NCG's rules expert Steve Carroll is here to help you out of this sticky situation

A hook or a slice and a ball that’s heading right into the middle of a thick bush. Or trees. Or a hedge. A scenario we know all too well.

It’s a dispiriting experience if the regular questions I receive are any guide.

As you’ll all know, you’ve got three usual options under unplayable ball relief – stroke-and-distance, back-on-the-line relief, and lateral relief. I say usual, because there’s also a fourth way if you’re in a bunker.

But, anyhow, we’re going to focus on lateral relief here as the question that sometimes pops up is: ‘What if two club lengths is not enough?’

Let’s get stuck in…

Unplayable lie rule: Our expert says…

If you decide to take lateral relief for an unplayable ball under Rule 19, the reference point is the spot of the original ball. You’re measuring out your two club lengths from there and the more astute among you will already have realised that, sometimes, taking this course of action won’t be enough to clear the foliage.

So, if you were so minded, can you take lateral relief more than once if required? Yes, you can.

In fact, you can take lateral relief for an unplayable ball as many times as you need. But each time you do it’s going to cost you a penalty stroke.

A general interpretation to Rule 19 casts a bit more light, saying that there is no guarantee a ball will be playable after taking unplayable ball relief.

It uses the example of when a dropped ball goes back into its original position or finds a bad lie in another location in the relief area.

The interpretation reveals that “once the dropped ball comes to rest in the relief area, the player has a new situation”.

So if you can’t, or don’t want to, play it as it now lies you can take unplayable ball relief once again and you can use any of the options that are available to you under Rule 19.

Have a question for our Rules of Golf expert?

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.

If you’ve sent me an email and are yet to hear back from me, I will try to answer your query. I’m still inundated with requests and trying to get through them.

Just to reiterate, I continue to receive emails from players hoping I can intervene in a club rules dispute. For fairly obvious reasons, I can’t do that and would direct those players either to their county or to the rules department at the R&A for a definitive judgement.

Click here for the full Rules of Golf explained archive and details of how to submit a question to our expert.

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