Know the Rules: The Teeing Ground

This post is the beginning of a weekly review of the rules of golf. Every Friday I will go over one rule in detail so you know, really know, what that rule is and how it affects the way you play the game. The rules do three things for us. They make the game fair, they hold us accountable for our mistakes, and they make golf easier to play. Knowing them is part of being a golfer.

I will discuss only the most obvious and common occurrences. If an unusual situation warrants it, I will mention a Deep Rule – something that hardly ever occurs but can be confusing or has serious consequences if not handled properly.

Today’s rule is Rule 11 – Teeing Ground.

The teeing ground is the designated place from where you start play on a hole, but it is not the entire prepared area. That’s commonly called the tee box. The teeing ground is a rectangle defined by a line connecting the tee markers, and going back from there a distance of two club-lengths. You can measure with any club.

The most important rule is that the ball must be played from within the teeing ground defined above. You can stand outside it, but the ball must be inside it. If you play a ball that is outside the teeing ground, it is a two-stroke penalty and another ball must (must, not can) be played from within the teeing ground. Deep Rule: If this mistake is not corrected before the player tees off on the next hole, the player is disqualified. Deep Rule: If a ball played from outside the teeing ground goes out of bounds or into a water hazard, those penalties do not apply because that ball was not in play. Only the penalty and procedure for playing the ball outside the teeing ground applies.

I like to tee the ball about a foot behind the markers to make sure there is never a question here. You can also use the rectangle to your advantage. Say you’re on the tee of a par 3 and between clubs. If you want to go with the longer club, you can tee up at the back of the tee box and take two yards off the shot just like that.

If you knock the ball off the tee while addressing it, tee it up again without penalty. If the ball falls off the tee on its own, tee it back up with no penalty. If you swing at the ball and hit it while it is falling off the tee, the stroke counts, but there is no penalty. If you swing at the ball and knick it slightly so it rolls off the tee even a few inches, the ball is in play at that spot and may not be re-teed without penalty.

Tee markers are considered to be fixed and may not be moved for any reason (two-stroke penalty). Keep them there. Don’t touch them. After the first stroke, though, they are to be treated as an obstruction. If movable, they may be moved.

It has happened to me several times that I get to the tee box and there is only one tee marker, or the two markers are lying to the side of the tee box because the maintenance guy who mowed the tee box forgot to put them back. Now what?

When tee marker(s) are missing in a tournament round, a tournament official should be called to correct the situation before play continues. If one is missing in a casual round, estimate where the other tee marker should be according to the shape of the hole and play on. When both tee markers are missing or not in place, tee up next to the marker that is in the ground indicating the measuring point for the set of tees in question. In either of these two cases, though, call the clubhouse and let them know about it.

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