White, Yellow, & Red Stakes in Golf: A Comprehensive Comparison

For both novice and experienced golfers, understanding the different types of stakes and their meanings on the golf course is essential. The presence of white, yellow, and red stakes provides important cues regarding specific course boundaries and hazards. Each color signifies a different situation, which affects the options and penalties available to a golfer when navigating the course.

White stakes indicate out-of-bounds areas, marking the perimeter of the golf course or defining areas to be avoided during play. Yellow stakes, on the other hand, represent standard water hazards, while red stakes are used to designate lateral water hazards. Both yellow and red stakes have unique relief options that allow players to continue playing after encountering these specific hazards. Awareness of the rules associated with each stake color is crucial in order to make informed decisions and minimize additional strokes or penalties during a round of golf.

White Stakes: Out of Bounds

White stakes are an essential aspect of golf course management, as they serve to indicate the areas considered “out of bounds” for the course. Unlike red and yellow stakes, which mark hazards, white stakes delineate the boundaries of the playing area, often marking property lines or defining specific restricted zones within the course.

White, Yellow, & Red Stakes in Golf

When a golfer’s shot lands in an area marked by white stakes, it results in a penalty. The player must add one stroke to their score and play a new ball from the same spot they played the previous shot or as near as possible to it. This rule helps maintain fair play and ensures that all players adhere to the course’s layout and design.

It is crucial for golfers to familiarize themselves with the location of these stakes when playing a new course, equally as important as understanding the red and yellow stakes. By knowing the course’s layout and avoiding out-of-bounds areas, players can strategize their shots to minimize penalties and maintain a lower overall score.

White stakes are typically made of wood or plastic and are placed at regular intervals along the course’s edges. However, in some cases, they can also be painted or staked to fences, trees, or other natural features. By identifying these markers, golfers can effectively navigate the course and improve their performance.

Yellow Stakes: Water Hazards

Yellow stakes in golf are used to mark water hazards on the course. These hazards typically consist of bodies of water such as ponds, ditches, or streams. Yellow stakes or lines drawn on the ground indicate the boundary of a water hazard, which is considered a regular hazard in golf terms (source).

When a golfer’s ball enters a yellow-staked water hazard, there are two relief options available. The first option is to play the ball as it lies, which may involve hitting the ball out of the hazard. The second option is to take a one-stroke penalty and drop a new ball behind the water hazard, keeping the point at which the original ball last crossed the margin of the hazard directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped (source).

It’s important for golfers to be aware of the specific rules surrounding yellow-staked water hazards, such as:

  • Players are not allowed to ground their club or touch the water with their hand prior to making a stroke within the hazard area (source).
  • If the ball is found within the hazard boundary, players may still choose to play it as it lies or take one of the relief options.
  • If a ball is considered lost within a yellow-staked water hazard but cannot be located, players must proceed under the assumption that the ball is in the hazard and apply the appropriate penalty for taking a drop.

Understanding how to navigate and play from yellow-staked water hazards is essential for golfers to manage these situations effectively and minimize the impact on their overall scores.

Red Stakes: Lateral Water Hazards

Red stakes on a golf course indicate a lateral water hazard. These hazards differ from standard water hazards, as they run alongside the line of play rather than across itsource. Common lateral water hazards can include ponds, lakes, or streams, but they can also expand to other areas such as deserts and jungles under the new golf rulessource.

When dealing with a red-staked lateral water hazard, golfers have several relief options. One option is to identify the point where the ball last crossed into the hazard and drop a ball within two club lengths, no closer to the hole, while maintaining that pointsource. Golfers can also choose to play a new ball from their original position, but this will result in one penalty strokesource.

Red-staked hazards provide additional lateral relief, which is not always available for yellow-staked water hazards. Golf course committees have the option to mark all penalty areas as red, which would allow golfers to utilize the lateral relief option for each hazardsource.

Rules and Regulations

In golf, different colored stakes have varying meanings that players must familiarize themselves with in order to understand the specific rules and penalties that apply. The primary stake colors are white, yellow, and red, each representing specific areas and hazards on the golf course.

White Stakes: White stakes, or white lines, indicate areas that are considered “out of bounds.” As per the Golf Academy, players must not hit their ball into these areas or risk incurring a penalty. If a player’s ball ends up out of bounds, they need to play another ball from their previous spot with a one-stroke penalty.

Yellow Stakes: Yellow stakes are used to mark the margins of standard water hazards, such as lakes or ponds. According to SportsRec, when dealing with a standard water hazard, a player has the option to play their ball as it lies, without penalty, or take a one-stroke penalty and either drop a new ball behind the hazard or play the ball from the spot where the original shot was played.

Red Stakes: Red stakes signify lateral water hazards, which differ from standard water hazards in their positioning alongside the course. Golf News Net states that in this case, players have the same options as with yellow stakes, but they can also drop a new ball within two club lengths from the point where the ball crossed the hazard margin, with a one-stroke penalty.

By understanding these rules, golfers can adhere to the appropriate regulations when encountering white, yellow, or red stakes on the golf course.

Section 6: Strategies for Dealing with Different Stakes

When playing golf, it is essential to understand the differences between white, yellow, and red stakes on the course, as they help guide your decision-making and strategies. Due to the different consequences of hitting into hazard areas marked by these stakes, adopting some specific strategies can improve your overall game.

White Stakes: As white stakes mark out of bounds areas, the main strategy is to avoid hitting the ball in that direction as much as possible. When planning your shots near out-of-bounds areas, consider using a club with less distance to maintain better control and increase your margin for error. Aim to stay within the course and focus on accurate shots rather than risking an overly aggressive move.

Yellow Stakes: Yellow stakes indicate a water hazard, and the penalty associated with them is a single stroke (source). If you feel confident in your ability to clear the hazard, you can attempt the shot directly. However, if you’re unsure, consider playing it safe by laying up short of the hazard or aiming to land your ball in a better position for your next shot. This approach can help minimize your penalties and keep your scores in check.

Red Stakes: Red stakes mark lateral water hazards, and similar to yellow stakes, they yield a one-stroke penalty when encountered. However, with red stakes, you have more options for proceeding, including taking lateral relief (source). Weigh the risks of attempting to clear the hazard against the potential reward. When in doubt, choose the safer option, such as laying up or taking lateral relief, to maintain a better score.

By understanding the course layout and the implications of different stakes, you can strategically navigate your game and make smarter decisions when encountering various hazards.


Throughout this article, we’ve discussed the various functions and implications of white, yellow, and red stakes in golf. To recap, white stakes typically indicate out-of-bounds areas, and are the least desirable to encounter. On the other hand, yellow and red stakes denote different types of hazards, each with their own specific golf regulations.

Players encountering yellow stakes must be aware of their options like playing the ball as it lies or taking relief with a penalty stroke. These stakes usually mark water hazards, which can be either natural or man-made.

Red stakes, on the other hand, designate lateral water hazards or other specific course obstacles. Players have more relief options compared to yellow stakes, which can aid in making strategic decisions during a round.

By understanding the meanings and rules associated with each stake color, golfers can better navigate the course and make informed decisions. This knowledge ultimately contributes to an improved overall golf experience, allowing players to fully enjoy the sport.

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