Rule

18

Player's Edition
See Rules Of Golf
Stroke-and-Distance Relief, Ball Lost or Out of Bounds, Provisional Ball
Player's Edition
See Rules Of Golf
Jump To Section
18.1
18.2
a
b
18.3
a
b
c
Explore More

Rule 17
Rule 19

Purpose: Rule 18 covers taking relief under penalty of stroke and distance. When your ball is lost outside a penalty area or comes to rest out of bounds, the required progression of playing from the teeing area to the hole is broken; you must resume that progression by playing again from where the previous stroke was made.

This Rule also covers how and when a provisional ball may be played to save time when your ball in play might have gone out of bounds or be lost outside a penalty area.

18.1
Relief under Penalty of Stroke and Distance Allowed at Any Time

At any time, you may take stroke-and-distance relief. Once you put another ball in play under penalty of stroke and distance, your original ball is no longer in play and must not be played. This is true even if your original ball is then found on the course before the end of the three-minute search time.

18.2
Ball Lost or Out of Bounds: Stroke-and-Distance Relief Must Be Taken
a
When Your Ball Is Lost or Out of Bounds

When Ball is Lost. Your ball is lost if not found in three minutes after you or your caddie begins to search for it. If a ball is found in that time but it is uncertain whether it is your ball:

  • You must promptly attempt to identify the ball and are allowed a reasonable time to do so, even if that happens after the three-minute search time has ended.
  • This includes a reasonable time to get to the ball if you are not where the ball is found.

If you do not identify your ball in that reasonable time, the ball is lost.

When Ball is Out of Bounds. Your ball at rest is out of bounds only when all of it is outside the boundary edge of the course.

b
What to Do When Your Ball Is Lost or Out of Bounds

If your ball is lost or out of bounds, you must take stroke-and-distance relief by adding one penalty stroke and playing a ball from where the previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6).

Exception - Player May Substitute Another Ball under Other Rule When It Is Known or Virtually Certain What Happened to Ball.

See Full Rules For more information on when the Exception applies.

18.3
Provisional Ball
a
When Provisional Ball Is Allowed

If your ball might be lost outside a penalty area or be out of bounds, to save time you may play another ball provisionally under penalty of stroke and distance.

But if you are aware that the only possible place your original ball could be lost is in a penalty area, a provisional ball is not allowed and a ball played from where the previous stroke was made becomes your ball in play under penalty of stroke and distance.

b
Announcing Play of Provisional Ball

Before the stroke is made, you must announce that you are going to play a provisional ball.

It is not enough for you only to say that you are playing another ball or are playing again.

You must use the word "provisional" or otherwise clearly indicate that you are playing the ball provisionally under Rule 18.3.

If you did not announce this (even if you intended to play a provisional ball) and played a ball from where the previous stroke was made, that ball is your ball in play under penalty of stroke and distance.

c
Playing Provisional Ball Until It Becomes the Ball in Play or Is Abandoned

Playing Provisional Ball More Than Once. You may continue to play the provisional ball without it losing its status as a provisional ball so long as it is played from a spot that is the same distance or farther from the hole than where your original ball is estimated to be.

When Provisional Ball Becomes Ball in Play. Your provisional ball becomes your ball in play under penalty of stroke and distance in either of these two cases:

  • When your original ball is lost anywhere on the course except in a penalty area or is out of bounds.
  • When your provisional ball is played from a spot nearer to the hole than where your original ball is estimated to be.

Exception - Player May Substitute Another Ball Under Other Rule When It Is Known or Virtually Certain What Happened to Ball.

See Full Rules For more information on when the Exception applies.

When Provisional Ball Must be Abandoned. When your provisional ball has not yet become your ball in play, it must be abandoned in either of these two cases:

  • When your original ball is found on the course outside a penalty area before the end of the three minute search time.
  • When your original ball is found in a penalty area or is known or virtually certain to be in a penalty area. You must either play your original ball as it lies or take penalty relief.

Penalty for Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 18.3: General Penalty.

Stroke and Distance

The procedure and penalty when you take relief under Rules 17, 18 or 19 by playing a ball from where your previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6).

In Play

The status of your ball when it lies on the course and is being used in the play of a hole.

Your ball first becomes in play on a hole:

  • When you make a stroke at it from inside the teeing area, or
  • In match play, when you make a stroke at it from outside the teeing area and your opponent does not cancel the stroke under Rule 6.1b.

That ball remains in play until it is holed, except that it is no longer in play:

  • When it is lifted from the course,
  • When it is lost (even if it is at rest on the course) or comes to rest out of bounds, or
  • When another ball has been substituted for it, even if not allowed by a Rule.

A ball that is not in play is a wrong ball.

