Sadly, we as golfers don’t always hit our balls where we’re intending them to go, and sometimes they end up in the strangest and most awkward of places. The Rule that every golfer needs to know perhaps more than any other is, therefore, what to do when it’s simply not possible to play your ball, or when any attempt to do so may be unwise and could potentially lead you into even greater trouble.

The Rule covering the various options available to you here is Rule 28 – Unplayable Ball – but it is important to stress that you may deem your ball unplayable at any place on the golf course, except in a water hazard. You are the sole judge as to whether your ball is unplayable, and you may even declare it so if it’s sitting in the middle of the fairway should you so wish for whatever reason! Your ball does not have to be physically unplayable for it to be deemed unplayable under the Rules.

If you deem your ball unplayable, you have three options, all under penalty of one stroke:

  1. play a ball from where you last played from; or
  2. drop a ball any distance behind the point where the ball lay keeping a straight line between the hole, the point where the ball lay and the spot on which the ball is dropped; or
  3. drop a ball within two club-lengths of the spot where the ball lay, but not nearer the hole.
One of your options is to drop your ball within two club-lengths of where it is lying

One of your options is to drop your ball within two club-lengths of where it is lying

Another option is to drop back on a continuation of the line from your ball to the flag

Another option is to drop back on a continuation of the line from your ball to the flag

However, it’s quite possible that not all of these options will realistically be available to you on every occasion because of where your ball is lying, and sometimes you may simply have no real choice but to go back to where you last played from, however unappetising that may seem!

Sometimes you may have no practical choice but to go back to where you last played from

Sometimes you may have no practical choice but to go back to where you last played from

One other thing to remember is that if the unplayable ball is in a bunker, you may proceed under clause a, b or c. However, if you elect to proceed under b or c, the ball must be dropped in the bunker. So, the only option that will get you out of the bunker is option a… assuming you last played from a spot outside the bunker, that is!

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