Changes to the Drop Rule

The Current Drop Rule

I’m often asked by my playing partners about the rules for dropping a ball under different circumstances on the course – from hazards, unplayable lies, obstructions and other impediments. Anyone who has read the Rules of Golf knows the answer can be complicated.Read More>> 

Rule 20 of the USGA Rule Book deals only with lifting and dropping the ball – not on where to drop it, how many club lengths you get for relief, and under what circumstances do you lift and drop. Rule 20 alone is two thousand four hundred and twenty-six words. The Decisions Section on Rule 20 is thirteen thousand four hundred ninety four words. It’s so complicated that if you and your opponent disagree on a ruling you could both be right.  Rule 20 is a good cure for insomnia so if you’re having trouble sleeping, here’s a link!rule-20

Notwithstanding the 2426 words in the rule, there are just a few basics that are important when it comes to dropping a ball:

  • Stand erect and drop from the shoulder
  • Don’t drop nearer to the hole
  • If you’re in a hazard drop back in the hazard
  • If your ball rolls into the hazard or onto the green after you drop it and that’s not where you started – redrop
  • If you have to lift the ball – mark it before you lift it
  • Redrop if your ball hits you, another player or your equipment

Drop from Shoulder Height

The New Drop Rule

If you’re as old as I am, with memory failing, the good news it that you only have to remember all this for another 4 months.  January 1, 2019  everything changes. The rules for dropping a ball will now be covered by Rule 14, which is four thousand three hundred three words long (you can see the Royal and Ancient and USGA Are making it simple can’t you?). There are no decisions yet, of course.

The major changes to the Drop Rule are:

  • The ball must dropped straight down from knee height.
  • “Knee height” is defined as “height the players knee when in a standing position”
  • The ball must not touch any part of your body or equipment before striking the ground. If it does you’re assessed a one stroke penalty

Drop from Knee Height

Here’s a link to a USGA video describing the new rule

The original proposal from the R&A and USGA was to drop the ball from two inches. After receiving feedback from the playing public that two inches was like placing the ball, the knee height rule was adopted.

There will also be some changes coming on definition of relief area and how that area is determined. More on that in future blog entries.


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