Never fear, our rules expert is on hand to make sure you don't get it wrong again

Remember how much fuss dropping a ball from the knee caused at the start of 2019? It was like the whole golf world had gone mad when the new drop rule came into effect in the changes to the Rules of Golf.

Go back far enough, though, and the shoulder high drop was once preceded by dropping over your shoulder with your face turned away from the ball. Things change.

But just in case you haven’t managed to get out for a round over the last year or so, or you’re still a bit confused, let’s take a look at Rule 14.3 and see how it should be done.

What is the new drop rule?

Rule 14.3 covers dropping a ball in a relief area and applies “whenever a player must drop a ball in taking relief under a Rule”.

You may use the original ball or another ball and the ball “must be dropped in the right way”.

That sounds pretty obvious but what does it actually mean?

  1. The player must drop the ball – Don’t let another player or caddie do it. You’ve got to drop the ball yourself
  2. The ball must be dropped straight down from knee height without touching player or equipment – Don’t throw it, spin it, roll it or use “any other motion that might affect where the ball will come to rest”. It also can’t touch any part of the player’s body or equipment before it hits the ground.

For the purposes of the Rules, ‘knee height’ means the height of the player’s knee when in a standing position. It doesn’t mean, though, you have to be standing when the ball is dropped.

Why knee-high? It’s not a random measurement. Rules chiefs looked at other heights, and even placing the ball, but it was considered dropping from the knee would keep consistency and simplicity in the dropping procedure, while also ensuring an element of randomness.

It also increases the chances of the ball remaining in the relief area after it is dropped, while also reducing the risk that the ball will embed itself in a bunker.

If you drop the ball incorrectly, make sure you re-drop. If you don’t, and then hit it without correcting your mistake, you’ll get a one-stroke penalty if it was played from the relief area. If it was outside the relief area, tack on another penalty shot.

What are relief areas?

It’s where you must drop a ball when taking relief. The size and location are based on three factors:

  1. Reference point – this is the point from which the size of relief is measured
  2. Size of relief area measured from the reference point – this is normally either one or two club lengths
  3. Limits on location – such as only in the general area, or not in a bunker or penalty areas, or not nearer the hole, or where there is no interference from which relief is being taken

If you have any questions about this or any other rules, feel free to tweet me.

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 23 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former captain and committee member, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the national Tournament Administrators and Referee's Seminar. He has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying and the PGA Fourball Championship. A member of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap.

Handicap: 10.9

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