Major Change: Areas the Committee May Mark as Penalty AreasGolf's New Rules


Golf's New Rules: Major Changes


New Rule: Under the new Rules, “water hazards” have been superseded by the expanded concept of “penalty areas”, and Rule 17 provides the same basic options for relief that existed under the previous Rules:

  • A penalty area includes both (1) all areas previously defined in the Rules as a water hazard or lateral water hazard and (2) any other areas the Committee chooses to define as penalty areas (with recommended guidelines provided in the Official Guide).
  • Penalty areas may therefore include areas such as deserts, jungles, lava rock fields, etc.
  • The term “hazard” is no longer used in the Rules.


Reasons for Change:

It has been recognized that requiring areas to contain water seems to be a somewhat arbitrary reason for permitting such relief options.   

For reasons such as safety and pace of play, many Committees had previously sought to expand the use of lateral water hazards by marking areas that did not contain water and by marking water hazards as red where that was not specifically contemplated by the Rules.

The broader use of “penalty areas” allows Committees to respond to the wide range of settings in which golf is played by giving relief from areas that present similar obstacles to "water hazards" such as difficulties with finding and playing a ball and similar practical needs about pace of play.