Wednesday, 27 April 2016


A simple subject for this blog, but one that seems to cause some confusion amongst golfers is the status of stakes of different colors in the Rules of Golf. Most of us are familiar with the three most common coloured stakes mentioned in the 34 Rules of Golf;
  • Boundary (out of bounds) – white stakes 
  • Water hazard – yellow stakes 
  • Lateral water hazard – red stakes
However, players might also encounter stakes of different colours on the course and these will be defined under a Local Rule, usually on the back of the score card, which should always be carefully checked before commencing a round on a new course. Examples of these less commonly coloured stakes are;
  • Ground under repair – blue or black stakes (although GUR is usually denoted by a white line painted around the area) 
  • Environmentally sensitive areas (ESA) defined as a water hazard – yellow stakes with green tops (Decision 33-8/41)  
  • ESA defined as a lateral water hazard– red stakes with green tops  
  • ESA defined as ground under repair– blue stakes with green tops 
  • Shrub / flower beds – e.g. red and white stakes
It is important to know that stakes defining out of bounds are not obstructions and are deemed to be fixed. There is no relief available from them, even if they interfere with a player’s lie, stance, or area of intended swing. But most other stakes are movable obstructions providing they can be moved without unreasonable effort, without unduly delaying play and without causing damage. Occasionally, Committees will cement in stakes, so that they are immovable, which can introduce problems for maintenance staff when maintaining the areas immediately around them. Also, Committees sometimes introduce a Local Rule designating stakes as immovable obstructions, even if they do not properly meet the definition, because they are easily movable. In my opinion this should definitely be avoided, as it introduces unnecessary confusion for players, especially visitors to a course. This relevant comment is from the excellent R&A publication, ‘Guide on Running a Competition’* – Section 4 Marking the Course, 3 Water Hazards;
By Definition, stakes or lines defining hazards are in the hazards. Stakes are obstructions. Therefore, if they are movable, players are entitled to relief without penalty from them under Rule 24-1. If they are immovable, relief without penalty is provided under Rule 24-2 when the ball lies outside the hazard. However, if the ball is in the hazard, the player is not entitled to immovable obstruction relief. Accordingly, it is recommended that stakes marking hazards are movable.
And now to my most important ‘rule’ relating to stakes. If you do move them away from your lie, stance, area of intended swing or line of play, please remember to replace them after you have made your stroke, and also remind others that you are playing with to do so. Not correctly replacing stakes is obviously discourteous to other players and can lead to frustration and anger on the course.

Good golfing,


* This is a link to the R&A publication, ‘Guidance on Running a Competition’ published by R&A.

I am expecting to have my new book, cleverly titled, ‘999 More Questions on the Rules of Golf’, available from my Rhodes Rules School web site very soon. It will also be available as a paperback, though this version is considerably more expensive than the eBook, due to the full colour print required for the photos and diagrams. In the meantime, you can email me at rules at barry rhodes dot com and I will advise you how you can obtain the .pdf and .mobi files directly from me.

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2016 and may not be copied without permission.


Tony Zendle said...

We've used blue stakes to signify that a Bunker is flooded and therefore treated as GUR - i.e. stick a blue stake in the bunker. In the rainy season it is a great idea and saves a lot of time and confusion.

Barry Rhodes said...


The Golfing Bodies do not approve of a Local Rule taking bunkers out of play just because they are flooded. See Decision 33-8/27. The Rules of Golf deal adequately with bunkers that contain casual water. However, if a specific bunker is taken out of play because it is completely unplayable, the temporary Local Rule should follow the recommended wording in Decision 25/13. My blog dated 17th December 2009 provides more detail.


Tony Zendle said...

Yes, that's what I meant. My post was badly worded.Thanks.

However, having revisited that decision, there's a lot of words in there. All we say is the first sentence, and the part of the sentence with the rule number.

The point I am making is that we don't need to tell people that there are bunkers out of play on 5, 12, 15 etc because the blue posts do it for us. There is then no confusion between those that the committee have taken out of play and those they haven't.

Blue posts are also v.useful for large areas of GUR where the budget doesn't run to several cans of blue paint.

Anonymous said...

Hi Barry, whilst not directly related to stakes hopefully the following 2 questions are ok on this blog.

1. Is a ball deemed to be in GUR if part of the ball is on the line and the other part is outside the line.

2. If a ball is not in GUR but the players intended stance is in GUR does that entitle the player to relief?

Please assume a local rule is in place to make relief from gur compulsory.

Barry Rhodes said...


1. The ball is in GUR. See my blog dated 15th February 2013.

2. The player may take relief, but does not have to unless a Local Rule states that it is mandatory to take relief from GUR. See my blog dated 8th March 2013.