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Rule

19

The Rules of Golf
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Unplayable Ball
The Rules of Golf
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19.1
19.2
a
b
c
19.3
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b
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Rule 18
Rule 20

Purpose: Rule 19 covers the player’s several relief options for an unplayable ball. This allows the player to choose which option to use – normally with one penalty stroke – to get out of a difficult situation anywhere on the course (except in a penalty area).

19.1
Player May Decide to Take Unplayable Ball Relief Anywhere Except Penalty Area

A player is the only person who may decide to treat his or her ball as unplayable by taking penalty relief under Rule 19.2 or 19.3.

  • Unplayable ball relief is allowed anywhere on the course, except in a penalty area.
  • If a ball is unplayable in a penalty area, the player’s only relief option is to take penalty relief under Rule 17.
19.2
Relief Options for Unplayable Ball in General Area or on Putting Green

A player may take unplayable ball relief using one of the three options in Rule 19.2a, b or c, in each case adding one penalty stroke.

  • The player may take stroke-and-distance relief under Rule 19.2a even if the original ball has not been found and identified.
  • But to take back-on-the-line relief under Rule 19.2b or lateral relief under Rule 19.2c, the player must know the spot of the original ball.
a
Stroke-and-Distance Relief

The player may play the original ball or another ball from where the previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6).

b
Back-on-the-Line Relief

The player may drop the original ball or another ball (see Rule 14.3) in a relief area that is based on a reference line going straight back from the hole through the spot of the original ball:

  • Reference Point: A point on the course chosen by the player that is on the reference line and is farther from the hole than the spot of the original ball (with no limit on how far back on the line):
    • In choosing this point, the player should indicate the point by using an object (such as a tee).
    • If the player drops the ball without having chosen this point, the reference point is treated as being the point on the line that is the same distance from the hole as where the dropped ball first touched the ground.
  • Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: One club-length, but with these limits:
  • Limits on Location of Relief Area:
    • Must not be nearer the hole than the reference point, and
    • May be in any area of the course, but
    • If more than one area of the course is located within one club-length of the reference point, the ball must come to rest in the relief area in the same area of the course that the ball first touched when dropped in the relief area.
c
Lateral Relief

The player may drop the original ball or another ball in this lateral relief area (see Rule 14.3):

  • Reference Point: The spot of the original ball.
  • Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: Two club-lengths, but with these limits:
  • Limits on Location of Relief Area:
    • Must not be nearer the hole than the reference point, and
    • May be in any area of the course, but
    • If more than one area of the course is located within two club-lengths of the reference point, the ball must come to rest in the relief area in the same area of the course that the ball first touched when dropped in the relief area.

Penalty for Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 19.2: General Penalty under Rule 14.7a.

19.3
Relief Options for Unplayable Ball in Bunker
a
Normal Relief Options (One Penalty Stroke)

When a player’s ball is in a bunker:

  • The player may take unplayable ball relief for one penalty stroke under any of the options in Rule 19.2, except that:
  • The ball must be dropped in and come to rest in a relief area in the bunker if the player takes either back-on-the-line relief (see Rule 19.2b) or lateral relief (see Rule 19.2c).
b
Extra Relief Option (Two Penalty Strokes)

As an extra relief option when a player’s ball is in a bunker, for a total of two penalty strokes, the player may take back-on-the-line relief outside the bunker under Rule 19.2b.

Penalty for Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 19.3: General Penalty under Rule 14.7a.

Course

The entire area of play within the edge of any boundaries set by the Committee:

  • All areas inside the boundary edge are in bounds and part of the course.
  • All areas outside the boundary edge are out of bounds and not part of the course.
  • The boundary edge extends both up above the ground and down below the ground.

The course is made up of the five defined areas of the course.

Penalty Area

An area from which relief with a one-stroke penalty is allowed if the player’s ball comes to rest there.

A penalty area is:

  • Any body of water on the course (whether or not marked by the Committee), including a sea, lake, pond, river, ditch, surface drainage ditch or other open watercourse (even if not containing water), and
  • Any other part of the course the Committee defines as a penalty area.

A penalty area is one of the five defined areas of the course.

There are two different types of penalty areas, distinguished by the colour used to mark them:

  • Yellow penalty areas (marked with yellow lines or yellow stakes) give the player two relief options (Rules 17.1d(1) and (2)).
  • Red penalty areas (marked with red lines or red stakes) give the player an extra lateral relief option (Rule 17.1d(3)), in addition to the two relief options available for yellow penalty areas.

If the colour of a penalty area has not been marked or indicated by the Committee, it is treated as a red penalty area.