When a ball-marker is in place to mark the spot of your ball in play:

  • If your ball has not been lifted, it is still in play, and
  • If your ball has been lifted and replaced, it is in play even if the ball-marker has not been removed.
Stroke and Distance

The procedure and penalty when you take relief under Rules 17, 18 or 19 by playing a ball from where your previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6).

In Play

The status of your ball when it lies on the course and is being used in the play of a hole.

Your ball first becomes in play on a hole:

  • When you make a stroke at it from inside the teeing area, or
  • In match play, when you make a stroke at it from outside the teeing area and your opponent does not cancel the stroke under Rule 6.1b.

That ball remains in play until it is holed, except that it is no longer in play:

  • When it is lifted from the course,
  • When it is lost (even if it is at rest on the course) or comes to rest out of bounds, or
  • When another ball has been substituted for it, even if not allowed by a Rule.

A ball that is not in play is a wrong ball.

When a ball-marker is in place to mark the spot of your ball in play:

  • If your ball has not been lifted, it is still in play, and
  • If your ball has been lifted and replaced, it is in play even if the ball-marker has not been removed.
Course

The entire area of play within the edge of any boundaries set by the Committee. The boundary edge extends both up above the ground and down below the ground.

Lost

The status of a ball that is not found in three minutes after you or your caddie (or your partner or partner's caddie) begins to search for it.

Caddie

Someone who helps you during a round to carry, transport or handle your clubs and/or give you advice. A caddie may also help you in other ways allowed by the Rules (see Rule 10.3b).

Out of Bounds

All areas outside the boundary edge of the course as defined by the Committee. All areas inside that edge are in bounds.

The boundary edge of the course extends both up above the ground and down below the ground.

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 edge.
  • 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. Boundary stakes or lines should be white.
Course

The entire area of play within the edge of any boundaries set by the Committee. The boundary edge extends both up above the ground and down below the ground.

Lost

The status of a ball that is not found in three minutes after you or your caddie (or your partner or partner's caddie) begins to search for it.

Out of Bounds

All areas outside the boundary edge of the course as defined by the Committee. All areas inside that edge are in bounds.

The boundary edge of the course extends both up above the ground and down below the ground.

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 edge.
  • 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. Boundary stakes or lines should be white.
Stroke and Distance

The procedure and penalty when you take relief under Rules 17, 18 or 19 by playing a ball from where your previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6).

Stroke

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

Lost

The status of a ball that is not found in three minutes after you or your caddie (or your partner or partner's caddie) begins to search for it.

Penalty Area

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

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 you two relief options (Rules 17.1d(1) and (2)).
  • Red penalty areas (marked with red lines or red stakes) give you 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.

The edge of a penalty area should be defined by stakes or lines.

  • 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.
Out of Bounds

All areas outside the boundary edge of the course as defined by the Committee. All areas inside that edge are in bounds.

The boundary edge of the course extends both up above the ground and down below the ground.

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 edge.
  • 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. Boundary stakes or lines should be white.
Stroke and Distance

The procedure and penalty when you take relief under Rules 17, 18 or 19 by playing a ball from where your previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6).

Lost

The status of a ball that is not found in three minutes after you or your caddie (or your partner or partner's caddie) begins to search for it.

Penalty Area

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

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 you two relief options (Rules 17.1d(1) and (2)).
  • Red penalty areas (marked with red lines or red stakes) give you 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.

The edge of a penalty area should be defined by stakes or lines.

  • 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.
Provisional Ball

Another ball played in case the ball just played by you may be out of bounds or lost outside a penalty area.

Stroke

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

In Play

The status of your ball when it lies on the course and is being used in the play of a hole.

Your ball first becomes in play on a hole:

  • When you make a stroke at it from inside the teeing area, or
  • In match play, when you make a stroke at it from outside the teeing area and your opponent does not cancel the stroke under Rule 6.1b.

That ball remains in play until it is holed, except that it is no longer in play:

  • When it is lifted from the course,
  • When it is lost (even if it is at rest on the course) or comes to rest out of bounds, or
  • When another ball has been substituted for it, even if not allowed by a Rule.

A ball that is not in play is a wrong ball.

When a ball-marker is in place to mark the spot of your ball in play:

  • If your ball has not been lifted, it is still in play, and
  • If your ball has been lifted and replaced, it is in play even if the ball-marker has not been removed.
Stroke and Distance

The procedure and penalty when you take relief under Rules 17, 18 or 19 by playing a ball from where your previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6).

Stroke

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

Provisional Ball

Another ball played in case the ball just played by you may be out of bounds or lost outside a penalty area.

Provisional Ball

Another ball played in case the ball just played by you may be out of bounds or lost outside a penalty area.

Stroke

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

In Play

The status of your ball when it lies on the course and is being used in the play of a hole.

Your ball first becomes in play on a hole:

  • When you make a stroke at it from inside the teeing area, or
  • In match play, when you make a stroke at it from outside the teeing area and your opponent does not cancel the stroke under Rule 6.1b.

