Thursday, December 10, 2015

Ask Linda #1209-Where to drop

Hi Linda,
I like your site. Here is a question that has caused a lot of confusion at the club.

Where exactly should you drop under stroke and distance, say for a ball hit out of bounds or a ball maybe played under the provisional ball rule? Is it as near as possible to where the last ball was played or is there some latitude to that, say if you have made a large divot with the stroke - are you entitled to the lie you had before or should you aim to drop in the divot? Are you entitled to two club lengths as with relief penalties? More precisely, where should it first strike the course?

Lou from Barton on Sea, England

Dear Lou,

It is a tribute to the intricacy of the Rules of Golf that a person may answer over 1200 questions yet still find herself looking at an absolutely brand new inquiry!

The Rules regarding where to drop are the same for stroke and distance and balls hit provisionally, so I will refer only to balls played under stroke and distance. The Rules state that a ball dropped under stroke and distance must be dropped “as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played” [Rule 27-1]. You are not entitled to two club-lengths, or stance plus a club-length, as you would be when taking relief from abnormal ground conditions, immovable obstructions, or unplayable balls. Stroke and distance is not a relief procedure; it is an entirely different matter, and has its own specific Rule.

So what do the Rules mean by “as nearly as possible?” Other than the divot problem that you mentioned (which I will address shortly), I would think the directive is perfectly clear. You must drop the ball as close as possible to the spot where it lay when you hit your previous shot. If you don’t know the precise spot (which you may not if you are returning to the area after a fruitless search for a ball, or it was found out of bounds), you are expected to do your best to estimate that spot. After you drop the ball, you are required to re-drop if it rolls to any of the locations listed in Rule 20-2c (e.g., the ball rolls nearer to the hole than its original or estimated position).

Now we’re ready to address the divot issue. You had a perfectly clean lie prior to your shot that flew out of bounds or was lost, but you dislodged a divot and are wondering whether you must drop the ball you play under stroke and distance into the divot. The Rules say “no.” Decision 20-2c/1.5 describes a player who has identified the spot where he hit his last shot by referencing a divot, and goes on to say that he drops the ball “immediately behind that divot hole.” This indicates that a ball played under stroke and distance may be dropped right behind the divot the player took when he hit his previous shot, and that this is a perfectly acceptable drop procedure.

There is another divot issue to address. If you have dislodged a divot, and you immediately play another ball under stroke and distance, you may not replace the divot before you drop and play your next ball. This would be a breach of Rule 13-2. However, it is not a breach if you hit your ball, replace your divot, go forward to search for your ball, discover it is lost or out of bounds, and return to drop and play another ball under stroke and distance [Decision 13-2/4.5]. In this situation you were unaware that you would have to return to the area to play another ball, so there would be no penalty for improving the area in which you will have to drop a ball. You are always expected to properly care for the course.

When you play another ball under stroke and distance, and the Rules require that you drop the ball, the ball must first strike the same ground as your original lie, be it through the green or in a hazard [Rule 20-5b, c]. (“Through the green” means anywhere on the course except the teeing ground and the putting green of the hole you are playing and all hazards.) For example, if your original ball lay in a bunker, you must drop in the bunker; you may not drop outside the bunker, even if the ball proceeds to roll into the hazard.

It should be mentioned before we finish that all of the above applies to balls dropped through the green or in a hazard. Remember that shots from the tee can be placed anywhere on the teeing ground and may be teed, and that a ball on the green must be placed (there shouldn’t be any divot issues).

In summary, when you have to play another ball under stroke and distance, drop it as close as possible to the spot where you hit your previous shot, no closer to the hole, and immediately behind your divot if you took one.

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