The edge of a penalty area extends both up above the ground and down below the ground:

  • This means that all ground and anything else (such as any natural or artificial object) inside the edge is part of the penalty area, whether on, above or below the surface of the ground.
  • If an object is both inside and outside the edge (such as a bridge over the penalty area, or a tree rooted inside the edge with branches extending outside the edge or vice versa), only the part of the object that is inside the edge is part of the penalty area.

The edge of a penalty area should be defined by stakes, lines or physical features:

  • Stakes: When defined by stakes, the edge of the penalty area is defined by the line between the outside points of the stakes at ground level, and the stakes are inside the penalty area.
  • Lines: When defined by a painted line on the ground, the edge of the penalty area is the outside edge of the line, and the line itself is in the penalty area.
  • Physical Features: When defined by physical features (such as a beach or desert area or a retaining wall), the Committee should say how the edge of the penalty area is defined.

When the edge of a penalty area is defined by lines or by physical features, stakes may be used to show where the penalty area is, but they have no other meaning.

When the edge of a body of water is not defined by the Committee, the edge of that penalty area is defined by its natural boundaries (that is, where the ground slopes down to form the depression that can hold the water).

If an open watercourse usually does not contain water (such as a drainage ditch or run-off area that is dry except during a rainy season), the Committee may define that area as part of the general area (which means it is not a penalty area).

Penalty Area

An area from which relief with a one-stroke penalty is allowed if the player’s ball comes to rest there.

A penalty area is:

  • Any body of water on the course (whether or not marked by the Committee), including a sea, lake, pond, river, ditch, surface drainage ditch or other open watercourse (even if not containing water), and
  • Any other part of the course the Committee defines as a penalty area.

A penalty area is one of the five defined areas of the course.

There are two different types of penalty areas, distinguished by the colour used to mark them:

  • Yellow penalty areas (marked with yellow lines or yellow stakes) give the player two relief options (Rules 17.1d(1) and (2)).
  • Red penalty areas (marked with red lines or red stakes) give the player an extra lateral relief option (Rule 17.1d(3)), in addition to the two relief options available for yellow penalty areas.

If the colour of a penalty area has not been marked or indicated by the Committee, it is treated as a red penalty area.

The edge of a penalty area extends both up above the ground and down below the ground:

  • This means that all ground and anything else (such as any natural or artificial object) inside the edge is part of the penalty area, whether on, above or below the surface of the ground.
  • If an object is both inside and outside the edge (such as a bridge over the penalty area, or a tree rooted inside the edge with branches extending outside the edge or vice versa), only the part of the object that is inside the edge is part of the penalty area.

The edge of a penalty area should be defined by stakes, lines or physical features:

  • Stakes: When defined by stakes, the edge of the penalty area is defined by the line between the outside points of the stakes at ground level, and the stakes are inside the penalty area.
  • Lines: When defined by a painted line on the ground, the edge of the penalty area is the outside edge of the line, and the line itself is in the penalty area.
  • Physical Features: When defined by physical features (such as a beach or desert area or a retaining wall), the Committee should say how the edge of the penalty area is defined.

When the edge of a penalty area is defined by lines or by physical features, stakes may be used to show where the penalty area is, but they have no other meaning.

When the edge of a body of water is not defined by the Committee, the edge of that penalty area is defined by its natural boundaries (that is, where the ground slopes down to form the depression that can hold the water).

If an open watercourse usually does not contain water (such as a drainage ditch or run-off area that is dry except during a rainy season), the Committee may define that area as part of the general area (which means it is not a penalty area).

Stroke and Distance

The procedure and penalty when a player takes relief under Rules 17, 18 or 19 by playing a ball from where the previous stroke was made (see Rule 14.6).

The term stroke and distance means that the player both:

  • Gets one penalty stroke, and
  • Loses the benefit of any gain of distance towards the hole from the spot where the previous stroke was made.
Stroke

The forward movement of the club made to strike the ball.

But a stroke has not been made if the player:

  • Decides during the downswing not to strike the ball and avoids doing so by deliberately stopping the clubhead before it reaches the ball or, if unable to stop, by deliberately missing the ball.
  • Accidentally strikes the ball when making a practice swing or while preparing to make a stroke.

When the Rules refer to "playing a ball," it means the same as making a stroke.

The player's score for a hole or a round is described as a number of "strokes" or "strokes taken," which means both all strokes made and any penalty strokes (see Rule 3.1c).

