Monday, 23 March 2009

Rule 28, Ball Unplayable

Rule 28 is one of the shortest Rules in the book but is one that every golfer should take the time to study and fully understand, as sooner or later you will find your ball in an unplayable lie.

Because it is so short I am going to copy it here, in full, highlighting some salient points;

The player may deem his ball unplayable at any place on the course, except when the ball is in a water hazard. The player is the sole judge as to whether his ball is unplayable.

If the player deems his ball to be unplayable, he must, under penalty of one stroke:

a. Play a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played (see Rule 20-5); or

b. Drop a ball behind the point where the ball lay, keeping that point directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind that point the ball may be dropped; or

c. Drop a ball within two club-lengths of the spot where the ball lay, but not nearer the hole.

If the unplayable ball is in a bunker, the player may proceed under Clause a, b or c. If he elects to proceed under Clause b or c, a ball must be dropped in the bunker.

When proceeding under this Rule, the player may lift and clean his ball or substitute a ball.

Penalty for Breach of Rule:
Match play - Loss of hole; Stroke play - Two strokes.


To assist you to understand the relief options that are available I have prepared a short video explaining them. I think that most golfers will find that it is easier to follow this visual presentation than the formal wording of the Rule.

video

You will have noted that the player is the sole judge as to whether his ball is unplayable. Well, a consequence of this is that if you don’t fancy your next shot you can always take the ball back to where you last played, for a penalty stroke. Let me illustrate this with my favourite situation. You have a downhill putt and you stroke the ball too hard, so that it rolls right off the putting green and into a bad lie in a green side bunker. You are now perfectly within your rights to declare your ball unplayable, pick your ball out of the bunker, replace it on the putting green at the spot where you played from and take another putt, under penalty of one stroke, of course. I’m sure that some of your golf buddies may doubt that you can do this but they would be wrong. Refer them to Rule 28a above.

It is true that you can improve your scores by knowing the Rules.

Barry Rhodes

P.S. If this article has helped you to understand the Rules better then why not subscribe to an RSS feed, or email delivery, notifying you as soon as I post a new blog entry. Of course it’s a free service and you can unsubscribe whenever you want. Go to the top right of the home page to see the options.

45 comments:

Anne Butler said...

Unsure about the example of the putt that rolls into the bunker. It was previously stated that if the ball is unplayable in a bunker the ball may be dropped under penalty but it must be dropped in the bunker. So if the over hit putt is unplayable in the bunker surely it must be dropped in the bunker? It is the same as a chip that lands in the bunker?

Barry Rhodes said...

Anne,

I can assure you that I am correct. Check out option a) of rule 28, which does not require that the ball is dropped in the bunker, whether the ball is played from the putting green or anywhere else on the course, except another bunker.

Barry

Anne Butler said...

Thanks Barry - I now understand. I was missing the option of taking the ball back from where it was originally played from at a one shot penalty. So to clear this up - if I drove the ball into a bunker and declared the ball unplayable (there is another debate to be had as to what is deemed unplayable(!)) - but that aside - having declared an unplayable ball I could take it back to the tee and play again. One last point - if I did this - would I be allowed to tee the ball up again or would I have to play it off the ground?

Barry Rhodes said...

Anne,

First, let me clarify that there is no 'debate' about what is deemed to be unplayable. It is the player's decision and if they deem their ball to be unplayable, it is!

To answer your question, whenever a player goes back to the teeing ground to play a stroke according to the Rules, they may play from anywhere in the teeing ground and may choose to tee their ball, or not.

Barry

Anne Butler said...

Brilliant Barry - thanks. I really appreciate your time on this one. Your explanations have already helped on my last two rounds! FORE!

Charlie Bent said...

Hi Barry,My golf course has natural bush called"fynbos" and we have this type of bush on every hole on both sides through the green and behind the greens too. where rule 28 cannot be used. esp dropping within within 2 club lengths,which would end up being closer to the green.In order to make it practical, behind these holes we have incorporated drop zones as a local rule.Are we entitled to use a local rule,or are we possibly in breach of a rule of golf by using drop zones

Barry Rhodes said...

Charlie,

A Committee is only permitted to establish special areas on which balls may or must be dropped when it is not feasible or practicable to proceed exactly in conformity with Rule 28, Ball Unplayable. Whether such dropping zones may be introduced in the circumstance that you describe depends on the location and size of the bushes. The Committee must take into account that there are three options when a player deems their ball unplayable, not just the two club-lengths option. I recommend that the Committee seeks authorisation for the establishment of the dropping zones from your national golfing body, explaining why they consider that the "fynbos" bushes qualify as local abnormal conditions, which interfere with the proper playing of the game, as required by Rule 33-8.

