MEMBERSHIPRules Topic – Penalty Area Options

Rules Topic – Penalty Area Options

Topic Overview:

Penalty areas are one of the five defined areas of the course and can be marked as either red or yellow. When your ball lies in a penalty area, you can play it as it lies or take relief outside the penalty area for one penalty stroke. For either red or yellow penalty areas, you can play from where your last stroke was made (stroke and distance) or take back-on-the-line relief by going back as far as you’d like on the line between the hole and where your ball last crossed the edge of the penalty area. In a red penalty area, you have one additional relief option, which is to take lateral relief within two club-lengths of where your ball crossed into the penalty area.

When playing a shot from a penalty area, you can remove any detached natural or artificial object (known as loose impediments and movable obstructions), ground your club behind the ball, or take practice swings that touch the ground. However, there are a few restrictions. You can’t deem your ball unplayable or take relief from abnormal course conditions (such as a bridge or sprinkler control box). If you need relief, you can play under the penalty area relief options discussed above. You also are not allowed to play a provisional ball when you think your ball will be lost in a penalty area. 

Rule 17 – Penalty Areas

Purpose of Rule: Rule 17 is a specific Rule for penalty areas, which are bodies of water or other areas defined by the Committee where a ball is often lost or unable to be played. For one penalty stroke, you may use specific relief options to play a ball from outside the penalty area.

17.1  Options for Your Ball in Penalty Area

Penalty areas are defined as either red or yellow. This affects your relief options (see Rule 17.1d).

You may stand in a penalty area to play a ball outside the penalty area, including after taking relief from the penalty area.

a. When Your Ball Is in Penalty Area

Your ball is in a penalty area when any part of it lies on or touches the ground or anything else inside the edge of the penalty area, or is above the edge or any other part of the penalty area.

b. You May Play Ball as It Lies in Penalty Area or Take Penalty Relief

You may either play the ball as it lies without penalty or play a ball from outside the penalty area by taking penalty relief.

Exception – Relief Must Be Taken from Interference by No Play Zone in Penalty Area.

c. Relief for Your Ball Not Found but in Penalty Area

If your ball has not been found and it is known or virtually certain that it came to rest in a penalty area you may take penalty relief under this Rule.

But if it is not known or virtually certain that your ball came to rest in a penalty area and the ball is lost, you must take stroke-and-distance relief.

d. Relief for Your Ball in Penalty Area

You have the relief options shown in Diagram #1 17.1d (relief for yellow penalty area) and Diagram #2 17.1d (relief for red penalty area), each for one penalty stroke.

e. Relief Must Be Taken from Interference by No Play Zone in Penalty Area

In each of these situations, your ball must not be played as it lies:

17.2  Options After Playing Your Ball from Penalty Area

a. When Your Ball Played from Penalty Area Comes to Rest in Same or Another Penalty Area

If your ball played from a penalty area comes to rest in the same penalty area or another penalty area, you may play the ball as it lies.

Or, for one penalty stroke, you have the relief options shown in Diagram #1 17.2a and Diagram #2 17.2a.

b. When Your Ball Played from Penalty Area Is Lost, Out of Bounds or Unplayable Outside Penalty Area

17.3  No Relief Under Other Rules for Your Ball in Penalty Area

When your ball is in a penalty area, there is no relief for interference by an abnormal course condition (Rule 16.1), an embedded ball (Rule 16.3), or an unplayable ball (Rule 19).

Your only relief option is to take penalty relief under Rule 17.

United States Golf Association “Rules and Interpretations” USGA.org Rule 17 Rules of Golf 2019

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