Wednesday, 4 December 2013

When Complete Relief Need Not Be Taken

A dropped ball that comes to rest outside hazard margin is OK to play.

I covered the subject of taking complete relief in detail in an earlier blog (see this link). Basically, when a player is taking relief, without penalty, from an immovable obstruction (Rule 24-2), abnormal ground condition (Rule 25-1), or staked tree (Local Rule) they must re-drop their ball if, when having been dropped in compliance with the Rules, it comes to rest in a position where there is still interference from the condition that they were taking relief from. I think that you will agree that this is logical. For example, if a player is permitted to take relief from casual water it does not make sense that they should then be permitted to drop a ball in a favourable place where there is still interference from the same condition.

However, following two questions that I have received on the subject, I want to clarify that taking complete relief does not apply when taking relief under penalty from a water hazard. So, a player who has dropped a ball outside a water hazard may then take a stance, or part of a stance, within that hazard to play their ball, which has come to rest outside of the hazard. There is no Rules reference for this; it is one of those situations where because there is no Rule that prohibits it, it is permitted. Therefore, you will find the references to interference in Rules 24-2a Immovable Obstructions, and 25-1a, Abnormal Ground Conditions, but not in Rule 26-1, Relief for Ball in Water Hazard.

Fellow Competitors Do Not Have to Shout “Fore”
Although not really Rules of Golf related, I am sure that many readers will be interested in following a civil lawsuit in which an Essex County, New Jersey, USA, judge ruled that whilst the person making a stroke that resulted in a serious accident may have had an obligation to yell “fore,” his golfing buddies (fellow competitors?) did not. An interesting article on the ongoing case can be viewed at this link.

We will probably never know whether the stroke that resulted in severely damaging another player’s eye was a ‘mulligan', as reported, or a provisional ball correctly played under the Rules.

Good golfing,


Decisions on the Rules of Golf 2014-2015: The latest news is that Amazon has indicated that the R&A’s revised Decisions book will be released on 13th December. There is no new information on the USGA publication. Please click here to order your copy.

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MarkN said...

Hi Barry,
Thanks for this clarification.

What do the rules say about taking relief under penalty from a boundary fence. As I understand it, a boundary fence is not an immovable obstruction, so relief must be taken with penalty as an 'unplayable lie'?

I recently took a drop in this situation, but after the drop there was still some swing interference but I was able to get a swing off, so I did not re-drop.

Was this illegal?


Barry Rhodes said...


You are correct when you say that there is no relief, without penalty, from a boundary fence. In the circumstances that you describe you were correct to deem your ball unplayable and take a penalty drop, presumably choosing the option that permits dropping within two club-lengths of where your ball lay against the boundary fence. The complete relief option does not apply to penalty drops under Rule 28 - Ball Unplayable; you must play your ball from where it comes to rest, or deem it unplayable again for a second penalty stroke.


Unknown said...

Thanks Barry! I always use your rule info when I'm confused. So simple and to the point! Thanks!

Seamus K said...

Hi Barry,

At my course, on the par 4 6th hole, we have a lateral water hazard running the length of the fairway. It is along the left side, and in most parts has a slope of about 1-2 club lengths running back into the hazard. So the situation is, ball in hazard, taking the option of two club lengths relief. I have a few questions about what is legal and would appreciate advice;
1. If the ball runs back towards the hazard, but comes to rest where interference remains for one's stance, is it legal to drop again or are you then having to declare the ball unplayable if you don't want wet feet? Ball is on or just outside hazard margin, but feet would be in the hazard for a right handed player...
2. In order to avoid the ball running back into trouble, I have seen several players attempt to drop the ball close to the exact 2 club lengths limit - and if the ball drops just outside the limit they treat the drop as 'void' and try again. Is that an acceptable way to try ensure you get 'as much relief as you can'? Remember that for a right handed golfer, the hazard and the slope into the hazard cause issues with stance for up to two club lengths from the water itself (hazard margin caries somewhat).
3. More generally then is it permissable for one to try to drop the ball right on the limit of the drop zone limit when taking relief, free or otherwise? And just voiding the drop if it doesn't hit the ground floor inside the margin?

Thanks for all your hard work, enthusiasm for the game and help to us all

Barry Rhodes said...


1. Providing the dropped ball lies outside the hazard margin and meets the other requirement of Rule 20-2c (not nearer the hole, etc.) the player has to play their next stroke from where it lies, notwithstanding that part of their stance mey still be within the margin of the hazard.

2. Yes, a player is entitled to take the maximum amount of relief; if their ball hits the course just outside the permitted area it does not count as a drop and it must be dropped again.

3. Yes, as above.

I am wondering if the Committee has correctly defined the margins of the water hazard. See my blog on this subject dated 29 January 2011.