Is the penalty for a ball leaving the bounds of the golf course too severe? Could there be an alternative?

The Rules of Golf are our gospel and all golfers should adhere to them faithfully. But this doesn’t mean the laws governing the game always seem fair.

If you stand on the tee, make a great swing producing a good looking drive that takes a cruel bounce and narrowly runs past the out of bounds line, you’ll have to play three off the tee. Whereas, if you make such a woeful swing that you miss the ball completely, you’ll only be playing your second from the same spot. Perhaps the penalty shot for leaving the course is overly harsh. Wouldn’t it be fairer if you could, either, play again from the same spot without penalty, or drop under penalty at the point where the ball left the course?

An argument in favour of losing the penalty shot for “OB,” is that it would make the sport more exciting. Players in both the professional and amateur game would be more inclined to take risks – to try and carry the ravine, or to go for the green on the short, tight par-4.

But, with courses growing ever longer to protect against power hitting, wouldn’t it be crazy to make a rule change that encouraged that style of play?

And, surely removing the penalty for leaving the course would lessen the importance of key golfing skills – strategy and accuracy.

What about the option of a drop under penalty at the point where the ball left the course? Perhaps out of bounds could be treated like a lateral water hazard? This would at least allow a player to, potentially, make some progress before taking their penalty. In theory this could improve the pace of play, as there would be less trudging back to the tee after a player discovers their ball has trickled past the white stakes. But this would, of course, benefit the wayward golfer while lessening the importance of straight hitting.

What we think:
Playing three off the tee may not seem fair sometimes. But, to protect the fundamental golfing requirements of accuracy and strategy, the penalty for out of bounds must remain.

  • paul marsh

    Lost ball and OOB should be changed to distance loss only instead of stroke and distance. Lost ball especially is a lottery but have to change both rules together so change OOB as well.

  • Yeti owner

    Totally agree that OOB shouldn’t be changed or it allows the bombers to gain more than the more skillful players.

    I have played in friendly society events when on a course we didn’t know, we allowed drops with a “2 Shot” penalty to save time going back to the tee when someone was OOB without realising it from the tee box.