Penalty areas are defined under Rule 17 in the USGA Rule Book. There are two different types of penalty areas, red and yellow. It is also important to note that penalty areas are different from out of bounds and is not treated the same as out of bounds.
Penalty areas are bodies of water or other areas defined by the Committee where a ball is often lost or unable to be played. For one penalty stroke, you may use specific relief options to play a ball from outside the penalty area. Also defined in Rule 17 of the USGA Rulebook
Your ball is in a penalty area when any part of it lies on or touches the ground or anything else inside the edge of the penalty area or is above the edge or any other part of the penalty area.
If it is known or virtually certain that a ball entered a penalty area, you may proceed under penalty area relief, even if you did not find your ball. However, if it is not known or if you are not certain, you have to proceed under stroke and distance relief, you cannot take penalty relief if you do not know or are not virtually certain the ball came to rest in a penalty area.
No, you do not. If you have found your ball in a penalty area, you are allowed to try to play the ball from its current position without a penalty.
These are penalty areas that are defined by red stakes or a red line painted on the ground. Local rules can also be put in place that will make parts of the general area (wooded areas, tall grass, etc.) considered a red penalty area. It is important to always know local rules while you are playing a course. You have three options for relief from a red penalty area. These options are:
Click here to watch the SOPGA Rules School video to see red penalty area relief options.
These are penalty areas that are defined by yellow stakes or a yellow painted line on the ground. Yellow penalty areas are used to mark penalty areas that require the player to hit over them when playing towards a green (ie: a pond in front of a green that you hit over from the fairway). Unlike red penalty areas, players only have two options for relief for a ball that is in a yellow penalty area. These options are:
Click here to watch the SOPGA Rules School video to see yellow penalty area relief options.