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Out-of-Bounds Rule Change Discussion

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Why is the penalty for hitting your ball out-of-bounds (stroke and distance) more severe than the penalty for hitting your ball into a lateral hazard (one-stroke penalty)?

At my home course, #8 is marked  white down the right side and red down the left side.  I fully understand the rules and the difference between white and red stakes. The land to the right side of this hole is not owned by the golf course.  My question is posed to help gain an understanding of why the rules were written to penalize the out-of-bounds ball to the right side more severely than the lateral hazard ball to the left in this example.

It would certainly speed play and make the game a little more enjoyable if the rules were amended to allow amateur golfers to take a drop at the point of entry (or should I say exit) on a ball hit out-of-bounds with a one-shot penalty rather than stroke and distance which is essentially a two-shot penalty.  No expectation this post will cause a rules change but any thoughts on why the difference in red versus white are appreciated.

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I guess I would explain it as being "out of bounds" you are off the property of the course and can not play the ball from that place.  However, the lateral hazard is on the property and you are more than welcome to walk into the hazard and play your ball (or try).  I understand that really their isn't much difference...you could essentially play an out of bounds ball as a lateral but I guess hitting the ball off the course property is considered worse and deserves a more severe penalty.

I don't exactly agree that it would speed up play if they made out of bounds a lateral hazard.  If you know there is OB to the right..and your ball goes that way, always hit a provisional.  This will ensure that you do not slow down play.

IMO, golf is a game of options.  You are on the tee, there is a hazard to the left and OB to the right, you can choose to hit away from the OB if you tend to slice or you can risk hitting a normal shot with the chance of it going OB.  It is one of the many things that make golf challenging and I don't think it should be changed.

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Why shouldn't it be a stiffer penalty if you hit the ball off the property itself?

That's why there's a stiffer penalty. Your ball has left the property.

And I don't see anything wrong with that. Lots of other sports have different levels of penalty (or reward).

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Originally Posted by iacas

Why shouldn't it be a stiffer penalty if you hit the ball off the property itself?

That's why there's a stiffer penalty. Your ball has left the property.

Exactly this. There are gradations of penalty all over the course. If you play the ball accurately, you stay on the fairway and short grass. If you miss a small amount, you're "penalized" by the rough, sometimes in several grades as the shot becomes increasingly errant. If you hit a somewhat worse shot, you may end up in a bunker, or perhaps a water hazard. Finally, the worst penalty for an errant shot is OB, where you pay with stroke and distance.

As was suggested above, you need to know where the OB is and play accordingly. As a practical matter, it's usually OB because it's off the property, but in some cases it's strategically placed on golf course property. You need to be aware of it, and play away from it or pay the price.

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When I first started I thought OB was played like a water hazard. Not till I started reading about the rules on this forum did I learn otherwise. After learning about it, I thought it was a bit odd, but quickly got used to it. Stroke plus distance makes sense to me now, and I've had to put it into use quite often.

My home course demands decent driver accuracy. 17 out of 18 holes have a lateral water hazard on one side and OB hugging the other. The average yardage between the two hazards in the common landing zones is 75 yards. If your aiming right inbetween the two hazards and miss hit by 40 yards in either direction, your gonna be in one or the other. So I have indeed learned to lean more towards the water. This is something I have to take into consideration on almost every tee shot, and OB gets old fast. So does water for that matter.

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Originally Posted by Jimbo Slice

When I first started I thought OB was played like a water hazard. Not till I started reading about the rules on this forum did I learn otherwise. After learning about it, I thought it was a bit odd, but quickly got used to it. Stroke plus distance makes sense to me now, and I've had to put it into use quite often.

My home course demands decent driver accuracy. 17 out of 18 holes have a lateral water hazard on one side and OB hugging the other. The average yardage between the two hazards in the common landing zones is 75 yards. If your aiming right inbetween the two hazards and miss hit by 40 yards in either direction, your gonna be in one or the other. So I have indeed learned to lean more towards the water. This is something I have to take into consideration on almost every tee shot, and OB gets old fast. So does water for that matter.

