Have you ever teed off from the wrong tee?  I have!  Many years ago a couple of friends and I travelled to play in an open about 50 miles away.  The time sheet wasn’t busy, so after practising on the putting green we dandered up to the first tee.  We nailed our drives and set off down the fairway.  After decent second shots we strode purposely onwards, only to be greeted by shouts from the ladies on the adjacent fairway!  Apparently we’d started on the wrong hole!  We had played the course several years previously but since then the order of the holes had been changed.  We had teed off from the original first hole – but not the current one!  In our defence, like a lot of clubs, the numbers of the holes were clearly displayed beside the men’s tees… but not near the ladies’!  We followed the ladies’ directions to the proper first tee and started again!  We knew that we’d be penalised but we weren’t sure whether we also had to count the shots that we’d hit from the wrong tee.  None of us had a good score, but we wanted to make sure that we entered the correct score on our cards, so we sought advice from other golfers when we got back to the clubhouse.  One local tried to tell us that we’d be penalised for “practising on the course” as we’d “practised” on the tee and fairway before playing that hole later in our round.  I knew that wasn’t right – if that was the case, just think how many penalty shots I’d pick up in a round when my ball strayed onto neighbouring fairways!

Rule 6 b states that:

A player must start each hole by playing a ball from anywhere inside the teeing area under Rule 6.2b.

If a player who is starting a hole plays a ball from outside the teeing area (including from a wrong set of tee markers for a different teeing location on the same hole or a different hole):

Stroke Play. The player gets the general penalty (two penalty strokes) and must correct the mistake by playing a ball from inside the teeing area:

  • The ball played from outside the teeing area is not in play.
  • That stroke and any more strokes before the mistake is corrected (including strokes made and any penalty strokes solely from playing that ball) do not count.
  • If the player does not correct the mistake before making a stroke to begin another hole or, for the final hole of the round, before returning his or her scorecard, the player is disqualified.

So, I was penalised two shots and the strokes taken from the wrong tee and down that fairway didn’t count.

What happens in match play? The rule states:

Match Play. There is no penalty, but the opponent may cancel the stroke:

  • This must be done promptly and before either player makes another stroke. When the opponent cancels the stroke, he or she cannot withdraw the cancellation.
  • If the opponent cancels the stroke, the player must play a ball from inside the teeing area and it is still his or her turn to play.
  • If the opponent does not cancel the stroke, the stroke counts and the ball is in play and must be played as it lies.

Here’s a short video explaining this rule.