by Joyce McCann – 18ers Rules Chair

A golf course is divided into 5 areas: Teeing areas, Putting greens, Penalty areas, Bunkers, and everything else, which is called the General area. Then, of course, there’s Out of Bounds, but that’s not part of the Course. Teeing areas and Putting Greens are unique in two ways.

  1. Rules that apply to Teeing Areas and Putting Greens only pertain to the hole you are playing, whereas Rules for Bunkers and Penalty areas apply everywhere on the Course, not just on the hole you are playing. For example, if your errant shot that ends up in the Teeing area of another hole, that’s not, for you, a Teeing area. It’s part of the General Area, and you play the ball just as you would if it was in the Fairway. Similarly, if your errant shot ends up on the Putting Green of another hole, that’s not a Putting Green for you; it’s a “Wrong Green”, and you have to take complete relief from the Wrong Green in the same way you would from a cart path (Rule 13.1f). On the other hand, if your errant shot lands in a bunker or a penalty area on a neighboring hole, you follow the same Rules as if they were on the same hole you are playing.
  2. You can do things in Teeing Areas and Putting Greens that you can’t do in any of the other 3 areas of the Course.
    1. Teeing Areas (Rule 6.2). Because the ball is not “in play” until a stroke is made, you can do just about anything you want in the teeing area – e.g, pull up weeds, use your foot or your club to build up a nice mound to tee-off from. Also, if you take a practice swing and inadvertently hit your ball OB, you can re-tee your ball – no penalty. Also, if you then tee-off and either again hit your ball OB, requiring stroke and distance penalty, or if your tee shot bounces off a tree and ends up back in the Teeing Area, you can re-tee your new ball anywhere in the Teeing Area for your next stroke. But, note that the Teeing Area is only the 2-club length deep area from the front of the tee-markers back.
    2. Putting Greens (Rule 13). Once your ball reaches the sacred ground of the Putting Green, it is in a new world. It may have been caked with mud from an eventful journey through the General Area, but now you can mark it, lift it, and clean it. You can also do other things you can’t do anywhere else on the Course (except, of course, in the Teeing Area). You can repair any damage caused by a person or outside influence (e.g., animal hoof prints) anywhere on the green. You can also remove sand and loose soil and replace a ball with no penalty if you accidentally cause it to move.


It’s helpful to know the differences in application of the Rules in the 5 areas of the Course. This article focused on Teeing Areas and Putting Greens. A subsequent article will highlight Rules differences among the other 3 areas.