Rules Column: Russ Wing

With the new rules it’s time to take a look at getting relief

One of the things that’s new in the new Rules of Golf is Relief Areas. So let’s take a look at Relief Areas.

Any time you take either free relief (such as from an immovable obstruction like a cart path) or penalty relief (such as from a penalty area, formerly called a water hazard) and drop a ball, you need to know where your relief area is. Why? Because the new Rules require you to drop your ball in the relief area, and they require that it come to rest in the relief area. Otherwise, you have not successfully completed the relief procedure, and you could get one or more penalty strokes.

A relief area is always defined by three parameters – a reference point, a size, and some limits. The reference point is defined by the applicable Rule – e.g., the nearest point of complete relief, or where a ball last crossed the edge of a penalty area. The size of a relief area is measured in club-lengths (one or two) from the reference point. The limits vary by Rule, but always specify that a relief area not be closer to the hole than the reference point. The resulting relief area is generally going to have a fractional circle shape, somewhere between a half-circle and a small slice.

The new Rules also specify that a club-length is always the length of your longest club excluding your putter. For most players, that means the length of their driver (without the head cover). So that’s the club you should always use to mark the limits of a relief area.

The diagram accompanying this article shows a player successfully dropping a ball in a relief area. This particular relief area has a size of one club-length. And while your relief areas won’t be drawn out nice and neat on the ground like in the diagram, you can and should use tees to mark the reference point, the lateral limits and the back limits of the relief area.

The astute reader will notice that the player dropped the ball from knee height (not shoulder height) as specified in the new Rules. And when she dropped the ball, it landed in and came to rest in the relief area as called for in the new Rules.

So get to know Relief Areas, because they are an important part of the new Rules.