What is an unplayable lie? Well, here at National Club Golfer we’re the publication for the everyday player and so we’ve taken it upon ourselves to give you a step-by-step introduction to the wonderful world of the golfing lexicon.

Sometimes the most obvious terms have the most interesting story, so you might find yourself an interesting conversation starter…


What is an unplayable lie?

An unplayable lie is not, as you might expect, a lie that is just never going to play out. For example; “I got that rash from too much jogging, dear”.

So what is the meaning of this infuriating phrase and where did it come from?

An unplayable lie occurs when the ball has come to rest in a position from which you are unable to take a swing or otherwise advance the ball further.

This only applies to the ball coming to rest on land as there is a separate rule for water hazards.

In the situation where you are, for whatever reason, unable to play your shot, you have three options:

  • Go back and play a ball from where your last shot was taken
  • Drop a ball at any distance behind the unplayable ball, providing you keep a straight line between the hole, the unplayable ball and the ball you are using to take a drop
  • Drop a ball within two clubs length of the unplayable ball, as long as the dropped ball is not closer to the hole

If your unplayable lie is in a bunker and you decide to take a drop, the ball must remain in the bunker.

Unplayable lie

How would you use it in a sentence?

The first drive ended up in deep rough so I was forced to declare an unlayable lie.

Any other business?

Jordan Spieth famously declared an unplayable lie after a wayward drive on the 13th at Birkdale during the final round of the 2017 Open. We all know what happened next.

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