Wednesday, 11 February 2009

The Rule of Golf that is broken most often - Nearest Point of Relief

Probably the most misunderstood area of the Rules of Golf is when, where and how to take relief at the nearest point. I don’t find this surprising, as the Rule book definition of ‘Nearest Point of Relief’ is, by necessity, long-winded, and there are several different factors that have to be considered. I think that the following video will assist in clarifying this important subject for you.

Corrections: Thanks to Jeff Gilham who has pointed
out that in my second illustration the nearest point
of relief for a left handed player is probably below
the GUR area rather than to the right hand side.

Also, check out the third comment below re standing
on a wrong putting green to play a ball that is not
on the putting green.
I hope that you are now clear as to how to find the nearest point of relief and when that option is available to you. The most important thing to remember is that it is the ‘nearest’ point of relief, and not the ‘nicest’. You don’t get to choose where to drop, as it is a matter of fact. Where most golfers go wrong is that they assume that taking ‘relief’ means that they should be left with a clear, unobstructed shot in the direction of the putting green, whereas the relief is only from the condition that the Rules allow the drop from and does not relate to any other adverse condition or difficulty on the course. Hence, the nearest point of relief, from which the one club-length’s relief must be taken, could be in deep rough, on a steep slope, in the middle of a bush, on cracked earth, behind an immovable obstruction, or even, in the middle of the trunk of a large tree (see Decision 24-2b/3.7).

I am confident that if you watch your fellow competitors, or opponents, carefully over your next few rounds you will soon come across situations where they are about to drop in a wrong place because they don’t know how to locate the nearest point of relief. Handle the situation tactfully and you could save them incurring penalties in the future.

Good golfing,

Barry Rhodes

rules@barryrhodes.com

28 comments:

JT said...

Barry,

Am I right in saying that taking the drop within 1 club length not nearer to the hole. the ball may rest anywhere in an area within 2 club length from the NPR??

thanks

Barry Rhodes said...

JT,

Yes, that's right. Part of Rule 20-2c states that if a ball when dropped comes to rest more than two club-lengths from where it first struck part of the course, or comes to rest nearer the hole than its original position, it must be re-dropped.

Barry

Anonymous said...

Whilst this analysis is correct for the example shown, of GUR, it is not correct for ball on wrong putting green, one of the cases mentioned in the intro. Rule 25-3 a) clearly states that "Interference to a player's stance or area of his intended swing is not, of itself, interference under this rule." The player therefore has the possibility of taking his stance on the wrong putting green, which would then give him the option of choosing either side, in the (unlikely) equidistant case

Barry Rhodes said...

You are absolutely correct. A player may stand on a wrong putting green to make a stroke at their ball that is not on that putting green. Thanks for pointing this out.

Barry

M L P said...

Could a right handed golfer in this situation elect to play there next shot left handed and take there nearest point of relief on the right hand side of the g.u.r. then once he dropped his ball play the shot right handed,assuming his stance was outside the area of g.u.r.

Barry Rhodes said...

MLP,

No, this is not permitted. The exception to Rule 24-2 states;
"Exception: A player may not take relief under this Rule if (a) it is clearly unreasonable for him to make a stroke because of interference by anything other than an immovable obstruction or (b) interference by an immovable obstruction would occur only through use of an unnecessarily abnormal stance, swing or direction of play."

Anonymous said...

BY DEFINITION OF THE NEAREST POINT OF RELIEF,DOES SIMULATING YOUR ADDRESS POSITION AS IF THE IMMOVABLE OBSTRUCTION IS NOT THERE MEAN THAT THE SLOPE BE THE SAME, BE IT FLAT OR STEEP?
DOES THE SLOPE AFFECT YOUR ADDRESS POSITION?

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

Yes, you assume the same stance that you would make if the immovable obstruction was not there. So, if there is a slope where you would be making a stroke, then your stance will be on that slope and it will affect the simulated address position.

