The "punishment" for a player hitting a grandstand tends to be a drop zone a mere flop shot from the green. Is it time to change this rule?
You see it at golf tournaments all over the world – players hitting grandstands and being allowed to use a drop zone which, more often than not, just off the green and a nice fluffy lie. Is it time for a change? Two of our writers disagree…
‘The drop zone is never enough of a punishment’
There was an instance during the 2019 Nedbank Challenge where eventual champion Tommy Fleetwood and Marcus Kinhult were coming down 18 in their first play-off hole, writes Alex Perry. Kinhult was in trouble and had to play sideways, while Fleetwood had a tricky lie – but he could see the green.
While the Englishman was weighing up his options, Sky’s on-course commentator, Wayne Riley, said: “The ball is above his feet, so the ball is going to hook. I would say just smash it straight into the grandstand, take the drop and make par.”
I’m paraphrasing slightly but that’s largely the gist.
Now I’m not digging out Fleetwood here, I’m delighted he’s back in the winners’ circle, but I will never get my head around the fact that you could miss the green by potentially 100 yards and be “punished” with a free shot from a drop zone merely yards from the putting surface.
Picture this scenario: Player A finds the green in regulation and two putts for par. Player B shanks his approach, clatters into the grandstand, takes his drop and gets up and down from 15 yards for the same score. Are you telling me that’s the fairest way to do it? If you are then we’ll have to agree to disagree.
The drop zones at the Nedbank Challenge, and generally in other competitions, are too lenient. So what’s the answer? Making it out of bounds seems too far the other way.
I quite like the idea of the drop zone being greenside, but really thick rough. So let’s take a leaf out of Portrush’s book from the Open…
‘It’s called using the rules to your advantage’
I don’t really see what the massive issue is with this rule, writes Joe Hughes. It’s a man-made structure and whether players hit into it on purpose or not players are still entitled to relief.
Imagine for a minute that those stands weren’t there, there is a good chance that from a bad lie or a tricky position that is where players could feasibly find themselves by design or otherwise.
So why should the fact that the organisers have chosen to put a grandstand in that place impact on the players ability to play a shot?
I’ve seen some people suggesting that stands should be ruled as out of bounds but to me this just seems unnecessary and poorly thought through.
This is still a spectator sport and fans need to be close to the action and create a good atmosphere. Make them out of bounds and you would have to put more space between them and the greens. In some cases players who miss the green by just a few yards are impeded by the stands, you can’t be punishing players that harshly for such a small error.
Players, like Fleetwood, are simply using the rules to their advantage. It’s just smart play.
Would you change the rule? Let us know in the comments below, or you can tweet us.