The concept of out of bounds is lost on most casual golfers. Heaven knows how many times I've had to explain what it really means to a hacker when he's hit a ball out of bounds. I should just write it on slips of paper so that I could hand them out, sort of like I've got a ready cut/paste comment for clueless newbies here:
"It might be a good idea to read E2 Quick Start, "My First Write-Up" and "Earn Your Bullshit" before you continue. Ask me if you have questions. OK?"
On a golf course, out of bounds is usually marked by white stakes. When your ball is between two white stakes and you're not sure whether it's out of bounds or not, your playing partners must make the determination. They should get behind the nearest white stake and line up an imaginary line using the next white stake as a marker. If the ball lies inside that line, it's not out of bounds. If it's outside that line, it is. If it's on the line, a fistfight will probably ensue because all of the ball has to be on the wrong side of the line for it to be out of bounds. This can cause a lot of arguments.
When there is a road or a fence or some other course boundary, there might not be any white stakes. Anything that is not a part of the golf course, such as a road on the boundary of the course, is considered out of bounds.
Most of the confusion comes when the player discovers his ball is actually out of bounds. Many hackers will assume that they can go to where the ball left the course and drop another ball, play from there and penalize themselves one stroke. This is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!!!
The penalty for hitting a ball out of bounds is one of the most severe in golf. You must go back and play another ball from the point at which you hit the shot that went out of bounds. PLUS, you must add a penalty stroke. This is called stroke and distance. So, if you're playing a par 3 hole and you hit your tee shot out of bounds, you must tee up again. If that shot lands on the green and you manage to two-putt, you have hit the ball four times. However, you must write down 5 on the scorecard to account for the penalty stroke.