Rules of Golf: Playing From The Wrong Tee

Find out how the Rules of Golf deal with playing from the wrong tee or outside the teeing ground

(Image credit: Kevin Murray)

What happens when you mistakenly play from outside the teeing ground or from a wrong tee? This video and accompanying article explains all

Rules of Golf: Playing From The Wrong Tee

Although these are technically two different Rules breaches, the outcomes and penalties are the same in both scenarios under Rule 11.

The first of these two Rules breaches – playing from outside the teeing ground (Rule 11-4) – might stem from a lack of concentration, or perhaps care if the tee-markers are set wide apart, when it can be all too easy to end up just slightly ahead of them.

It’s worth clarifying that the teeing ground is a rectangular area two club-lengths in depth, the front and sides of which are defined by the outside limits of the two tee-markers.

Related: Rules of Golf: The Teeing Area

A ball is deemed to be outside the teeing ground if all of it lies outside of the teeing ground, and it should be noted that you may stand outside the teeing ground to play a ball inside it if it suits your shot shape or how you envisage playing the hole.

The second offence - playing from the wrong tee (Rule 11-5) – may seem more unlikely, but it does happen, either through going to the wrong hole when tees are set close together on an unfamiliar course, or more likely when you absent-mindedly tee off from the yellows when the competition is being played from the whites.

I can only remember breaching both once – the former when I played from between one of the tee-markers and a similar-coloured sprinkler head in error, and the latter at Prince’s Golf Club in Kent, where the 7th tees on the Shore and Dunes nines lie close together.

The penalties are the same for both offences. In stroke play, it is a two-shot penalty, after which you must then play a ball from the correct teeing ground.

You must do this before teeing off on the next hole, or state your intention to do so before leaving the putting green if you are on your last hole. If you fail to do this, the penalty escalates from two strokes to disqualification.

The good news is that any strokes with the ball played from outside the teeing ground or wrong tee do not count in your score.

In match play, there is, however, no penalty, but your opponent may immediately request that you cancel the stroke and play another ball from within the correct teeing ground.

The likelihood of him or her doing this will, of course, largely depend on how good your original shot was, but if you have knocked it close on a par 3, it would be fair to assume that you will be asked to replay from the correct teeing ground. If, however, you have despatched it into dense jungle, don’t be too surprised if you are not asked to play again.

Related: New Golf Rules Explained - Penalty Areas

Jeremy Ellwood
Jeremy Ellwood

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 across the whole spectrum from courses and Rules to equipment and even instruction despite his own somewhat iffy swing (he knows how to do it, but just can't do it himself). He also edits The Golf Club Secretary Newsletter, has authored or co-authored three books and written for a number of national papers including The Telegraph and The Independent. He is a senior panelist for Golf Monthly's Top 100 UK & Ireland Course Rankings and has played all of the Top 100 plus 89 of the Next 100. He has played well over 900 courses worldwide in 35 countries, but put him on a links course anywhere and he will be blissfully content. On his first trip to Abu Dhabi a decade ago he foolishly asked Paul Casey what sort of a record he had around the course there. "Well, I've won it twice if that's what you mean!" came the reply...