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19
Unplayable Ball
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
Unplayable Ball
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.
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