Barry

Tony Ransley said...

Barry, you see professionals on TV query the position of a dropped ball based on their ability to secure a good stance with the ball in the newly dropped position. If they do not have a good stance, I have seen referees give them further relief. Is this a rule that applies only to professionals or can amateurs deem their stance unsuitable and take further relief to a point where they feel they can play the ball? Or have I just got this horribly wrong?

Barry Rhodes said...

Tony,

Yes, I think you have this wrong! First, the Rules of Golf are exactly the same for amateur golfers, as for professional golfers (though some Conditions of Competition may vary - see my blog on this subject).

A referee, or Rules official, would certainly not accede to a request from a player to drop their ball again because they did not like their stance. If a ball has been dropped correctly under the Rules it is in play and cannot be lifted again without incurring a penalty. There are many reasons why a player must re-drop their ball (see Rule 20-2c), e.g. it rolls nearer the hole, it rolls more than two club-lengths, it rolls to a place where there is still interference from the condition from which relief was being taken.

Barry

Tony Ransley said...

Hi Barr,

thank you for that. I have 2 challenges both related to the inclement weather we have been having... one at my own course where we have a gravel path that gets washed away and hence the area around where the path was becomes undefined firstly will you get relief from the now redistributed path and if so how in that situation do you find the nearest point of relief?

Tony Ransley said...

Barry
a rules challenge I faced relates to a situation where a lake floods outside the boundaries defined by the red stakes, if the ball lands in the now enlarged lake is visible but lies outside the boundary of the stake can the player claim relief as per abnormal ground conditions? If so how far can he move away from those conditions before taking a drop?

Thanks for any clarification you can give.

For your reference the player in questioned deemed the ball to be in the hazard and bravely took a penalty and dropped the ball within 2 club lengths of the edge of the newly formed lake. I felt he could have claimed relief under the abnormal condition ruling... who was right?

Barry Rhodes said...

Tony,

There is no relief if the ball lies outside of the area that was originally cosnstructed as an artificial path. However, the stray bits of gravel are loose impediments and may be removed by the player before they make their stroke. The player must be careful not to cause their ball to move while doing so, or they will incur a penalty under Rule 18-2a.

Barry

Barry Rhodes said...

Tony,

Any water that has overflowed from a water hazard and is outside the margin of the hazard is casual water and the player may take relief, without penalty (Rule 25-1). The player has to determine the nearest point to where the ball lies where the is no interference from the casual water and is not nearer the hole. They must then drop the ball within one club-length of this point not nearer the hole.

In dropping a ball within two club-lengths of the edge of the overflowing water the player may have incurred a penalty of two strokes for playing from the wrong place!

Barry

Tony Ransley said...

Barry, this leads me to a final question if someone plays the ball from the wrong place in match play it is loss of hole Rule 11-4b. How does this effect procedures when you are playing four ball, is just the offending player taken out of the hole or does the team loose the hole?

Barry Rhodes said...

Tony,

Rule 30-3c: If a player incurs the loss of hole penalty under Rule 15-3a for making a stroke at a wrong ball, he is disqualified for that hole, but his partner incurs no penalty even if the wrong ball belongs to him. If the wrong ball belongs to another player, its owner must place a ball on the spot from which the wrong ball was first played.

Barry

Barry Rhodes said...

Tony,

My apologies, your question was 'wrong place' and not 'wrong ball'. The answer is the same, only the player who incurred the penalty is disqualified from the hole.

Barry

Fiona Johnston said...

I am new to this forum. If the ball overshoots the green and comes to lie under a bush. Relief of two club lengths will only bring the ball closer to the pin (in either direction), leaving aside the obvious option of playing from the place of the last shot, what would be the ruling if by going back, not closer to the pin keeping the point of entry in a straight line between the pin and the drop place, yet this would be in a river (Out of Bounds) - is it an option to drop on the other side of the bush? i.e. further from the pin as a greater overshoot? The point of entry would between the pin and ball and the next shot would be played 'back to the green... Many thanks Fiona

Barry Rhodes said...

Fiona,

Rule 28 makes it clear that there are only three options for a ball that a player deems unplayable. I am not sure that you have correctly interpreted the second option, Rule 28 b.;

Drop a ball behind the point where the ball lay, keeping that point directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind that point the ball may be dropped

So, yes the ball may be dropped behind the bush, but only on a line from the hole through where the ball came to rest in the bush, not where it entered. This option permits that the ball may be dropped inside the margin of a water hazard (e.g. on the bank).

