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Got a dodgy drop and want a ‘test run’? Here’s what the rules say

A ball is only dropped when there is intent for it to be in play. So can you have a sneaky practice and claim you didn’t mean it? Steve Carroll explains

 

Did you know when you drop a golf ball there needs to be the intent for it to be in play?

The definition of drop says if you let go of a ball, and you don’t mean it, it has not been dropped and it is not in play.

Common sense, if you think about it, and covers the rare times a ball might accidentally slip or fall out of your hands into a relief area. The rules, in this case, aren’t going to punish you for being clumsy. If there was no intent, pick it up and drop again.

This also applies, under Rule 14.4, for a ball that’s replaced or placed on the course. The ball is in play only when there is the intent for it to be play.

Some of you may already be thinking ahead – of the scurrilous things golfers could try while claiming no intent on their part.

general area

Golf ball drop rules: Get this wrong and you could be in hot water

Firstly, shame on you. But, secondly, the rules makers are one step ahead and they tackle a specific, and genius, example in a clarification to Rule 14.4.

Say you were taking relief from a path. You’d scouted out the relief area and figured out your ball might end up in a bush in the relief area.

Remember, a relief area includes everything within it. If you drop from knee height and it comes to rest in a bad lie in that relief area, bad luck. It’s in play. You can’t drop again.

So before you pick up your ball and commit to taking relief, make sure you look at where your nearest point of complete relief is and what’s in that one or two club relief area. You may be better off playing it as it lies.

Anyway, back to the example. What if you fancied having a practice run, dropping the ball in one part of the relief area to see if it ends up in the bush and then citing that you didn’t intend to put the ball into play?

The laws of the game will come down on you like a ton of bricks. The clarification we’ve cited – called Test Drops are Not Allowed – says the dropping procedure is meant to create an “element of uncertainty when taking relief under a Rule”.

It adds: “It is not in the spirit of the game to test how a dropped ball will react.”

They say the committee would be justified in disqualifying you for serious misconduct under Rule 1.2a. So make sure you get that golf ball drop right.

Got a question for our expert?

Despite the changes to the Rules of Golf in 2019 and 2023, there are still some that leave us scratching our heads. I’ll try to help by featuring the best of your queries in this column.

What do you think about these golf ball drop rules general? Let me know by leaving a comment on X.

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