Rules of Golf explained: Is my ball out of bounds?

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Are you saved or heading back to where you last played? Our Rules of Golf expert explains when your ball is, and isn’t, out of bounds

A Bryson DeChambeau-themed column this week – he’s never out of the news is he? – and we’re focusing on the final round of the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational.

At the 6th hole at TPC Southwind, Bryson flared his tee shot into a fence on the right-hand side of the fairway. The ball was trapped beneath the fence, which marked the boundary of the course, and DeChambeau called in a Rules official.

In an exchange that lasted the better part of eight minutes, and which included some sweeping away of loose impediments and the employment of a ball of string, the American’s ball was judged to still be within the boundaries of the course.

After satisfying Ken Tackett, the man on the spot, with the shot he would play he was then able to take relief from an abnormal course condition – a path.

Now, this ruling produced quite a lot of comment but one thing which came up repeatedly was why the ball hadn’t been deemed out of bounds in the first place.

Let’s delve into Rule 18.2a (2) – When Ball Is Out of Bounds – to reveal the answer…

Rules of Golf explained: Our expert says…

Referees often carry a roll of yarn about with them and it’s not because they fancy knitting up a sweater like Tom Daley.

It’s because it can be really useful, as in DeChambeau’s case, in revealing whether a ball is out of bounds or not.

Let’s get to basics first. When people saw the footage of his ball under the fence, they assumed it had to be OOB but the Rules say a ball at rest is out of bounds only when “all of it is outside the boundary edge of the course”.

If any part of it is inside that boundary edge, is above it, below it, or any other part of the course, it’s in.

There’s a great diagram of this in Rule 18 on the Rules of Golf website that I’d implore you to look at as it really couldn’t be clearer when you see it.

Out of bounds is usually defined by white lines or boundary objects, which could be stakes, a wall, or a fence, and here’s where the string comes in handy.

If you’re measuring between posts, or in the case of DeChambeau under a fence, how can you tell if a ball is in or out of bounds if it’s a tight call? What if it isn’t immediately clear if there’s any part of the ball still in play? A piece of string, or a tape measure, can be really helpful.

So to sum up – if you’re faced with out of bounds lines, the boundary edge is the course-side edge of the line. The line is out.

If they are stakes, or a fence, the boundary edge is the “line between the course-side points of the stakes at ground level”. The stakes themselves are OOB.

The definition of out of bounds states that when it is defined by other objects, such as a wall, it’s up to the committee to define the boundary edge.

And if your ball is out of bounds? Remember you must take stroke-and-distance. Add a penalty stroke, and play from where the previous stroke was made.

Have a question for our Rules of Golf expert?

Despite the simplification of the Rules of Golf at the beginning of 2019, there are still some that leave us scratching our heads. And as I’ve passed the R&A’s level 2 rules exam with distinction, I am more than happy to help.

Click here for the full Rules of Golf explained archive and details of how to submit a question to our expert.

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