Rules Guy: Is there a penalty for accidentally teeing off on the wrong hole?

Golfer on tee

What do the rules say about hitting a tee shot on the wrong hole?

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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.

We were playing at an unfamiliar course, and I teed off first on the seventh hole … which after my drive, we realized, was in fact the 11th hole. (No. 7 was 50 yards to our left.) Was there automatically a penalty, and how should I have proceeded?
—Michael Chafty, via email

Complicated routing is the big drawback at Serpentine National GC, we hear.

In stroke play, yes, there is an automatic penalty of two strokes, and you had to correct the mistake by playing from the correct teeing area.

In match play, your opponent could cancel your stroke and make you play from the correct teeing area … or, less generously, could make you try to find your way back to the 7th hole and play the ball as it lies — see Rule 6.1b(1) … and don’t get lost looking for it.

For more teebox guidance from our guru, read on …

golfer on tee
Rules Guy: How far behind the tee marker can you tee up the ball?
By: Rules Guy

I generally play from a set of tees one-up from the back. If there is a particular hole with an impressive tee box from the tips, however, can I move back and play from there just for that hole? Also, if it’s match play and my opponent agrees to do the same, is that okay? And would my round still be legitimate for handicap purposes? 
—Andy Wiegert, St. Louis, MO

Instead of bringing your driver to the tips, Andy, just bring a camera.

Rule 6.1b requires you to play from within the teeing area; which set of tee markers is for your teeing area is specified by the Committee. You as a player don’t have the right to overrule the Committee willy-nilly, or in any other manner.

In a stroke-play competition, you’d get two penalty strokes for playing from outside the teeing area and would need to correct the mistake before starting another hole or be disqualified.

In a match, technically you and your opponent wouldn’t be penalized for agreeing to play the wrong teeing area so long as you didn’t know you’re not allowed to make that switch by agreement. (Now that you’ve read that sentence, that’s no longer possible; agree to ignore a rule and you’re both disqualified under Rule 1.3b.)

As for posting a score, if a Course Rating and Slope Rating doesn’t exist for a particular combination of tee sets being played (i.e., “Black/Blue,” “Blue/White,” etc. — something more courses are doing), a temporary Course Rating and Slope Rating would need to approved and issued by the local Allied Golf Association for the score to be acceptable.

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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