Explaining the Golf Term 'Through the Green'

golf course scene in Musselburgh, Scotland
Do you know which parts of a golf course are classified as 'through the green' under the rules?. Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

"Through the green" is a term used often in the Official Rules of Golf — typically in passages that describe situations in which the golfer is entitled to relief — and it is a reference to specific, physical parts of the golf course.

It boils down to this: "Through the green" means all parts of the golf course except hazards, plus the tee and green of the hole being played.

Note that the term "through the green" is deprecated in the 2019 edition of the Rules of Golf and will no longer be used by the governing bodies. Instead, beginning Jan. 1, 2019, the term "general area" is used.

Definition of 'Through the Green' in the Rules

The official definition that appears in The Rules of Golf (written and maintained by the USGA and R&A) is this:

    " 'Through the green' is the whole area of the course except:
a. The teeing ground and putting green of the hole being played; and
b. All hazards on the course."

This definition was created because in earlier parts of golf's history, the term "the green" referred to all parts of a golf course collectively. Obviously, over time, "the green" came to refer specifically to the putting green. So "through the green" was created as a rules term with its current definition.

What The Definition Does and Doesn't Mean

"Through the green" has nothing to do with the act of hitting a golf ball over the green, which is a common misuse of the term. If you hit a ball over the green, you "flew the green," "airmailed the green," "knocked it over the green," or any number of other synonymous expressions used by golfers. You did not "hit the ball through the green."

That's because "through the green" is a rules term that, as noted in the intro and the official definition, refers to specific parts of the golf course.

Those parts are the fairways and rough on every hole; and the teeing grounds and putting greens on holes other than the one you are playing. Tees and greens on the hole you are playing are not "through the green."

And hazards — bunkers, water hazards — are not "through the green." A waste bunker (despite its name) or waste area is not considered a true bunker under the rules, and, therefore, is not a hazard. Which means a waste area is "through the green."

Why Do Golfers Need to Know This Meaning of 'Through the Green'?

Why do we have to go through all this? Because if you're reading the rule book you'll encounter the term. And the rule book sometimes makes clear that you're entitled to relief (free drop) only if your ball is "through the green."

For example, Rule 25-1b(i) covers relief from abnormal ground conditions when your golf ball lies "through the green." And if you don't know what the term means, you might cost yourself penalty strokes by proceeding incorrectly. In that rule, and in others, the sport's governing bodies use the term "through the green" to distinguish between hazards (whether bunkers, water hazards or both), the putting green, the teeing ground, and everywhere else.

Note again, however, that "through the green" is not used in the Rules of Golf edition that takes effect Jan. 1, 2019, and is replaced by "general area."