Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Drop Within One or Two Club-lengths?

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Here is a good question that I received from a fellow countryman this week;
“Is there an easy way to remember when one club-length or two club-lengths are allowed when dropping the ball?”
And here is my short, easy to remember, answer;
“When you take free relief under the Rules, e.g. from an immovable obstruction, casual water, GUR, wrong putting green, or a staked tee (when there is a Local Rule), you must drop within one club-length of the nearest point of relief, not nearer the hole.

Whereas, when you are taking a penalty drop, e.g. from a lie you deem unplayable, or a lateral water hazard, then you are permitted to drop anywhere within two club-lengths of where the ball was at rest, for an unplayable lie, or from where the ball last crossed the margin of a lateral water hazard, not nearer the hole."
The above covers most of the instances that golfers will come across, but for accuracy here is a listing of references to club-lengths in the Rules of Golf:

One club-length
  • Rule 20-3b: Except in a hazard, if the original lie of a ball to be placed or replaced has been altered the ball must be placed in the nearest lie most similar to the original lie that is not more than one club-length from the original lie, not nearer the hole and not in a hazard.
  • Rule 24-2b: Nearest point of relief from immovable obstructions.
  • Rule 25-1b: Nearest point of relief from abnormal ground conditions
  • Appendix l, Part B, 2b, lll (a): Nearest point of relief from environmentally-sensitive areas.
Note: In each of the three above situations the player must lift the ball and drop it, without penalty, within one club-length of and not nearer the hole than the nearest point of relief.
  • Rule 25-3b: If a player’s ball lies on a wrong putting green, he must take relief, without penalty by lifting the ball and dropping it within one club-length of and not nearer the hole than the nearest point of relief.
Two club-lengths
  • Definition of teeing ground: The teeing ground is a rectangular area two club-lengths in depth.
  • Rule 20-2c(vi): A drop is invalid and the ball must be dropped again if it rolls and comes to rest more than two club-lengths from where it first struck a part of the course.
  • Rule 26-1c: In taking relief from a lateral water hazard, under penalty of one stroke, the player may drop a ball outside the water hazard within two club-lengths of and not nearer the hole than (i) the point where the original ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard or (ii) a point on the opposite margin of the water hazard equidistant from the hole.
  • Rule 28c: One of the options for an unplayable ball, under penalty of one stroke, is to drop a ball within two club-lengths of the spot where the ball lay, but not nearer the hole.
  • Appendix l, Part A, 5.d: A Local Rule may give relief without penalty from the intervention of immovable obstructions (e.g. sprinklers) on or within two club-lengths of putting green, when the ball lies within two club-lengths of the immovable obstruction.
So, how long is a club-length? The answer is that it can be the length of the longest club that you are carrying in your bag, which typically is a driver. However, there is nothing in the Rules that says that you must use the club to accurately measure the distance. Providing it is obvious that you have dropped the ball within the required area, the drop is valid and the ball is in play if it comes to rest within two club-lengths of where it first hit the course, not nearer the hole than where it was originally at rest. If you do carry a long-handled putter in your bag there is nothing in the Rules that specifically prohibits using it to measure club-lengths, but I urge you not to do so, as it is very much against the spirit of the game. To my knowledge no professional on the major tours has ever used a long-handled putter for measuring in competition play.

Good golfing,

Barry Rhodes

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38 comments:

Vince Spence said...

Thanks, Barry. A great refresher course.

Will you refresh my memory by telling me the occasions where I must use the club I am going to use next for the measurement versus any club in the bag? Thank God it doesn't happen often, because my brain turns to porridge

Barry Rhodes said...

Vince,

Whenever the Rules permit a player to take relief from the nearest point of relief they should use the club with which they would have made their next stroke if the condition were not there to simulate the address position, direction of play and swing for such a stroke.