 

Interpretation Stroke/1 - Determining If a Stroke Was Made

If a player starts the downswing with a club intending to strike the ball, his or her action counts as a stroke when:

  • The clubhead is deflected or stopped by an outside influence (such as the branch of a tree) whether or not the ball is struck.
  • The clubhead separates from the shaft during the downswing and the player continues the downswing with the shaft alone, whether or not the ball is struck with the shaft.
  • The clubhead separates from the shaft during the downswing and the player continues the downswing with the shaft alone, with the clubhead falling and striking the ball.

The player's action does not count as a stroke in each of following situations:

  • During the downswing, a player's clubhead separates from the shaft. The player stops the downswing short of the ball, but the clubhead falls and strikes and moves the ball.
  • During the backswing, a player's clubhead separates from the shaft. The player completes the downswing with the shaft but does not strike the ball.
  • A ball is lodged in a tree branch beyond the reach of a club. If the player moves the ball by striking a lower part of the branch instead of the ball, Rule 9.4 (Ball Lifted or Moved by Player) applies.
Drop

To hold the ball and let go of it so that it falls through the air, with the intent for the ball to be in play.

If the player lets go of a ball without intending it to be in play, the ball has not been dropped and is not in play (see Rule 14.4).

Each relief Rule identifies a specific relief area where the ball must be dropped and come to rest.

In taking relief, the player must let go of the ball from a location at knee height so that the ball:

  • Falls straight down, without the player throwing, spinning or rolling it or using any other motion that might affect where the ball will come to rest, and
  • Does not touch any part of the player’s body or equipment before it hits the ground (see Rule 14.3b).
Relief Area

The area where a player must drop a ball when taking relief under a Rule. Each relief Rule requires the player to use a specific relief area whose size and location are based on these three factors:

  • Reference Point: The point from which the size of relief area is measured.
  • Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: The relief area is either one or two club-lengths from the reference point, but with certain limits:
  • Limits on Location of Relief Area: The location of the relief area may be limited in one or more ways so that, for example:
    • It is only in certain defined areas of the course, such as only in the general area, or not in a bunker or a penalty area,
    • It is not nearer the hole than the reference point or must be outside a penalty area or a bunker from which relief is being taken, or
    • It is where there is no interference (as defined in the particular Rule) from the condition from which relief is being taken.

In using club-lengths to determine the size of a relief area, the player may measure directly across a ditch, hole or similar thing, and directly across or through an object (such as a tree, fence, wall, tunnel, drain or sprinkler head), but is not allowed to measure through ground that naturally slopes up and down.

See Committee Procedures, Section 2I (Committee may choose to allow or require the player to use a dropping zone as a relief area when taking certain relief).

Hole

The finishing point on the putting green for the hole being played:

  • The hole must be 4 ¼ inches (108 mm) in diameter and at least 4 inches (101.6 mm) deep.
  • If a lining is used, its outer diameter must not exceed 4 ¼ inches (108 mm). The lining must be sunk at least 1 inch (25.4 mm) below the putting green surface, unless the nature of the soil requires that it be closer to the surface.

The word “hole” (when not used as a Definition in italics) is used throughout the Rules to mean the part of the course associated with a particular teeing area, putting green and hole. Play of a hole begins from the teeing area and ends when the ball is holed on the putting green (or when the Rules otherwise say the hole is completed).

 

Course

The entire area of play within the edge of any boundaries set by the Committee:

  • All areas inside the boundary edge are in bounds and part of the course.
  • All areas outside the boundary edge are out of bounds and not part of the course.
  • The boundary edge extends both up above the ground and down below the ground.

The course is made up of the five defined areas of the course.

Hole

The finishing point on the putting green for the hole being played:

  • The hole must be 4 ¼ inches (108 mm) in diameter and at least 4 inches (101.6 mm) deep.
  • If a lining is used, its outer diameter must not exceed 4 ¼ inches (108 mm). The lining must be sunk at least 1 inch (25.4 mm) below the putting green surface, unless the nature of the soil requires that it be closer to the surface.

The word “hole” (when not used as a Definition in italics) is used throughout the Rules to mean the part of the course associated with a particular teeing area, putting green and hole. Play of a hole begins from the teeing area and ends when the ball is holed on the putting green (or when the Rules otherwise say the hole is completed).

 

Tee

An object used to raise a ball above the ground to play it from the teeing area. It must be no longer than four inches (101.6 mm) and conform with the Equipment Rules.

Drop

To hold the ball and let go of it so that it falls through the air, with the intent for the ball to be in play.

If the player lets go of a ball without intending it to be in play, the ball has not been dropped and is not in play (see Rule 14.4).

Each relief Rule identifies a specific relief area where the ball must be dropped and come to rest.

