Golf Rules Explained: Nearest Point of Relief
Some Rules, e.g. immovable obstructions (Rule 24-2), abnormal ground conditions (25-1), require a player to drop a ball within one club-length of the nearest point of relief. Other Rules, e.g. unplayable ball (Rule 28), simply require a player to drop a ball within a certain number of club-lengths, e.g. in the case of Rule 28c, within two club-lengths of where the ball lies. So some Rules are two-step, some are one-step.
In determining the ‘nearest point of relief the player ‘should’ use the club with which he expects to play his next stroke. This is a recommendation, hence the use of the word ‘should’ rather than ‘must’ , and the player cannot be penalised for failing to follow the recommendation. However, if a player uses a different club, for example a club with which it would not be at all reasonable to expect the player to play his next stroke, he is in danger of identifying a spot, which is not, in fact, his nearest point of relief. If the player does this he may, as a consequence, drop his ball in a wrong place and if he plays from there he will be penalised under the applicable Rule.
For example, say the player’s ball lies 100 yards from the hole but he is standing in casual water. The player is entitled to relief without penalty from the casual water under Rule 25-1. The player should imagine that the casual water is not there and simply select the club he would normally hit from that position, e.g. pitching wedge. That club, that pitching wedge, would be the correct club to use in order to accurately determine his nearest point of relief.
In measuring a one or two club-length dropping area (depending on the Rule) though, the player may use any club.