Whether or not you should get relief from a divot is one of the sport's hottest topics – and even the NCG team are divided. Steve Carroll and Hannah Holden make their cases

Should you get relief from a divot in golf? It’s a discussion that rears its ugly head over and over and over.

relief from a divot

Most famously in recent times, Tiger Woods dunked his second shot of the 150th Open in the burn after his ball found someone else’s crater on the Old Course’s famous opening hole. And it’s a topic so divisive, the NCG team can’t find common ground…

‘Relief from a divot? Get on with it!’

Not this again, writes Steve Carroll.

“Play the course as you find it and play the ball as it lies.” It’s written in the Rules of Golf. It’s a central principle of the game.

Yes, I know you can get free relief from abnormal course conditions – an artificial path, an animal hole, or temporary water, to name just a few.

Is there anything particularly abnormal, though, about a divot? Walk down any fairway and you’ll find plenty of them.

It sucks, I know. I was in a trough myself only the last time I played. I feel your pain, but let’s not change the rules.

What’s next? Do we allow preferred lies on the fairway every time you’ve got a really sticky lie? Didn’t you hit a good shot then as well?

And how would you define a divot? How big does it need to be – a gouge or a crease caused when a club hits the ground? Liberties would be taken.

Sometimes in golf, you get a bit of bad luck. I think it’s part of what makes the game so special. “Them’s the breaks,” as I heard someone say recently.

As legendary referee John Paramor pointed out on one of our Rules of Golf explained videos: “A divot is just something we have to all put up with. It’s just part of the golf course and you’re going to have to play away.”

So get on with it.

‘Play the ball as it lies everywhere or let me take relief from a divot’

A fairway should be treated like the green, writes Hannah Holden.

If I’ve hit a good shot onto the putting surface, I’m not expected to putt the ball out of my pitch mark, or over the pitch mark of someone else. So why do I have to play out of the fairway when someone has taken a divot and damaged the surface?

I have been in divots before where more than half the golf ball is underground. Yet if my ball had stayed in its own pitch mark, at the same depth, I am not expected to play the shot.

People argue about keeping the skill in the game but where is the skill in hitting a shot where it is impossible to get to the bottom of the golf ball? If one of the greatest golfers ever to play this game can’t control his ball flight properly out a divot, how should we be expected to?

What is the point of hitting a good shot into the fairway just to play out of a terrible lie? If I know there is a tricky slope somewhere, or a particular thick patch of rough, I can use my skill to avoid it. How can I do that for a divot?

You can scream “play the ball as it lies” until you’re blue in the face but there are already so many areas of the game where this doesn’t take place. Either play the ball as it lies everywhere or let me take relief from a divot.

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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. Steve is currently playing: Driver: TaylorMade Stealth 2 3-Wood: TaylorMade Stealth 2 Hybrids: TaylorMade Stealth 2 Irons: TaylorMade Stealth 5-A Wedge Wedges: TaylorMade Hi-Toe 54 and 58 Putter: Sik Sho Ball: TaylorMade TP5

Handicap: 11.3

Hannah Holden

Equipment and Instruction Editor

Hannah Holden is the Equipment and Instruction Editor here at National Club Golfer. If you’re looking to improve your game, by changing your golf swing or upgrading your golf equipment she’ll have the answers. As well as writing lots of features and reviews you can find her on our YouTube channel giving you insights on the latest rules, clubs and tips to improve your golf game. Hannah is a member at both Huddersfield and Alwoodley golf clubs. You will either find her here or driving up and down the country playing in a variety of elite amateur events.

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