalty areas (marked with red lines or red stakes) give the player an extra lateral relief option (Rule 17.1d(3)), in addition to the two relief options available for yellow penalty areas.

If the colour of a penalty area has not been marked or indicated by the Committee, it is treated as a red penalty area.

The edge of a penalty area extends both up above the ground and down below the ground:

  • This means that all ground and anything else (such as any natural or artificial object) inside the edge is part of the penalty area, whether on, above or below the surface of the ground.
  • If an object is both inside and outside the edge (such as a bridge over the penalty area, or a tree rooted inside the edge with branches extending outside the edge or vice versa), only the part of the object that is inside the edge is part of the penalty area.

The edge of a penalty area should be defined by stakes, lines or physical features:

  • Stakes: When defined by stakes, the edge of the penalty area is defined by the line between the outside points of the stakes at ground level, and the stakes are inside the penalty area.
  • Lines: When defined by a painted line on the ground, the edge of the penalty area is the outside edge of the line, and the line itself is in the penalty area.
  • Physical Features: When defined by physical features (such as a beach or desert area or a retaining wall), the Committee should say how the edge of the penalty area is defined.

When the edge of a penalty area is defined by lines or by physical features, stakes may be used to show where the penalty area is, but they have no other meaning.

When the edge of a body of water is not defined by the Committee, the edge of that penalty area is defined by its natural boundaries (that is, where the ground slopes down to form the depression that can hold the water).

If an open watercourse usually does not contain water (such as a drainage ditch or run-off area that is dry except during a rainy season), the Committee may define that area as part of the general area (which means it is not a penalty area).

Stroke

The forward movement of the club made to strike the ball.

But a stroke has not been made if the player:

  • Decides during the downswing not to strike the ball and avoids doing so by deliberately stopping the clubhead before it reaches the ball or, if unable to stop, by deliberately missing the ball.
  • Accidentally strikes the ball when making a practice swing or while preparing to make a stroke.

When the Rules refer to "playing a ball," it means the same as making a stroke.

The player's score for a hole or a round is described as a number of "strokes" or "strokes taken," which means both all strokes made and any penalty strokes (see Rule 3.1c).

 

Interpretation Stroke/1 - Determining If a Stroke Was Made

If a player starts the downswing with a club intending to strike the ball, his or her action counts as a stroke when:

  • The clubhead is deflected or stopped by an outside influence (such as the branch of a tree) whether or not the ball is struck.
  • The clubhead separates from the shaft during the downswing and the player continues the downswing with the shaft alone, whether or not the ball is struck with the shaft.
  • The clubhead separates from the shaft during the downswing and the player continues the downswing with the shaft alone, with the clubhead falling and striking the ball.

The player's action does not count as a stroke in each of following situations:

  • During the downswing, a player's clubhead separates from the shaft. The player stops the downswing short of the ball, but the clubhead falls and strikes and moves the ball.
  • During the backswing, a player's clubhead separates from the shaft. The player completes the downswing with the shaft but does not strike the ball.
  • A ball is lodged in a tree branch beyond the reach of a club. If the player moves the ball by striking a lower part of the branch instead of the ball, Rule 9.4 (Ball Lifted or Moved by Player) applies.
Stroke Play

A form of play where a player or side competes against all other players or sides in the competition.

In the regular form of stroke play (see Rule 3.3):

  • A player’s or side’s score for a round is the total number of strokes (including strokes made and any penalty strokes) to hole out on each hole, and
  • The winner is the player or side who completes all rounds in the fewest total strokes.

Other forms of stroke play with different scoring methods are Stableford, Maximum Score and Par/Bogey (see Rule 21).

All forms of stroke play  can be played either in individual competitions (each player competing on his or her own) or in competitions involving sides of partners (Foursomes or Four-Ball).

Known or Virtually Certain

The standard for deciding what happened to a player’s ball – for example, whether the ball came to rest in a penalty area, whether it moved or what caused it to move.

Known or virtually certain means more than just possible or probable. It means that either:

  • There is conclusive evidence that the event in question happened to the player's ball, such as when the player or other witnesses saw it happen, or
  • Although there is a very small degree of doubt, all reasonably available information shows that it is at least 95% likely that the event in question happened.

"All reasonably available information" includes all information the player knows and all other information he or she can get with reasonable effort and without unreasonable delay.

