Penalty areas are one of the five defined areas of the course and can be marked as either red or yellow. When your ball lies in a penalty area, you can play it as it lies or take relief outside the penalty area for one penalty stroke. For either red or yellow penalty areas, you can play from where your last stroke was made (stroke and distance) or take back-on-the-line relief by going back as far as you’d like on the line between the hole and where your ball last crossed the edge of the penalty area. In a red penalty area, you have one additional relief option, which is to take lateral relief within two club-lengths of where your ball last crossed into the penalty area.
When playing a shot from a penalty area, you can remove any detached natural or artificial object (known as loose impediments and movable obstructions), ground your club behind the ball, or take practice swings that touch the ground. However, there are a few restrictions. You can’t deem your ball unplayable or take relief from abnormal course conditions (such as a bridge or sprinkler control box) when your ball lies in a penalty area. If you need relief, you can play under the penalty area relief options discussed above. You also are not allowed to play a provisional ball when you think your ball will be lost only in a penalty area.