Understanding The Out Of Bounds Rule

This week I received a great question on the definition of “Out of Bounds”, understanding this rule is important and I thoroughly recommend you read the question and answer :


“I have a question. This is about a ball on the Out of Bounds line. The definition defines that a ball is Out of Bounds when all of it lies Out of Bounds. It also declares that, when Out of Bounds is defined by a line on the ground, the line itself is Out of Bounds.

Now the situation: A ball lying on what seems to be an oil line that defines the Out of Bounds, but the line itself is smudgy and unclear in particular the interior part of the line. Also you have a stalky grass that had part of its stalks touching the ball.

The following are the questions I would like to pose?

1. Note 1: under definitions states; that stakes and lines used to define the Out of Bounds should be white. Does the club need to change the line marking to white rather than oil. Does did affect the Out of Bounds and bring in the stakes instead which also located along the oil line?

2. If the Out of Bounds line is unclear, can one assume that the line is nevertheless there or should the benefit of the doubt go to the player who owns the ball?

3. Does the stalk from the grass inbounds change the status of the ball, noting the definition that the ball is Out of Bounds when all of it lies Out of Bounds yet although the ball is out but part of the course is touching it.

What is the proper ruling on this? Appreciate your assistance.”


“Firstly, the ‘oil line’ does legitimately define the Out of Bounds.

Although the definition states that the line ‘should’ be white, it is not mandatory.

Secondly, if any part of the ball overlaps the course inside the oil line it is in bounds.

It is worth noting here that if a ball lies completely between the two outside edges of a line defining out of bounds the ball is Out of Bounds.

Thirdly, where stakes are used at points along the oil line they identify the Out of Bounds area but it is the lines that actually define it. Finally, the stalky grass is not relevant to the decision on whether the ball is in bounds or out of bounds.

So, to try and answer your questions;

1. The club does not have to change the line marking to white (though it would be preferable if they did so) and it is the oil lines that define the Out of Bounds, where they exist, and not the stakes.

2. Even if the oil line is smudged it still defines the Out of Bounds area, so it does not matter whether it is one inch wide in places and six inches wide in others it is still the definitive guide. Where there is no line evident the players must take the nearest inside points of the stakes at ground level as being the definitive points to determine whether any part of the ball is lying in bounds.

Similarly, if there are two oil lines between stakes with an area between them where no line exists then the players must take an imaginary line between the inside points of each line end to determine whether the ball is in bounds or Out of Bounds.

3. The stalky grass, or anything else growing in bounds, is irrelevant in determining whether the ball itself lies in or out of bounds..”

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Disclaimer: Whilst every attempt has been made to ensure the accuracy and reliability of this information on the Rules of Golf I am human and have been known to be wrong! Neither I, nor anyone connected with GolfSwingSecretsRevealed.com, shall be held responsible for any losses caused by reliance upon the accuracy or reliability of such information. Readers should refer to the full text of the rules and decisions as published in the official publications of the R&A and the USGA, The Rules of Golf 2008-2011 and Decisions on the Rules of Golf 2008-2009.

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