Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Stroke and Distance Penalty

In this week’s blog I want to emphasise a ‘get out of jail’ Rule that still seems to surprise many golfers; Rule 27-1a;
At any time, a player may, under penalty of one stroke, play a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played (see Rule 20-5), i.e., proceed under penalty of stroke and distance.

Except as otherwise provided in the Rules, if a player makes a stroke at a ball from the spot at which the original ball was last played, he is deemed to have proceeded under penalty of stroke and distance. 
I am going to highlight what I mean by ‘get out of jail free’ with three examples;
  • A player’s ball embeds in sand under the lip of a bunker. 
They do not have to hope for a miracle or take a penalty drop in the bunker, they may return to where they last played from, under penalty of stroke and distance.
  • A player strikes their ball from a bunker across the green into deep water in a water hazard.
Instead of dropping a ball on the far side of the water hazard to the putting green they may rake the bunker and drop a ball in it, at the point where it was at rest before the stroke was made and play again, under penalty of stroke and distance.
  • A player strikes their ball against a tree and it rebounds 70 yards farther from the hole than where it was played from, into deep rough.
They do not have to have to play the ball where it lies, or take penalty relief using that point as a reference, they can drop a ball where it was at rest before the stroke was made and play again, under penalty of stroke and distance.
Of course, there are two instances where golfers have no option but to incur the penalty of stroke and distance, which are when their ball is lost or is out of bounds. Many players feel that this is an unfair penalty and I am aware that some social golfers, when they are playing casual rather than competitive golf, permit the player to drop a ball on the course close to where they believe the ball was lost, or where it went out of bounds for a penalty. In fact, the Ruling Bodies have experimented with similar options over the years, as follows;

Out of Bounds:1920 Stroke and distance, but now the penalty stroke may be remitted by Local Rule.
1947 USGA and 1950 R&A Distance only, and no provision for change by a local rule.
1952 Stroke and distance.
1960 USGA experimentally changed to distance only.
1961 USGA back to stroke and distance. In addition, the USGA allowed an alternative procedure of stroke only - dropping a ball within two club lengths of where the ball went out of bounds on courses where the penalty of stroke and distance would be "unduly severe".
1964 USGA allowed a local rule to be adopted which allowed a stroke-only option if it was felt that stroke and distance would be "'unduly severe." The player could drop a ball within two club-lengths of where the original ball crossed the out of bounds line. Reasonable evidence was required both that the ball had gone out of bounds and as to the point of crossing. In the absence of either, stroke and distance was the only option.
1968 Rescinded.

Lost Ball:

1902 Stroke and distance, ball to be teed.
1920 Stroke and distance in both forms of play. Ball must now be dropped if not played from the tee.
1950 R&A changes penalty to distance only.
1952 Back to Stroke and distance.
1956 Ball may be declared lost by player. This option removed in 1964.
1960 USGA Distance only. Rescinded 1961.
1972 ball may be abandoned as lost without searching. Option Removed 1976.
(Reproduced from information on www.ruleshistory.com)

I am sure that I do not need to remind readers that if you think that a ball may be lost or may be out of bounds you should play a provisional ball, to save time and avoid the ‘walk of shame’ back to where you last played from.

Good golfing,


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The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2015 and may not be copied without permission.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the stroke and distance blog.
I have a question from it.
Ball played from tee goes into heavy rough. Likely to be very hard to find so I play provisional right up the middle.
I go forward and find original ball in rough. Decide to take stroke and distance option.
Do I have to return to tee or may I play provisional...and if not why not as to return to the tee will defeat the object of saving time by playing provisional?
Hope that makes sense.

Many thanks


Barry Rhodes said...


As soon as you found your original ball in play your provisional ball had to be abandoned. So if you deem your ball unplayable you have to go back and play a ball under penalty of stroke and distance. You may find my short video on 'Playing a Provisional Ball' useful at http://http://www.rhodesrulesschool.com/videos/ (scroll down)


tonyzed said...

I have another get out of jail. Putt from 6 inches on sloping green misses, and rolls all the way down and off the green into three putt territory. Might as well make use of stroke and distance back to 6 inches from the hole - and don't miss this time!