Note that the word used in the Definition of 'nearest point of relief' in this respect is "should", not "must". However,like not using a long-handled putter for measuring club-lengths, it is something that all golfers should strictly adhere to.

Barry

Lawrie said...

Hi Barry, good article once again.

I often find players are under the misunderstanding that the club they intend to use to play their next shot is the club they should use to determine the one club length from the nearest point of relief. As we know this club should be used to determine the nearest point of relief, but may also be used to determine the one club length (no compulsion to use it though).

A lot of players also think they need to use this club to actually play the shot once the ball is back in play after the drop when any club may actually be selected.

Barry Rhodes said...

Lawrie,

Thanks, Your last point is important. Though you should use the club that you intend to play with when you determine the nearest point of relief, when you have dropped the ball it may come to rest in a position that requires a totally different shot. So you may then change the club for a more suitable one.

Barry

OKHC said...

Hi Barry, I'm interested in the picture that shows the clubs being used to measure a distance: they aren't horizontal. Most distance measurements in golf are horizontal. Is there a reference in the rules saying so? Generally, it should be to a player's advantage to measure horizontally.

Barry Rhodes said...

OKHC,

In measuring club-lengths when the ball lies on the ground it is not permitted to measure horizontally across different levels. Therefore, in the circumstances of the drawing you may either measure a) along the ground on the top level, down the wall and along the ground at the lower level, or b) directly over the top of the wall (as illustrated).

If a ball lies off the ground (e.g in a tree) then you may measure the club-lengths from the point on the ground immediately below the place where the ball lay in the tree.

Barry

Anonymous said...

Hi Barry. Re rule 20-2c(vi): If the drop is on a slope adjacent to the hazard where the ball simply will not stay within 2 club-lengths when dropped, does the rule provide that after 3 "invalid" drops, the ball then may be placed within 2 club-lengths of the point where the ball crossed the hazard line? Thanks.

Barry Rhodes said...

If the ball rolls more than two club-lengths from where it touches the course (or any of the other invalid places that it might roll to as listed in Rule 20-2c) then the player must re-drop the ball. If it again rolls to an invalid place it must be placed as near as possible to the spot where it first struck a part of the course when re-dropped.

In other words the player must place the ball after two drops that do not satisfy the requirements of the Rule and not three.

Barry

Anonymous said...

Rule 20-2c(vi) if the ball is dropped within two club-lengths and rolls out less than two club-lengths, now the ball is 3 1/2 club-lengths from the nearest point of relief

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

I am not sure what point you are making here but what you write cannot happen. When a player is taking 'nearest point of relief' they have to drop within one club-length (not two) and so the furthest that the ball can roll to is nearly three club-lengths from the nearest point of relief. Dropping within two club-lengths is one of the options (under penalty of one stroke) for a ball unplayable, or relief from a lateral water hazard. In both these cases it is indeed possible for a ball to roll three and a half club-lengths from where the ball was at rest (ball unplayable) or from the margin of the hazard (relief from lateral water hazard).

Barry

Anonymous said...

HI Barry, I'm confused! When dropping the ball, whether 1 club length or 2, are you saying that if the ball first hits the ground within the prescribed distance ( either 1 or 2 club lengths, depending upon the circumstances), the ball may roll outside this drop area so that it is further onto the course, for another distance equal to the original 1 or 2 club lengths allowed? I think some pictures or diagrams would be beneficial.

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

Yes, that is correct. Part of Rule 20-2c states;
A dropped ball must be re-dropped, without penalty, if it:
....(vi) rolls and comes to rest more than two club-lengths from where it first struck a part of the course; or
(vii) rolls and comes to rest nearer the hole...


Barry

Anonymous said...

Please can you tell me if an unplayable ball is dropped within the 2 clubs lengths and rolls outside of this distance, can the player then play his ball from that position or must it always be placed and then played within the original 2 club lengths?

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

Yes, the ball can roll up to two club-lengths from where it first touches part of the course after being dropped, not nearer the hole and providing it does not roll into any of the other places listed in Rule 20-2c.

