We all know it’s from knee height, but there is plenty more to consider if you’re going to take relief correctly. Our Rules of Golf guru guides you through

You must drop the ball from knee height. For those of us used to letting it go from the shoulder, or even from over the shoulder if you go back far enough, getting used to the new ways was quite a change in the revisions to the Rules of Golf in 2019.

But making sure it’s knee height is only part of the picture when it comes to dropping a ball and you’ve got to make sure you do it right.

It’s all covered by Rule 14.3 – and so here’s everything you could possibly want to do about how to correctly a drop a ball…

How to drop a golf ball: What you need to know

Only you can drop the ball

Don’t let another player do it, or a caddie if you’ve got one. If you’re dropping a ball, Rule 14.3b says only the player can do it, though in foursomes (Rule 22.2) or fourball (Rule 23.5a) either partner can act for the other.

Make sure you drop the ball straight down

Don’t spin it, throw it, roll it or do anything else that might have an impact on where the ball comes to rest. When it’s being dropped, it can’t touch either you or your equipment before it hits the ground.

What is knee height?

Sounds obvious, right? But Rule 14.3b makes an important distinction. It means the “height of the player’s knee when in a standing position”. What difference does that make? You don’t need to be standing when the ball is dropped. You could be laid flat on your back, if you wish, to drop the ball – as long as it is done from knee height.

Here’s a complicating question: Does the ball always have to fall that distance to the ground? What if you were dropping on a steep slope?

There’s an interpretation to Rule 14.3b (2) that answers this. It says that while the ball has to fall through the air to be dropped, it will “not always fall the distance of the player’s knee to the ground”.

If that sounds mind-bending, just remember to go from knee height and you can never go wrong.

What if I dropped it wrongly?

Say, for example, you didn’t drop it from knee height. Then you’ve dropped the ball in a ‘wrong way’ and you must correct it. You’ll hear later on about the number of times you can drop before you can then place a ball, but that doesn’t apply here. If you’ve dropped a ball in a wrong way, Rule 14.3b (3) says there is “no limit” to the number of times you must repeat it until it’s done properly. If you don’t get this bit right, don’t correct it, and hit the ball anyway you’re going to be picking up penalties. We’ll get onto those in a minute.

The ball must be dropped and come to rest in a relief area

Although you don’t have to, this is why it’s recommended to use tees to measure out your relief area when you are going to take a drop. When a ball is dropped, and it’s done so in the right way, it has to come to rest in the relief area.

What if it comes to rest outside the relief area?

Good question. Drop the ball again, making sure you do so once more in the right way.

What if it still won’t stay in the relief area?

If you’ve dropped it in the right way twice and it still won’t behave then you are going to place the ball. You put it on the spot where the ball that you dropped for the second time first touched the ground. If it doesn’t stay there, try again for a second time. If, after that second time, the ball still won’t stay on the spot you then have to find the nearest spot where it will – no nearer the hole, of course. And yes, there’s an interpretation to Rule 14.3c (2) that says that might be outside the relief area. Still with me?

What if the ball strikes me, or my equipment, after it has hit the ground?

You’ll remember earlier on we said when you drop a ball it can’t touch you or your equipment before it hits the ground. That doesn’t apply if it bounces off you or your bag, or any other outside influence, after it has struck terra firma. If the ball stays in the relief area, your task is complete and you must play the ball as it lies. If it comes out of the relief area, then you revert to the procedures we’ve already outlined above.

What happens if I don’t follow these procedures and make a stroke anyway?

You’re going to be adding penalty shots to your score. But the number of strokes you are hit with depends on whether the ball was played from the relief area or not.

If you make a stroke after dropping a ball in a wrong way, you get one penalty stroke if the shot was made from the relief area.

If it was played from outside the relief area, or if you placed it when you were supposed to drop it, you’ll tag on the general penalty. That’s two shots or loss of hole in match play.

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