Rules Guy: After moving back 2 club-lengths, my tee shot was aligned with the tee behind mine. Is that a penalty?

Golfer in Sedona

What do you do when moving two club-lengths back on your tee shot places you behind the next tee? Rules Guy has the answer.

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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.

I play at a course with small tee boxes. I know the rules allow me two club-lengths behind the markers, but doing so here can put you behind the next tee markers back. If so, would this mean I was playing the wrong tees, and be penalized accordingly? —Robert Roy, via email

You know what they say: It’s not the size of the tee box but the length of the stick you use to take your two club-lengths.

OK, they don’t really say that, at least as far as Rules Guy knows. Maybe they should. Regardless, under Definition of Teeing Area, as long as you’re within two club-lengths from the front edge (not back edge … front edge) of the tee markers you’re supposed to be playing, that is your teeing area.

The fact that it may overlap with another set of tees is irrelevant. Interesting, but irrelevant. 

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

golfers on tee
Rules Guy: How much are you allowed to touch the ball with your club on a tee box?
By: Rules Guy

On the 18th hole, I had the idea to brace my front (left) foot up against the backside of the left tee marker, to give me the feeling not to sway forward on the downswing. Is this legal? — Sam Stitt, Cave Creek, AZ 

Brace yourself, Sam: It is! With a caveat. Namely, you can’t move the tee marker such that your stance was improved.

So long as that’s the case, you are a gentleman, a scholar, and an innovator.

My understanding is that the current USGA guidance is to play “ready golf” in stroke play, except when it creates a risk of injury. Does that apply when players are teeing off, or is there a rule that the player with the honor goes first? —Michael Konner, Bonita Springs, Fla.

Michael, your understanding is correct: Rules 5.6b and 6.4b indeed encourage “ready golf” in stroke play.

This concept of playing out of turn safely and responsibly to save time extends to anywhere on the course — start, middle and finish of holes. There is a caveat: Players should not play out of turn to gain an advantage over another player. If the player who has the honor wants to play in order, the other player(s) should respect that and do so.

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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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