That ball remains in play until it is holed, except that it is no longer in play:

  • When it is lifted from the course,
  • When it is lost (even if it is at rest on the course) or comes to rest out of bounds, or
  • When another ball has been substituted for it, even if not allowed by a Rule.

A ball that is not in play is a wrong ball.

When a ball-marker is in place to mark the spot of your ball in play:

  • If your ball has not been lifted, it is still in play, and
  • If your ball has been lifted and replaced, it is in play even if the ball-marker has not been removed.
Stroke and Distance

The procedure and penalty when you take relief under Rules 17, 18 or 19 by playing a ball from where your previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6).

Provisional Ball

Another ball played in case the ball just played by you may be out of bounds or lost outside a penalty area.

Provisional Ball

Another ball played in case the ball just played by you may be out of bounds or lost outside a penalty area.

Hole

The finishing point on the putting green for the hole you are playing.

Provisional Ball

Another ball played in case the ball just played by you may be out of bounds or lost outside a penalty area.

In Play

The status of your ball when it lies on the course and is being used in the play of a hole.

Your ball first becomes in play on a hole:

  • When you make a stroke at it from inside the teeing area, or
  • In match play, when you make a stroke at it from outside the teeing area and your opponent does not cancel the stroke under Rule 6.1b.

That ball remains in play until it is holed, except that it is no longer in play:

  • When it is lifted from the course,
  • When it is lost (even if it is at rest on the course) or comes to rest out of bounds, or
  • When another ball has been substituted for it, even if not allowed by a Rule.

A ball that is not in play is a wrong ball.

When a ball-marker is in place to mark the spot of your ball in play:

  • If your ball has not been lifted, it is still in play, and
  • If your ball has been lifted and replaced, it is in play even if the ball-marker has not been removed.
Stroke and Distance

The procedure and penalty when you take relief under Rules 17, 18 or 19 by playing a ball from where your previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6).

Lost

The status of a ball that is not found in three minutes after you or your caddie (or your partner or partner's caddie) begins to search for it.

Course

The entire area of play within the edge of any boundaries set by the Committee. The boundary edge extends both up above the ground and down below the ground.

Penalty Area

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

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 you two relief options (Rules 17.1d(1) and (2)).
  • Red penalty areas (marked with red lines or red stakes) give you 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.

The edge of a penalty area should be defined by stakes or lines.

  • 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.
Out of Bounds

All areas outside the boundary edge of the course as defined by the Committee. All areas inside that edge are in bounds.

The boundary edge of the course extends both up above the ground and down below the ground.

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 edge.
  • 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. Boundary stakes or lines should be white.
Provisional Ball

Another ball played in case the ball just played by you may be out of bounds or lost outside a penalty area.

Hole

The finishing point on the putting green for the hole you are playing.

Provisional Ball

Another ball played in case the ball just played by you may be out of bounds or lost outside a penalty area.

In Play

The status of your ball when it lies on the course and is being used in the play of a hole.

Your ball first becomes in play on a hole:

  • When you make a stroke at it from inside the teeing area, or
  • In match play, when you make a stroke at it from outside the teeing area and your opponent does not cancel the stroke under Rule 6.1b.

That ball remains in play until it is holed, except that it is no longer in play:

  • When it is lifted from the course,
  • When it is lost (even if it is at rest on the course) or comes to rest out of bounds, or
  • When another ball has been substituted for it, even if not allowed by a Rule.

A ball that is not in play is a wrong ball.

When a ball-marker is in place to mark the spot of your ball in play:

  • If your ball has not been lifted, it is still in play, and
  • If your ball has been lifted and replaced, it is in play even if the ball-marker has not been removed.
Course

The entire area of play within the edge of any boundaries set by the Committee. The boundary edge extends both up above the ground and down below the ground.

Penalty Area

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

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 you two relief options (Rules 17.1d(1) and (2)).
  • Red penalty areas (marked with red lines or red stakes) give you 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.

The edge of a penalty area should be defined by stakes or lines.

  • 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.
Penalty Area

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

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 you two relief options (Rules 17.1d(1) and (2)).
  • Red penalty areas (marked with red lines or red stakes) give you 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.

The edge of a penalty area should be defined by stakes or lines.

  • 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.
Known or Virtually Certain

The standard for deciding what happened to your ball - for example, whether your 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 your ball, such as when you 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.
Penalty Area

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

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 you two relief options (Rules 17.1d(1) and (2)).
  • Red penalty areas (marked with red lines or red stakes) give you 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.

The edge of a penalty area should be defined by stakes or lines.

  • 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.
Wrong Place

Any place on the course other than where you are required or allowed to play your ball under the Rules.

General Penalty

Loss of hole in match play or two penalty strokes in stroke play.