# What is out of bounds in golf?

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But you would be surprised how many people get it wrong. So when is a ball OB and what are your options? Our Rules of Golf expert Steve Carroll is on hand to help

It’s a fate that befalls all golfers. It doesn’t matter if you’re brand new, Rory McIlroy, or Lydia Ko – at some stage you’re going to hit one off the planet and outside of the course boundaries. So when it happens to you, how say you should handle the out of bounds rule? Let’s open our books to Rule 18 and dive in…

## Out of bounds rule

### What is out of bounds?

All areas outside the boundary edge of the course. That was easy, wasn’t it? Right, does out of bounds extend both above and below the ground?

It does, and that means that – according to the definition of Out of Bounds – “all ground and anything else (such as any natural or artificial object) inside the boundary edge is in bounds”. That applies whether it’s on, above, or below the surface of the ground.

What if an object – let’s say a tree – is both inside and outside the boundary edge? Perhaps the trunk is outside, but the branches extend into the course boundary. The definition says that it’s only the part of the object that is outside the edge that is out of bounds.

### How do I know where there is a boundary edge?

It’s usually defined either by objects, like a fence, white stakes, or by a painted white line. It’s important you understand the distinction between the latter two, in particular, because it makes a difference when we consider the next question, which is…

### Out of bounds rule: When is a ball out of bounds?

It’s when all of the ball at rest is outside the boundary edge of the course. A ball is in bounds when any part of it, “lies on or touches the ground or anything else inside the boundary edge, or is above the boundary edge or any other part of the course”.

Now let’s look at how that applies when there are boundary stakes or a painted white line signifying the course boundary.

For the former, the boundary edge is “defined by the line between the course-side points of the stakes at ground level”. The stakes, themselves, are out of bounds.

So, to break that down, if part of the ball is course side of the stakes, the ball is in bounds. If the ball touches the stakes, or no part of it is on the course side, the ball is out of bounds.

If those stakes are paced out, and you’re not sure whether your ball is in or out, you need to measure a line from one stake to the next. As a referee, I carry around a ball of string to do just that!

When there is a painted line, the boundary edge is the course side edge of the line. If any part of the ball – even if it’s a tiny sliver – is course side, it is in bounds. A ball that is on the line itself, or which is beyond the course side edge, is out of bounds.

And, yes, you can stand out of bounds to play a ball that is on the course.

### My ball is out of bounds – what now?

You have to take stroke-and-distance relief. You have no other option. Add one penalty stroke to your score and go back to where you played your previous stroke from.

### What if you’re unsure whether your ball is out of bounds?

If your ball might be out of bounds, you can announce you’re going to play a provisional. But if you know it is beyond the course boundaries, that original is no longer in play.

### Got a question for our expert?

Despite the changes to the Rules of Golf in 2019 and 2023, there are still some that leave us scratching our heads. I’ll try to help by featuring the best of your queries in this column.

What do you think about this out of bounds rule? Let me know by leaving a comment on X.

## Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

Rules of Golf

Rules of Golf

Rules of Golf

Rules of Golf

Rules of Golf

Rules of Golf

Rules of Golf