Monday, August 9, 2010

Ask Linda #228-Nearest point of relief

Thanks for your reply Linda [Ask Linda #226-Bridge handrail interferes]. That is what I did and it is good to know that I did the right thing. As a matter of interest what would happen if the same situation were to happen and you could not drop the ball within a club-length (not nearer the hole), for example the bridge is quite wide and you are green side of it?

Lou Lou

Dear Lou Lou,

Generally I prefer not to address hypothetical situations. However, in posing this question you have brought up a topic that puzzles many golfers. I am going to take advantage of this opportunity to try to clarify this situation for everyone.

When you are trying to find the nearest point of relief (NPR) from an immovable obstruction (such as the bridge in your question), an abnormal ground condition (such as casual water), or a wrong putting green, you are required to seek the place nearest to where your ball lies that is not nearer the hole and would give you complete relief from the condition. “Nearest point” is not to be confused with “near,” and is not limited to a specific number of club-lengths.

Let’s look at the example you provide of a ball that is lying outside a hazard but is so close to a handrail on the bridge crossing the hazard that the player cannot take a swing without interference. This ball is lying on the green side of the hazard, and is so positioned that there is no relief nearby that does not bring the ball closer to the hole. In seeking relief, this player may find that the NPR no closer to the hole is back on the tee side of the hazard. This player would have to cross back over the hazard to drop his ball at the NPR.

Please remember that free relief is an option, not a requirement. A player in this predicament might very well decide that an abbreviated swing is preferable to having to renegotiate the hazard.

Here is a piece of advice you should tuck into your hatband. Before you lift a ball for which you will be seeking relief (whether free or otherwise), assess your relief options and decide whether they will be an improvement over the predicament you are in. Sometimes a ball may be lying on the side of a cart path, for example, and the nearest relief is in a virtually unplayable lie (fescue, brambles, you name it). It is not the worst fate to have to hit off a cart path, and may very well be preferable to the alternative. Once you lift your ball to take relief, you cannot replace it without incurring a one-stroke penalty for moving your ball.

Players are sometimes confused regarding how to determine the NPR and how many club-lengths they are entitled to. When relief is “free,” here is the procedure:

1. Using the club with which you would hit your next stroke if there were no interference, find the nearest spot where you can take a stance and swing your club. Take your stance, and put a tee in the ground where your clubhead lies.

2. Using any club in your bag (most people would select a driver), lay it on the ground and place one end next to the tee. Place a tee at the other end of the club. When you drop the ball, it must first touch the ground between or behind the two tees. If the ball rolls closer to the hole, you must repeat the drop. If the ball rolls more than two club-lengths from where it hits the ground, you must re-drop. (Note that it can roll outside the area of your two tee markers and still be a good drop, as long as it’s no closer to the hole and doesn’t roll more than two club-lengths.)

This free relief procedure is commonly known as “stance plus one club-length.” Please read Decision 25-1b/2, which offers diagrams illustrating how to find the NPR. These pictures will make it much easier for you to understand the procedure than my attempt to describe it in words. In case you have forgotten how to access the USGA Decisions online, go to the USGA website (, open up the drop-down menu by putting your cursor on Rules and click on Rules and Decisions, scroll down the left side and click on the rule in question (in this case, Rule 25), and then scroll through the Decisions on the right side until you reach 25-1b/2.


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