The game of golf possesses one of the most extensive rulebooks in the world of sports. While many of the fundamental rules are easy to remember, certain provisions involve considerable detail. Among the more complex areas are the rules concerning boundary fences and how to play shots that incorporate such fences without incurring penalties.
The Role of Boundary Fences
Boundary fences serve to distinguish the playing area of the golf course -- in bounds -- and the area that is not in play -- out of bounds. The USGA states that the out of bounds line along a boundary fence is determined by the nearest inside points at ground level of the fence posts. Any ball that comes to rest against a boundary fence must be entirely outside the line between those posts to be deemed out of bounds.
Out of Bounds Penalty
Any ball coming to rest out of bounds, according to the USGA, results in a stroke-plus-distance penalty. This means the player whose shot went out of bounds must take a one-stroke penalty and return to the point from which his last shot was hit to play another shot. In the case of a tee shot going out of bounds, for example, the player hits another tee shot, this one counting as his third stroke on the hole.
Balls at Rest Against Boundary Fences
If a player's ball comes to rest against a boundary fence, it might or might not be out of bounds. Chain link fences, for example, have a tendency to bow out or in, depending on the forces exerted upon them. If a ball comes to rest against a segment of chain link fence bowed in toward the golf course that is clearly inside the fence posts for that segment, it is in bounds, as described in the book "Golf Rules Explained."
Boundary Fences as Obstructions
Assuming a ball resting against a boundary fence is in bounds, a player cannot strike the ball while it rests against the fence. According to USGA rules, the fence does not count as an obstruction because out of bounds objects cannot be regarded as obstructions. Consequently, the player cannot take relief from the fence with a free drop. She must declare the ball unplayable and take a one-stroke penalty.