Several days ago I played a course on the outskirts of Belfast that I hadn’t played before.  I managed to lose several balls on the first few holes – it took a while before I got into the swing of things!  Not knowing the course, I hit a cracker of an shot on an early hole but it travelled too far (it was a dog leg) and I groaned when I caught a glimpse of what looked like a white stake in the vicinity of where I reckoned my ball had finished.  When we reached the ball it was really hard to work out whether or not it was out of bounds – we could only locate one white stake!  In the end, my playing partners decided that the ball was in play, however it had no effect on the outcome of the game as the rough was penal and I ended up dinging the hole!

Usually out of bounds is marked by white stakes and often the greenkeepers will mark the boundary with a white line.  In other situations a fence or wall may define out of bounds. What happens if your ball comes to rest on the line or boundary?  Is it in play or out of bounds?

Rule 18.2 states

A ball at rest is out of bounds only when all of it is outside the boundary edge of the courseA ball is in bounds when any part of the ball:

  • Lies on or touches the ground or anything else (such as any natural or artificial object) inside the boundary edge, or
  • Is above the boundary edge or any other part of the course.


When a line on the ground is used, the line itself is out of bounds. However, a ball is deemed in bounds still even if only a small part of it lies on the course side of the boundary line, as shown above.

If white stakes are used at intervals, the out of bounds line is the direct line from one stake to the next.  This may sometimes become a matter of tricky judgment with the naked eye, but it is not unknown for referees in big events to carry a piece of string around with them to help them determine if a ball lies in or out of bounds!

You may stand out of bound to hit a ball that’s in bounds, however you may not move a white stake, even if it interferes with your swing!

If your ball is deemed to be out of bounds you must play another ball from where you last played under penalty of stroke and distance (Rule 14.6), whether from the tee or fairway. So if it was your tee-shot that had gone OOB, you would now be playing three off the tee.  If there is any chance that your ball may have gone OOB, it is best practice to hit a provisional ball, so you don’t waste time having to do the walk of shame back to the tee box!

Here’s a short video in which John Paramor explains this rule – you may wish to fast-forward the first 30 seconds!