Sounds like you need to find a new home course!

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Originally Posted by Jimbo Slice

My home course demands decent driver accuracy. 17 out of 18 holes have a lateral water hazard on one side and OB hugging the other. The average yardage between the two hazards in the common landing zones is 75 yards. If your aiming right inbetween the two hazards and miss hit by 40 yards in either direction, your gonna be in one or the other.

75 yards is a pretty big target.

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Originally Posted by TourSpoon

75 yards is a pretty big target.

Not when you suck lol. When I first started I had the drastic 80 yard slice at times.

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It's off the property which doesn't necessarily mean it should be more of a penalty, but thats just the way it is.

It's kind of like how US dollars only really mean something because everyone agrees that those little slips of paper have value.

OB is just more of a penalty because everyone agrees it is, and it adds more variety to the game.

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Originally Posted by jshots

It's off the property which doesn't necessarily mean it should be more of a penalty, but thats just the way it is.

It's kind of like how US dollars only really mean something because everyone agrees that those little slips of paper have value.

OB is just more of a penalty because everyone agrees it is, and it adds more variety to the game.

OB isn't always off the property, there are plenty of courses with internal OB for various reasons.

At the end of the day, though, everything in golf---right down to the fundamental "play it as it lies" principle---is only accepted because we all agree to it.

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Originally Posted by zeg

OB isn't always off the property, there are plenty of courses with internal OB for various reasons.

But that's a problem for the course, not for the rules.  The rules not only don't contemplate such an out of bounds condition, but I know that the USGA frowns on such a use for OB.  They strongly recommend that out of bounds should only be designated when the area so marked is beyond the boundary of the course.

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Originally Posted by Fourputt

But that's a problem for the course, not for the rules.  The rules not only don't contemplate such an out of bounds condition, but I know that the USGA frowns on such a use for OB.  They strongly recommend that out of bounds should only be designated when the area so marked is beyond the boundary of the course.


Interesting, though they do permit making parts of adjacent holes OB (Decision 33-2a/14). I don't have a problem with it, though it'd be annoying if abused.

What I really meant, though, was that it's not always as simple as "It's the edge of our property." Sometimes there are internal areas, like maintenance yards, decorative patches, etc, that could be used for the course but have been designated as not being part of the course.

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Originally Posted by zeg

Interesting, though they do permit making parts of adjacent holes OB (Decision 33-2a/14). I don't have a problem with it, though it'd be annoying if abused.

What I really meant, though, was that it's not always as simple as "It's the edge of our property." Sometimes there are internal areas, like maintenance yards, decorative patches, etc, that could be used for the course but have been designated as not being part of the course.

There is nothing in the rules to forbid it, but the Ruling bodies strongly recommend that all other possibilities be examined before taking that route.  The type of situation that they frown on is creating an out of bounds line between 2 holes just to keep players from taking an unplanned shortcut, or "for safety".  There are other ways of handling such situations, but too often a course takes the easy way out and just pounds a few white stakes into the ground.  In such case the player may be technically "out of bounds" under the rules, yet still on the course, and as such, shouldn't have to face such a harsh penalty.

Maintenance yards should not be part of the course, so out of bounds is a proper way of defining such areas.  Flower beds on the course should be designated as abnormal ground from which play is prohibited, and relief without penalty allowed.

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Originally Posted by Fourputt

There is nothing in the rules to forbid it, but the Ruling bodies strongly recommend that all other possibilities be examined before taking that route.  The type of situation that they frown on is creating an out of bounds line between 2 holes just to keep players from taking an unplanned shortcut, or "for safety".  There are other ways of handling such situations, but too often a course takes the easy way out and just pounds a few white stakes into the ground.  In such case the player may be technically "out of bounds" under the rules, yet still on the course, and as such, shouldn't have to face such a harsh penalty.

Maintenance yards should not be part of the course, so out of bounds is a proper way of defining such areas.  Flower beds on the course should be designated as abnormal ground from which play is prohibited, and relief without penalty allowed.