 

Interpretation Known or Virtually Certain/1 - Applying "Known or Virtually Certain" Standard When Ball Moves

When it is not "known" what caused the ball to move, all reasonably available information must be considered and the evidence must be evaluated to determine if it is "virtually certain" that the player, opponent or outside influence caused the ball to move.

Depending on the circumstances, reasonably available information may include, but is not limited to:

  • The effect of any actions taken near the ball (such as movement of loose impediments, practice swings, grounding club and taking a stance),
  • Time elapsed between such actions and the movement of the ball,
  • The lie of the ball before it moved (such as on a fairway, perched on longer grass, on a surface imperfection or on the putting green),
  • The conditions of the ground near the ball (such as the degree of slope or presence of surface irregularities, etc), and
  • Wind speed and direction, rain and other weather conditions.

Interpretation Known or Virtually Certain/2 - Virtual Certainty Is Irrelevant if It Comes to Light After Three-Minute Search Expires

Determining whether there is knowledge or virtual certainty must be based on evidence known to the player at the time the three-minute search time expires.

Examples of when the player's later findings are irrelevant include when:

  • A player's tee shot comes to rest in an area containing heavy rough and a large animal hole. After a three-minute search, it is determined that it is not known or virtually certain that the ball is in the animal hole. As the player returns to the teeing area, the ball is found in the animal hole.
  • Even though the player has not yet put another ball in play, the player must take stroke-and-distance relief for a lost ball (Rule 18.2b - What to Do When Ball is Lost or Out of Bounds) since it was not known or virtually certain that the ball was in the animal hole, when the search time expired.
  • A player cannot find his or her ball and believes it may have been picked up by a spectator (outside influence), but there is not enough evidence to be virtually certain of this. A short time after the three-minute search time expires, a spectator is found to have the player's ball.

The player must take stroke-and-distance relief for a lost ball (Rule 18.2b) since the movement by the outside influence only became known after the search time expired.

Interpretation Known or Virtually Certain/3 - Player Unaware Ball Played by Another Player

It must be known or virtually certain that a player's ball has been played by another player as a wrong ball to treat it as being moved.

For example, in stroke play, Player A and Player B hit their tee shots into the same general location. Player A finds a ball and plays it. Player B goes forward to look for his or her ball and cannot find it. After three minutes, Player B starts back to the tee to play another ball. On the way, Player B finds Player A's ball and knows then that Player A has played his or her ball in error.

Player A gets the general penalty for playing a wrong ball and must then play his or her own ball (Rule 6.3c). Player A's ball was not lost even though both players searched for more than three minutes because Player A did not start searching for his or her ball; the searching was for Player B's ball. Regarding Player B's ball, Player B's original ball was lost and he or she must put another ball in play under penalty of stroke and distance (Rule 18.2b), because it was not known or virtually certain when the three-minute search time expired that the ball had been played by another player.

Penalty Area

An area from which relief with a one-stroke penalty is allowed if the player’s ball comes to rest there.

A penalty area is:

  • Any body of water on the course (whether or not marked by the Committee), including a sea, lake, pond, river, ditch, surface drainage ditch or other open watercourse (even if not containing water), and
  • Any other part of the course the Committee defines as a penalty area.

A penalty area is one of the five defined areas of the course.

There are two different types of penalty areas, distinguished by the colour used to mark them:

  • Yellow penalty areas (marked with yellow lines or yellow stakes) give the player two relief options (Rules 17.1d(1) and (2)).
  • Red penalty areas (marked with red lines or red stakes) give the player an extra lateral relief option (Rule 17.1d(3)), in addition to the two relief options available for yellow penalty areas.

If the colour of a penalty area has not been marked or indicated by the Committee, it is treated as a red penalty area.

The edge of a penalty area extends both up above the ground and down below the ground:

  • This means that all ground and anything else (such as any natural or artificial object) inside the edge is part of the penalty area, whether on, above or below the surface of the ground.
  • If an object is both inside and outside the edge (such as a bridge over the penalty area, or a tree rooted inside the edge with branches extending outside the edge or vice versa), only the part of the object that is inside the edge is part of the penalty area.

The edge of a penalty area should be defined by stakes, lines or physical features:

  • Stakes: When defined by stakes, the edge of the penalty area is defined by the line between the outside points of the stakes at ground level, and the stakes are inside the penalty area.
  • Lines: When defined by a painted line on the ground, the edge of the penalty area is the outside edge of the line, and the line itself is in the penalty area.
  • Physical Features: When defined by physical features (such as a beach or desert area or a retaining wall), the Committee should say how the edge of the penalty area is defined.