Barry Rhodes said...


Correct. I mentioned this option in my blog dated, 1st August 2013.


Unknown said...

On the get of jail on the green 6 Inches down hill
If ball rolls into a hazard can i used stroke and distance rule

Barry Rhodes said...



"At any time, a player may, under penalty of one stroke, play a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played."


Dick Laumann said...

I could have used that yesterday. I blasted my chip over the green into a ditch where I almost fell into the water! Next time I'll know better. It's like a do-over but with a penalty stroke.

Dr. Sudhir Ketkar said...

very comprehensive and illustrative description of the terms. Thanks Barry.

Anonymous said...

Barry, many tks,
What is the instruction for dropping.
"As nearly as possible" -so should we be dropping the ball on our previous divot mark? or is it within one or 2 club lengths of previous point of play.

Barry Rhodes said...


Rule 20-2b states;

When a ball is to be dropped as near as possible to a specific spot, it must be dropped not nearer the hole than the specific spot which, if it is not precisely known to the player, must be estimated.

Hopefully you will have already repaired your divot hole after you made the original stroke, if not, you are permitted to repair it before dropping your ball at that spot.


Unknown said...

Hi Barry,
my question is about the "Except as otherwise provided in the Rules..." part of the rule.

The situation:
I drove my ball into some thick trees, beyond water but still part of the lateral water hazard. We were not certain the ball was in the hazard as it could have cleared the hazard. Not liking any of the possibilities of where it may lie, I teed up and drove again without saying "provisional" and intending the second ball to be the one in play, invoking the "at any time" part of the stoke and distance rule.
A playing partner walked past the trees and found my ball in the hazard, causing a discussion about whether having been found it was the ball in play as it was in the water hazard.
I maintained my second ball was not a provisional and I had proceeded under stroke and distance, but it does raise the question on the precedence of rules given the "except as otherwise" part of the rule.
Just what are the exceptions provided in the rules?

Barry Rhodes said...


You were correct, the second ball played from the teeing ground was the ball in play, as it had not been announced as a provisional ball. The original ball was lost, as in c. in Definition of Lost Ball.

"Except as otherwise provided in the Rules" is not relevant to the situation that you describe. One situation where it would apply is in match play, when a player has played out of turn and their opponent requires them to cancel their stroke and play again from the same place when it is their turn.


Unknown said...

I am a Hi Handc "30" and I like this get out of jail rule. I need to know, do I have to find and locate my ball to use the rule. I hit my ball into tall high grass. I know it will take me 7 strokes to get out. I have not left the spot to go look for my ball. I just drop or re-tee and hit another under penalty of one stroke. Some are telling me I must find my ball before I can use Rule 27.1a. This could have saved me on my 16 on hole 9. Please inform, thanks.

Barry Rhodes said...


No you do not have to search for your original ball. As I copied from the Rule in the blog above,

"At any time, a player may, under penalty of one stroke, play a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played.


Unknown said...

If I choose to re-tee or just in general hit a shot over again because I don't like where I think my ball might be even though there is no evidence it might be lost, that first ball is abandoned once my club strikes the newly teed ball as long as it was not declared a provisional.

When I think a ball is lost, and I hit a provisional, I must use my original ball if I or one of my playing partners finds it even if I personally didn't look and would have preferred that my partners didn't look. But, again, if I do not declare it a provisional (even if by oversight), the second ball is in play as soon as my club strikes it.

Am I correct?

Barry Rhodes said...


Yes, you are correct. As soon as you play another ball without announcing it as a provisional, the original ball is lost.

However, if your original ball is found before you have put another ball in play that is the ball that you must continue with, even if you did not want to search for it and no matter who found it, even if it was a spectator.


Unknown said...

How many strokes is the stroke and distance penalty? Some of my friends belive it'seems a two stroke penalty while others believe it'seems a one stroke penalty. For example. I hit a ball out of bounds or lost. For time sake. I take a drop where it went out. I don'the hit a provisional ball. Is this a one stroke or two stroke penalty.