Penalty or Improper
By Snyper on 3/17/11
It sometimes seems like there is a never-ending list of rules concerning the do’s and don’ts in the game of golf. The endless list of possible situations that can occur during a round leaves most of us with more questions than answers when it comes to the proper rulings.

Sometimes, the habits and actions that we consider to be etiquette can become confused with penalties. One of the most common instances of this confusion is a player playing out of turn. While the rules of golf tell us that the player who is farthest from the hole is to play first, they do not warn players of any penalty for failing to follow this rule. So, while order of play is defined by the rules, you cannot be penalized for hitting a shot before a player who is farther from the cup. The only exception to this ruling would be if it were determined that competitors agreed to play out of turn with the intention of someone gaining an advantage. For example, if my competitor agreed to putt before me so that I could get a read from his putt, then I would be gaining an advantage by him playing out of turn. Thus, this would be an infraction of rule 10 and the penalty is an automatic disqualification of both players.

When I was originally informed of the fact that you cannot be penalized for going out of turn, my first question was whether you could be penalized for not playing when you were away? If, for example, I wanted to see my competitor hit first so that I could gage the effect of the wind, could I just refuse to play even though I was out? While this may seem like a strange scenario and an obvious violation of etiquette, it has to be a violation of the rules somehow, right?! Well, actually, yes it is. If you are ‘away’, it is your responsibility to continue play. In other words, the player farthest from the hole is responsible for maintaining pace of play. If, for some reason, the person who was ‘away’ refused to play his next shot because he wanted to see the result of his competitor, whom was closer, the ‘away’ player would eventually be penalized for unduly delaying play. So, while the rules of golf do not force players to play in any particular order, they do place responsibility of pace of play on the player that is ‘away’.

Another situation that happens quite frequently, but is usually ignored as a simple etiquette violation, is a player teeing off in front of the tee markers. We see it all the time and the result is usually just some jokes and suggestions of making your playing partner re-tee, but as you can probably assume, playing from in front of the markers is a penalty. Since nobody ever calls it, I’m guessing that most people have no idea of the proper ruling when this action occurs. To be honest, I wasn’t 100% sure myself. Turns out, according to rule 11, a player is penalized two strokes and must re-tee if he starts a hole from an area outside the teeing ground. The rules of golf define the teeing ground as a rectangular shape starting by drawing a line from marker to marker and then going backwards a depth of two club lengths. It is allowed within the rules to stand outside of said rectangle, but a player’s ball must be within the given parameters to start each hole. Otherwise, it’s a do-over and a hefty 2-stroke penalty!

Golf has a lot of rules and, also, a lot of etiquette. One of the toughest things about getting a new player involved in the game is teaching them all the nuances that exist during every round. While most of us are not playing golf with the intention of calling a penalty on our opponents every chance that we get, it is always a good idea to know the proper rulings for the most common situations. Playing out of turn is ok, but playing outside the tee markers is not. So, you may want to take a second look the next time you tee it up and make sure you’re not starting a hole with two extra strokes!

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[ comments ]
bducharm says:
Don't forget that in match play, if a player plays out of turn, the opponent can ask that player to replay the shot after they play.

I also see SO many players that tee it up in front of the markers. Obviously in tournament golf, I will always warn the player before they play.
bkuehn1952 says:
As a recovering Rules Snob, I applaud your efforts to bring clarity to the masses.
indigno says:
In match play, if a player tees off in front of the markers, there is no penalty but his opponent can ask him to re-tee
bducharm says:
@indigno - Thank you! I was going to challenge that but went to the USGA website and read Rule 11. Nice to know...
woobwoob says:
"a player teeing off in front of the tee markers"