In taking relief, the player must let go of the ball from a location at knee height so that the ball:

  • Falls straight down, without the player throwing, spinning or rolling it or using any other motion that might affect where the ball will come to rest, and
  • Does not touch any part of the player’s body or equipment before it hits the ground (see Rule 14.3b).
Hole

The finishing point on the putting green for the hole being played:

  • The hole must be 4 ¼ inches (108 mm) in diameter and at least 4 inches (101.6 mm) deep.
  • If a lining is used, its outer diameter must not exceed 4 ¼ inches (108 mm). The lining must be sunk at least 1 inch (25.4 mm) below the putting green surface, unless the nature of the soil requires that it be closer to the surface.

The word “hole” (when not used as a Definition in italics) is used throughout the Rules to mean the part of the course associated with a particular teeing area, putting green and hole. Play of a hole begins from the teeing area and ends when the ball is holed on the putting green (or when the Rules otherwise say the hole is completed).

 

Drop

To hold the ball and let go of it so that it falls through the air, with the intent for the ball to be in play.

If the player lets go of a ball without intending it to be in play, the ball has not been dropped and is not in play (see Rule 14.4).

Each relief Rule identifies a specific relief area where the ball must be dropped and come to rest.

In taking relief, the player must let go of the ball from a location at knee height so that the ball:

  • Falls straight down, without the player throwing, spinning or rolling it or using any other motion that might affect where the ball will come to rest, and
  • Does not touch any part of the player’s body or equipment before it hits the ground (see Rule 14.3b).
Club-Length

The length of the longest club of the 14 (or fewer) clubs the player has during the round (as allowed by Rule 4.1b(1)), other than a putter.

For example, if the longest club (other than a putter) a player has during a round is a 43-inch (109.22 cm) driver, a club-length is 43 inches for that player for that round.

Club-lengths are used in defining the player’s teeing area on each hole and in determining the size of the player’s relief area when taking relief under a Rule.

 

Interpretation Club-Length/1 - Meaning of "Club-Length" When Measuring

For the purposes of measuring when determining a relief area, the length of the entire club, starting at the toe of the club and ending at the butt end of the grip is used. However, if the club has a headcover on it or has an attachment to the end of the grip, neither is allowed to be used as part of the club when using it to measure.

Interpretation Club-Length/2 - How to Measure When Longest Club Breaks

If the longest club a player has during a round breaks, that broken club continues to be used for determining the size of his or her relief areas. However, if the longest club breaks and the player is allowed to replace it with another club (Exception to Rule 4.1b(3)) and he or she does so, the broken club is no longer considered his or her longest club.

If the player starts a round with fewer than 14 clubs and decides to add another club that is longer than the clubs he or she started with, the added club is used for measuring so long as it is not a putter.

Hole

The finishing point on the putting green for the hole being played:

  • The hole must be 4 ¼ inches (108 mm) in diameter and at least 4 inches (101.6 mm) deep.
  • If a lining is used, its outer diameter must not exceed 4 ¼ inches (108 mm). The lining must be sunk at least 1 inch (25.4 mm) below the putting green surface, unless the nature of the soil requires that it be closer to the surface.

The word “hole” (when not used as a Definition in italics) is used throughout the Rules to mean the part of the course associated with a particular teeing area, putting green and hole. Play of a hole begins from the teeing area and ends when the ball is holed on the putting green (or when the Rules otherwise say the hole is completed).

 

Areas of the Course

The five defined areas that make up the course:

  • The general area,
  • The teeing area the player must play from in starting the hole he or she is playing,
  • All penalty areas,
  • All bunkers, and
  • The putting green of the hole the player is playing.
Areas of the Course

The five defined areas that make up the course:

  • The general area,
  • The teeing area the player must play from in starting the hole he or she is playing,
  • All penalty areas,
  • All bunkers, and
  • The putting green of the hole the player is playing.
Club-Length

The length of the longest club of the 14 (or fewer) clubs the player has during the round (as allowed by Rule 4.1b(1)), other than a putter.

For example, if the longest club (other than a putter) a player has during a round is a 43-inch (109.22 cm) driver, a club-length is 43 inches for that player for that round.

Club-lengths are used in defining the player’s teeing area on each hole and in determining the size of the player’s relief area when taking relief under a Rule.

 

Interpretation Club-Length/1 - Meaning of "Club-Length" When Measuring

For the purposes of measuring when determining a relief area, the length of the entire club, starting at the toe of the club and ending at the butt end of the grip is used. However, if the club has a headcover on it or has an attachment to the end of the grip, neither is allowed to be used as part of the club when using it to measure.

