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Gunby: What goes into golf’s ‘ball drop’ and how to manage the relief area
Tee It Up

In 2019, there will be a new procedure for dropping a ball. Your ball must be let go from knee height and fall through the air without touching any part of your body or equipment before it hits the ground. This procedure makes sense when discussing the procedure for taking relief.

The focus of the dropping procedure will be on a specific relief area set by the rule under which relief is being taken. It will be either one or two club-lengths from a reference point.

The relief area is a fixed size for each player and is predetermined based on the clubs the player has selected for play. More specifically, the one or two club-lengths will be measured by using the longest club in your bag other than your putter.

The dropped ball must be dropped in and come to rest in the relief area. There will be no re-drop requirement if the dropped ball accidentally hits a person or object after hitting the ground but before coming to rest in the relief area. Here is an interesting example that will probably happen sometime to all of us.

Let’s assume you drop a ball in the right way, but your ball is accidently stopped by your foot and remains in the relief area. There is no penalty. If the ball then moves when you move your foot, you must replace the ball but again, no penalty is incurred because the ball’s movement was a result of reasonable actions in taking relief under a rule.

Here is a good change for 2019. You will not incur a penalty for accidently moving your ball during a search for it. The ball will always be replaced and if the exact spot is not known, you will replace the ball on the estimated original spot.

There is also no penalty if you or your opponent accidently moves your ball or ball-marker on the putting green. Just replace it on the original spot. Speaking of ball-markers, a ball-marker must be an artificial object such as a coin, tee, or even a small piece of your equipment (no more twigs or pieces of grass).

Here is a good rule change for our windy spring times when a ball on the putting green may be moved by the wind (or water or other natural forces). If you had marked, lifted and replaced your ball before it moved, the ball must be replaced on that original spot.

If you did not mark, lift and replace your ball before it moved, then wherever the ball moved to will be the spot from which you will play it with no penalty.

Continuing with the putting green, there is a rule that allows the repair of almost any damage on it. Damage on the putting green is defined as all types of damage (such as ball-marks, shoe damage, indentations from a club or flagstick, animal damage, etc.) except aeration holes, natural imperfections or natural wear of the hole.

More 2019 Rule changes will be discussed in future columns. Stay tuned.

John Gunby Sr. is a columnist for The Daily Courier. Reach him by email at


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