Barry

granitebaynotary said...

Barry,
Here is, perhaps, another variation on the election of changing sides of a swing. A golfer's ball is in the margins of a bush. The golfer has a reasonable play, LEFT handed, to advance the ball (He has no reasonable RIGHT handed play). When taking his Left-handed stance his is on a cart path. Can he take relief from the cart path and then play his next shot RIGHT handed?

Barry Rhodes said...

Granitebaynotary,

Yes, Decision 24-2b/17 confirms that the player is entitled to relief in these circumstances where an abnormal (left-handed) stroke is necessary and reasonable.

Quoting from the Decision;
The proper procedure is for the player to take relief for a left-handed stroke in accordance with Rule 24-2b(i).

The player may then use a normal right-handed swing for his next stroke. If the obstruction interferes with the swing or stance for the right-handed stroke, the player may take relief for the right-handed stroke in accordance with Rule 24-2b(i).


Barry

Frank said...

player takes a drop ( ball on cart path) drops ball buts stands on cartpath to take stroke

Barry Rhodes said...

Frank,

In these circumstances the player has not taken proper relief from the path (an immovable obstruction) Therefore, if they make their stroke from this position, they have played from a wrong place, incurring a penalty of two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play.

Barry

Barry Rhodes said...

Frank,

In these circumstances the player has not taken proper relief from the path (an immovable obstruction) Therefore, if they make their stroke from this position, they have played from a wrong place, incurring a penalty of two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play.

Barry

Anonymous said...

Barry
My partner and I were in an alternative shot match. I hit the second shot over a bunker that landed on the collar of the green 1 foot away from lip of bunker. My playing partner to play the ball to the hole basicially had to scale the wall of the bunker and address the ball at about his eyes. I suggested he play well right of the hole about 50 feet (still toward the green) and then we hope to 2 putt for bogey. When addressing the ball for this second option of play it just so happened that his left foot was clearly on a sprinkler head. I then said he would get relief, play the ball with relief no nearer the hole. With relief he was now able to play the ball straight at the hole since his stance would not be in the bunker. My playing partners disagreed with this option though allowed us to make the play. We chipped to tap in for par. A detail discussion ensued over cocktails that evening and we were clearly split on the rule. So we decided to "Ask the Rules Guy". What say you?

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

Providing the chosen stroke was the reasonable option in the circumstances then the player was entitled to take relief from the sprinkler. The Exception to Rule 24-2 states;
A player may not take relief under this Rule if (a) interference by anything other than an immovable obstruction makes the stroke clearly impracticable or (b) interference by an immovable obstruction would occur only through use of a clearly unreasonable stroke or an unnecessarily abnormal stance, swing or direction of play.

Barry

Anonymous said...

Barry, need your advice. A situation today on course, my ball ended up in a rabbit hole in some trees. I had an unobstructed swing if I had hit from the hole, however I was instructed to take relief 6 inches from the rabbit hole by playing partner. In this position my swing was obstructed by a branch off a tree, I hit ball regardless. I thought I should have had relief of 1 club length no nearer the hole, if I dropped 1 club length and still was obstructed by branches can you go further until you have an unobstructed swing, bare in mind my ball was in rabbit hole and my stance and swing was nounobstructed. Please advise.

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

First, you could have played your ball as it lay in the rabbit hole.

Second, the instruction from your fellow competitor to take relief within 6 inches, may have been because a Local Rule for winter conditions was in operation, permitting relief within 6 inches of where the ball was at rest through the green.

Third, you could have taken relief from the rabbit hole as an abnormal ground condition, Rule 25-1. Determine the nearest point of relief and drop within one club-length, not nearer the hole.

However, there is no relief from a branch of a tree that interferes with you lie, stance or area of intended swing.

I recommend that you scroll to just below the top right corner of my blog home page to the 'Search This Blog' box and enter nearest point of relief. This will give you several results linking to my blogs on this important subject.

