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Rules of Golf by Ryan Farb

Play the Ball As It Lies? Not Always.


he most basic rule and principle of the Rules of Golf is to play the ball

as it lies. Throughout the rest of the Rules of Golf, however, are all kinds of exceptions to that principle. For example, when a player has interference from an obstruction, he or she may take relief and play the ball from somewhere else. It is possible to get yourself into trouble under some of those rules, because they require you to drop and play the ball from a very specific new position. If you don’t play the ball from where the rule requires, you have played from a wrong place and will incur a penalty. Rule 20-7 states that a

player has played from a wrong place, “If he makes a stroke at his ball in play (i) on

a part of the course where the Rules do not permit a stroke to be made or a ball to be dropped or placed; or (ii) when the Rules require a dropped ball to be re-dropped or a moved ball to be replaced.” One important note

about playing from a wrong place is that the penalty does not occur until a stroke is made from the improper location. There is no penalty for dropping or placing in a wrong place, and Rule 20-6 permits a player to lift a ball that has been improperly put into play and correct the mistake prior to playing the ball. The penalty only occurs once a stroke is made from that incorrect spot. In match play, the player loses the hole. In stroke play, the player incurs a

two-stroke penalty under the applicable Rule. The emphasis on “under

the applicable Rule” is important because playing from a wrong place hap- pens when OTHER rules are breached. From the two categories above, playing from a wrong place can be simplified to: (i) playing a ball from somewhere the rule you were proceeding under did not permit, e.g. two club-lengths from the nearest point of relief or from on a wrong putting green; and (ii) you did not re-drop or place a ball when Rule 20-2 required you to lift and re-drop or place. Category (ii) is governed by Rule 20-2 and category (i) is governed by everything else. In order to demonstrate how the penalty for playing

from a wrong place occurs, I will use an example from stroke-play qualifying during this year’s Amateur Match Play Championship at Spyglass Hill.

On the 15th hole, there is a water hazard (marked with yellow stakes and lines). A player hit his ball into the wa- ter hazard and proceeded to drop a ball within two club- lengths from where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard, no nearer the hole. Unfortunately, Rule 26-1 only permits a player to proceed in that manner when the ball last crosses the margin of a lateral water hazard (marked with red stakes and lines). Because he dropped and then played from a place that Rule 26-1 did not permit, the player not only incurred the one-stroke penalty for relief from the water hazard, but also an additional two-stroke penalty for playing in breach of Rule 26-1. Recently on the PGA

Tour, Seung-Yul Noh was penalized two strokes for playing from a wrong place

Playing from one putting green to another might seem in keeping with the spirit of playing the ball as it lies, but Rule 25-3 requires a player to lift and drop the ball off the wrong putting green.

68 / NCGA.ORG / FALL 2014

Red stake or yellow stake? If your ball lies in a hazard defined by a yellow stake, dropping and playing your next shot from within two club-lengths from where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard would be playing from the wrong place. That option exists only for red-staked hazards.

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