I am an occasional (and fairly terrible) golfer. I played a round the other day and was confronted with an odd situation. I sliced a ball through some trees and onto the adjacent fairway. I still had 200-250 metres left to the pin after this shot. When I got to my ball, I noted that the trees between me and hole or the fairway of the hole I was playing were thick and high, whereas about 150 closer to the hole, the trees really thinned out. I therefore played a shot up the 'wrong' fairway to a position where I could relatively easily chip to the green through the sparse area of trees.

This was a social game, so I wasn't too worried, but was what I did legal under the Laws of Golf? Is there any compulsion to play along the 'correct' fairway when possible? Also, aside from any letter of the law considerations, what etiquette issues might doing this present?

2 Answers 2


In Golf, can you choose to play down the 'wrong' fairway?

This depends on local course rules.

  • Courses define out-of-bounds.
  • Do fences, lines, and/or stakes mark out-of-bounds boundaries?

Some courses mark boundaries per each hole, which means you cannot chose to play down the "wrong" fairway, or fairway of a different hole. However, some courses mark boundaries only per hazard (a body of water, a swamp, a forest, etc.).

If the course does not mark boundaries per each hole, then that course does not prohibit playing down the "wrong" fairway. If you are playing recreationally, chances are that your playing partners will not mind if you play down the "wrong" fairway. Perhaps the group playing that hole might.

  • Thanks. Out of interest, what is the typical situation in major Pro tournaments? Do these define out-of-bounds for each hole? Would you ever see Tiger Woods playing down the wrong fairway? Jan 14, 2014 at 21:11
  • 2
    Tiger has played from the wrong fairway before, so I surmise that the same sentiment applies.
    – user527
    Jan 14, 2014 at 22:01

There is nothing to stop you playing the 'wrong' fairway if you wish providing it is in bounds.

In an amateur situation this is likely to be a misplaced shot, but there are examples in the pro game where players hit the wrong fairway intentionally. I believe there is a hole at St.Andrews which is a good example of this.

Etiquette wise, it may be frowned upon a little, but I think if you're accurate enough to do this without endangering anyone and perceive there to be an advantage it's not much different from hitting a high shot over a corner to reduce the hole length.

  • I like this answer (though it's 2 years late). At my "home course" of sorts, many of the longer holes have a slight dogleg and are adjacent to another hole, so it's common for players in the know to intentionally tee onto the adjacent fairway because that actually provides a better approach shot than playing the intended fairway. Also, it should be noted that on the traditional Scottish style links course, there are only nine fairways, and the teeing ground for, say, hole 3 is a short pitch shot from the green for hole 16, and vice versa.
    – KeithS
    Jun 1, 2016 at 14:17

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