Wednesday, October 3, 2018
Ask Linda #1815-Unplayable ball dropped, rolls back into unplayable lie
My drive ended up about three feet into a very prickly gorse bush and was unplayable. I decided to take the two-club option. I carefully measured out with my driver and marked correctly with tees, etc. The two club lengths got me about two feet out from the bush. However, because of the slight slope when I dropped the ball, it rolled back under the bush and was again unplayable. I dropped the ball again but the guy I was playing with said that if I dropped it again, it was another stroke penalty. What is the proper ruling here?
Lou from Dublin in the Republic of Ireland
This is an excellent question, Lou. I suspect the answer will surprise you, your fellow competitor, and a number of my readers.
When you take relief from an unplayable lie, the ball is in play as soon as you drop it [Rule 20-4]. If it rolls back into the same unplayable lie, or even a different unplayable lie, and you decide to take relief, your second drop comes with another penalty stroke [Decision 28/3]. So if you drop the ball three times, you will incur three penalty strokes – one for each drop.
A player confronting an unplayable situation must carefully assess his relief options. If the two-club-length option looks like it might be troublesome (in your case, the sloping ground should have given you pause), and the flagline option will not provide relief (often the case in a densely wooded area), the best option might be to play under stroke and distance.
Both you and your fellow competitor confused Rule 28 (Unplayable Ball) with Rule 20-2c (When to Re-Drop). When a player is entitled to free relief, and the dropped ball rolls into a position where there is interference by the same condition, he must re-drop the ball, without penalty. After the second drop, if he still has not gained relief, he must place the ball on the spot where it hit the ground when it was re-dropped. If he lifts the ball for a third drop and then plays it, he will incur a two-stroke penalty (loss of hole in match play) [Rule 20-2c (v)]. This Rule applies only to the free relief that you would get from an immovable obstruction, an abnormal ground condition (e.g., casual water, ground under repair, burrowing animal hole), a wrong putting green, and the pitch mark from your embedded ball.
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