OUR EXPERTS EXPLAIN
Howell’s Teeing Ground Gaffe October 16, 2017 By Daniela Lendl, USGA

Regardless of what tees you play from, it's important to make sure you don't tee it up in front of them! (USGA/John Mummert)

During the first round of the PGA European Tour’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, David Howell teed off from in front of the tee markers on the 18th hole. Because Howell, 42, of England, made a stroke from outside the teeing ground, he was penalized two strokes in accordance with Rule 11-4b. He corrected his mistake and proceeded to complete the hole and his round.

When starting a hole, the Rules of Golf require that a shot be played within the teeing ground, which is defined as the area that is no more than two club-lengths in depth measured from the outer limits of the two tee markers.

When Howell accidentally teed his ball ahead of the front side of the tee markers on the 18th hole at St. Andrews, he could have corrected himself before making a stroke. Unfortunately, Howell did not notice the mistake and proceeded to hit his tee shot, resulting in him playing from outside the teeing ground. After he was notified by his caddie, Howell corrected the error by hitting again, this time from within the teeing ground. 

When a stroke is made from outside the teeing ground, the Rules require that the mistake be corrected before making a stroke on the next teeing ground, or in the case of the last hole of the round, the intention to correct the mistake is declared before leaving the putting green. If these conditions are not met, the penalty is disqualification. While the blunder resulted in a double-bogey six for Howell, he avoided disqualification by correcting the mistake before walking off the 18th green.

Because the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship was a stroke play competition, Howell was assessed a two-stroke penalty for the breach. In match play, there is no penalty, but the opponent may recall the stroke immediately and require the player to play from within the teeing ground.

As seen above, Howell took to Twitter the following day to emphasize that his caddie – during his first day serving as Howell’s looper – did the honorable thing.

Daniela Lendl is a Rules of Golf Associate for the USGA. Email her at dlendl@usga.org.

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