Interpretation Club-Length/2 - How to Measure When Longest Club Breaks

If the longest club a player has during a round breaks, that broken club continues to be used for determining the size of his or her relief areas. However, if the longest club breaks and the player is allowed to replace it with another club (Exception to Rule 4.1b(3)) and he or she does so, the broken club is no longer considered his or her longest club.

If the player starts a round with fewer than 14 clubs and decides to add another club that is longer than the clubs he or she started with, the added club is used for measuring so long as it is not a putter.

Relief Area

The area where a player must drop a ball when taking relief under a Rule. Each relief Rule requires the player to use a specific relief area whose size and location are based on these three factors:

  • Reference Point: The point from which the size of relief area is measured.
  • Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: The relief area is either one or two club-lengths from the reference point, but with certain limits:
  • Limits on Location of Relief Area: The location of the relief area may be limited in one or more ways so that, for example:
    • It is only in certain defined areas of the course, such as only in the general area, or not in a bunker or a penalty area,
    • It is not nearer the hole than the reference point or must be outside a penalty area or a bunker from which relief is being taken, or
    • It is where there is no interference (as defined in the particular Rule) from the condition from which relief is being taken.

In using club-lengths to determine the size of a relief area, the player may measure directly across a ditch, hole or similar thing, and directly across or through an object (such as a tree, fence, wall, tunnel, drain or sprinkler head), but is not allowed to measure through ground that naturally slopes up and down.

See Committee Procedures, Section 2I (Committee may choose to allow or require the player to use a dropping zone as a relief area when taking certain relief).

Areas of the Course

The five defined areas that make up the course:

  • The general area,
  • The teeing area the player must play from in starting the hole he or she is playing,
  • All penalty areas,
  • All bunkers, and
  • The putting green of the hole the player is playing.
Drop

To hold the ball and let go of it so that it falls through the air, with the intent for the ball to be in play.

If the player lets go of a ball without intending it to be in play, the ball has not been dropped and is not in play (see Rule 14.4).

Each relief Rule identifies a specific relief area where the ball must be dropped and come to rest.

In taking relief, the player must let go of the ball from a location at knee height so that the ball:

  • Falls straight down, without the player throwing, spinning or rolling it or using any other motion that might affect where the ball will come to rest, and
  • Does not touch any part of the player’s body or equipment before it hits the ground (see Rule 14.3b).
Relief Area

The area where a player must drop a ball when taking relief under a Rule. Each relief Rule requires the player to use a specific relief area whose size and location are based on these three factors:

  • Reference Point: The point from which the size of relief area is measured.
  • Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: The relief area is either one or two club-lengths from the reference point, but with certain limits:
  • Limits on Location of Relief Area: The location of the relief area may be limited in one or more ways so that, for example:
    • It is only in certain defined areas of the course, such as only in the general area, or not in a bunker or a penalty area,
    • It is not nearer the hole than the reference point or must be outside a penalty area or a bunker from which relief is being taken, or
    • It is where there is no interference (as defined in the particular Rule) from the condition from which relief is being taken.

In using club-lengths to determine the size of a relief area, the player may measure directly across a ditch, hole or similar thing, and directly across or through an object (such as a tree, fence, wall, tunnel, drain or sprinkler head), but is not allowed to measure through ground that naturally slopes up and down.

See Committee Procedures, Section 2I (Committee may choose to allow or require the player to use a dropping zone as a relief area when taking certain relief).

Drop

To hold the ball and let go of it so that it falls through the air, with the intent for the ball to be in play.

If the player lets go of a ball without intending it to be in play, the ball has not been dropped and is not in play (see Rule 14.4).

Each relief Rule identifies a specific relief area where the ball must be dropped and come to rest.

In taking relief, the player must let go of the ball from a location at knee height so that the ball:

  • Falls straight down, without the player throwing, spinning or rolling it or using any other motion that might affect where the ball will come to rest, and
  • Does not touch any part of the player’s body or equipment before it hits the ground (see Rule 14.3b).
Relief Area

The area where a player must drop a ball when taking relief under a Rule. Each relief Rule requires the player to use a specific relief area whose size and location are based on these three factors:

  • Reference Point: The point from which the size of relief area is measured.
  • Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: The relief area is either one or two club-lengths from the reference point, but with certain limits:
  • Limits on Location of Relief Area: The location of the relief area may be limited in one or more ways so that, for example:
    • It is only in certain defined areas of the course, such as only in the general area, or not in a bunker or a penalty area,
    • It is not nearer the hole than the reference point or must be outside a penalty area or a bunker from which relief is being taken, or
    • It is where there is no interference (as defined in the particular Rule) from the condition from which relief is being taken.

