Model Local Rule E-5: Alternative to Stroke and Distance for Ball Lost or Out of Bounds

In this month’s edition of Mary’s Rules Corner we will talk about the Local Rule that we have in effect for TPWGC that covers the alternative to stroke and distance for a lost or out of bounds ball. It can seem confusing, so I want to try and explain it.

As you know, the Rules of Golf say that the penalty for a ball that is Lost (outside a Penalty Area) or Out of Bounds (OB) is “Stroke and Distance.” This mean, you have to go back to where you hit your prior shot (thus, you lose the distance you gained) and you add a penalty stroke to your score.

NOTE: for the rest of this article, if I say Lost, I mean Lost outside a Penalty Area.

If this were your tee shot, for example, you need to re-hit from the tee and add a penalty stroke, and you would be lying 3, hitting 4 for your next stroke. You can save time by hitting a provisional ball if you think your ball may be Lost or OB, but you are still lying 3 and hitting 4 when you go to play your provisional.

Now, what happens if you fail to hit a provisional and upon arriving to your landing area, you find it is Lost or OB? Under the Rules of Golf (Rule 18), you have to physically return to the spot of your prior stroke and hit again. This can be time-consuming and on a busy public course like Torrey Pines, it can be very awkward to go back, as it can hold up play for the group behind.

Model Local Rule E-5

To help us out, the USGA created Model Local Rule E-5, which allows a player who has failed to hit a provisional ball a way to keep playing and save time. Using MLR E-5, the player estimates where her ball was Lost or OB, and then drops a ball within two club-lengths of the edge of the fairway, taking a 2-stroke penalty.

You don’t HAVE to drop in the fairway. If you look at the Diagram below you can drop anywhere from where you estimate the ball was Lost or OB, all the way into the fairway, and as far back as you want. It’s actually a HUGE relief area, but most players will go drop in the fairway, as generally that the most advantageous position. But, if being in the fairway were to put you behind a tree, for example, you could drop in the rough to get a better line of play.

Local Rule: Stroke and Distance

This is really equivalent to a stroke and distance penalty. Let’s say it was your tee shot that you found to be Lost or OB. At that point, you’ll drop in the fairway with two penalty strokes, and be hitting 4, the same as if you had gone back to the tee and hit again.


A couple of notes: If you had hit a Provisional Ball, this alternative is NOT available. If your ball is Lost or OB, you MUST play your Provisional Ball. And, if for any reason you don’t want to use this alternative, Stroke and Distance is still an option, meaning you can always go back to where you hit your prior stroke and play again.


But most of the time, this is a great option that will save you the time required to go back to where you hit your prior shot.


We don’t use this Alternative Local Rule during our major championships (Club Championship and Ace of Aces in December). But we always use it on our regular Sweeps Play days and special events like our Partner Best Ball or Roam from Homes.


Need more clarification on this Local Rule or have questions about other rules? Just send me an EMAIL and I’ll be happy to help.

Mary Shepperd- Rules Director- TPWGC