July 2 - 2009

Dropping the Ball

I know that most people who play golf never bother to read either the Rules of Golf or look through the Decisions book - they just want to play! Like any organized game you choose-tennis, baseball, basketball- even poker is now considered a major sport, you soon realize that you must (at least) have a basic understanding of the rules. I think a lot of golfers tend to learn the rules mostly from other golfers.

You don't have to be an expert to understand if your ball goes O.B., you play another. Ball in the water? Drop next to where it entered. Everyone gets an education quickly.

Isn't this one of the great things about golf-lose your ball and all of a sudden everyone is helping you look for it. My point in all this is how often most golfers really don't know how to do the simplest thing-taking a free drop from a relief situation, or maybe even a drop for a penalty.

Rule 20.

Lifting, Dropping and Placing; Playing from Wrong Place.
This is one of the longest and most complicated explanations in the entire Rules of Golf, so it's quite understandable most golfers will never read this section. In previous months, I've included sections of the rules to show how they are applied. But, this time I would like to keep it simple and explain it in my words...

You have two types of relief- one for your swing, and one for your stance. The first question you always ask yourself - "swing or stance?" (because this determines WHERE you are allowed relief). Before you pick up your ball, ALWAYS mark the point where your ball is lying (this solves a lot of problems). On a cart path, NEVER pick up your ball UNTIL you are absolutely sure where your (eventual) relief occurs. Sometimes the cart path might be your best choice, and by lifting your ball off the path (i.e., marking the position and picking it up) that option is gone, and now you MUST drop off the path.

Whenever you pick up your ball for relief or for a penalty drop, you are allowed to clean your ball (Do NOT clean your ball when you are lifting it for the purpose of identifying, placing aside, or checking to see if your ball is embedded).

If you are taking a drop for any RELIEF situation, you are allowed ONE club length.

If you are taking a drop for a PENALTY situation, you are allowed TWO club lengths.

For the purpose of measuring, a player may use ANY club he has selected for that round (Rule 4-4). You can also borrow a club, as long as the club you borrow is not longer than any club in your bag.

I often see people dropping incorrectly because they haven't been shown the correct way.

You are the only one who can take the drop. You must stand erect, hold the ball at shoulder height and arm's length and drop it. Any other manner and the error is not corrected as provided in Rule 20-6, it's a one stroke penalty.

If you are taking relief for your STANCE- you find the NEAREST area that is not closer to the hole, that affords relief for whatever situation you are dropping from (cart path, ground under repair, etc.) and find relief for your feet. You then position the club (that you would most likely use) so it touches the ground as if you are going to hit a shot. Mark the position where it touches the ground, and that is where your one or two club lengths relief begins.

REMEMBER -When dropping that you can go ANY direction a full club length (or two) from your marked position, but no closer to the hole. If you are taking SWING relief (staked tree, obstructions, wires at the driving range fence-6th hole) you must take FULL relief, no closer to the hole. When you determine the nearest area that you have full swing relief, place the club (that you would most likely use) on the ground and you are allowed to drop within one full club length from that spot.

A very important point to remember: When you are taking a drop, your ball can roll TWO club lengths from the point you've marked (plus the ONE for relief) and it is still in play. This seems to be an area that a lot of people don't fully understand. If you are taking a drop for a penalty, you can drop inside two club lengths from the point you've marked, and your ball can roll an additional two club lengths and still be in play! (FOUR driver lengths from where you started under a penalty drop, and THREE under a relief situation.)

If, in either situation your drop rolls outside this area, you are allowed another drop. If your drop again rolls outside this area, you place the ball where it first touched the ground and play on.