When the edge of a penalty area is defined by lines or by physical features, stakes may be used to show where the penalty area is, but they have no other meaning.

When the edge of a body of water is not defined by the Committee, the edge of that penalty area is defined by its natural boundaries (that is, where the ground slopes down to form the depression that can hold the water).

If an open watercourse usually does not contain water (such as a drainage ditch or run-off area that is dry except during a rainy season), the Committee may define that area as part of the general area (which means it is not a penalty area).

Penalty Area

An area from which relief with a one-stroke penalty is allowed if the player’s ball comes to rest there.

A penalty area is:

  • Any body of water on the course (whether or not marked by the Committee), including a sea, lake, pond, river, ditch, surface drainage ditch or other open watercourse (even if not containing water), and
  • Any other part of the course the Committee defines as a penalty area.

A penalty area is one of the five defined areas of the course.

There are two different types of penalty areas, distinguished by the colour used to mark them:

  • Yellow penalty areas (marked with yellow lines or yellow stakes) give the player two relief options (Rules 17.1d(1) and (2)).
  • Red penalty areas (marked with red lines or red stakes) give the player an extra lateral relief option (Rule 17.1d(3)), in addition to the two relief options available for yellow penalty areas.

If the colour of a penalty area has not been marked or indicated by the Committee, it is treated as a red penalty area.

The edge of a penalty area extends both up above the ground and down below the ground:

  • This means that all ground and anything else (such as any natural or artificial object) inside the edge is part of the penalty area, whether on, above or below the surface of the ground.
  • If an object is both inside and outside the edge (such as a bridge over the penalty area, or a tree rooted inside the edge with branches extending outside the edge or vice versa), only the part of the object that is inside the edge is part of the penalty area.

The edge of a penalty area should be defined by stakes, lines or physical features:

  • Stakes: When defined by stakes, the edge of the penalty area is defined by the line between the outside points of the stakes at ground level, and the stakes are inside the penalty area.
  • Lines: When defined by a painted line on the ground, the edge of the penalty area is the outside edge of the line, and the line itself is in the penalty area.
  • Physical Features: When defined by physical features (such as a beach or desert area or a retaining wall), the Committee should say how the edge of the penalty area is defined.

When the edge of a penalty area is defined by lines or by physical features, stakes may be used to show where the penalty area is, but they have no other meaning.

When the edge of a body of water is not defined by the Committee, the edge of that penalty area is defined by its natural boundaries (that is, where the ground slopes down to form the depression that can hold the water).

If an open watercourse usually does not contain water (such as a drainage ditch or run-off area that is dry except during a rainy season), the Committee may define that area as part of the general area (which means it is not a penalty area).

Relief Area

The area where a player must drop a ball when taking relief under a Rule. Each relief Rule requires the player to use a specific relief area whose size and location are based on these three factors:

  • Reference Point: The point from which the size of relief area is measured.
  • Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: The relief area is either one or two club-lengths from the reference point, but with certain limits:
  • Limits on Location of Relief Area: The location of the relief area may be limited in one or more ways so that, for example:
    • It is only in certain defined areas of the course, such as only in the general area, or not in a bunker or a penalty area,
    • It is not nearer the hole than the reference point or must be outside a penalty area or a bunker from which relief is being taken, or
    • It is where there is no interference (as defined in the particular Rule) from the condition from which relief is being taken.

In using club-lengths to determine the size of a relief area, the player may measure directly across a ditch, hole or similar thing, and directly across or through an object (such as a tree, fence, wall, tunnel, drain or sprinkler head), but is not allowed to measure through ground that naturally slopes up and down.

See Committee Procedures, Section 2I (Committee may choose to allow or require the player to use a dropping zone as a relief area when taking certain relief).

Stroke

The forward movement of the club made to strike the ball.

But a stroke has not been made if the player:

  • Decides during the downswing not to strike the ball and avoids doing so by deliberately stopping the clubhead before it reaches the ball or, if unable to stop, by deliberately missing the ball.
  • Accidentally strikes the ball when making a practice swing or while preparing to make a stroke.

When the Rules refer to "playing a ball," it means the same as making a stroke.

The player's score for a hole or a round is described as a number of "strokes" or "strokes taken," which means both all strokes made and any penalty strokes (see Rule 3.1c).

 

Interpretation Stroke/1 - Determining If a Stroke Was Made

If a player starts the downswing with a club intending to strike the ball, his or her action counts as a stroke when:

  • The clubhead is deflected or stopped by an outside influence (such as the branch of a tree) whether or not the ball is struck.
  • The clubhead separates from the shaft during the downswing and the player continues the downswing with the shaft alone, whether or not the ball is struck with the shaft.
  • The clubhead separates from the shaft during the downswing and the player continues the downswing with the shaft alone, with the clubhead falling and striking the ball.

The player's action does not count as a stroke in each of following situations:

  • During the downswing, a player's clubhead separates from the shaft. The player stops the downswing short of the ball, but the clubhead falls and strikes and moves the ball.
  • During the backswing, a player's clubhead separates from the shaft. The player completes the downswing with the shaft but does not strike the ball.
  • A ball is lodged in a tree branch beyond the reach of a club. If the player moves the ball by striking a lower part of the branch instead of the ball, Rule 9.4 (Ball Lifted or Moved by Player) applies.
Drop

To hold the ball and let go of it so that it falls through the air, with the intent for the ball to be in play.

If the player lets go of a ball without intending it to be in play, the ball has not been dropped and is not in play (see Rule 14.4).

Each relief Rule identifies a specific relief area where the ball must be dropped and come to rest.

In taking relief, the player must let go of the ball from a location at knee height so that the ball:

  • Falls straight down, without the player throwing, spinning or rolling it or using any other motion that might affect where the ball will come to rest, and
  • Does not touch any part of the player’s body or equipment before it hits the ground (see Rule 14.3b).
Penalty Area

An area from which relief with a one-stroke penalty is allowed if the player’s ball comes to rest there.

A penalty area is:

  • Any body of water on the course (whether or not marked by the Committee), including a sea, lake, pond, river, ditch, surface drainage ditch or other open watercourse (even if not containing water), and
  • Any other part of the course the Committee defines as a penalty area.

A penalty area is one of the five defined areas of the course.

There are two different types of penalty areas, distinguished by the colour used to mark them:

  • Yellow penalty areas (marked with yellow lines or yellow stakes) give the player two relief options (Rules 17.1d(1) and (2)).
  • Red penalty areas (marked with red lines or red stakes) give the player an extra lateral relief option (Rule 17.1d(3)), in addition to the two relief options available for yellow penalty areas.

If the colour of a penalty area has not been marked or indicated by the Committee, it is treated as a red penalty area.

The edge of a penalty area extends both up above the ground and down below the ground:

  • This means that all ground and anything else (such as any natural or artificial object) inside the edge is part of the penalty area, whether on, above or below the surface of the ground.
  • If an object is both inside and outside the edge (such as a bridge over the penalty area, or a tree rooted inside the edge with branches extending outside the edge or vice versa), only the part of the object that is inside the edge is part of the penalty area.

The edge of a penalty area should be defined by stakes, lines or physical features:

  • Stakes: When defined by stakes, the edge of the penalty area is defined by the line between the outside points of the stakes at ground level, and the stakes are inside the penalty area.
  • Lines: When defined by a painted line on the ground, the edge of the penalty area is the outside edge of the line, and the line itself is in the penalty area.
  • Physical Features: When defined by physical features (such as a beach or desert area or a retaining wall), the Committee should say how the edge of the penalty area is defined.

When the edge of a penalty area is defined by lines or by physical features, stakes may be used to show where the penalty area is, but they have no other meaning.

When the edge of a body of water is not defined by the Committee, the edge of that penalty area is defined by its natural boundaries (that is, where the ground slopes down to form the depression that can hold the water).

If an open watercourse usually does not contain water (such as a drainage ditch or run-off area that is dry except during a rainy season), the Committee may define that area as part of the general area (which means it is not a penalty area).

Penalty Area

An area from which relief with a one-stroke penalty is allowed if the player’s ball comes to rest there.

A penalty area is:

  • Any body of water on the course (whether or not marked by the Committee), including a sea, lake, pond, river, ditch, surface drainage ditch or other open watercourse (even if not containing water), and
  • Any other part of the course the Committee defines as a penalty area.

A penalty area is one of the five defined areas of the course.

There are two different types of penalty areas, distinguished by the colour used to mark them:

  • Yellow penalty areas (marked with yellow lines or yellow stakes) give the player two relief options (Rules 17.1d(1) and (2)).
  • Red penalty areas (marked with red lines or red stakes) give the player an extra lateral relief option (Rule 17.1d(3)), in addition to the two relief options available for yellow penalty areas.

