Golf's Rule 2 Is All About the Course

Overview of a golf course in Korea.

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In the Official Rules of Golf, jointly written and maintained by the United States Golf Association and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, Rule 2 is titled "The Course."

The purpose of the rule, as explained in the rule book, is this:

Rule 2 introduces the basic things every player should know about the course:
*There are five defined areas of the course, and
*There are several types of defined objects and conditions that can interfere with play.
It is important to know the area of the course where the ball lies and the status of any interfering objects and conditions, because they often affect the player’s options for playing the ball or taking relief.

It is the responsibility of golfers to know the rules, and the USGA and R&A have tons of resources on their respective websites to help us learn and understand.

To that end, these are links directly to the text of Rule 2 that is found on the governing bodies' websites:

Summarizing Rule 2: The Course

In our Quick Intro to the Rules of Golf, we summarize Rule 2 as follows:

  • There are five different parts to a course: The "teeing area," where you start the hole; "penalty areas"; "bunkers"; the "putting green," where you finish the hole; and the "general playing area," which is everywhere else on the course. 
  • There may also be "no play zones" within the course (such as an environmentally sensitive area, as an example), if designated so by the golf course itself.

There are four sections within Rule 2. Rule 2-1 is titled "Course Boundaries and Out of Bounds;" Rule 2-2 is "Defined Areas of the Course"; Rule 2-3 is "Objects or Conditions That Can Interfere with Play"; and Rule 2-4 is "No Play Zones."

In the condensed Player's Edition of the rule book, this straightforward statement is the entirety of Rule 2-1:

"Golf is played on a course. Areas not on the course are out of bounds."

Rule 2-2 tells golfers that we need to know the five playing areas on a golf course — teeing areas, penalty areas, bunkers, putting greens and the general area (everywhere else) — because where your ball lies can impact what golfers can and can't do under the rules.

Rule 2-3 states that free relief (meaning there is no penalty) may be available from loose impediments, movable obstruction and abnormal course conditions, which are covered in Rules 15 and 16.

And Rule 2-4, in the Player's Edition, defines "no play zones" this way:

"A no play zone is a part of the course that you are not allowed to play your ball from. You must also take relief if the no play zone interferes with your stance or area of intended swing when playing a ball outside the no play zone."

Be sure to read the full Rule 2 and definitions of important terms either on or