When is a ball out of bounds?  Usually if my ball flies out of bounds it’s waaaay out of bounds, so it’s pretty obvious, but sometimes it’s not so clear, and sometimes the people you’re playing with have differing opinions (not my fourball – they’re all very knowledgeable!)

In many cases there’s a white line marking the boundary of the course, but is the line part of the course or is the line out of bounds?  What happens if there isn’t a line? Does the ball have to be more in than out?  Can I move the white stake if it’s in my way?

So many questions!

Clubs mark “out of bounds” areas with white stakes, but some courses actually paint a white line as well.

  • If the boundary is marked by white posts, the boundary line is taken as the straight line joining the inside/course side of these posts.
  • If there is a white line marking the boundary of the course, this line is “out of bounds”.

What happens if part of the ball is out of bounds and part is on the course?

Rule 18.2a deals with “out of bounds” and states:

A ball at rest is out of bounds only when all of it is outside the boundary edge of the course.

A 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.

These diagrams (taken from the R&A’s Rules of Golf website) clearly show balls that are in play and balls that are not.

Can I stand out of bounds to play a ball that is on the course?

Yes!  Rule 18.2 clearly states:  A player may stand out of bounds to play a ball on the course.

Can I move one of the white stakes if it is interfering with my swing?

No – these stakes form the boundary of the course and must not be moved.

Here’s former European Tour chief referee John Paramor explaining rule 18.2.