The rules of golf that apply on the tee box

We’ve all been there. Standing on the first, you tee your ball and address it, before the wind or an involuntary twitch causes it to topple off the tee.

“One!” comes the amusing quip from behind. But is he right?

Are you now playing your second shot?

From the tee or the deck?

And what happens if you hit an errant shot that comes to rest on the tee box of another hole?

The rules on the tee can give you cause for concern before you’ve even started the hole, so avoid all doubt with our handy guide to what you can and can’t do.

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What if I accidentally hit the ball when making a practice swing? 

Under the 2019 update to the rules of golf, that stroke does not count and you can replace the ball. 

The player’s action does not count as a stroke in each of following situations:
• During the downswing, a player’s clubhead separates from the shaft. The player stops the downswing short of the ball, but the clubhead falls and strikes and moves the ball.

Exhibit A, Zach Johnson at the 2019 Masters.

•  2. During the backswing, a player’s clubhead separates from the shaft. The player completes the downswing with the shaft but does not strike the ball.
• 3. A ball is lodged in a tree branch beyond the reach of a club. If the player moves the ball by striking a lower part of the branch instead of the ball, Rule 9.4 (Ball Lifted or Moved by Player) applies.

Where can I tee it from?

Your ball must be between the two markers, but you can stand outside. You may tee your ball up to two club-lengths behind the markers, but not an inch in front. Your front foot can be in front of the markers, though.

What if it falls off a tee?

If you knock the ball off the tee when addressing it or hit it during your practice swing, you can carry on without penalty. The ball is only in play when you make a swing down towards the ball with the intention of striking it.

What if I nearly miss it and it only goes a yard?

If you knock the ball off the tee in making a stroke, the ball is in play and unfortunately you are not entitled to tee it up again – even if it only moved an inch!

What if it lands on another tee box?

If your ball comes to rest on the teeing area of another hole, you must play it as it lies unless a local rule insists you take free relief (to protect the teeing area).

Do I have to use a tee peg?

You do not have to use a tee peg (on short par 3s, for example) and are permitted to create a small mound or tuft using the back of your club and place your ball on top of that to give yourself the perfect lie.

Can I move the tee markers? 

No. The location of the tee-markers is set by the Committee to define each teeing area and should remain in that same location. If you improve the conditions by moving the markers before playing from the tee area, you will receive a general penalty for the breach of Rule 8.1a(1).

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