The R&A - Working for Golf

Reader’s Rules Feature - March

Rules Newsletter reader, Tony Banks from Birmingham emailed to ask, “When taking relief from an unplayable ball situation and I drop my ball, do I have to re-drop it if it rolls outside of the two club-lengths that I have measured?” 

Answer:Although it would ultimately depend on how far outside the area the ball had rolled, in most cases, a re-drop would not be required. This is because the Rule provides some latitude for the player when it comes to the area within which to drop the ball.

If a player decides to declare his ball unplayable (Rule 28), and chooses to drop a ball within two club-lengths of the spot where the ball lay, but not nearer the hole, the ball doesn’t necessarily have to stay within that two-club radius to remain in play. In fact, depending on where the player drops the ball, it could actually come to rest almost four club-lengths from its original position.

Provided the ball has been correctly dropped and does not roll into any of the positions listed in Rule 20-2c, it is in play and must not be re-dropped. In particular, the ball may roll up to two club-lengths from the point where it first struck a part of the course when dropped, and this may result in its coming to rest a considerable distance away from the condition from which relief is being taken.

For example, a ball dropped away from an unplayable lie with two club-lengths may come to rest almost four club-lengths from the spot where the ball lay without the player being required to re-drop it under Rule 20-2c.
Michelle Wei drops a ball under Rule 28c
Michelle Wei drops a ball under Rule 28c

The key thing the player must remember when dropping a ball under this Rule is that the ball must first strike a part of the course which is within two club-lengths from the spot where his ball originally lay and that it is not dropped nearer the hole.

A player is only entitled to re-drop the ball if it comes to rest in any of the applicable positions covered by Rule 20-2c. These positions would include; the ball coming to rest closer to the hole than its original position, coming to rest more than two club-lengths from the point where it first landed, rolling into a hazard (or outside the hazard if dropping from within a bunker), or coming to rest on a putting green or out of bounds.

If a ball when dropped for a second time again rolls into any of the positions listed above, the player would then be required to place the ball as near as possible to the spot where it first struck the course when re-dropped.  

A common misconception when dropping under the unplayable ball Rule is that the player is entitled to a nice, or at least a better lie than the unplayable lie.   It is important to keep in mind that a player does not get to re-drop simply because their ball comes to rest in a worse position or in the same unplayable situation.   Assuming that the ball did not roll in to a position covered by Rule 20-2c, the ball is in play and the player must again invoke the unplayable Rule, incurring an additional penalty stroke, unless he decides to play the ball as it lies.  If the player wished to re-drop for a second time, it would come at the cost of an additional penalty stroke.

If you would like to see your Rules question featured, please email us at rules@randa.org

A player is only entitled to re-drop the ball if it comes to rest in any of the applicable positions covered by Rule 20-2c.
A player is only entitled to re-drop the ball if it comes to rest in any of the applicable positions covered by Rule 20-2c.