Rules of Golf: Our guide to coloured hazards on the golf course

When it comes to marker posts on the course, the stakes are high. Whether they are used to indicate a water hazard or out of bounds, we all watch with bated breath whenever a shot veers hopelessly beyond them.

What happens next often leads to some kind of dubious decision. Some people think it’s as simple as taking a penalty drop, while others will play the ball as it lies, no questions asked.

To make sure you don’t get caught out, swat up now on what the different coloured stakes mean.

Yellow stakes indicate a water hazard

What’s the penalty?

There isn’t one if you decide to play the ball as it lies and you don’t touch or remove any loose impediments. If this is not an option, take a one-stroke penalty and proceed under one of the following two options: Return to the spot where the previous stroke was played (Rule 26-1a); Or take a drop behind the hazard, keeping the point of entry between you and the hole (Rule 26-1b). There is no limit to how far you can go back.

What else do I need to know?

A ball is inside a water hazard when it lies within the margin or when any part of it touches the stake/line. You can still play the ball, but you can’t ground your club or touch or move any loose impediments (Rule 13-4). A hazard stake can be removed without penalty.

Red stakes indicate a lateral water hazard

How are they different from yellow stakes?

A lateral water hazard is exactly that… lateral. It usually runs alongside or adjacent to the line of play, rather than across it.

Do the same rules for ‘normal’ water hazards apply?

Yes, but with one additional option – a penalty drop can be taken either side of the ditch, within two club lengths of the point where the ball last crossed the boundary of the hazard (or the equidistant point on the far side), as long as it is no nearer the hole (Rule 26-1c).

White stakes indicate out of bounds

What is out of bounds?

Where out of bounds is defined by a stake or fence, the boundary begins at the nearest inside point of the posts at ground level on the course side. If the stakes are positioned at intervals, out of bounds is anything beyond the imaginary direct line from one stake to the next. When a line is painted on the ground, the line itself is OB.

What’s the penalty?

When the ball lies out of bounds, you must play another ball, under the penalty of stroke and distance, as near as possible to the spot where the original ball was last played (Rule 27-1).

What else do I need to know?

You may stand OB to play a ball that is lying in bounds, but moving an OB marker post will result in a two-stroke penalty.

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