That is when you yell "Over the Line, Mark it Zero!" and go get your .45. Sorry Smokey, it's a league game.
indigno says:
@bducharm - u r wellcome. It is very curious that it is up to the opponent if he re-tees or not.
Imagine this case, in match play, I tee in front of the markers and my ball goes out of bounce... I would tell you ok I re-tee without penalty but u won't let me to re-tee, beacuse it is up to you. So I have to hit my third shot... But again, another curious thing, I can't use a tee, I have to drop a ball the closest to where I played my first shot out of the tee zone! rules (11-5)(20-5)(27-1)
TeT says:
The T box rule most often comes up when playing on a course with crappy tee boxes. Anything from unlevel to pitted (my personal favorite is the turtle backed Tee Box)

so yeah that rule gets ignored occasionally...
bkuehn1952 says:
@TeT: I especially love when the markers are set 2 feet from the back of a raised teeing ground, essentially limiting one's options to a thin strip of turf (often sloped up, down or sidehill). One of my occasional dreams (nightmares) involves trying to tee my ball but always having an obstructed swing, stance or no clear line of flight.
fausty111 says:
I played 100 + rounds since last May and I can't say I have ever seen anyone just go to the front of the tee box and tee off, and I met and played with alot of different people. I agree with TeT that it is probably a case that happens at a poor maintained course, and then who really cares.
jfurr says:
I noticed if on a par three or any other time not teeing up driver I sometimes look for an existing short tee left in the ground to re-use. They might be from an older marker placement and could be across the line so double check before using, or just put down your own tee to be safe.
sepfeiff says:
I don't think I have ever seen anyone tee it up in front of the markers, that would definitely stick out to me though.
Bryan K says:
bkuehn: I have that exact same dream (nightmare)!
Bryan K says:
Also thought I'd point out that the infraction of teeing up in front of the tee markers is usually only by a couple of inches. And I see it all the time. And it drives me crazy. I only called someone on it once. It was a two-man scramble, and the couple we were paired with were being complete asses. So I waited until the guy who teed it about three inches in front of the markers had a beautiful drive (while his partner shanked one) and called him on it. His tee was still in the ground, too, so it's not like he could dispute it. We still lost by a stroke, but it was worth it.
wesley243 says:
@Woob "Am I the only one who gives a SH*# about the rules!" Walter put the piece away...
Banker85 says:
lol wesley... I have seen in front of the markers a couple times but it is due to bad tee boxes. I would think wathcing the player who is not away hit first to gauge wind would also be a rules violation like same for putting to gain an advantage. so double penalty.
Niramas says:
Is there a rule that says I can't just move the tee box markers? hehe
aaronm04 says:
I use this all the time on par 3's! If I'm in between clubs, I'll take the longer club and move two club lengths back from the tee.
kingwood hacker says:
woobwoob and wesley243, this isn't Nam, there are rules.
cph2133 says:
@aaronm I do that too. Except I take a club less and move 2 club lengths forwards.
Paolo says:
sepfeiff... you should play with one of our crowd. 4-5" on every tee shot. To be honest we tend just to rib him about it every time. We're just interested to see how many rounds it takes him to get it. At last count it was 37 rounds and counting.
Tim Horan says:
That dream is universal I have that also
ATEglauer says:
I only play "fun" rounds, but it bugs me when players tee it up a few inches ahead of the markers. I only mention it when I'm playing with friends, though. I know it's only a few inches (I'm usually at least 2-3 feet behind the markers), but if you're not playing by the rules, you might as well not count strokes either.

[[OT: By the way, can anyone post in the forums?]]
Wes11point5 says:
If it is a league game and determines who goes to the round robin then yes, please enforce the rules. I don't care what Smokey says!
Kak says:
one that bugs me with alot of amatur golfers i play with is moving the ball out of a bad lie or even if its a decent lie they will move it to a better lie...this gets me espcially when they are chipping..its easy to chip with a perfect lie everytime..but hey your really only cheating yourself in a real game i would call him out and he would go from shooting low 80 to high 90..
scopps says:
I would agree in competitive rounds or league play that it is inappropriate to tee up outside the tee box...but in a casual round, your only cheating yourself in the end.
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