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Rules Corner: Can you ground your club in a penalty area?

March 5, 2020

The newly updated Rules of Golf no longer use the word “hazard” to define a red- or yellow-marked area where your ball may be lost. Instead, these areas are now referred to as penalty areas — and the rules governing what you can and can’t do within their confines have changed too.

Under the old rules, if you found your ball inside of red or yellow stakes but in a still-playable lie, you could play the shot without penalty, but you were not allowed to ground your club or remove loose impediments.

But now, under the updated Rules of Golf, you can do both. Basically, you are now entitled to treat a ball inside a penalty area the same as you would a ball outside the penalty area.

If, however, you find yourself within the confines of a penalty area and do not wish to play your ball as it lies and instead want to take a penalty stroke and drop outside the penalty area, you have the following options:

-Stroke-and-distance relief can be taken in both red and yellow penalty areas, and involves replaying your shot from the original spot where your previous stroke was made;

-Back-on-the-line relief can also be taken in both red and yellow penalty areas, and requires the player to note the reference point of where the ball entered the penalty area, go back on a line that extends straight back from the hole, and drop a ball within two clublengths of that spot.

-Lateral relief is a third option available in red penalty areas. To use it, you identify the spot where the ball last crossed the penalty area and drop a ball within two clublengths of that spot, no closer to the hole.

Looking for more information on the Rules of Golf? Visit usga.org/rules, or, if you have a question of your own, you can submit it to Rules Guy, our resident expert, at rulesguy@golf.com. The answer may be featured in an upcoming issue of GOLF Magazine.

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