How to proceed when your ball might be out-of-bounds
SITUATION YOU'RE IN
1. You hit a shot toward an adjacent range. The ball might be out-of-bounds, but there are so many other balls in that general area you can't be certain, and it's too dangerous to go and search.
WHAT TO DO
Unfortunately, you have to treat it as a lost ball and play another ball as near as possible to the spot from which the original ball was last played. You also must add a one-stroke penalty to your score. Rule 27-1
2. You hit a bad shot that hooks off the course and hits a house. The owner comes storming out the door, sees your ball in his yard, picks it up and throws it back onto the course.
If a ball in play and at rest is moved by an outside agency, it must be replaced. Rule 18-1 But since your shot went out-of-bounds, take a stroke penalty, and hit from the spot where you had previously played. Rule 27-1
3. In a stroke-play round, your ball lands in someone's back yard next to the green. The other lawns near your ball are designated out-of-bounds by white stakes. But the yard where your ball lies isn't marked.
Finish the hole with two balls, declaring beforehand the one you'd like to count. Play one as if the ball was out-of-bounds; play the other as if it was in-bounds. Ask at the end of the round for a ruling to record your score. Rule 3-3
4. Your ball is lying in-bounds next to a fence that marks the course's boundary. You can't take relief without penalty, and the only way to play the next shot is to stand on the other side and hit the fence.
Whack away. You can stand out-of-bounds to play a shot in-bounds, and it's OK to move the ball by making a stroke that strikes the out-of-bounds fence directly behind the ball. Decision 14-1/5
5. You're playing golf in a new housing development in which the empty lots are marked as out-of-bounds. You slice a shot, and it rolls through an empty lot and comes to rest in another fairway.
Unless there is a local rule in place designating fairways other than the one you're playing as being out-of-bounds, your ball is in play. There's no penalty in this case, either. Definitions: Out-of-bounds
6. Your ball is close to an out-of-bounds marker, but it's still in play. However, a tree growing outside the boundary of the course has a few hanging branches that will interfere with your swing.
As much as you might like to, you can't bend or break the branches to make your swing easier. The fact that the tree is out-of-bounds does not change the rule about improving the area of your intended swing. Decision13-2/19
FIGURE IT OUT
If you can't find the handicap tables at a golf course but need to know what your course handicap is, use a calculator. Multiply your Handicap Index by the Slope Rating of the tees you're going to play. Next, divide that number by the standard Slope of 113. Finally, round that figure off to a whole number (.5 rounds up). To give you an example, a golfer with a Handicap Index of 15.2 wants to know his course handicap for a set of tees with a Slope of 127. So he multiplies 15.2 and 127 to get 1,930.4. He then divides 1,930.4 by 113 to get 17.083. He then rounds that off to the nearest whole number. In this case, his course handicap is 17.
By DEAN KNUTH, Golf Digest Contributing Editor. Knuth, the former senior director of the USGA handicap department, invented today's Course Rating and Slope system.