Why did Rory get a 2 stroke penalty in Pebble Beach for an incorrect drop?

SInce the most recent revision of the Rules of Golf in 2023, when taking back on the line penalty relief you must now drop the ball back ON the imaginary line from where your ball was at rest and the hole. Once dropped, the ball is in play as long as it stays within one clublength of the spot on the ground on this line in any direction, including within one clublength nearer the hole. The spot where the ball is dropped creates the relief area which now is circular in shape. See the video explaining this rule in the Rules of Golf App – click on Learn at the bottom of the main page and then on Unplayable Ball where all the options under the rule are described. This is the correct way to drop any time you take back on the line penalty relief. Rory dropped the ball a clublength away from the imaginary line and was penalised two strokes for playing from a wrong place.

2023/24 Winter Rules Reminder

1.  When we have placing in the General Area as we do at the moment, mark the position of the ball – this is not compulsory but best practice – clean it and place it within 6 inches, no nearer the hole.  You may place it only once.

2.  The General Area is all areas of the course EXCEPT all Penalty Areas, Bunkers and the Green and Tee of the hole being played.  This means that you cannot place the ball inside a penalty area even is it on grass inside the stakes.  Play the ball as it lies or take penalty relief.  You have no free relief for an embedded or plugged ball inside a penalty area.

3.  The bunkers are now out of play so are treated as areas of GUR.  Drop a ball within one club length of the nearest point of complete relief, no nearer the hole.  

4.  When taking free relief from temporary water on the course, leave the ball where it is or mark its position as you decide where to drop so that you have a reference point while you try to find the nearest point of complete relief, no nearer the hole that is dry, then drop the ball within one club length of this point.

Make sure you correctly identify your ball before you play it

To avoid getting a penalty for playing a wrong ball always check that you correctly identify your ball before playing it. If your ball is in the rough or has gathered mud so that it is not easy to identify, mark its position first. pick it up and clean it only as much as is necessary to identify it and replace it. The rules do not allow you to touch and rotate the ball to identify it without first marking it. If you do the penalty is one stroke and the ball must be replaced. Put an identifying mark on your ball to avoid playing a wrong ball and follow the correct procedure to identify it. Rule 7.3 Lifting ball to identify it.

Foursomes and Four-Ball Rules Reminder

When playing Foursomes golf as both partners compete as one side playing only one ball either partner may take any action that is allowed before a stroke is made such as to mark the spot of the ball, lift and replace it and drop and place a ball no matter which partner’s turn it is to play next for the side. 

Penalty strokes do not affect the order of play.    Have a look at Rule 22 which covers all the rules to do with Foursomes (Also known as Alternate Shot)

In playing Four-Ball golf a player may likewise take any action concerning the partner’s ball that the partner is allowed to take before making a stroke, see Rule 23.5a

In both Foursomes and Four-ball a player must not stand on or close to an extension of the line of play behind the ball while their partner is making a stroke to gain information for their (the player’s) next stroke. Rules 22.6 and 23.8

Finally please use your putter head to lower the flagstick to the ground after removing it from the hole to avoid unnecessary damage to our greens by dropping the flagstick on it.

Your ball is unplayable in a bunker – what are your options?

You can declare your ball unplayable in a bunker and you options are the same as elsewhere in the general area ie under penalty of one stroke you can

  1. Go back from where you played into the bunker, stroke and distance
  2. Drop a ball within 2 club lengths of the ball, no nearer the hole, inside the bunker and
  3. Drop a ball back on the (imaginary) line from the flagstick to where the ball is at rest in the bunker, going back as far as you like but still in the bunker.

If you choose options 2 or 3 you may be very restricted in where you can drop the ball inside the bunker. When the rules were revised in 2019 an additional option was introduced and you may now take the ball out of the bunker altogether for two penalty strokes so you may drop a ball back on the line behind the bunker on line with where the ball is at rest and the flagstick. It is well worth knowing this option as it is in addition to the stroke and distance option which will only cost you one penalty stroke but you may not want to go all the way back to where you played the ball into the bunker. Rule 19.3

If you mark, lift and clean your ball in the rough accidentally when it is only permitted on the fairway, what is the ruling?

At the moment we can lift, clean and place within 6 inches on grass cut to fairway height but if you accidentally lift the ball anywhere else in the general area you must replace the ball on the exact spot and add one penalty stroke to your score for the hole for lifting your ball in play when it is not permitted. The same rule applies if you lift, clean and place your ball inside a penalty area. Hopefully this will no longer be an issue when we play the ball as it lies as the weather improves as that is how golf is meant to be played after all! It is no longer compulsory to mark the position of the ball before you lift it when the preferred lies (placing) local rule is in play but it is best practice to do so to make sure you put the ball back correctly.

Repairing plug marks near your ball

Conditions on the course are getting softer as we head into winter and a ball will often plug after a stroke then hop out of its plug mark before coming to rest. If this plug mark is near the ball you cannot repair it before you make a stroke as in doing so you are improving the conditions affecting the stroke by which is meant improving the area of intended stance or swing, lie of the ball and line of play so resist the temptation to press it down with your foot! By all means repair the plug mark afterwards. The rules do allow us to repair plug marks on the green and it is good etiquette to repair any marks you see whether or not you were responsible for making them either before or after you putt.

Winter Golf – Points to Remember

1.  You have 3 minutes to search for a ball so time the search from when you get to where you think your ball may be.  It can be difficult to find a ball in the soft ground after all the rain we have had.

2.  If a crow takes your ball replace it or another ball on the original spot, which if not known can be estimated. No penalty.   It must be known or virtually certain that the bird took the ball otherwise the ball is lost.

3.  When you place the ball during the preferred lie period you can play either the original ball or a substituted ball under the new rules.


You can go back and play a provisional ball during the 3 minute ball search

If a ball may be lost or out of bounds always play a provisional ball to save time.  Ideally you should play the provisional ball before going forward to search but you may also go back during the 3 minute search period and play a provisional ball while others keep searching for you.  If your original ball is found within the 3 minutes it is still your ball in play and a provisional ball played has to be abandoned.  If after 3 minutes your original ball is not found then continue playing with the provisional ball which is now the ball in play, under penalty.  It is important that someone in the group clocks the time that the player begins a ball search as 3 minutes goes by very quickly!  The search time starts when the player him or herself get to where the original ball is thought to be.