Barry

Anonymous said...

Just to clarify this, does this in fact mean that the ball could possibly land up to a FURTHER 2 club lengths and therefore now be up to 4 club lengths away from the original part it first touched the course. Can the player then play inside this 4 club length position?

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

Yes if the ball was dropped right at the limit of the permitted two club-lengths relief and it happened to roll two club-lengths further from that point, not nearer the hole, then obviously it would be almost four club-lengths from where it originally was at rest. The player must play the ball from here unless the drop contravened any of the exceptions in Rule 20-2c.

Barry

Anonymous said...

Thanks Barry
This does seem a very generous ruling to a "2" club length drop, especially if the ball is deliberately dropped right at the limit and then rolls to an even more advantageous playing position.

Anonymous said...

Hello Barry
Wow, I also thought that the 2 club length drop meant exactly that, only 2 clubs and then the ball had to be placed after two attempts within that distance, not up to 4 club lengths! This rule opens itself to cheating albeit allowed, don't you think?

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

There has to be some allowance for the ball rolling, otherwise players would be permitted to place their ball after the second drop on the majority of occasions. I am sure that you will agree that in most cases it is difficult to get the ball to move in the direction that you would like. Just as often it rolls into an unfavourable lie. Although the ball may come to rest up to four club-lengths from its original position this would be exceptional. Usually, the player will drop well within the two club-lengths permitted and the ball will only roll a few inches.

Barry

Anonymous said...

Hi barry,
the committe has designated rare heather surrounding tee boxes as environmentally sensitive areas warranting a free drop within one club length.
Does rule 20-2c(vi) 'invalid drop' apply to a drop within one club length without penalty?

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

Yes, all of the provisions of Rule 20-2c apply to a ball that is dropped under the Rules.

The Local Rule seems very prohibitive, if it reads as you say. I would recommend that it should be changed to one club-length from the nearest point of relief, not nearer the hole, so as to ensure that there is room to drop without the environmentally sensitive area interfering with the player's stance or area of swing.

Barry

Anonymous said...

The rule re: dropping to avoid the heather does state avoiding interference with intended stance or swing however, the committee have set a local rule stipulating that that the ball is to be dropped once even if it roles much further than two club lengths so long as it is not nearer the hole. I presume they have the authority to do this under the Local Rules conditions in Appendix 1?

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

This sounds to me that it might breach Rule 33-8b, but I would need to see the actual wording of the Local Rule. You can email me direct at rules at barryrhodes dot com.

Barry

Anonymous said...

i have been playing golf for only 5 months if that and i go with friends who have been playing for years am only 20 my friends are 40+ anyway i was playing a round with a friend and i was playing really will and you could see he was getting really annoyed but he wernt showing it. we come to the 18 hole and he was leading by 2 strokes. so we tee of and i just fall short of the green he tees of and lands in a bunker just to the left of the green. it had been raining that morning so the bunker had a puddle in it but his ball was not in the water he clames he is aloud a free drop out of the bunker as it had a puddle in it. so i played my shot ended up a foot away from the hole easy shoot so i would do it in 3 for par. it comes to his shot he ends up playing a bad shoot and back in the bunker so he says its another free drop witch i dont think is right i did get par and he finished on one over put that was with to free drops witch i dont think is right or far as he bets me by 1 stroke with those 2 free drops. where does the rules stand on that barry

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

It sounds as though you were playing with a very bad loser. If a player's ball is lying in casual water in a bunker, or if their stance is in casual water, then one of the options they have is to drop a ball out of the bunker on an extension of a line from the hole through where the ball lay in the water in the bunker for a penalty of one stroke, Rule 25-1b(ii)(b).

I calculate that with the two penalties that he incurred (more if he did not drop in the correct place on both occasions) you won by at least one stroke.

Barry

Anonymous said...