If the colour of a penalty area has not been marked or indicated by the Committee, it is treated as a red penalty area.

The edge of a penalty area extends both up above the ground and down below the ground:

  • This means that all ground and anything else (such as any natural or artificial object) inside the edge is part of the penalty area, whether on, above or below the surface of the ground.
  • If an object is both inside and outside the edge (such as a bridge over the penalty area, or a tree rooted inside the edge with branches extending outside the edge or vice versa), only the part of the object that is inside the edge is part of the penalty area.

The edge of a penalty area should be defined by stakes, lines or physical features:

  • Stakes: When defined by stakes, the edge of the penalty area is defined by the line between the outside points of the stakes at ground level, and the stakes are inside the penalty area.
  • Lines: When defined by a painted line on the ground, the edge of the penalty area is the outside edge of the line, and the line itself is in the penalty area.
  • Physical Features: When defined by physical features (such as a beach or desert area or a retaining wall), the Committee should say how the edge of the penalty area is defined.

When the edge of a penalty area is defined by lines or by physical features, stakes may be used to show where the penalty area is, but they have no other meaning.

When the edge of a body of water is not defined by the Committee, the edge of that penalty area is defined by its natural boundaries (that is, where the ground slopes down to form the depression that can hold the water).

If an open watercourse usually does not contain water (such as a drainage ditch or run-off area that is dry except during a rainy season), the Committee may define that area as part of the general area (which means it is not a penalty area).

Hole

The finishing point on the putting green for the hole being played:

  • The hole must be 4 ¼ inches (108 mm) in diameter and at least 4 inches (101.6 mm) deep.
  • If a lining is used, its outer diameter must not exceed 4 ¼ inches (108 mm). The lining must be sunk at least 1 inch (25.4 mm) below the putting green surface, unless the nature of the soil requires that it be closer to the surface.

The word “hole” (when not used as a Definition in italics) is used throughout the Rules to mean the part of the course associated with a particular teeing area, putting green and hole. Play of a hole begins from the teeing area and ends when the ball is holed on the putting green (or when the Rules otherwise say the hole is completed).

 

Stroke

The forward movement of the club made to strike the ball.

But a stroke has not been made if the player:

  • Decides during the downswing not to strike the ball and avoids doing so by deliberately stopping the clubhead before it reaches the ball or, if unable to stop, by deliberately missing the ball.
  • Accidentally strikes the ball when making a practice swing or while preparing to make a stroke.

When the Rules refer to "playing a ball," it means the same as making a stroke.

The player's score for a hole or a round is described as a number of "strokes" or "strokes taken," which means both all strokes made and any penalty strokes (see Rule 3.1c).

 

Interpretation Stroke/1 - Determining If a Stroke Was Made

If a player starts the downswing with a club intending to strike the ball, his or her action counts as a stroke when:

  • The clubhead is deflected or stopped by an outside influence (such as the branch of a tree) whether or not the ball is struck.
  • The clubhead separates from the shaft during the downswing and the player continues the downswing with the shaft alone, whether or not the ball is struck with the shaft.
  • The clubhead separates from the shaft during the downswing and the player continues the downswing with the shaft alone, with the clubhead falling and striking the ball.

The player's action does not count as a stroke in each of following situations:

  • During the downswing, a player's clubhead separates from the shaft. The player stops the downswing short of the ball, but the clubhead falls and strikes and moves the ball.
  • During the backswing, a player's clubhead separates from the shaft. The player completes the downswing with the shaft but does not strike the ball.
  • A ball is lodged in a tree branch beyond the reach of a club. If the player moves the ball by striking a lower part of the branch instead of the ball, Rule 9.4 (Ball Lifted or Moved by Player) applies.
Drop

To hold the ball and let go of it so that it falls through the air, with the intent for the ball to be in play.

If the player lets go of a ball without intending it to be in play, the ball has not been dropped and is not in play (see Rule 14.4).

Each relief Rule identifies a specific relief area where the ball must be dropped and come to rest.

In taking relief, the player must let go of the ball from a location at knee height so that the ball:

  • Falls straight down, without the player throwing, spinning or rolling it or using any other motion that might affect where the ball will come to rest, and
  • Does not touch any part of the player’s body or equipment before it hits the ground (see Rule 14.3b).