RULE: I don't think I can play my ball from here

Ever get into the situation where it is better to take a penalty than try to hack your ball out of an unplayable place?

What is the penalty? What are my drop options?

Firstly, who decides whether your ball is unplayable?

You do, and you are the sole judge of that!


 Where can I declare my ball unplayable?

Any place on the course except a water hazard. Yes, even a bunker (but note you have to drop in the bunker.)

What is the penalty for taking relief under this rule?

 A penalty of one stroke.

OK. What are my options then?

You have three options if you declare your ball unplayable.

· Play a ball as near as possible from where you played your last shot. If that was from the tee then you can tee it up.      

· Drop a ball within two club lengths of spot where your ball rests, but not nearer the hole. Now sometimes, even though your drop was lagal" this does not give you adequate relief from hte problem. If you do use this option and a legal drop does not give you relief—stiff cheese. You cannot drop again. One chance is all you get. So maybe the next option is better 

· Your other option is drop a ball behind the point where the ball rests, but keeping that relief point between the drop point and the flag.

 BUT—if you were in a bunker and you declared your ball unplayable, then (if using option 2 or 3) then you MUST drop your ball in the bunker.

If you require total relief from playing out of the bunker your only option is to go back to where you played your previous shot.

 Can I clean my ball when I decide to lift it under this rule?

Yes you can clean it—you can even substitute another ball if you wish. 

My ball went into the scrub, and I can’t find it. Can I declare it unplayable and use option 2 or 3? 

No! You must find your ball before you have the option of declaring it unplayable!


In this example in the photo, you would invoke option 2 as it provides the best relief. Dropping at the maximum distance of 2 club lengths from where the ball lies lets you at least see the flag. Remember the ball MUST strike the ground within that 2 club length zone.

What do you do if you drop the ball correctly, it lands within the permitted area, but rolls away from the legal drop zone, stopping still no nearer the hole?

Check out Rule 20c - when to re-drop ( p88)