In our next Ask the Ref feature, we ask Women & Golf’s rules expert Sheila Waltham: I need to take a drop – is it one club length or two?

This week's Ask the Ref feature with Women & Golf’s rules expert and England Golf Rules Referee Sheila Waltham is all about taking relief when your ball ends up somewhere unplayable.

We've all been there: Your ball's on a path or wedged behind a tree and you need to take a drop. But how many club lengths is it again, one or two?

Taking a drop

By Sheila Waltham

When you need to take a drop, the guidance is, broadly speaking, as follows:

Free relief = One club length from the nearest point of complete relief

Penalty relief = Two club lengths from the reference point

There are also other options available, but we'll cover the basics of these two for now.

Free relief

Free relief is offered if you have interference (for the ball, stance or area of intended swing) from a range of conditions that are not deemed part of the challenge of playing golf. For example, your ball lies on an artificial path. This path is what we call an "Immovable Obstruction".

The nearest point of complete relief is the point closest to where the ball lies on the path, where you can now play that same stroke without interference from the path. This is your reference point for measuring the relief area of one club length, no closer to the hole.

The relief offered by this option only provides relief from the path and could be a very short distance or a considerable distance away from where the ball originally lay. There is no guarantee that when dropped in this relief area your ball will be playable – it is the closest point, not the nicest!

Penalty relief

For an unplayable ball, the reference point for measuring is the spot where the ball lies; for a ball in a red penalty area, it is the point where the ball last crossed the edge of the penalty area. As you're incurring one penalty stroke, the Rules allow you the extra club length to get your ball further away from the problem area.

About the author

Sheila Waltham

Sheila Waltham has been a qualified rules official for over 15 years and joined the England Golf Tournament Panel of Referees in 2019. A keen golfer since 1995, Sheila’s interest in the Rules was born out of the realisation that a lot of the information she received as a novice golfer was incorrect. So, she took matters into her own hands!

Look out for our next Ask the Ref feature coming soon!