In depth: Lifting and dropping the ball

THERE is more to lifting and dropping a ball than many golfers realise. Here are answers to some of the questions that may arise.

THERE is more to lifting and dropping a ball than many golfers realise. Here are answers to some of the questions that may arise.

Q. If a player is taking relief without penalty under the Rules (e.g. from an immovable obstruction, or a staked tree when a Local Rule requires that relief is taken) may they drop their ball either on the fairway or in the rough, providing it is within the permitted area of relief?

A. Yes. There is no distinction in the Rules between fairway and rough; both are covered by the term ‘through the green.’


Q. If a player’s ball lies on a closely mown area and the Committee has introduced a Local Rule for preferred lies that permits placing the ball within 6 inches not nearer the hole, may the player place their ball in the rough, providing it is within that permitted area of relief?

A. Yes, as above.


Q. Does a player incur a penalty if they place a ball when the Rules require them to drop it, or drop a ball when the Rules require them to place it, and they then play the ball?

A. Yes, Decision 20-6/1, two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play.


Q. Assuming that a ball has been incorrectly dropped but has not been played, may the player lift it to re-drop without penalty?

A. Yes, Rule 20-6.


Q. Who may lift a ball under the Rules?

A. The player, their partner or any person authorised by them, Rule 20-1.


Q. Who may drop a ball under the Rules?

A. Only the player whose ball is to be dropped, Rule 20-2.


Q. Who may place a ball under the Rules?

A. The player or their partner. Rule 20-3a.


Q. How must a ball be dropped within the Rules?

A. The player must stand erect, hold the ball at shoulder height and arm's length and drop it without spin, Rule 20-6. If a ball is incorrectly dropped the player incurs a penalty of one stroke.


Q. If the ball when dropped touches any person, or the equipment of any player, before or after it strikes a part of the course and before it comes to rest, must it be dropped again?

A. Yes, the ball must be re-dropped, without penalty, Rule 20-2. Note that any small object, such as a coin or a tee, when used to mark the position of a ball or the extent of an area in which a ball is to be dropped, is not equipment and so a re-drop is not required if the ball hits it, Definition of Equipment.


Q. May a ball be marked and lifted more than once on the putting green.

A. Yes, there is no restriction on how many times a ball may be marked and lifted on the putting green, providing play is not unduly delayed, Rule 16-1b.


Good golfing,


Barry Rhodes

Barry Rhodes, a resident of Dublin, Ireland, is qualified as a Chartered Accountant but has spent most of his career in senior sales, marketing and management roles within the information and communication technology sector in Ireland. He is an enthusiastic, high handicap golfer who developed an interest, then a fascination, and now an obsession with the Rules of Golf. 

Barry’s relationship with the Rules began in 2000 with his participation in the inter-club Rules of Golf quiz competitions, organised by the Royal & Ancient for Golf Clubs in Great Britain and Ireland. This progressed to him writing articles, running quizzes, and delivering presentations on the Rules at various Golf Clubs and corporate functions.

In March 2008, Barry became the first person to achieve a 100% correct mark on the public Advanced Rules of Golf Course examination, run by the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) in their headquarters at The Belfry, West Midlands, UK.

Barry is author of the eBook, ‘999 Updated Questions on the Rules of Golf 2012 - 2015’. To purchase the eBook, click here.

He writes a weekly web blog, containing interesting content for anyone who wishes to improve their knowledge and understanding of the Rules of Golf. To visit the blog, click here.

Top photo: Joey Ratcliffe

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