Rules Guy: What are your options when play a ball from a penalty area and fail to get out?

Charlie Wi hits out of a water hazard during the final round of the Honda Classic on the Champion Course at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida on Sunday, March 4, 2007

What do the rules say about your options when you fail to get out of a penalty area?

Getty Images

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 player hits a shot into a penalty area. After reviewing all options, he decides to play the ball as it lies. His subsequent shot still leaves the ball in the penalty area, never having crossed outside it, and in an even worse position. What are the player’s options now? Have they changed at all because of the prior shot? —Martin Ring, Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Canada

Have they changed at all? Yes. A lot? No. What the Rules, specifically 17.2a, do here is offer an additional option.

First, the three normal ones: stroke and distance (again from the penalty area); back on the line using the point where the ball last crossed the edge into the penalty area (on the previous stroke, since this one never left); and lateral relief (two club-lengths) from where the ball last crossed the edge (again, on the previous stroke).

To that, add the extra choice of going all the way back to the last spot you played from outside the penalty area — what would have been stroke and distance if you’d wisely taken relief before trying to play from the penalty area — all for just one penalty stroke.

For more penalty-area guidance from our guru, read on …

hazard with cart path
Rules Guy: Can you still take relief from a stance on the cart path if your ball is in a penalty area?
By: Rules Guy

While watching the Players Championship — and wishing I was at TPC Sawgrass rather than looking at two feet of snow on the ground — I had a rules question regarding the famous island-green 17th hole. If the player’s ball hits the green, then rolls or bounces off the back into the pond, the ball goes over the yellow line marking the hazard. Why can’t the ball be placed where it crossed that line, instead of having to go to the drop zone or re-tee? —David Kocher, Eagle River, Alaska

On the bright side, we suppose you don’t have to worry about alligators on the course up in the Last Frontier…just grizzly bears, from what we’ve read.

As to your question, it’s because that’s specifically not something the Rules allow for a ball in a penalty area when it last crosses the edge where it’s yellow.

By rule, the player’s only two options are stroke and distance (in this instance, play again from the tee) or use back-on-the-line relief, which would take the player back across the pond behind the green.

The PGA Tour also provides a dropping zone as a third penalty relief option — something that tends to get a lot of use. If the lines were red instead, dropping within two club lengths of where the ball last crossed the edge, no nearer the hole, would be allowed. Hope you thaw out soon!

Need help unriddling the greens at your home course? Pick up a custom Green Book from 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.

The Nautical

100% Genuine Hickory Length: 45″ / Diameter 3/8″ Medium-Dark Stain Navy/White Color Combo Gloss Protective Coating Nickel End Caps High Quality Golf Alignment Sticks 
View Product
generic profile image