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17
Penalty Areas
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
Penalty Areas
17.1

Options for Ball 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(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(2)/C1
Clarification: Reference Point for Back-On-the-Line Relief Must Be Outside Penalty Area
When taking back-on-the-line relief from a penalty area, the reference point (and the relief area) must be outside that penalty area. (Clarification added 4/2019)
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/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.
17.3
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