You’ve got your relief procedures mixed up and have taken your shot. What penalties are you getting? Our rules expert outlines the sanctions
Do I drop a ball, or replace? In the heat of battle, it can be easy to get confused sometimes while out on the course.
But dropping when you should have placed, and vice versa, comes with scorecard consequences in the Rules of Golf.
That is if, and it’s a big IF, you’ve gone on to make a stroke. If you haven’t you can always correct your mistake without penalty.
Let’s assume, though, that you’ve gone through a relief procedure, played your ball, and it’s suddenly dawned on you that you’ve done it wrong.
What penalties are you adding to your scorecard?
It depends on what you did. If you placed instead of dropped, you’ll receive the general penalty. That is loss of hole in match play and two shots in stroke play. Check out Rule 14.3b (4) for more.
If you’ve dropped it instead of replacing, where it came to rest before you hit your next shot becomes key. That’s because when you’re replacing a ball it needs to be on a required spot.
Golf ball drop rules: What are the penalties for getting dropping and placing wrong?
So if your ball happens to be on that spot – even though you’ve dropped it – you’ll only pick up the one penalty stroke.
You might be asking yourself how often that will actually happen in practice. But it must occur occasionally, otherwise it would not be in the rules.
If you’ve failed to hit the target, your ball is not on that spot, and you make a stroke without correcting the mistake, you’ll be getting the general penalty again.
Why? It’s because the ball has been replaced in a wrong way, as outlined in a clarification to Rule 14.2b (2).
Those clarifications are always handy, and a big reason why you should buy a copy of the Official Guide to the Rules of Golf, because they give you plausible examples of where this might happen.
In the one provided here, a player moves their ball during a search. They must replace it but, instead, they drop. The ball bounces, doesn’t land on the original or estimated spot, and they play it from its new position.
“The player has replaced the ball in a wrong way and has also played from a wrong place. The player gets only two penalty strokes as there has been no intervening event,” the clarification states.
Now have your say
Has this ever happened to you? How did you deal with it? Why not let me know by leaving a comment on X.
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