RULE: Drop or Place?

 A question you often hear on the course is, “Do I drop the ball here, or do I have to place it?”

So I decided to go through the Rule book and check it out. Why was I surprised to find out the answer is quite simple – EXCEPT that there are so many variations and exceptions!!

Generally speaking, if the Rules allow you to drop or place:

You place (or replace) the ball:

· When you replay from the tee, you may place the ball on a tee

· When you are on the green, you must place or replace

You drop your ball:

· Through the green

· In a bunker

· In a hazard (eg water)

Now, let’s look at the situations more specifically. Let’s look at each particular situation and the applicable Rule of Golf. I have identified the Rule number so you can check it out for all the details!

Rule 18 – Ball at rest moved.

· If your ball at rest is moved by an outside agency – replace (no penalty) – 18-1

· If you, your partner, your caddy or any of your or their equipment causes your ball to move, your ball must be replaced (1 stroke penalty!) 18-2

· If your ball moves after you have addressed it (other than as result of a stroke) your ball must be replaced (1 stroke penalty) Rule 18-2b

· If your ball is moved in stroke play by a fellow player, his caddie or their equipment, replace 18-4

· If your ball is moved in match play by an opponent, his caddie or their equipment, replace (opponent gets penalised!) 18-3

· If you ball is at rest and is moved by another ball in motion, your ball is replaced. 18-5

· If your ball (or marker) is moved while measuring, your ball (or marker) is replaced 18-6

What happens if your drop instead of placing? Breach of this rule attracts a penalty of 2 stroke! So take care.

Rule 19 – Ball in motion stopped or deflected.

· If you putt your ball on the putting green, and it is stopped or deflected by any moving or animate outside agency, you cancel that stroke, replace your ball and play it again (no penalty. 19-1b

· Through the green or in a hazard, if your ball is stopped or deflected or comes to rest in a moving or animate outside agency, you drop your ball 19-1a

· What if your ball lodges in or on yourself, your partner, your caddies or your equipment (golf bag, cart etc)? See 19-2

o Through the green or in a hazard, drop

o On the green, place

· If you have putted your ball on the green and it is stopped or deflected by another ball in motion, you must cancel that stroke, replace your ball and replay the putt. 19-2b

Rule 22 – Ball assisting or interfering with play

· If you think any ball might assist any other player you may lift the ball (if it’s yours) or have any other ball lifted. The ball so lifted must be replaced. Rule 22-1

· If you think another player’s ball might interfere with your play, you may have it lifted. The other player must replace his ball.


1. In both these above cases, the lifted ball must NOT BE CLEANED unless it’s on the green!

2. Once your ball is in motion, another player CANNOT mark or lift his ball that might influence the movement of your ball (2 stroke penalty!!)

Rule 24 – Obstructions

Movable Obstructions

· If your ball moves when you remove the obstruction, replace the ball (no penalty) 24-1a

· If your ball lies on or in the obstruction, your ball is lifted to move the obstruction. Through the green or in a hazard, drop your ball. On the green, replace.

Immovable Obstruction

· Through the green (except water hazard), take relief and drop.

· In a bunker take relief and drop in the bunker (no penalty) or outside the bunker (1 stroke penalty)

· On the green, take relief and place

· On a teeing ground, take relief and drop

Note: you cannot get relief from an immovable obstruction in a water hazard!!

Rule 25 – Abnormal Ground Conditions and embedded ball

To take relief from Abnormal Ground Conditions (GUR) 25-1b

· Through the green, drop

· In a bunker, drop (in the bunker, free, outside the bunker 1 stroke penalty)

· On the green, place

· On a tee, drop.

· In a water hazard NO RELIEF!

To get relief from an embedded ball 25-2

· Through the green only, lift, clean and drop.

To get relief when on a wrong putting green, lift and drop.

Rule 26 – Water Hazards

There are some options for relief, with penalty of course:

· Stroke and distance from where previous errant shot was played

o If on tee ground, place/tee up

o Through the green, drop

o If in the same or another hazard, still a drop!

· Drop behind the hazard

· If a lateral hazard, additionally you can drop within two club lengths of point of entry or drop on opposite side of hazard equidistant from hole.

Rule 27 – Ball Lost or Out of Bounds

The rules allow you to play another balL, with penalty, under stroke and distance procedure:

· If original ball played from tee, you may place/tee up

· Elsewhere, eg through the green, hazard or bunker – drop

Rule 28 – Ball Unplayable

If exercising stroke and distance option, place if from tee, or drop through the green. All other options for relief under penalty require a drop.