Stumped by something you've seen out on the course? Our Rules of Golf expert delves into the book to find you the answers

Despite the simplification of the Rules of Golf at the beginning of 2019, there are still some that leave us scratching our heads. And as I’ve passed the R&A’s level 2 rules exam with distinction, I am more than happy to help. Kevin Seve Higgins – what a great name – emailed to ask: “My ball is in the bunker and it’s ground under repair. What is the ruling? Can I drop my ball at the point of entry not nearer the hole? Can I take lateral relief outside the bunker? This will improve my shot to the green, which I don’t agree with. I would always take the point of entry, however my friends drop their ball laterally. Can you advise, please?”

Rules of Golf explained: Our expert says…

Good question as, with my powers of clairvoyance, I reckon we might be seeing this scenario at clubs up and down the land at present. Coronavirus has changed the way we play, at least temporarily. Given we can’t use rakes, some clubs – with CONGU’s blessing where the conditions are very poor – have declared all bunkers to be ground under repair. When a committee defines a bunker as GUR, for example if it is being repaired, it is treated as part of the general area. So, as far as the Rules are concerned, it is no longer a bunker. You can proceed under Rule 16.1b, which covers relief from an abnormal course condition in the general area. It’s free relief but the key thing, for Kevin and his friends, is the reference point for establishing a relief area is the nearest point of complete relief in the general area. Once you’ve done that, it’s one-club length and no nearer the hole. And it’s got to be a spot where there is complete relief from all interference by the abnormal course condition. Now, don’t think taking free relief necessary entitles you to a glorious lie. You might not like the nearest point of complete relief. A general interpretation to Rule 16.1 says relief from an abnormal course condition can result in better or worse conditions. “If a player receives a better lie, area of intended swing or line of play in taking relief under Rule 16.1, this is the player’s good fortune,” it states. “There is nothing in Rule 16.1 that requires him or her to maintain identical conditions after relief is taken”. But remember, you can also play it as it lies from ground under repair if you wish – unless prohibited by Local Rule.

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