Golf 101: Markings and Hazards

Welcome back to Honeybrook’s Blog! As we continue talking about what to expect on the golf course and the anatomy of a golf hole, let’s not forget the many markings and hazards you may come across on the course. In the first post we discussed the main parts of a hole, the tee box, fairway, rough and green but there are different markings you may see and hazards you may experience as you get to different parts of the course.

First, let’s start with the out of bounds areas. At Honeybrook we mark out of bounds with a white stake, however at other courses you may see a white painted line. This diagram from the USGA official golf rules shows what is counted as in bounds and what is out of bounds. As part of rule 18.2 “A ball is out of bounds only when all of it is outside the boundary edge of the course”

If you believe your golf ball is lost or is outside of the penalty but you are not sure, in order to save time and keep pace of play going you may hit a provisional ball to use if you find your ball is out of bounds. (check out the official rules for out of bounds and provisional balls HERE)

Another marking you may see at Honeybrook is a black & white striped stake in the middle of the fairway to mark the 150 yard mark. When determining what clubs to use, it’s important to know how far away you are from the hole so keep your eye out for this marking to help judge how far away your ball is from the green. You may also see small plaques at various locations in the ground with a number on it, these mark the distance to the green. To start getting comfortable with your golf clubs and to learn which club is best for which distance.

You may also encounter a few obstacles on the course, often called hazards. These include things like ponds, creeks, swamp lands or sand. If you have the unfortunate event of hitting your ball into any of these areas there are a few different options based on a few different things. If the hazard is marked with a white stake, it is automatically out of bounds and you must take a stroke (add a point to your score) and drop a new ball in bounds. However, when your ball lands inside a red stake, I feel as though the golf academy sums it up best:

If you hit your ball in a hazard marked with yellow or red stakes you have the following options:

Option 1: Your first option in any hazard is to simply play the ball out. You don’t have to take a penalty stroke, you simply play your next shot as you would outside of a hazard. Here’s the catch though…

In a hazard, you’re not allowed to move impediments (sticks, leaves, etc.) out of the way as you set up for your shot.  When it comes to playing out of sand traps or around the edges of streams or lakes this rule is most useful.

In these areas, your shot isn’t going to be changed significantly by the hazard which leads most golfers to simply “play it out” as they normally would.

Option 2: Unfortunately, escaping a hazard isn’t always this easy.

If you can’t or choose not to play your ball out of the hazard, your next option is to take a penalty stroke and then drop a ball where your original shot crossed into the hazard.

The nice part of this option is that you can go as far back as you want, as long as you stay in line with the hole and where your ball crossed. This is useful for getting away from down slopes near streams, lakes, and other hazards unfavorable terrain.

Often times in these situations, it can be helpful to sacrifice a little distance in order to hit your next shot off of level turf.

Option 3: Your third option is to take a penalty stroke and then replay your shot from its original location.

While this is usually not a golfer’s first choice, sometimes the angle you had during your last shot was better than the one you would have next to the hazard. Regardless, it is an option for red marked hazards.

Option 4: In addition to the three options above, if your ball crosses into a hazard marked with red stakes you can choose to take a penalty stroke and drop a new ball two club lengths from where the ball entered the hazard (as long as it isn’t any closer to the hole).

This is useful when facing lateral water hazards (which are red staked) as you would need roughly two club lengths of space to stand for your next shot. And, as long as your lie is decent around the drop zone, this is often one of the more popular options a golfer can take as it doesn’t sacrifice the distance you gained in your last shot.

Option 5: Our final option allows us to move to the other side of the water hazard and repeat option 4 (penalty stroke, drop a ball two club lengths from hazard no closer to the hole).

With wide water hazards, this option can be especially useful because it helps lower the chance that you’ll hit your next shot back into the water again (of course none of us would ever do that). If you need to cross a stream or lake to get to the green, this option will allow you to do so without having to hit a shot.

So while there can be frustrating parts of the game, knowing what each marker and stake means will help determine what shot you may want to take next. If you’d like to learn more, Honeybrook offers a variety of learning experiences. Our clinics are being revamped for 2021 and private lessons are always available. Contact our golf shop at 610-273-0207 or visit our website for more information!

Sign up for our Golf 101 Instructional series, Wednesday’s April 21st-May 19th. Register here:

Glossary of Terms:

150 yard mark– a black and white striped stake in the fairway to mark 150 yards to the center of the green

White Stake– Out of bounds area

Red Stake– Water Hazard area

Stroke– the unit of scoring in golf

Written by: Samantha Swartz

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