Rules: One club length or two?

THERE'S often confusion about whether a golfer is entitled to a drop within one club length or two but Barry Rhodes has a simple solution.

I AM often asked if there is an easy way to remember when the Rules of Golf require that you drop within one club-length or two club-lengths.

Here is a good ‘rule of thumb’:

When you are entitled to free relief it is one club-length and when you incur a penalty it is two club-lengths.

To expand on this, when you take free relief under the Rules, e.g. from an immovable obstruction, casual water, ground under repair, wrong putting green, or a staked tree (if there is a Local Rule), you must drop within one club-length of the reference point, the nearest point of relief that is not nearer the hole.

However, when you are taking a penalty drop, e.g. from an unplayable lie, or in taking relief from a lateral water hazard, you must drop within two club-lengths from the reference point, not nearer the hole (see below).


  • Rule 24-2b: The player may take relief from immovable obstructions.

  • Rule 25-1b: The player may take relief from abnormal ground conditions (e.g. casual water or ground under repair).

  • Appendix l, Part B, 2b, lll (a): Local Rule may give relief from environmentally-sensitive areas, so as to protect them.

  • Appendix l, Part B, 3: Local Rule may give relief from young (usually staked) trees, so as to protect them.

  • Rule 25-3b: If a player’s ball lies on a wrong putting green, he must take relief,

 (Note: In these five situations the player must lift their ball and drop it, without penalty, within one club-length of and not nearer the hole than the nearest point of relief.)

  • Rule 20-3b: Except in a hazard, if the original lie of a ball to be placed or replaced has been altered the ball must be placed in the nearest lie most similar to the original lie that is not more than one club-length from the original lie, not nearer the hole and not in a hazard.


  • Definition of teeing ground: The teeing ground is a rectangular area two club-lengths in depth.

  • Rule 20-2c(vi): A drop is invalid and the ball must be dropped again if it rolls and comes to rest more than two club-lengths from where it first struck a part of the course.

  • Rule 26-1c: In taking relief from a lateral water hazard, under penalty of one stroke, the player may take the option of dropping a ball outside the hazard within two club-lengths of and not nearer the hole than (i) the point where the original ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard or (ii) a point on the opposite margin of the water hazard equidistant from the hole.

  • Rule 28c: Having deemed their ball unplayable, under penalty of one stroke, the player may take the option dropping their ball within two club-lengths of the spot where the ball lay, but not nearer the hole.

  • Appendix l, Part A, 5.d: A Local Rule may give relief without penalty to a player if their ball lies through the green and an immovable obstruction (e.g. a sprinkler head), that is on or within two club-lengths of the putting green and within two club-lengths of the ball, intervenes on the line of play between their ball and the hole.

So, how long is a club-length? The answer is that it can be the length of the longest club that you are carrying in your bag, which typically is a driver. 

However, there is nothing in the Rules that says that you must use the club to accurately measure the distance.

Providing it is obvious that you have dropped the ball within the required area, the drop is valid and the ball is in play if it comes to rest within two club-lengths of where it first hit the course, not nearer the hole than where it was originally at rest.

If you do carry a very long-handled putter in your bag there is nothing in the Rules that specifically prohibits using it to measure club-lengths, but I urge you not to do so, as in my opinion, it is against the spirit of the game.




15 Barry Rhodes & Claret Jug

Barry is the author of ‘999 Updated Questions on the Rules of Golf' (including the January 2016 changes), and '999 More Questions on the Rules of Golf (newly published in January 2016).

He believes that these books provide the easiest and most enjoyable way to absorb and understand the Rules. Barry is an enthusiastic, high handicap golfer, resident in Dublin, Ireland, 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 then led to him writing articles, running quizzes, and delivering presentations on the Rules at a variety of 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 PGA in their headquarters at The Belfry, West Midlands, UK, and in April 2015, Barry received a ‘Pass with Distinction’ in the R&A’s Level 3, Tournament Administrators and Referees School examination, the highest certification awarded.

Barry is author of the eBook, ‘999 Updated Questions on the Rules of Golf 2016’. 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.

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