Thursday, September 22, 2016

Where to Drop

Several rules issues have arisen in the last few tournaments regarding where to drop a ball. I’m sure you will agree that a competition is not fair if everyone is not following the same rules. Therefore, I am taking out a few minutes to review the rules regarding dropping a ball, and I hope you will take out a few minutes to read what I have to say.

There is a big difference between free drops and penalty drops with regard to where you are entitled to drop.
The most important things to remember:
• Free relief is limited to the area within one club-length of the nearest point of relief, no closer to the hole.
• When you pay for relief with a penalty stroke, you have more options.
• You may never drop on the so-called “line of flight.” Under no circumstances is this ever a relief option.

Let’s start with free drops.

Players are entitled to a free drop when an immovable obstruction interferes with their lie, stance, or area of intended swing. For example, you get free relief if your ball lies on a cart path, or you have to stand on the cart path to hit your ball, or your swing at a ball that lies next to the path will contact the path. (Incidentally, “immovable obstructions” are man-made objects that cannot be moved, such as cart paths, water fountains, tee monuments, and maintenance sheds.)

For free relief from an immovable obstruction, you must find the point nearest to where you ball lies (known as the nearest point of relief, or NPR) that is not closer to the hole where you will get complete relief. In seeking this point, you should take your stance with the club that you would ordinarily use to hit the shot if the obstruction were not there. Once you find this point, you may use any club in your bag to measure the one-club-length area beyond the NPR in which you are permitted to drop the ball (most players pull out their drivers for this measurement).

As you can see, free drops will always end up very close to where the ball originally lay. Now let’s turn to penalty drops.

If you decide that your ball is unplayable, you will add one penalty stroke to your score and choose one of the following options:

1. Return to where you hit your previous shot, drop a ball (you may re-tee if you are returning to the teeing ground), and play. This is known as “stroke and distance.”

2. Drop anywhere on the flagline. (The flagline is the line-of-sight to the hole. IT IS NOT THE LINE OF FLIGHT!!! THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS DROPPING ON THE LINE OF FLIGHT.) Imagine a line that begins at the hole, passes through where your ball lies, and continues straight back behind your ball. You may drop anywhere on this “flagline,” behind your ball.

3. Drop a ball within two club-lengths of where the unplayable ball lies, no closer to the hole. Note that if two club-lengths don’t give you the relief you want, each successive two-club-length drop will cost you an additional penalty stroke.

You have similar relief options for a ball in a water hazard, all of which include a one-stroke penalty:

1. Play another ball under stroke and distance (see #1 above).

2. Drop a ball on the flagline (see #2 above).

3. Additionally, if the ball lies in a lateral water hazard (marked with red stakes), you may drop a ball within two club-lengths of the spot where your ball last crossed the margin of the hazard (or on a spot on the opposite side of the hazard that is equidistant from the hole). Your relief is not measured from where your ball landed in the water; it is from where your ball passed the stake or crossed over the red line on its way into the lateral hazard.

Tournaments are only fair if everyone is observing the same rules. Please take some time to review your rulebook. For those of you who are unaware, I write a rules column online that answers questions about the Rules of Golf in plain English (not in Rules-speak). It is called “Ask Linda: Golf Rules You Can Understand.” This is a blog that you can subscribe to for free. Check it out: