Rules Guy: Are you allowed to take a swing through a fence?

golf ball behind fence

What do the Rules say about taking a swing through a fence?

John McAlley

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 wire mesh fence separates my home course from the adjacent property, with no OB stakes. A local rule says you aren’t entitled to relief if your ball is in bounds against or near the fence. Because of the fence’s construction, you could swing the club from the non-golf course side — essentially, through the fence — and hit the ball back toward the fairway. Is this permitted?
—Jim Gallo, New Albany, Ohio

If the ball is indeed in bounds, you can play it from either side of the fence.

The Rules — in this case, Rule 18.2a(2) — care only where the ball lies, not where you stand to play it.

Caveat: If there are signs posted such as “No Trespassing. Or Else!” take a penalty drop.

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

aeration plugs
Rules Guy: Is it legal to remove a loose impediment behind your ball if doing so improves your lie?
By: Rules Guy

With all the rain we’ve had this year, the rough has been extremely hard to escape. I’ve noticed people basically flattening the grass behind their ball during their pre-shot routine. I am sure this is a penalty but don’t know which one, or what the penalty is. Yet this is okay to do on the tee box, yes? If so, why?
—John Bowman,
Westerville, Ohio

The teeing area is treated different under the rules because … well, it just is.

For starters, you’re allowed to tee the ball up there, and nowhere else, right? If you want to create some sort of irregularity of surface by, say, pressing down on the ground behind the tee, that’s kosher, too. So, let’s leave the tee box out of this because, once we’re past that, we’re playing the ball as it lies.

A player is allowed to lightly ground the club right in front of or behind the ball, which means just setting it down enough to support its weight. If that’s all a player’s doing, even if it creates an improvement to the lie there is no penalty — see Rule 8.1b. If, however, a player goes beyond that (say, from light tapping to mush-mush-mushing) and creates an improvement, under Rule 8.1(a) it’s the general penalty of two strokes in stroke play and loss of hole in match play.

Should your opponent or fellow competitor disagree with your penalty call (we’ll assume he or she hasn’t called the penalty on him or herself), the committee will need to step in and adjudicate.

Need help unriddling the greens at your home course? Pick up a custom Green Book from 8 AM 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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