Rules Column: Russ Wing

Relief areas are an important part of new rules for 2019

This month I want to take another look at Relief Areas, because they are a new and important part of the new Rules. And I’d like to use Rule 19 – Unplayable Ball as the featured Rule.

Please see the diagram accompanying this article that has been borrowed from the new Rules of Golf.

Rule 19 gives a player three relief options for an unplayable ball – Stroke-and-Distance (1), Back-on-the-Line (2), and Lateral (3) – each with an associated 1-stroke penalty. These are the same three relief options that were available under the old Rules. But what is new and different is the definition of Relief Area, and the requirement that a ball be dropped in the Relief Area and come to rest in the Relief Area.

Notice that the size of the Relief Area varies by the relief option. The Relief Areas for Stroke-and-Distance relief and Back-on-the-Line relief have a size of one club-length, whereas the Relief Area for Lateral relief has a size of two club-lengths. And remember that under the new Rules, your club-length is always the length of your longest club other than your putter.

Before dropping a ball, you should always mark the Reference Point, the outer limits, and the back limit of the Relief Area with tees (or some other suitable object). Why? So that you can make sure that when you drop a ball it lands in the Relief Area and comes to rest in the Relief Area. And remember that under the new Rules, you drop a ball from knee height, not shoulder height.

What if the ball you dropped in the Relief Area doesn’t come to rest in the Relief Area? Then you drop a ball a second time. If the second dropped ball doesn’t come to rest in the Relief Area, then you place a ball where the second dropped ball first landed in the Relief Area. This is the so-called drop-drop-place procedure.

Rule 19 also offers a new relief option if your unplayable ball is in a bunker. For a 2-stroke penalty, you can take Back-on-the-Line relief outside the bunker. You can read more about this new relief option and see a diagram of it in Rule 19.3 – Relief Options for Unplayable Ball in Bunker.
Get to know the new Rules of Golf. You’ll be glad you did, and sorry if you don’t.