Well at least now I feel better about that portion of the OB rule. I have always understood off the course as OB but just marking another fairway OB has always seemed ridiculious. Glad to know that it is just a course being lazy (for the most part). I now feel a little bit better about the rule.

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As I have posted elsewhere, I agree with the OP.  Sure, maybe there are times when the course designer wants to penalize an OB more heavily because they deem it a worse shot, but the architect has no leeway to deem areas as lateral hazards (or something equivalent) unless there is water (or the possibility), so they are forced to go with the more penal OB option even if it makes for a harder hole than they would have liked.

I have played some courses which are limited in the amount of land they have where the OB line can be very close to a good shot.  Not saying this was the reason for it, but I was 20 paces from the pin off the tee on a par four a few weeks ago with what would have been a reasonable pitch to try and get up and down for a birdie, except my ball was OB by a foot (after having landed even closer to the green but kicked right and rolled over the cart path which sloped towards the OB).

I also have the same issue as the OP with lost balls.  Today I played the Beaver 9 at Breckenridge for the first time and hit a ball that I was 90+% certain was in a lateral hazard, but couldn`t be "virtually certain" it was in there because it was heavily wooded with OB a further 20 yards to the right..  Playing by the rules, I had to assume it was lost/OB and take the stroke/distance.

I would prefer it if the course designer was able to designate if the OB or a LWH penalty should apply.

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Originally Posted by Jimdangles

Well at least now I feel better about that portion of the OB rule. I have always understood off the course as OB but just marking another fairway OB has always seemed ridiculious. Glad to know that it is just a course being lazy (for the most part). I now feel a little bit better about the rule.

I actually think that the course designer should be able to penalize a player for hitting it on the wrong fairway/hole.

While I have certainly benefited from it, it never made sense to me that a shot that is a bit off line on some holes can wind up in the rough or trees while a shot further off line in the same direction can have a wide open shot from an adjacent fairway.  Fairness aside, having an adjacent hole considered a forced drop (like an ESA hazard)  or OB will improve safety by preventing people from hitting off the wrong fairway.  I know it is not in the rules, but again, I think course designers should have this option available.

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Originally Posted by MEfree

I actually think that the course designer should be able to penalize a player for hitting it on the wrong fairway/hole.

While I have certainly benefited from it, it never made sense to me that a shot that is a bit off line on some holes can wind up in the rough or trees while a shot further off line in the same direction can have a wide open shot from an adjacent fairway.  Fairness aside, having an adjacent hole considered a forced drop (like an ESA hazard)  or OB will improve safety by preventing people from hitting off the wrong fairway.  I know it is not in the rules, but again, I think course designers should have this option available.

I think if you're trying to make the hole a shortcut that should be OB but From another fairway being better off only sometimes. Today the only time I was in another fairway it turned into a 6 while a tree line you can make it almost a for sure bogie by punching out. Complete other side of the trees you have to get all the way through or all the way over. I myself have never made the decision to hit it farther down the wrong fairway to have a shot over the trees. because in that case I feel like it would be wrong. I prefer to make a creative punch shot through trees or running it up.

I do understand your reasoning though. but with neither being penalties I feel that is fair.

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Originally Posted by MEfree

I actually think that the course designer should be able to penalize a player for hitting it on the wrong fairway/hole.

While I have certainly benefited from it, it never made sense to me that a shot that is a bit off line on some holes can wind up in the rough or trees while a shot further off line in the same direction can have a wide open shot from an adjacent fairway.  Fairness aside, having an adjacent hole considered a forced drop (like an ESA hazard)  or OB will improve safety by preventing people from hitting off the wrong fairway.  I know it is not in the rules, but again, I think course designers should have this option available.

By your way of thinking, it would make any course built on a classic parkland style layout with a few parallel holes into the same sort of pain in the ass as one that threads through a residential development, with OB everywhere.  That's just a bad idea.  Out of bounds should be just what the phrase indicates - outside of the course boundary, not just anywhere they feel like putting it. You should never be penalized the same for keeping your ball through the green as if you hit your ball off the course .  That just flies in the face of all logic.  Sometimes an errant shot will get a good break.  That is just part of the charm of golf.

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