Congratulations! From the moment you smother-hooked that tee shot, your ball seemed destined to land out-of-bounds. But you caught a break, a tree branch deflected it straight down and, it’s a miracle, but you’re still in play! (Clean living, right?) One small problem, however. Those white stakes that define the course’s boundaries? One of them is right next to your ball and no matter how you try to play your next shot, that sucker is in the way.

The logical question is: can you move it? After all, you’re in play, and maybe this is one of those moveable obstruction situations. Maybe? Bzzzzzzzt. Wrong. While you can move a stake that defines a penalty area if it interferes with your ball, stance or swing (Rule 15.2a), OB stakes – and any physical elements that define a course’s boundary – are more sacred. Not only can’t you move these things; free relief is also not allowed (Definitions: Boundary Objects).

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If you got a little ahead of yourself and did happen to move one of those stakes, it’s a two-stroke penalty or loss of hole (matchplay) under Rule 8.1a for improving conditions affecting a stroke. However, you can avoid the penalty by putting the stake back exactly as you found it before you play your next stroke. The Rules of Golf calls this “restoring the original conditions”.

So what are your options when a stake, wall and/or fence that is a boundary object interferes with your next stroke? There are a few: the first is to play the ball as it lies. You can hit the stake and let it carom into your ball, hopefully knocking the ball into a better spot on the course. You can even stand outside the course and give the OB fence a whack if you think it can move your ball. Bad for your club, but completely legal (Rule 18.2a(2)).

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Your other options would be to follow the rules for an unplayable lie (Rule 19) or stroke-and-distance penalty relief (Rule 18), adding one penalty stroke. Yeah, you got lucky that the ball didn’t go OB. But the golf gods aren’t always completely forgiving.


Can I be penalised for delaying play if I stop to get a hotdog or a drink?

When am I allowed to substitute a golf ball on the course?

I stopped my swing before hitting the ball. Does that count as a stroke?

I hit myself with my own ball. Embarrassment aside, is that a penalty?

What happens in a match when no one knows how to apply a rule?

My opponent stopped my ball from rolling on purpose. Is that a penalty?

While waiting to play a shot, my opponent is killing time by chipping a ball. Is this allowed?

My ball is in a penalty area, so what are my options for taking a drop?

Can I be penalised if someone else improves my lie?

Can you repair divot holes or pitch marks in your line before hitting a shot?

I just played the wrong ball. What do I do now?

What do I do if my ball just hit another ball on the green?

What do you do when the tee markers aren’t lined up or are missing?

Somebody just picked up my golf ball! Now what?

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Can you hit a provisional ball after hitting a shot into a penalty area?

Your club breaks, what are your options?

My opponent took a generous drop after hitting into a penalty area. Can he be DQ’d for that?

Can I use a long putter when measuring my relief area?

Our practice putting green sucks. Can I hit a few putts on the course before my round?

I had an extra club in my bag and I just teed off. Now what?

Can I move a stone if it improves my lie?

Are you smart enough to ace this basic rules quiz?

Do I get relief from aeration holes?

What does ‘known or virtually certain’ really mean?

Do you have to use a putter on the green?

You’re playing a Srixon. Two holes later it’s a Callaway. Is switching golf balls mid-round allowed?

I hit a horrible shot. I’m waaaaaay better off if I don’t find the ball. Can I just declare it lost?

I’m on the green, my opponent is not. Who’s away?

Is sneaking a peek in another player’s bag considered getting advice?

What do I do if my golf ball is stuck in a tree?

I conceded a putt. My opponent putted anyway and missed. Is that a penalty?

What is casual water and how do I play around it?

I thought my ball was lost and put another in play then found my first ball… which ball counts?

What happens if I can’t tell my provisional ball from my original?

What exactly is an embedded ball?

How do I find my ‘nearest point of relief’?

How long can I take to hit a shot?

Does a ball have to be unplayable to declare it unplayable?