Rule Tip of the Week: “Curb” your Enthusiasm

Imagine that you have sculled an easy approach shot over a green. You expect to find your ball somewhere on the entrance road situated beyond the green. However, much to your surprise, you see that your ball has come to rest on the curb of the entrance road, and there are no out of bounds stakes to be seen. Ever the optimist, you’re thinking of getting up and down from there, and keeping your career round intact. Unfortunately, it’s probably time to curb your enthusiasm! Why? Because, more than likely, by Local Rule, your ball is out of bounds!


Typically, white stakes are used to define the boundaries of the course. However, other items can be utilized to define out of bounds. For example, the Definition of “Out of Bounds” mentions walls, fences, railings and white lines, in addition to stakes, as possible objects for defining out of bounds. However, the PGA professional, i.e., the Committee in most cases, is not limited to using just these items to define out of bounds. Appendix I, Part A, 1 [Local Rules: Course – Defining Boundaries, Margins and Status of Objects] points out that the Committee may adopt Local Rules specifying the means used to define out of bounds. For example, here is the Local Rule adopted by The Canyon Club in Albuquerque: “The paved areas (margin defined by the course side of the curb) between Holes #4, #5, #7 and #8, including the tennis courts, as well as the area of the course beyond the pavement for the hole being played, are out of bounds.”


With such a Local Rule in place, if you were to play your ball as it lies on the curb, you would be< playing a wrong ball. See Decision 15/6 [Stroke Played with Ball Lying Out of Bounds] which points out that a ball lying out of bounds is no longer in play, and thus is a wrong ball. In match play, you would lose the hole. In stroke play, you would incur a two-stroke penalty for playing a wrong ball, and you would need to correct this mistake by proceeding under Rule 27-1 [Stroke and Distance; Ball Out of Bounds …], incurring the additional penalty stroke prescribed in that Rule. Per Rule 15-3b [Wrong Ball: Stroke Play], if you failed to correct your mistake before making a stroke on the next teeing ground, you would be disqualified!


In two related situations, let’s say that (a) your ball has come to rest against the curb, and you wish to take relief from the curb for your next stroke due to swing interference, or (b) your ball as come to rest close to the curb and you wish to take relief from the curb for stance interference. Again, it’s time to curb your enthusiasm if the Committee has adopted the aforementioned Local Rule.


The good news is that, in either case, your ball is in bounds (a thin white line has been added to the photograph with the colored golf ball to illustrate the course boundary, i.e., the course side of the curb). However, the bad news is that the curb is out of bounds, and there is no relief for immovable artificial objects that are situated out of bounds. See Decision 24-2b/21 [Interference by Immovable Artificial Object Situated Out of Bounds] which points out that relief without penalty under Rule 24-2b [Immovable Obstruction] is not available. That is because immovable artificial objects off the course are not obstructions per the Definition of “Obstructions.”   Thus, the Rules provide no relief without penalty.


Remember, it pays to know the Rules, and that includes the Local Rules that have been adopted by the facility where you are playing.

November 2017 Rules