Rule of the Month: Unplayable Ball
November 1, 2021
If you are in a situation where you don’t want to or don’t think you can play your ball, you always have the option of taking relief under the unplayable ball Rule. The player is the only person who can decide that their ball is unplayable, and this can be done anywhere on the golf course except when your ball lies in a penalty area. If your ball is in a penalty area, your only relief option is to take relief under the penalty area Rule.
When you decide that your ball is unplayable, you have three relief options, all for one penalty stroke. Your first option is to go back to the spot of your previous stroke and play again (stroke and distance relief). Your second option is to go back as far as you’d like and drop on the line from the hole through the spot where the ball lies (back-on-the-line relief). Your third option is to drop anywhere within two club-lengths of where your ball lies, no closer to the hole (lateral relief).
If your ball lies in a bunker, you must remain inside the bunker under options two and three. You also have a fourth option for an extra penalty stroke (two penalty strokes total) which allows you to go back on the line and drop your ball outside the bunker. Click here to learn more about these options in our video on bunkers.
- I don’t think I can play my ball as it lies (unplayable) – what are my options?
- I don’t think I can play my ball as it lies in the bunker (unplayable) – what are my options?
- May I decide my ball is unplayable when it is in a penalty area?