In using club-lengths to determine the size of a relief area, the player may measure directly across a ditch, hole or similar thing, and directly across or through an object (such as a tree, fence, wall, tunnel, drain or sprinkler head), but is not allowed to measure through ground that naturally slopes up and down.

See Committee Procedures, Section 2I (Committee may choose to allow or require the player to use a dropping zone as a relief area when taking certain relief).

Club-Length

The length of the longest club of the 14 (or fewer) clubs the player has during the round (as allowed by Rule 4.1b(1)), other than a putter.

For example, if the longest club (other than a putter) a player has during a round is a 43-inch (109.22 cm) driver, a club-length is 43 inches for that player for that round.

Club-lengths are used in defining the player’s teeing area on each hole and in determining the size of the player’s relief area when taking relief under a Rule.

 

Interpretation Club-Length/1 - Meaning of "Club-Length" When Measuring

For the purposes of measuring when determining a relief area, the length of the entire club, starting at the toe of the club and ending at the butt end of the grip is used. However, if the club has a headcover on it or has an attachment to the end of the grip, neither is allowed to be used as part of the club when using it to measure.

Interpretation Club-Length/2 - How to Measure When Longest Club Breaks

If the longest club a player has during a round breaks, that broken club continues to be used for determining the size of his or her relief areas. However, if the longest club breaks and the player is allowed to replace it with another club (Exception to Rule 4.1b(3)) and he or she does so, the broken club is no longer considered his or her longest club.

If the player starts a round with fewer than 14 clubs and decides to add another club that is longer than the clubs he or she started with, the added club is used for measuring so long as it is not a putter.

Hole

The finishing point on the putting green for the hole being played:

  • The hole must be 4 ¼ inches (108 mm) in diameter and at least 4 inches (101.6 mm) deep.
  • If a lining is used, its outer diameter must not exceed 4 ¼ inches (108 mm). The lining must be sunk at least 1 inch (25.4 mm) below the putting green surface, unless the nature of the soil requires that it be closer to the surface.

The word “hole” (when not used as a Definition in italics) is used throughout the Rules to mean the part of the course associated with a particular teeing area, putting green and hole. Play of a hole begins from the teeing area and ends when the ball is holed on the putting green (or when the Rules otherwise say the hole is completed).

 

Areas of the Course

The five defined areas that make up the course:

  • The general area,
  • The teeing area the player must play from in starting the hole he or she is playing,
  • All penalty areas,
  • All bunkers, and
  • The putting green of the hole the player is playing.
Areas of the Course

The five defined areas that make up the course:

  • The general area,
  • The teeing area the player must play from in starting the hole he or she is playing,
  • All penalty areas,
  • All bunkers, and
  • The putting green of the hole the player is playing.
Club-Length

The length of the longest club of the 14 (or fewer) clubs the player has during the round (as allowed by Rule 4.1b(1)), other than a putter.

For example, if the longest club (other than a putter) a player has during a round is a 43-inch (109.22 cm) driver, a club-length is 43 inches for that player for that round.

Club-lengths are used in defining the player’s teeing area on each hole and in determining the size of the player’s relief area when taking relief under a Rule.

 

Interpretation Club-Length/1 - Meaning of "Club-Length" When Measuring

For the purposes of measuring when determining a relief area, the length of the entire club, starting at the toe of the club and ending at the butt end of the grip is used. However, if the club has a headcover on it or has an attachment to the end of the grip, neither is allowed to be used as part of the club when using it to measure.

Interpretation Club-Length/2 - How to Measure When Longest Club Breaks

If the longest club a player has during a round breaks, that broken club continues to be used for determining the size of his or her relief areas. However, if the longest club breaks and the player is allowed to replace it with another club (Exception to Rule 4.1b(3)) and he or she does so, the broken club is no longer considered his or her longest club.

If the player starts a round with fewer than 14 clubs and decides to add another club that is longer than the clubs he or she started with, the added club is used for measuring so long as it is not a putter.

Relief Area

The area where a player must drop a ball when taking relief under a Rule. Each relief Rule requires the player to use a specific relief area whose size and location are based on these three factors:

  • Reference Point: The point from which the size of relief area is measured.
  • Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: The relief area is either one or two club-lengths from the reference point, but with certain limits:
  • Limits on Location of Relief Area: The location of the relief area may be limited in one or more ways so that, for example:
    • It is only in certain defined areas of the course, such as only in the general area, or not in a bunker or a penalty area,
    • It is not nearer the hole than the reference point or must be outside a penalty area or a bunker from which relief is being taken, or
    • It is where there is no interference (as defined in the particular Rule) from the condition from which relief is being taken.

