Friday, September 2, 2016

Ask Linda #1371-Nearest point of relief provides relief from behind tree

Hi Linda,
I hope you can help. Recently I found my ball in a rabbit scrape behind a tree. The tree was in a direct line to the green. I took one club-length from my nearest point of relief, which was to the side of the tree but not nearer the hole. I was then able to play the ball onto the green. My partner disagreed, saying that when dropping the ball I should have dropped it one club-length from the nearest point of relief but directly behind the tree. What is your view?
Lou from Bangor, County Down, Northern Ireland

Dear Lou,

I don’t have a “view,” Lou; I have an answer under the Rules of Golf.

When a player is entitled to free relief from an abnormal ground condition (a rabbit scrape falls under this category), he must find the nearest point of relief. Once that point is established, the player must drop within one club-length. He may not drop nearer the hole, into a hazard (if he wasn’t in one in the first place), or onto a putting green (unless the ball was on the putting green, in which case the ball would be placed, not dropped).

The nearest point must be precisely that. If there are two nearest points that are equidistant, the player has a choice of where to drop; otherwise, he has no choice. Sometimes his lie will be improved (a move from the rough to the fairway); sometimes the nearest spot will be in a virtually unplayable area. Again, the player has no choice – “nearest” means “nearest.”

The only restrictions on the dropping area are the one club-length distance and the “no closer to the hole.” There is absolutely no requirement that the player drop in a particular direction so as to preserve any problem he may have had when his ball came to rest (e.g., behind a tree). If the one-club-length drop from the nearest point of relief happens to get you out from behind the tree, enjoy your good fortune.

Please read Rule 25-1b, which explains how to take relief from abnormal ground conditions; Decision 25-1b/2, which explains how to find the nearest point of relief; and Decision 24-2b/9.5, which is a very interesting Decision showing how a player taking relief from a cart path might conceivably end up dropping his ball off the path, out from behind a tree, and onto the fairway!

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