Rule of the Month: Where Fore Art Thou?
By OGA Senior Rules Officials: Pete Scholz and Terry McEvilly
Click Here for the Rule of the Month Archive
Parts of the Course in 2019
While scientists have been debating for years the question of is it possible for a person to be in two places at once, the question can also reasonably be asked about a ball on a golf course. And since it’s important for players to know exactly on which part of the course their golf balls lie, the purpose of this month’s article is to add clarity to some major changes in the Rules for next year that redefine the parts of the golf course. Understanding the basics offered here this month, will be a great help as you transition into a new world of Rules next January.
Questions: True / False
- There are five defined areas of the course.
- The general area of the course is defined as the entire course, except for the four other defined specific areas.
- When the ball touches both the general area and one of the other defined specific areas, it is treated as laying in the general area.
- Other than the general area, the four specific areas of the course consists of penalty areas (formally water hazards), bunkers, the putting green and no play zones.
- If a ball is inside the prepared edge of a bunker it is always treated as in the bunker.
- The Committee may define a bunker as part of the general area by a Local Rule.
- The two club-length depth of the teeing area the player will play from may be measured with a long putter.
- The Committee may define any area of the course as a penalty area.
- When a penalty area is marked by stakes, the edge of the penalty area is defined by the center of the stake to the center of the next stake.
If part of the ball touches the putting green and also the fringe, the ball is treated as on the putting green.
- True. Definition of Areas of the Course. In the past, there were four areas of the course. But starting in 2019, hazards have been divided into two separate areas -- penalty areas and bunkers. Additionally, the general area (see question #2) and the teeing area and the putting green of the hole being played make up the rest of the course.
- True. Definition of General Area. The general area, formally known as “through the green”, is where the ball will most often be played from. It is all of the course with the exceptions of the teeing area where the player will start the hole that is being played, all penalty areas, all bunkers and the putting green of the hole being played.
- False. Rule 2.2c. When a ball lies partially in the general area and partially in another specific area of the course it is always treated as lying in that specific area of the course. For instance, if a ball lies in the general area but also touches a penalty area, the ball is treated as lying in the penalty area.
- False. Definition of General Area. The four defined specific areas of the course consists of bunkers, penalty areas, the teeing area and the putting green of the hole the player is playing. All other teeing locations on the course, whether on the same hole or a different hole, and all the other greens on the course are treated as part of the general area. While No play zones are not considered a defined specific area, they are a new concept under the 2019 Rules and will be covered in a future Rule of the Month article.
- False. Definition of Bunker and Rule 12.1. A ball is considered in the bunker if it is inside the edge of the bunker and also if it rests on sand or where sand would normally be. If the ball lies on soil or grass, such as on the lip or wall of the bunker where sand is not intended to be, the ball is not in the bunker.
- True. Definition of Bunker. The Committee now has the authority to declare bunkers as part of the general area. Doing so removes all restrictions on the player when their ball lies in a bunker and would generally by imposed only in extraordinary circumstances. One side note to Committees in charge of the course is that in doing so, it could severely impact the accuracy of handicaps.
- False. Definitions of Teeing Area and Club-Length. The teeing area is still two club-lengths in depth measured from the front edge of the tee-markers. However, a putter may not be used when measuring distances on the course since the definition of a club-length specifically excludes putters.
- True. Definition of Penalty Area. In the past, a Committee didn’t have the authority to arbitrarily declare any area of the course as a water hazard unless it met the definition of a water hazard. Starting in 2019, the Committee may define any area of the course as a penalty area, such as deep rough from where a ball is often lost or unplayable. This new authority has the potential to speed play as the golfer may not wish to search for the ball but rather immediately take relief under Rule 17 (Penalty Areas).
- False. Definition of Penalty Area. When stakes are used to define the edge of a penalty area, the edge is defined by the line between the outside points of the stakes at ground level. This stipulation puts the stakes inside the penalty area.
- True. Rules 2.2c and 13.1a. As mentioned in question #3, when a ball touches both the general area (fringe) and one of the other defined specific areas, it is treated as lying in or on the specific area. Therefore, a ball that touches both the fringe and putting green is on the putting green and the player may mark and lift his or her ball under Rule 13.1b (Putting Greens).