Rule of the Month: Margin of Error | Oregon Golf Association

Rule of the Month: Margin of Error

By OGA Senior Rules Officials: Pete Scholz and Terry McEvilly
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Margins and Boundaries

Margins and boundaries of the course are generally marked with colored stakes, lines painted on the ground, or a combination of the two.  Additionally, even a different cut of grass, such as the putting green, may also indicate a margin.  Some margins and boundaries extend both below and above the ground.  While others extend only down.  Truly confusing, to say the least.  But it is important for every player to know on what area of the course their ball lies.  For instance, a player may have found his or her ball touching a margin but is unsure which area of the course it actually lies in.  This uncertainty can lead the player into taking incorrect actions that result in a penalty.   

Test your knowledge of the margins and boundaries of the course with the following questions.  As we have mentioned many times before, the definitions at the beginning of the Rules of Golf booklet are a tremendous help in figuring out the correct answers.

Questions:  True/False

  1. Only the out of bounds margin extends above the ground.
  2. If a ball overhangs the putting green but doesn’t touch it, the ball is not on the green.
  3. A ball that lies mostly through the green but touches a water hazard line is considered to lie through the green.
  4. If both stakes and painted lines are used to mark a margin, the painted lines override the stakes when determining the margin.
  5. A player’s ball and stance are both outside the margin of ground under repair. But the player’s swing is interfered with by a bush within the margin.  He is entitled to free relief.
  6. A ball that touches both the out of bounds line and the course is considered out of bounds.
  7. If the margin of a water hazard is defined by stakes, the stakes are inside the hazard.
  8. When a ball lies through the green but touches the margin of ground under repair, relief without penalty is not available.
  9. An island of grass located within the margin of a bunker is part of the bunker.
  10. A ball must touch the sand to be considered in a bunker.

Answers:  (All correct answers may be found in the definition section of the Rules.)

  1. False.   Both out of bounds and water hazard margins extend both vertically above and below the ground.  These are the only two margins that extend in both directions.
  2. True.  A ball must touch the putting green to be considered on the green.  A prudent player will not lift the ball if there is any doubt as to the actual location of the ball.
  3. False.  If any part of the ball touches a hazard, it is considered to lie in the hazard as the line itself is considered to be in the hazard.  The player may take relief from the hazard with a one-stroke penalty or may choose to play the ball as it lies, provided play from the hazard is allowed. 
  4. True.  When both stakes and lines are present, the lines determine the margin and the stakes serve only as a method of identifying the hazard or indicate the presence of out of bounds.
  5. True.  While the margins for ground under repair do not extend upwards from the ground, the definition of “Ground under repair” notes, in part, that "All ground and any grass, bush, tree or other growing thing within the ground under repair is part of the ground under repair." Therefore, the player may take relief as the bush within the ground under repair interferes with the area of his intended swing.
  6. False.  If any part of the ball lies on the course, the ball is in bounds and may be played as it lies.
  7. True.  When only stakes are used to define a margin, the margin is determined by the outside edge of the stakes.  This puts the entire stake in the hazard.  An easy way to remember this is to remember that every stake is in the condition it defines.  For instance, ground under repair stakes are in the GUR and out of bounds stakes are out of bounds.
  8. False.  If any part of the ball touches the ground under repair it is considered in the GUR.  The player may choose to play the ball as it lies or take relief without penalty for interference from the ground under repair.
  9. False.  Any ground within the margin of a bunker that is covered with grass is not part of the bunker. 
  10. False.  If the ball lies on bare earth within the margin of a bunker, it is considered in the bunker.   

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