Barry, my nephew, who is playing on a high school team, said that when dropping, you can use any club, even a team mates club. I said you have to use a club in your own bag but I can't find the rule that defines this. Help?

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

You are both right, and maybe wrong! Part of Decision 20/2 states;

If he borrows a club and drops a ball and plays it, he incurs no penalty provided that the same outcome could have been achieved with one of the player’s own clubs selected for the round. If he could not have achieved the same outcome by measuring with one of his own clubs, he incurs the penalty under the applicable Rule for playing from a wrong place.

Barry

Anonymous said...

Barry, thanks for the quick reply. I am looking at the USGA 2010-2011 Rules of Golf book and can't find the wording under 20-2. Where else can I look, I need hard proof for him.

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

I referenced Decision 20/2, not Rule 20-2. Here is the link.

I strongly recommend that anyone with an interest in the Rules of Golf purchase a copy of Decisions on the Rules of Golf, jointly published by USGA & R & A. This book will provide the answers to many of your questions and is a much easier read than the Rules book. I provided a link on today's blog (28th November, 2012) BarryRhodes.com

Barry

Anonymous said...

Thanks Barry, that is very helpful.

Barry Rhodes said...

Apologies, the above link does not work. Just go to the blog archive at top right of my home page; select 2011, November; Two Golf Books for Christmas.

Barry

Anonymous said...

As per the rules a golf club (except for the putter) must be between 18" to 48" long. Thus would it be prudent to use a putter(long)!? for measuring club length since it is the only club in the bag which is of non-conforming length....I don't think that any referee would permit use of a long putter to measure club length ...

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

The Rules of Golf do not prohibit a long-handled putter from being used to measure club-lengths and a referee should permit a player to use one. However, I and many others, discourage this practice, as a matter of poor etiquette, though I am aware that there are some that disagree with this view.

It's a bit like cleaning a ball on the surface of the putting green or using the toe of your putter to mark a ball; there is no penalty, but they are bad practices, which should be discouraged.

Barry

JSM051685 said...

Can you take more than one relief if you had a lateral water hazard but a cart path interfere with your relief, can you take more than one relief? or MUST you take the shot from where you recently were?

Barry Rhodes said...

JSM,

The correct procedure is to take relief from the lateral water hazard (e.g. within two club-lengths of where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard) and then, if the ball comes to rest where there is interference from the cart path, take relief from that immovable obstruction (e.g. within one club-length of the nearest point of relief, not nearer the hole).

Barry

Jim said...

Hi Barry
A situation came about this week when a playing companion had a free drop from a cart path, he dropped the ball to the nearest point of relief but the ball bounced back onto the cart path and proceeded to roll away down the path away from the green, it could have run for fifty or so yards down the path, he stopped the ball and re dropped it from the original place of dropping it and went on to make a four. should he be penalized ?
Regards
Jim

Barry Rhodes said...

Jim,

In most cases the player should wait until the ball comes to rest, in case it rolls back into the permitted area. However, in the circumstance that you describe, where it is clear that the ball will definitely come to rest outside the permitted two club-lengths from where it first hit the course after the drop, the player is entitled to stop it, so as not to unduly delay play.

Regards,

Barry

John Falconer said...

Hi. I was just fascinated by your comments above. Great stuff.

Last week on the European Tour playing in Malaysia a player thought he took an incorrect two club relief in the second round. He didn't fully realise this until he finished all four rounds and won Euros5,000.

He realised his error without being told by his playing partners, match officials, spectators or tv viewers.

He then took his problem to the match referee and the final outcome was that he was quite properly penalised for the error and signing an incorrect card. This meant his half way score was was below the cut line and he ought not to have played on the weekend. He gave back the money and he goes into the records as "missed cut".

I am not sure if I got the story exactly right but that is not the point. He was worried that he did something wrong that no one else had seen but he still "turned himself in"!

Isn't golf a grand game!