In using club-lengths to determine the size of a relief area, the player may measure directly across a ditch, hole or similar thing, and directly across or through an object (such as a tree, fence, wall, tunnel, drain or sprinkler head), but is not allowed to measure through ground that naturally slopes up and down.

See Committee Procedures, Section 2I (Committee may choose to allow or require the player to use a dropping zone as a relief area when taking certain relief).

Areas of the Course

The five defined areas that make up the course:

  • The general area,
  • The teeing area the player must play from in starting the hole he or she is playing,
  • All penalty areas,
  • All bunkers, and
  • The putting green of the hole the player is playing.
Drop

To hold the ball and let go of it so that it falls through the air, with the intent for the ball to be in play.

If the player lets go of a ball without intending it to be in play, the ball has not been dropped and is not in play (see Rule 14.4).

Each relief Rule identifies a specific relief area where the ball must be dropped and come to rest.

In taking relief, the player must let go of the ball from a location at knee height so that the ball:

  • Falls straight down, without the player throwing, spinning or rolling it or using any other motion that might affect where the ball will come to rest, and
  • Does not touch any part of the player’s body or equipment before it hits the ground (see Rule 14.3b).
Relief Area

The area where a player must drop a ball when taking relief under a Rule. Each relief Rule requires the player to use a specific relief area whose size and location are based on these three factors:

  • Reference Point: The point from which the size of relief area is measured.
  • Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: The relief area is either one or two club-lengths from the reference point, but with certain limits:
  • Limits on Location of Relief Area: The location of the relief area may be limited in one or more ways so that, for example:
    • It is only in certain defined areas of the course, such as only in the general area, or not in a bunker or a penalty area,
    • It is not nearer the hole than the reference point or must be outside a penalty area or a bunker from which relief is being taken, or
    • It is where there is no interference (as defined in the particular Rule) from the condition from which relief is being taken.

In using club-lengths to determine the size of a relief area, the player may measure directly across a ditch, hole or similar thing, and directly across or through an object (such as a tree, fence, wall, tunnel, drain or sprinkler head), but is not allowed to measure through ground that naturally slopes up and down.

See Committee Procedures, Section 2I (Committee may choose to allow or require the player to use a dropping zone as a relief area when taking certain relief).

Wrong Place

Any place on the course other than where the player is required or allowed to play his or her ball under the Rules.

Examples of playing from a wrong place are:

  • Playing a ball after replacing it on the wrong spot or without replacing it when required by the Rules.
  • Playing a dropped ball from outside the required relief area.
  • Taking relief under a wrong Rule, so that the ball is dropped in and played from a place not allowed under the Rules.
  • Playing a ball from a no play zone or when a no play zone interferes with the player’s area of intended stance or swing.

Playing a ball from outside the teeing area in starting play of a hole or in trying to correct that mistake is not playing from a wrong place (see Rule 6.1b).

General Penalty

Loss of hole in match play or two penalty strokes in stroke play.

Bunker

A specially prepared area of sand, which is often a hollow from which turf or soil was removed.

These are not part of a bunker:

  • A lip, wall or face at the edge of a prepared area and consisting of soil, grass, stacked turf or artificial materials,
  • Soil or any growing or attached natural object inside the edge of a prepared area (such as grass, bushes or trees),
  • Sand that has spilled over or is outside the edge of a prepared area, and
  • All other areas of sand on the course that are not inside the edge of a prepared area (such as deserts and other natural sand areas or areas sometimes referred to as waste areas).

Bunkers are one of the five defined areas of the course.

A Committee may define a prepared area of sand as part of the general area (which means it is not a bunker) or may define a non-prepared area of sand as a bunker.

When a bunker is being repaired and the Committee defines the entire bunker as ground under repair, it is treated as part of the general area (which means it is not a bunker).

The word “sand” as used in this Definition and Rule 12 includes any material similar to sand that is used as bunker material (such as crushed shells), as well as any soil that is mixed in with the sand.

Drop

To hold the ball and let go of it so that it falls through the air, with the intent for the ball to be in play.

If the player lets go of a ball without intending it to be in play, the ball has not been dropped and is not in play (see Rule 14.4).

Each relief Rule identifies a specific relief area where the ball must be dropped and come to rest.

