Jeremy Ellwood explains the extent of the teeing area as defined by the Rules, and what happens if you inadvertently play from beyond its boundaries
Rules of Golf: The Teeing Area
Before getting into the ‘do’s and don’ts’ of teeing it up, it’s worth clarifying that the ‘teeing area’ is not just the narrow strip between the two markers, but rather a rectangular area two club-lengths in depth, with the front and sides of whatever tee-markers are used defining the area’s outer limits. So if the markers are set wide apart, it can be a pretty big area.
A ball is deemed to be outside the area if all of it lies outside of the teeing area, but you may stand outside the area to play a ball inside it if it suits your shot shape or how you envisage playing the hole.
The penalties for, or consequences of, playing from outside the teeing area or from the wrong tee are significantly different between stroke play and match play.
Playing from outside the teeing area (Rule 6-1b) would most commonly occur through lack of concentration, or perhaps care, if the tee-markers are set wide apart, when it can be all too easy to end up slightly ahead of them. Playing from the wrong tee 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.
If you play from in front of or outside the tee-markers in stroke play, you incur a two-shot penalty, and must then play a ball from the correct teeing area before making a stroke to begin another hole, or, if you are on your final hole, before you return your scorecard. The penalty escalates from two strokes to disqualification if you fail to do this.
The ‘good’ news is that any strokes with the ball played from outside the teeing area or wrong tee do not count in your score for that hole.
In match play, there is no penalty, but your opponent may immediately request that you cancel the stroke and play another ball from within the correct teeing area. The likelihood of this will probably 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 the shot. If, however, you have despatched it into dense jungle, don’t be too surprised if you are not asked to play again!
Related - Golf Rules: Lost Ball
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