Barry

Tony Scott said...

What's correct in this situation Barry?
I hit my tee shot into the rough and recognising that I may not find it, play a provisional.

I then find my original ball in deep rough and deem it unplayable.

Dropping within 2 club lengths gives me no help as I'd still be in deep rough and line between ball and hole would take me out of bounds, so, do I a)use my provisional ball and play my second shot, or b)pick up my provisional ball and return to the tee to play my second shot.

Barry Rhodes said...

Tony,

As soon as you find your original ball in bounds within 5 minutes of beginning search for it you must abandon your provisional ball. So, in the circumstance that you describe, where the Rule 28b and 28c options are unfavourable, you have to return to the teeing ground, where you will be playing your 3rd stroke (including the penalty for deeming your ball unplayable).

Barry

Unknown said...

Hi Barry,

I have declared a ball unplayable which was under a bush then taken a drop within two club lengths away from the pin. Ball rolled back to rest under the bush again.

What to do take one more penalty drop?

Cheers

Issac

Barry Rhodes said...

Isaac,

The ball was in play when it was dropped, Rule 20-4. So, if the ball came to rest in the original position, or another unplayable position, the player must again invoke the unplayable ball Rule, incurring an additional penalty stroke, unless they decide to play the ball as it lies.

Barry

Brad said...

Barry,

Just inquisitive about the rule about unplyable in a bunker, if you deem it unplayable in the bunker and you choose to proceed under option c of two club lengths, will you be allowed to ground your club while measuring this as well as marking the spot in the bunker with tees?

Thanks

Barry Rhodes said...

Brad,

You may certainly lay your club in a bunker to measure, Exception 1b to Rule 13-4. However, in my opinion, a player should not stick a tee into the sand, as Decision 13-4/0.5 prohibits a player from intentionally sticking an object into the sand. In any case there is no need to do it, as placing any object on the sand to mark the permitted drop limits is permissible.

Barry

Unknown said...

Barry
Must you fund your ball to declare it unplayable , our course has some long grass in a few holes and players have declared it unplayable without actually finding the ball and taking the two club length drop. What us the proper ruling? My interpretation is the ball is not found so it is a lost ball and you must take strike amd distance from where you played your last shot. These areas are neither yellow or red stakes

Barry Rhodes said...

Unknown,

You are correct. Logically, how can a player drop within two club-lengths if they cannot find the ball? In fact, not only must the ball be found to be deemed unplayable, it must be positively identified. So if there is a Titleist ball lodged high in a tree the player may not assume that it is their ball, because they are playing with a Titleist, they must be able to identify that it is their ball by reference to their personal markings, or some other distinguishing feature.

Barry

Margie Happell said...

Barry , when a player seems a ball unplayable do they have to declare this by words to their marker before they take their 2nd shot off the tee?
Is it good enough to say " in case my ball is unplayable I am having a second shot off the tee"

Barry Rhodes said...

Margie,

You are confusing an unplayable ball with a provisional ball. You cannot deem a ball unplayable until you find and identify it, but you may play a provisional ball if you think that the original ball may be lost or out of bounds. I strongly recommend that you view my short videos on these two subjects at www.RhodesRulesSchool.com/videos.

BTW if you do play a second ball from the teeing ground, because you think the first may be lost or out of bounds, you are playing your 3rd stroke.

Barry

Margie Happell said...

Thanks for clarifying this Barry I took this view at the time . I believed the player who approached this situation was confused as you describe. I was not her marker and her marker was not sure what was the correct way to approach this. Could I say anything if I am not her marker?

Barry Rhodes said...

Margie,

Yes, anyone, including spectators, may give information on the Rules of Golf to a player and it is recommended that they dos so, to prevent a breach occurring.

Barry

Anonymous said...

Barry,
Theoretical of course but here it is. Ball hit over the green into bushes. 2 club lengths will be nearer the hole. OB behind bushes so cannot drop there. Way the rule is stated "b. Drop a ball behind the point where the ball lay, keeping that point directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind that point the ball may be dropped;". The "no limit" could be interpreted as circumnavigating the globe. So now playing from in front of the green equidistant or greater from when yo entered the bushes. Hmm...

Unknown said...

Barry,

Let's say my ball is plugged in the lip of the bunker and I decide to take an unplayable lie. The face if 10 feet high so any drop within 2 club lengths is going to roll down to the bottom of the bunker 15 feet away. On an unplayable lie is the ball in play as soon as it is dropped within 2 club lengths so i would play my next one 15 fet away from my drop? What about if there was a situation where one took an unplayable and the ball rolled into a water hazard or OB is there ever a redrop for an unplayable lie.

