Can You Play From Another Green?

Hitting a full shot from another green would clearly be bad for the course, but what about a putt? Jeremy Ellwood explains the 'do's and don'ts' of 'wrong greens'...

Can you play from another green - wrong green
(Image credit: Kenny Smith)

Can You Play From Another Green?

There are many definitions you really need to know to fully understand the Rules of Golf and our first port of call in answering this question is the Definitions section at the back of the Rule book.

In there, you will find the five defined areas of any golf course described in detail. They are the general area, all bunkers, all penalty areas and the teeing area and putting green of the hole you are playing. This final phrase (‘of the hole you are playing’) is an important distinction, for although a golf course has nine or 18 greens and many different potential teeing areas, any other than those on the hole you are playing form part of the general area, which means different Rules apply to the ones that govern what you can and can’t do on the teeing area and putting green of the hole you are playing.

Playing from a wrong green

Hitting full irons from another green would clearly be bad for the course so thankfully the Rules of Golf do not allow it

(Image credit: Kenny Smith)

That said, it would, of course, not be great for the golf course if the playing of full shots were permitted from the finely prepared grasses on any putting green, so thankfully the Rules of Golf designate any green other than the putting green of the hole you are playing as a 'wrong green' from which you must take free relief under Rule 13-1f.

At some courses, where many of the holes are self-enclosed, this may rarely happen other than with the very wildest of shots, while at others, two greens often lie in reasonable proximity with the wrong one in play for relatively minor miscues – perhaps on a narrow out-and-back links course where the front nine runs one way and the back nine the other

Putting from wrong green not allowed

You are not allowed to putt from another green back to yours even if perfectly practical to do so

(Image credit: Future)

If you have strayed on to a wrong green, it is important to note that you are not permitted to play from it even if only separated from the putting green of the hole you are playing by a narrow strip of fairway or fringe such that putting from one to the other would be perfectly practical. And you must take relief away from a wrong green not only when your ball is lying on one, but also when a wrong green physically interferes with your area of intended stance or area of intended swing.

Standing on wrong green to play

You must still take complete relief when standing on a wrong green even if your ball isn't actually lying on it

(Image credit: Kenny Smith)

So, next time you hit one slightly offline and find your ball on a wrong green, what should you do? You must find your nearest point of complete relief (free relief) no nearer the hole under Rule 13-1f such that both feet and ball are off the wrong green and it is no longer interfering with your area of intended swing. You are then entitled to a one club-length relief area from this reference point. The relief area must not be nearer the hole than your reference point and must be in the same part of the course as the reference point – in this instance, somewhere in the general area as wrong greens form part of the general area.

R&A diagram for relief from wrong green

This helpful diagram from the Rules of Golf shows how to take relief from a wrong green

(Image credit: The R&A)

There is, of course, nothing to stop you declaring the ball unplayable and opting to drop back on line for a one-stroke penalty or go back to where you last played from under stroke and distance if the route back through to your hole is problematic, but in most instances there will probably be little reason not to enjoy the free relief on offer.


Jeremy Ellwood
Contributing Editor

Jeremy Ellwood has worked in the golf industry since 1993 and for Golf Monthly since 2002 when he started out as equipment editor. He is now a freelance journalist writing mainly for Golf Monthly. He is an expert on the Rules of Golf having qualified through an R&A course to become a golf referee. He is a senior panelist for Golf Monthly's Top 100 UK & Ireland Course Rankings and has played all of the Top 100 plus 91 of the Next 100, making him well-qualified when it comes to assessing and comparing our premier golf courses. He has now played 1,000 golf courses worldwide in 35 countries, from the humblest of nine-holers in the Scottish Highlands to the very grandest of international golf resorts. He reached the 1,000 mark on his 60th birthday in October 2023 on Vale do Lobo's Ocean course. Put him on a links course anywhere and he will be blissfully content.

Jezz can be contacted via Twitter - @JezzEllwoodGolf

Jeremy is currently playing...

Driver: Ping G425 LST 10.5˚ (draw setting), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 55 S shaft

3 wood: Ping G425 Max 15˚ (set to flat +1), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 65 S shaft

Hybrid: Ping G425 17˚, Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro Orange 80 S shaft

Irons 3-PW: Ping i525, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts

Wedges: Ping Glide 4.0 50˚ and 54˚, 12˚ bounce, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts

Putter: Ping Fetch 2021 model, 33in shaft (set flat 2)

Ball: Varies but mostly now TaylorMade Tour Response