Print Section
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

Penalty areas are defined as either red or yellow. This affects the player’s relief options (see Rule 17.1d). A player may stand in a penalty area to play a ball outside the penalty area, including after taking relief from the penalty area.
a

When Ball Is in Penalty Area

A ball is in a penalty area when any part of the ball:
  • Lies on or touches the ground or anything else (such as any natural or artificial object) inside the edge of the penalty area, or
  • Is above the edge or any other part of the penalty area.
If part of the ball is both in a penalty area and in another area of the course, see Rule 2.2c.
b

Player May Play Ball as It Lies in Penalty Area or Take Penalty Relief

The player may either:
  • Play the ball as it lies without penalty, under the same Rules that apply to a ball in the general area (which means there are no specific Rules limiting how a ball may be played from a penalty area), or
  • Play a ball from outside the penalty area by taking penalty relief under Rule 17.1d or 17.2.
Exception – Relief Must Be Taken from Interference by No Play Zone in Penalty Area (see Rule 17.1e).
c

Relief for Ball Not Found but in Penalty Area

If a player’s ball has not been found and it is known or virtually certain that the ball came to rest in a penalty area:
  • The player may take penalty relief under Rule 17.1d or 17.2.
  • Once the player puts another ball in play to take relief in this way:
    • The original ball is no longer in play and must not be played.
    • This is true even if it is then found on the course before the end of the three-minute search time (see Rule 6.3b).
But if it is not known or virtually certain that the ball came to rest in a penalty area and the ball is lost, the player must take stroke-and-distance relief under Rule 18.2.
d

Relief for Ball in Penalty Area

If a player's ball is in a penalty area, including when it is known or virtually certain to be in a penalty area even though not found, the player has these relief options, each for one penalty stroke: (1) Stroke-and-Distance Relief. The player may play the original ball or another ball from where the previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6). (2) Back-On-the-Line Relief. The player may drop the original ball or another ball (see Rule 14.3) in a relief area that is based on a reference line going straight back from the hole through the estimated point where the original ball last crossed the edge of the penalty area:
  • Reference Point: A point on the course chosen by the player that is on the reference line and is farther from the hole than the estimated point (with no limit on how far back on the line):
    • In choosing this reference point, the player should indicate the point by using an object (such as a tee).
    • If the player drops the ball without having chosen this point, the reference point is treated as being the point on the line that is the same distance from the hole as where the dropped ball first touched the ground.
  • Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: One club-length, but with these limits:
  • Limits on Location of Relief Area:
    • Must not be nearer the hole than the reference point, and
    • May be in any area of the course except the same penalty area, but
    • If more than one area of the course is located within one club-length of the reference point, the ball must come to rest in the relief area in the same area of the course that the ball first touched when dropped in the relief area.
[Clarification available:Reference Point for Back-On-the-Line Relief Must Be Outside Penalty Area Model Local Rule Available: {MLR E-12 Ball Played from Outside Relief Area When Taking Back-On-the-Line Relief]
(3) Lateral Relief (Only for Red Penalty Area). When the ball last crossed the edge of a red penalty area, the player may drop the original ball or another ball in this lateral relief area (see Rule 14.3):
  • Reference Point: The estimated point where the original ball last crossed the edge of the red penalty area.
  • Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: Two club-lengths, but with these limits:
  • Limits on Location of Relief Area:
    • Must not be nearer the hole than the reference point, and
    • May be in any area of the course except the same penalty area, but
    • If more than one area of the course is located within two club-lengths of the reference point, the ball must come to rest in the relief area in the same area of the course that the ball first touched when dropped in the relief area.
See Committee Procedures, Section 8; Model Local Rule B-2 (the Committee may adopt a Local Rule allowing lateral relief on the opposite side of a red penalty area at an equal distance from the hole).
e

