Rules Guy: Is it a penalty to use another player’s tee?

A golfer is preparing for strike. Close up detail of his hand holding the ball.

If you run out of tees and use one from another player, do you have to take a penalty?

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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.

The other day, I picked up a tee someone had left on the tee box and proceeded to use it. My friend told me this was a penalty, for using someone else’s equipment. He said that if I wanted to use it, I needed to put it in my pocket first to claim that it was mine. What’s the ruling? —Wade Lindren, via email

This sounds like a demented magician’s trick: “I put someone else’s tee in my pocket … say the magic words — ‘It’s mine!’ — take the tee out of my pocket … and — presto! It’s legal!”

Suffice to say, your friend is a severely misguided stickler. The only restriction on sharing equipment relates to clubs. There is absolutely no issue with using someone else’s tee, towel, rangefinder or ball.

(If the one-ball Local Rule, Model Local Rule G-4, is in effect, you can still borrow a ball, so long as it’s the same make and model as the one you were using.)

Accidentally using someone else’s clubs is a general penalty of two strokes in stroke play or, in match play, adjusting the match with a one-hole deduction, with a maximum of two such penalties in either instance. The club must immediately be declared out of play once the player becomes aware of his or her error — otherwise, he or she is disqualified upon again using the club.

golfer lining up putt
Rules Guy: Can you use a tee as a ball mark to help line up a putt?
By: Rules Guy

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

On a par 3 over a pond, your ball falls short of crossing the water. The drop area is a more forward tee with less carry to clear the water. Because that drop area doubles as a teeing area, are you allowed to tee the ball? — Dennis Rautmann, via email

Why are you bringing me into this, Dennis? Rules Guy always takes an extra club and never (fine, rarely) hits into a fronting pond. Nor would RG break the rules by teeing up a second time.

While the dropping zone may be on a different player’s teeing area, it is not your teeing area. You must drop and play a ball from the dropping zone sans teeing it. Were you instead to tee it up, then you’re playing from the wrong place, and the Committee would have to determine whether it’s a serious breach or not. So, in a word, don’t.

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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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