John

Barry Rhodes said...

John,

In the highly unlikely circumstances that you describe, where two driver lengths measured down the slope from where the ball is plugged in the bunker, still does not reach the ground of the bunker, the player would be well advised to take option b) of Rule 28 by dropping a ball in the bunker behind the point where the ball lay, keeping that point directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, giving them plenty of room to clear the bunker with their next stroke.

If a ball that was at rest outside of a water hazard is dropped under the Rules and rolls into a water hazard, or rolls out of bounds, the ball must be re-dropped, see Rule 20-2c.

If a ball that is deemed unplayable is dropped under the first option of Rule 28 and it rolls back into a position that the player deems is still unplayable, they will incur another penalty stroke if they choose to take relief again.

Barry

Unknown said...

Thanks Barry. What if my ball is in a bush on the side of a steep hill. I deem it unplayable and decide to drop within two club lengths. The ball, after being dropped within the two club lengths, rolls down the hill all the way back to the fairway. Would I drop again and then eventually place it at the point of contact with the ground or would I play it from the fairway?

Barry Rhodes said...

Unknown (John again?)

As with any other drop made under the Rules, if a ball rolls more than two clublengths from where it first hits the course it must be re-dropped, Rule 20-2c(vi).

I recommend that you use the search box on every one of my blog pages when you have a Rules question. I have covered most subjects in my 8 years of blogs on the Rules of Golf, or better still, purchase my '999 Questions on the Rules' books!.

Barry

Anonymous said...

Hi
I played my ball over the green into a fresh pile of grass cuttings in the semi rough, now right behind the semi rough are thick bushes, can i in this case drop my ball in front of the pile that is then fairway, without penalty.

Thanks

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

First, there is no relief without penalty from grass cuttings, unless they have obviously been piled for later removal by the greenkeeping staff. Second, if relief is available, it is within one club-length of the nearest point of relief, not nearer the hole. If the bush interferes with this drop that is too bad, the relief is from the nearest point not the nicest point. It may be better for the player to clear the grass cuttings around where their ball lies, taking care not to cause their ball to move, and then play the ball from on the remainder of the cuttings,

Barry

Anonymous said...

Hi Barry,

Just a question about unplayable lies and bunkers. If a player makes a stroke at a ball in a bunker, doesn't get out, and then decides to declare his ball now unplayable, is it correct that he has to drop in the bunker and has no way of now getting out of the bunker by way of drop ?
I have a very vague recollection of reading somewhere that for an additional stroke (ie making a total of two penalty shots) he can go back to where he played the original shot that first entered the bunker ? It doesn't sound right to me, but I have a nagging feeling I've read something along those lines somewhere and just thought I'd check !

Thanks in advance !

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

There is no regression for a ball that is unplable in a bunker. Under Rule 28a, the player would be entitled to drop a ball only at the place from which he played his last stroke, which was in the bunker. The only regression permitted by the Rules is from a water hazard, under Rule 26-2.

Barry

Heinz Rohleder said...

The ball just rolls into the bunker with no chance to drop the ball NOT nearer to the hole inside the bunker - what to do?

Barry Rhodes said...

Heinz,

Play the ball as it lies, perhaps backwards, away from the hole, or take the third option available under Rule 28 of returning to where the ball was last played from under penalty of stroke and distance.

Barry

Heinz Rohleder said...

Thanks Barry
It was more a hypothetical question.
I just wanted to know if there is any case possible that after having to declare the ball unplayable in a bunker I could drop the ball nearer to the hole under rule 28 (b or c) - (in the bunker of course).
The only other possibility would be playing under rule 28a (going back to where the last shoot was taken from)

Barry Rhodes said...

Heinz,

It is obvious from a quick reading of Rule 28 (the shortest Rule in the Rules book) that the ball cannot be dropped in the bunker nearer the hole than where it was at rest. Hence my reply to your question, which you now say was hypothetical!

Barry

JimB said...

Q. If the only option with an unplayable ball is to go back to the last place a stroke was played, is that still true when the last place is nearer the hole than the unplayable position. (This could happen if your ball has hit something but rebounded to a place behind you that is unplayable!)

Barry Rhodes said...

Jim,

There is nothing in Rule 28a, or indeed Rule 27-1, that states a ball must not be played from a place nearer the hole when taking relief under these Rules. It is quite a common occurrence, e.g when a ball is thinned from a greenside bunker across the green and comes to rest somewhere a long way away.

Barry