Relief Must Be Taken from Interference by No Play Zone in Penalty Area

In each of these situations, the player must not play the ball as it lies: (1) When Ball Is in No Play Zone in Penalty Area. The player must take penalty relief under Rule 17.1d or 17.2. (2) When No Play Zone on Course Interferes with Stance or Swing for Ball in Penalty Area. If a player’s ball is in a penalty area, and is outside a no play zone but a no play zone (whether in an abnormal course condition or in a penalty area) interferes with his or her area of intended stance or area of intended swing, the player must either:
  • Take penalty relief outside the penalty area under Rule 17.1d or 17.2, or
  • Take free relief by dropping the original ball or another ball in this relief area (if it exists) in the penalty area (see Rule 14.3):
    • Reference Point: The nearest point of complete relief from the no play zone.
    • Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: One club-length, but with these limits:
    • Limits on Location of Relief Area:
      • Must be in the same penalty area where the ball lies, and
      • Must not be nearer the hole than the reference point.
But there is no free relief from interference by the no play zone under (2):
  • When playing the ball as it lies is clearly unreasonable because of something other than the no play zone (for example, when a player is unable to make a stroke because of where the ball lies in a bush), or
  • When interference exists only because the player chooses a club, type of stance or swing, or direction of play that is clearly unreasonable under the circumstances.
For what to do when there is interference by a no play zone for a ball anywhere except in a penalty area, see Rule 16.1f. Penalty for Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 17.1: General Penalty under Rule 14.7a.
17.2

Options After Playing Ball from Penalty Area

a

When Ball Played from Penalty Area Comes to Rest in Same or Another Penalty Area

If a ball played from a penalty area comes to rest in the same penalty area or another penalty area, the player may play the ball as it lies (see Rule 17.1b). Or, for one penalty stroke, the player may take relief under any of these options: (1) Normal Relief Options. The player may take stroke-and-distance relief under Rule 17.1d(1), back-on-the-line relief under Rule 17.1d(2) or, for a red penalty area, lateral relief under Rule 17.1d(3). Under Rule 17.1d(2) or (3), the estimated point used to determine the relief area is where the original ball last crossed the edge of the penalty area where the ball now lies. If the player takes stroke-and-distance relief by dropping a ball in the penalty area (see Rule 14.6) and then decides not to play the dropped ball from where it comes to rest:
  • The player may take further relief outside the penalty area under Rules 17.1d(2) or (3) (for a red penalty area) or under Rule 17.2a(2).
  • If the player does so, he or she gets one more penalty stroke, for a total of two penalty strokes: one stroke for taking stroke-and-distance relief, and one stroke for taking relief outside the penalty area.
(2) Extra Relief Option: Playing from Where Last Stroke Made Outside a Penalty Area. Instead of using one of the normal relief options under (1), the player may choose to play the original ball or another ball from where he or she made the last stroke from outside a penalty area (see Rule 14.6).
b

When Ball Played from Penalty Area Is Lost, Out of Bounds or Unplayable Outside Penalty Area

After playing a ball from a penalty area, a player may sometimes be required or choose to take stroke-and-distance relief because the original ball is either:
  • Out of bounds or lost outside the penalty area (see Rule 18.2), or
  • Unplayable outside the penalty area (see Rule 19.2a).
If the player takes stroke-and-distance relief by dropping a ball in the penalty area (see Rule 14.6) and then decides not to play the dropped ball from where it comes to rest:
  • The player may take further relief outside the penalty area under Rule 17.1d(2) or (3) (for a red penalty area) or under Rule 17.2a(2).
  • If the player does so, he or she gets one more penalty stroke, for a total of two penalty strokes: one stroke for taking stroke-and-distance relief, and one stroke for taking relief outside the penalty area.
The player may directly take such relief outside the penalty area without first dropping a ball in the penalty area, but still gets a total of two penalty strokes. Penalty for Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 17.2: General Penalty under Rule 14.7a.
17.3

No Relief under Other Rules for Ball in Penalty Area

When a player’s ball is in a penalty area, there is no relief for: The player’s only relief option is to take penalty relief under Rule 17. But when a dangerous animal condition interferes with the play of a ball in a penalty area, the player may take either free relief in the penalty area or penalty relief outside the penalty area (see Rule 16.2b(2)).
EXPLORE MORE
Rule 1The Game, Player Conduct and the Rules
Purpose: Rule 1 introduces these central principles of the game for the player: Play the course as you find it and play the ball as it lies. Play...
Read more