Rules Guy: Does hitting a stray range ball during a round count as practice?

golf ball driving range

What do the rules say about hitting a stray range ball?

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The Rules of Golf are tricky! Thankfully, we’ve got the guru. Our Rules Guy knows the book front to back. Got a question? He’s got all the answers.

My course driving range is flanked by holes 1 and 9, and many stray balls find the adjacent fairways. Guys like to hit them back onto the range — often with the same club they are about to hit their approach shot with. Does this constitute practice during a round?
—Kurt Matthews, Denver, Colo.

It depends, Kurt, whether they’re doing so solely as a courtesy or as a sneaky means of practice. The former is fine. The latter, under Rule 5.5a, is not, and brings with it the general penalty of two strokes in stroke play and loss of hole in match play.

Rules Guy can certainly envision a scenario where a player just happens to use the club they already have in hand to slap a random practice ball back to where it belongs…and also one where the player pulls out a rangefinder, goes through their pre-shot routine, and so on and so forth. Common sense will tell you if it was common courtesy or not.

For more range-related guidance from our guru, read on …

range and hole
Rules Guy: Is it legal to test your carry distance on the first hole from the driving range?
By: Rules Guy

I play year-round here in Colorado. Come winter, it can be hard, and sometimes impossible, to get a tee in the ground, so I use a rubber tee like the ones at driving ranges. Is this permissible — and, if so, is it permissible year-round? I like that the ball is always the same height at address, and my drives are more consistent as a result. —Dean Marraccini, Niwot, Colo.

You want to know where the rubber meets the road, Rules-wise.

As long as your rubber tee doesn’t exceed four inches in height, it’s perfectly acceptable to use, regardless of the ground conditions. Keep burning rubber on those tee shots and you might just turn into a trendsetter.

Need help unriddling the greens at your home course? Pick up a custom Green Book from 8AM Golf affiliate Golf Logix.

Got a question about the Rules? Ask the Rules Guy! Send your queries, confusions and comments to We promise he won’t throw the book at you.

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