The first thing to understand about ‘nearest point of relief’ is that there are a variety of conditions and scenarios where the term comes into play – one important thing to remember is that since the 2019 rules revisions the correct terminology is nearest point of complete relief (more about that later). Some Rules, e.g. immovable obstructions, abnormal course conditions, require you to drop within one club-length of the nearest point of relief with no penalty. Other Rules, e.g. unplayable ball, simply require you to drop a ball within a certain number of club-lengths under penalty.
Once you have determined your nearest point of relief you may then use any club to measure out the one or two club-length dropping area, but what about when you are determining your nearest point of relief?
In determining the ‘nearest point of complete relief’, you should use the club with which you expect to play your next stroke. The picture below perfectly illustrates how to identify where your nearest point of relief is.
For example, say you find yourself 100 yards from the hole but standing in temporary water; you are entitled to relief without penalty. What you need to do is imagine that the temporary water is not there and select the club that you would normally hit from that position, e.g. a pitching wedge. That would be the correct club to use in order to accurately determine your nearest point of relief. You would then use that club to simulate the address position, direction of play and swing. The nearest point of relief would be the point nearest to where the ball lies that is not nearer the hole and where, if the ball was positioned there, there would no longer be any interference from the temporary water as you play your stroke.
As we have mentioned, the rules terminology now refers to the nearest point of complete relief. This means that you cannot still be standing on the the thing you are taking relief from. our nearest point of complete relief is the spot where your stance as well as your ball are no longer in contact with the path or temporary water.
Perhaps the most important thing of all to stress is that nearest point of relief does not mean nicest point of relief! There is only ever one nearest point of complete relief, and sometimes it may be less appealing than where your ball is currently lying. But you don’t get any choice as to where the nearest point of relief is, and sometimes in such circumstances you may be better off playing the ball as it lies (e.g. from a path rather than from the deep heather beside it).