September 01, 2021

Rules of Golf - Out of Bounds Fence

Written by:  Darin Green, Senior Director of Rules & Competitions

There is one thing that most courses in Florida have in common and that is having lots of out of bounds. Typically, courses in Florida are built in housing communities creating course boundaries on most holes.

The Committee (the person/group in charge of the course or competition) is assigned the responsibility of defining the boundaries of the course and what boundary objects define that edge. The Committee should use boundary objects to define out of bounds. The most common boundary objects are:

  • White stakes
  • White painted lines
  • Fences
  • Walls
  • Roads
  • Sidewalks
  • Parking lots
  • Maintenance areas
  • Railings
  • The ground on the opposite side of a water system on the perimeter of the course (hence, a ball that comes to rest on ground over the water is out of bounds)

What happens when your ball comes to rest in bounds, but near an object defining out of bounds?

For instance, your ball comes to rest in rough near a homeowner’s property fence that the club has declared defines out of bounds. You want to play the ball as it lies; however, the fence interferes with where you want to stand and also is in the way of your swing. You know you are not entitled to free relief from boundary objects so, what are your options?

  1. You may play the ball as it lies, which might require you to modify your stance and swing to avoid the fence. You could even try switching sides and playing the shot lefty instead of righty, or vice-versa.
  2. You could take an unplayable by taking a one-stroke penalty and drop a ball within two club-lengths of the ball, not nearer the hole, or return to where you last played (stroke & distance), or lastly, take back-on-the-line relief by going straight back from the hole through the spot of the original ball and dropping a ball within on club-length of that line.

The picture to the right is of Miguel Angel Jimenez on the iconic 17th hole at St. Andrews. The stone wall is a boundary object defining out of bounds. His ball came to rest near the base of the ball, but in bounds. Instead of trying to play towards the green (in the foreground), he decided to play away from the green and bank the ball off of the wall. He pulled off a magical shot and the ball ricocheted off the wall and came to rest about 15 feet from the hole.

Any way around it, it's best to keep your ball on the short grass so you do not have to deal with these boundary objects.


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