Rules Guy: What’s the penalty for accidentally playing from the wrong tees in match play?

Golfer hitting his tee shot on golf course

What do the rules say about playing from the wrong tees in match play?

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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.

A four-ball match. Our opponents get to the tee ahead of us and hit. Inadvertently, I hit from the next box forward, which they duly noted. I rehit from the correct tees and played on, making a 5. Our opponents said my score was 7 for hitting from the wrong tees. Is that right? —Dennis Derby, via email

Your opponents weren’t obligated to tell you that you were about to play from the wrong tees, sportsmanship aside. Maybe they didn’t realize until too late … or not.

Still, they confused the relevant rule for match play, Rule 6.1b(1), with the one for stroke play, Rule 6.1b(2). In this case in match play, the opponents get the choice of whether they want to cancel your stroke and require you to play from the correct tees; if they don’t cancel, you just play out the hole, penalty-free, even from the wrong tees. In stroke play, you indeed get a two-stroke penalty and are required to correct your mistake.

For more match-play guidance from our guru, read on …

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Rules Guy: In a four-ball match, do you have to share a wrong-ball penalty with your partner?
By: Rules Guy

During the semifinals of the club match-play championship, I was injured when my opponent drove her golf cart into my left leg, knocking me over — yes, accidentally, but still. This took place during the fourth hole. Not knowing the extent of my injury, we jointly decided to halt the match. Thankfully, it turned out nothing was broken. We neglected, however, to mark our balls. When we eventually restart the match, can we jointly agree to start afresh from the first hole, even though the pin locations and conditions will have changed? Is this a tournament committee decision? — Kathleen Williams, Union Vale, N.Y.

Rules Guy was more intrigued by the prospective match between your respective lawyers, but we are glad you handled the situation peacefully.

That said, under Rule 5.7c, you must resume play from where play was stopped, even on a different day.

Don’t know the exact position of your golf balls? That’s fine — just estimate and replace (and make sure your opponent keeps her foot on the brake).

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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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