In taking relief, the player must let go of the ball from a location at knee height so that the ball:

  • Falls straight down, without the player throwing, spinning or rolling it or using any other motion that might affect where the ball will come to rest, and
  • Does not touch any part of the player’s body or equipment before it hits the ground (see Rule 14.3b).
Relief Area

The area where a player must drop a ball when taking relief under a Rule. Each relief Rule requires the player to use a specific relief area whose size and location are based on these three factors:

  • Reference Point: The point from which the size of relief area is measured.
  • Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: The relief area is either one or two club-lengths from the reference point, but with certain limits:
  • Limits on Location of Relief Area: The location of the relief area may be limited in one or more ways so that, for example:
    • It is only in certain defined areas of the course, such as only in the general area, or not in a bunker or a penalty area,
    • It is not nearer the hole than the reference point or must be outside a penalty area or a bunker from which relief is being taken, or
    • It is where there is no interference (as defined in the particular Rule) from the condition from which relief is being taken.

In using club-lengths to determine the size of a relief area, the player may measure directly across a ditch, hole or similar thing, and directly across or through an object (such as a tree, fence, wall, tunnel, drain or sprinkler head), but is not allowed to measure through ground that naturally slopes up and down.

See Committee Procedures, Section 2I (Committee may choose to allow or require the player to use a dropping zone as a relief area when taking certain relief).

Bunker

A specially prepared area of sand, which is often a hollow from which turf or soil was removed.

These are not part of a bunker:

  • A lip, wall or face at the edge of a prepared area and consisting of soil, grass, stacked turf or artificial materials,
  • Soil or any growing or attached natural object inside the edge of a prepared area (such as grass, bushes or trees),
  • Sand that has spilled over or is outside the edge of a prepared area, and
  • All other areas of sand on the course that are not inside the edge of a prepared area (such as deserts and other natural sand areas or areas sometimes referred to as waste areas).

Bunkers are one of the five defined areas of the course.

A Committee may define a prepared area of sand as part of the general area (which means it is not a bunker) or may define a non-prepared area of sand as a bunker.

When a bunker is being repaired and the Committee defines the entire bunker as ground under repair, it is treated as part of the general area (which means it is not a bunker).

The word “sand” as used in this Definition and Rule 12 includes any material similar to sand that is used as bunker material (such as crushed shells), as well as any soil that is mixed in with the sand.

Bunker

A specially prepared area of sand, which is often a hollow from which turf or soil was removed.

These are not part of a bunker:

  • A lip, wall or face at the edge of a prepared area and consisting of soil, grass, stacked turf or artificial materials,
  • Soil or any growing or attached natural object inside the edge of a prepared area (such as grass, bushes or trees),
  • Sand that has spilled over or is outside the edge of a prepared area, and
  • All other areas of sand on the course that are not inside the edge of a prepared area (such as deserts and other natural sand areas or areas sometimes referred to as waste areas).

Bunkers are one of the five defined areas of the course.

A Committee may define a prepared area of sand as part of the general area (which means it is not a bunker) or may define a non-prepared area of sand as a bunker.

When a bunker is being repaired and the Committee defines the entire bunker as ground under repair, it is treated as part of the general area (which means it is not a bunker).

The word “sand” as used in this Definition and Rule 12 includes any material similar to sand that is used as bunker material (such as crushed shells), as well as any soil that is mixed in with the sand.

Bunker

A specially prepared area of sand, which is often a hollow from which turf or soil was removed.

These are not part of a bunker:

  • A lip, wall or face at the edge of a prepared area and consisting of soil, grass, stacked turf or artificial materials,
  • Soil or any growing or attached natural object inside the edge of a prepared area (such as grass, bushes or trees),
  • Sand that has spilled over or is outside the edge of a prepared area, and
  • All other areas of sand on the course that are not inside the edge of a prepared area (such as deserts and other natural sand areas or areas sometimes referred to as waste areas).

Bunkers are one of the five defined areas of the course.

A Committee may define a prepared area of sand as part of the general area (which means it is not a bunker) or may define a non-prepared area of sand as a bunker.

When a bunker is being repaired and the Committee defines the entire bunker as ground under repair, it is treated as part of the general area (which means it is not a bunker).

The word “sand” as used in this Definition and Rule 12 includes any material similar to sand that is used as bunker material (such as crushed shells), as well as any soil that is mixed in with the sand.

Wrong Place

Any place on the course other than where the player is required or allowed to play his or her ball under the Rules.

Examples of playing from a wrong place are:

  • Playing a ball after replacing it on the wrong spot or without replacing it when required by the Rules.
  • Playing a dropped ball from outside the required relief area.
  • Taking relief under a wrong Rule, so that the ball is dropped in and played from a place not allowed under the Rules.
  • Playing a ball from a no play zone or when a no play zone interferes with the player’s area of intended stance or swing.

Playing a ball from outside the teeing area in starting play of a hole or in trying to correct that mistake is not playing from a wrong place (see Rule 6.1b).

General Penalty

Loss of hole in match play or two penalty strokes in stroke play.