Rules of Golf

Rules of Golf Review: What do you do when the tee markers aren't lined up … or are missing altogether?

October 12, 2023


Before things get testy, let's just start by saying we have great respect for the members of a golf-course maintenance crew. They arrive for work in the middle of the night, endure long hours in high heat for low pay and often do so at the risk of being struck by a golf ball or reprimanded because they "got in the way" of some snobby foursome at a private club.

That said, maintenance crews do make mistakes every now and then, and those mistakes can leave golfers frustrated and guessing what to do about it. Two instances occur on the teeing ground.

Sometimes, after removing a tee marker or markers while mowing the area, crewmembers might forget to replace the markers. Other times, they will replace the markers but misalign them in relation to the hole. How you proceed when you encounter these two issues differs, according to the Rules of Golf.

When one or both markers are missing, leaving the boundaries of the teeing area undefined, Rule 6.2b(4) explains that the golfer or group should seek the help of the Committee to fix the situation. If that's not practical—and it typically isn't for a casual round—the golfer should use "reasonable judgment" (Rule 1-3b(2)) in determining the location of the teeing area. For example, say the two markers are just off to the side of the tee box, laying next to each other. The player might deduce that the forward boundary of the teeing area starts next to those markers.

Where things get a little more chippy is when you encounter a teeing area that has the markers grossly misalinged with the hole. You might be wondering if you can adjust the markers to fix the situation before teeing off. In short, you can't. If you do, it's considered improving the conditions affecting the stroke (Rule 8.1a(1)) and you are given the general penalty (two strokes or loss of hole in match play). To stay in step with the Rules, you can adjust your aim as long as you stay within two clublengths behind the markers. It's a smart move to always check that the markers don't have you hitting into a bad spot.

And as frustrated as you might be when a marker is misaligned, do yourself a favor and don't take out your anger on it. Don't do what PGA Tour pro Erik van Rooyen did at the 2021 PGA Championship.