Understanding Golf Out of Bounds Penalty: New Rules and Alternatives for 2024

Colin McCarthy

Golf Out of Bounds Penalty

Going out of bounds is one of the most frustrating experiences in golf. Not only does it cost players a penalty stroke, but it also negates any distance gained from the shot, effectively resulting in a two-stroke penalty.

These boundaries, often marked by white stakes or paint, can turn a promising round into a struggle. Golf courses sometimes designate additional areas as out of bounds, such as practice areas or adjacent holes.

The Rules of Golf require players to replay their shot from the original spot, adding to the penalty’s sting. Understanding these rules can help golfers minimize the impact on their score and keep their game on track.

Understanding the Out of Bounds Rule in Golf

The out of bounds (OB) rule in golf is crucial to understand, as it can significantly impact the game. 

Here are key points to help you navigate the rule:

Overview of Out of Bounds

Out of bounds in golf refers to areas outside the defined boundaries of the course. These boundaries are usually marked by white stakes or paint.

Golf courses can also designate specific internal zones like practice areas or adjacent holes as out of bounds. The Rules of Golf enforce these limitations to ensure fair play and maintain the course’s intended challenge.

When a ball is hit out of bounds, the player must take a penalty. The standard penalty is stroke and distance, meaning the player adds one penalty stroke and replays the shot from the original position.

Penalties Associated With Out of Bounds

Hitting a ball out of bounds carries a significant penalty. According to the Rules of Golf, players receive a one-stroke penalty and must replay their shot from the original spot.

This results in what’s effectively a two-stroke penalty because the player loses any distance gained by the previous shot.

Alternatively, under a 2019 USGA local rule, players can opt to take a two-stroke penalty and drop the ball in the fairway or rough, in line with where the ball left the course.

Procedure for Hitting Out of Bounds

The procedure for hitting out of bounds in golf involves several steps:

Hitting Out of Bounds Off the Tee

After hitting a tee shot out of bounds, a player faces a one-stroke penalty and must replay the shot from the teeing area. This effectively results in hitting the third shot from the tee.

According to the 2019 USGA local rule, courses can allow players to drop the ball in the fairway or rough near the point it went out of bounds, incurring a two-stroke penalty instead. This option eliminates the need to return to the tee.

It simplifies the game by speeding up play and reducing frustration. Always check local course rules to understand available options and ensure compliance. Remember, proper course management enhances the golfing experience.

Out of Bounds from General Area

If a player hits a ball out of bounds from the general area, the penalty and procedure differ slightly. Standard rules require replaying the shot from the original spot, adding a stroke penalty.

Courses implementing the 2019 USGA local rule let players drop the ball in the fairway within two club lengths of where it crossed the boundary, not closer to the hole, for a two-stroke penalty. This rule aims to streamline the game and reduce delays.

From the Putting Green

When a ball goes out of bounds from the putting green, the player must replay the shot from the same spot, resulting in a one-stroke penalty.

Unlike other areas, the 2019 USGA local rule does not usually apply directly on the putting green, making adherence to traditional rules essential. Properly handling out-of-bounds situations ensures fair play and accurate scoring.

Therefore, golfers should remain vigilant and familiarize themselves with specific course boundaries. Consistent rule application not only upholds the sport’s integrity but also enhances the overall playing experience.

Playing a Provisional Ball

Playing a provisional ball in golf is a strategic move that helps save time and avoid unnecessary delays.

Here are the key points to understand:

When to Play a Provisional Ball

Golfers must play a provisional ball if they think their original ball might be lost outside a penalty area or is out of bounds.

Doubt about the ball’s status, like if the out of bounds line is partially hidden by trees or isn’t clearly visible, requires playing a provisional ball.

Declaring the next shot as provisional avoids the penalty of losing the opportunity to continue with the original ball, even if found in bounds. A provisional ball must be played before the player or partners go forward to search for the original ball.

Rules for Continuing with a Provisional Ball

If a player can’t identify which ball is theirs after hitting a provisional ball into the same area as the original, the found ball is treated as the provisional.

If only one ball is found on the course, it counts as the provisional ball. A provisional ball then holds the same status as the first one relative to the original ball.

Once the original ball becomes unplayable or is confirmed lost, the provisional ball becomes the ball in play, with a one-stroke penalty applied.

If the original ball is found and it’s in bounds, the player must continue with the original ball and the provisional is disregarded.

Alternatives to Stroke-and-Distance Penalty

Alternatives to the stroke-and-distance penalty in golf provide relief options for players who hit their ball out of bounds or lose it.

Here are key points to understand:

Local Rule for Out of Bounds

The 2019 USGA local rule provides an alternative to the traditional stroke-and-distance penalty for a ball that is lost or out of bounds (OB).

Players can take two penalty strokes and place the ball in the fairway or rough even with where the ball went out of play. This process helps maintain the pace of play and reduces the need to retee after a lost or OB shot.

The rule applies regardless of where the ball crossed the boundary, but it can’t be used if a provisional ball is played. It’s essential for golfers to understand this rule properly to make informed decisions during play.

By opting for the two-stroke penalty placement, players often save time and limit frustration, allowing for a smoother game experience. Always check with local courses, as some may have specific guidelines or exceptions regarding this rule.

When and How to Apply Local Rules

Applying local rules is straightforward but situationally specific. If a ball is lost or OB, players can use the relief option unless a provisional ball was hit.

The reference point for dropping a ball can be any point equidistant from the out-of-bounds spot on the fairway or in the rough. For areas without an equidistant point, players must use the nearest point farther from the hole.

If the ball is lost near the putting green, the same local rule for alternative relief can be applied. Committees can customize the application of this local rule to certain holes or the entire course.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you count a 2 stroke penalty in golf?

The penalty stroke assessed is not the stroke made on the new ball; it is counted in addition to any and all swings made at the ball.

Can you go out of bounds and come back in?

It is illegal for a player of either team to go out-of-bounds, without contact with an opponent, and return to the field and participate in that play.

Is a drop a 2 stroke penalty?

This option allows the player to drop in a large area between the point where the ball is estimated to have come to rest or gone out of bounds and the edge of the fairway of the hole being played that is not nearer the hole.

What is the penalty for out of bounds?

In summary, the penalty for a lost ball or a ball hit out of bounds is one stroke and distance. You’ll need to go back to the point where you hit your last shot.

What is an out of bounds violation?

The ball is out of bounds when it touches a player who is out of bounds or any other person, the floor, or any object on, above, or outside of a boundary or the supports or back of the backboard.


Understanding the intricacies of out of bounds penalties in golf not only enhances a player’s game but also ensures adherence to the rules.

The 2019 USGA local rule offers a practical solution to traditional penalties, helping maintain the pace of play. By incorporating these alternatives, players can navigate the course more efficiently and enjoy a fairer game.

Embracing these changes is essential for both seasoned golfers and newcomers, promoting an enjoyable and competitive experience for all.

Golfers should familiarize themselves with these updates to avoid unnecessary strokes and maximize their performance. Staying informed about the latest rules will ultimately lead to a more satisfying and strategic round of golf.

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Colin McCarthy

Golf is about mastering your misses and learning from them. I seek answers on the how and why of the golf swing, gaining experience even when answers elude me. With over 11,000 hours of teaching and a hunger for learning, I welcome any questions. My goal is to introduce golf to as many as possible, simplifying the game for all to enjoy. Passionate, eager, and ambitious, I'm here to teach, listen, and learn. LinkedIn

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