Barry


Barry

Anonymous said...

Hello,
I know that in determining the nearest point of relief, the player should use the club that would be used if no obstruction were present. But if a players uses a driver to determine the nearest point of relief, and then uses a 9 iron to play the shot, is there a penalty

thx

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

Not if the place that the player played their 9-iron from was within the area permitted by the Rules. Remember, club-lengths do not have to be measured (see my blog of 28th October 2010).

So, if a player used their driver to determine the NPR and another driver length from there, and then drops their ball at the outside of that limit, they would incur a penalty for playing from the wrong place. But if they drop well within that one club-length area, not nearer the hole, no penalty would be incurred.

Just to clarify, the club which the player intends to use for their next stroke should be the club that they use to find the nearest point of relief, but they can then use any club in their bag to measure the permitted area of one club-length from that point.

Barry

Anonymous said...

Yes, the player used Driver to determine NPR then used Driver again to measure one club length for the drop area... Whether or not the ball was played within what would have been the actual allowable distance is now questionable.
What would the ruling be at the scoring table in this circumstance?

thx

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

If the marker refused to sign the player's score card, because they thought that the drop was outside the permitted limit, the Committee would have to gather all the evidence and then make their ruling. However, if the marker did not point out that the drop may not have been valid before the player made their next stroke, in my opinion, the Committee should accept the score without any penalty.

Barry

Anonymous said...

They did accept it,,, and there was never an issue at the scoring table or otherwise... As a spectator I was just curious about the rule because the rules book says "should" use intended club and not "must" use. Anyway, it appears that the key to the issue is not the method of measurement specifically, but rather that the drop is in actuality within the range of the club actually used and one other club if I'm understanding you correctly.

thx again,

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

Exactly!

If you have further questions on the Rules in future please feel free to email me directly at rules at barryrhodes dot com.

Barry

Anonymous said...

Barry,
Hi, you might adjuicate on this question on the NPR wrt Rule 25.3 that occured yesterday during our Sunday medal.

My drive on the 4th hole landed on the 8th green.
I determined the NPR to be immediately off the green (i.e. 2 inches). This meant that my stance would still be on the wrong green should the ball remain near the NPR when dropped.
My playing partner was of the opinion that I must take full relief from the green and the NPR must be determined with my stance off the green.

The card was and NR so no crime was committed in any event.

Please advise,
Des Rushe, Athlone GC

Barry Rhodes said...

Des,

Your playing partner was correct. The nearest point of relief is at the nearest point where no interference by the wrong putting green exists to the intended stroke, therefore the stance must be included in determining this point. However, the probable cause of your confusion is that in the case of a wrong putting green (or water hazard), if the dropped ball rolls to a point where it is clear of the green, but the player's intended stroke means that they will be standing on the green, the ball is in play and they must make their stroke from there. This is not the case when taking relief from an immovable ground condition or abnormal ground condition, which requires that full relief, including stance, is taken. Confusing isn't it?

Barry

Anonymous said...

Barry,
Hi, thanks for the clarification. Confusing it is.... 'Interference to a players stance or the area of his intended swing is not, of itself, interference under the Rule'. My logic was if it is not interference then I am not entitled to relief and the purpose of the rule appears to be to protect the green from divot marks rather than spike marks.
The worst part is conceding gloating rights to my playing partner.
DR.

Anonymous said...

Hi. On our course we have a gravel filled drain running alongside the left hand side of the 16th fairway.
It is very narrow,only 8 inches wide.
Is it permissible to determine the nearest point of relief by taking your stance on one side of the ditch with the ball on the other side(ie the drain is between the player and his ball)?

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

Yes, depending on the direction of play that will be the correct way to determine the nearest point of relief, because there is no relief for mental interference from immovable obstructions. Remember that the player then has up to one club-length in which to drop their ball, not nearer the hole.

Barry