My Golf Instructor

Out of Bounds
The Double Whammy

How to proceed under an out of bounds penalty.Losing a Stroke & Distance

When playing day to day rounds there are penalties that occur regularly such as lateral hazards, water hazards and out of bounds. These are penalties that golfers are faced with on every single course they play and affect almost every player at least once in a round. Of those penalties, Out of Bounds also known as OB is considered the most penalizing. With hazards, you have to add a stroke to your score, but you don't necessarily lose much in the way of yardage. With out of bounds however, you not only have to add a stroke to your score, but you lose 100% of the distance as well. As you will see below, out of bounds is defined by white lines or stakes and can be a road, a parking lot, a building, woods, and any other area that the golf course committee deems out of play. Be sure before you tee off to find out what areas on the golf course are considered OB.

The USGA Rules of Golf defines Out of Bounds as:

"Out of bounds is beyond the boundaries of the course or any part of the course so marked by the Committee. When out of bounds is defined by reference to stakes or a fence or as being beyond stakes or a fence, the out of bounds line is determined by the nearest inside points at ground level of the stakes or fence posts (excluding angled supports). When both stakes and lines are used to indicate out of bounds, the stakes identify out of bounds and the lines define out of bounds. When out of bounds is defined by a line on the ground, the line itself is out of bounds. The out of bounds line extends vertically upwards and downwards. A ball is out of bounds when all of it lies out of bounds. A player may stand out of bounds to play a ball lying within bounds. Objects defining out of bounds such as walls, fences, stakes and railings are not obstructions and are deemed to be fixed. Stakes identifying out of bounds are not obstructions and are deemed to be fixed.
Note 1: Stakes or lines used to define out of bounds should be white.
Note 2: A Committee may make a Local Rule declaring stakes identifying but
not defining out of bounds to be obstructions."

The procedure for playing out of bounds is under Rule 27-1 b and states that:
"If a ball is out of bounds, the player must play a ball, under penalty of one stroke, as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played."

Change It Up a Bit

Now that you know what out of bounds is as defined by the rules of golf and the procedure for play, you still have work to do. You obviously have no choice but to replay the ball from where you originally hit, but you do have a choice of which club you will choose and what type of shot to hit. The most important thing to do is something different. I have seen way too many a player tee up the same club (usually a driver) and hit the exact same shot a second time. This is because your brain knows this to be the last move you just made so it's easy to repeat it.

There are 4 things you can do to help change things up:

1) Take a deep breath and loosen up a bit. Try to get your body in a relaxed state because tensing up only brings out your swing errors.

2) Decide which club you should hit, not which club you need to hit. In other words, maybe you really need driver to get the ball out there because it's a long hole, but do you absolutely have to hit it? Would a 3 wood get you back in play and most likely be a much safer club to hit? It's all about damage control and you don't want to make matters worse. Use your head here and make sure to pick a club that you are hitting well and comfortable with.

3) Pick a slightly different target. Again, I don't want you repeating the same mistake so I think focusing on a different target will help you get out of that funk even if it's only a few yards difference. You know your tendencies and how your swing is feeling on a particular day, so make sure your target gives you room on either side in case you miss the ball a bit, but if you have a definite miss that keeps rearing it's ugly head, play for it and give yourself a little more room.

4) Go through your pre shot routine from beginning to end. It' important to not rush and skip steps and going through your routine will help you focus on that instead of living in the past and thinking about your recent miss.

Whatever you do, get the ball back in play and move on. Hitting it out of bounds hurts, but remember it was only one shot and does not predict your future play. Let it go and you will likely make up for it on another hole by draining a putt or getting a lucky bounce.

Maria Palozola

Maria Palozola is a member of the LPGA and has participated in multiple LPGA Tour events. She has provided instruction to thousands of students in the past 20+ years and has won multiple teaching awards from the LPGA, Golf Digest, and Golf Magazine including being ranked as one of the top 50 female instructors in the world.

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