The Anatomy of a Hockey Pitch

Resource added: 21 December 2022

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Competitive hockey pitches are either a large rectangular field of grass or, more typically since the 1970s, artificial turf.

The pitch measures 91.40m (100 yards) in length and 55m (60 yards) in width.

Within the pitch there are some very precise markings which are specified by the International Hockey Federation in ‘The Rules of Hockey’.

All the line markings on a hockey pitch are part of the area that they define. So, for a ball to go out of the field of play, for example, it must completely cross the boundary line. Likewise, for a goal to be scored, the ball must completely cross the goal line.

The lines along the length of the pitch are called the side lines. The shorter edges of the field of play, where you’ll find the goals, are known as the back lines, although the portion within the goal itself is the goal line.

Field hockey pitches should be either green or blue (ultramarine blue or signal blue, specifically). The run-off portion can be another colour. London 2012 established a trend for blue hockey pitches and a yellow ball on blue turf is now the standard for professional field hockey tournaments.

Halfway line

The halfway line divides the pitch in two. Players must stand in the half that they are defending at the start of each period of play and when play resumes following a goal.

23m line

The 23m lines are actually positioned 22.90m from each back line. There are a number of rules relating to this line with the umpire awarding free hits from here.

Also, when the ball passes the back line, the 23m line is also used by the attacking team to resume play.


In hockey, the goals are placed at either end of the pitch and consist of two goal posts and a crossbar. The inner edges of the posts measure 3.7m and the bottom of the crossbar must be 2.1m above the ground. The goal measures 90cm in depth.

Penalty circle

The penalty circle is incredibly important in hockey, because a goal is only scored if it is struck from within the penalty circle and completely crosses the goal line.

While goalkeepers are within the penalty circle, they are permitted to play the ball with any part of their body.

And defenders who foul an attacking player within the penalty circle are punished by having a penalty corner awarded against them.

Penalty corner markings

You’ll notice that there are two additional lines along the back line, one that is 5m from each goal post and 10m from each goal post. These 300mm long markings are used during penalty corners. The 10m line marks where the attacking player can take the penalty corner from, and the 5m line marks the closest position at which a defender can stand.

Penalty spot

The penalty spot is located 6.475m from the outside of the goal line and is used for a penalty stroke.

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