In most rounds of golf you play, you will probably have to take a drop at some stage, either as free relief from a certain interfering condition or perhaps as a penalty drop when you have hit your ball into a water hazard or had to deem it unplayable.
Rule 20-2 covers a full two pages in the latest Rules of Golf book, and while there isn’t space to go into the full details here, there are a few things that some golfers do get wrong or don’t quite understand about various elements of the process, particularly when it comes to dropping and re-dropping.
Firstly, if you drop your ball and it touches any person or the equipment of any player either before or after it strikes a part of the course and comes to rest, you must re-drop without penalty under Rule 20-2a. So if your dropped ball rolls against your trolley wheel or a leg of your standbag, don’t panic!
Once you have dropped the ball correctly, Rule 20-2c then covers a number of other instances in which you are also entitled to a re-drop, among them when your ball: (i) rolls into and comes to rest in a hazard; (ii) rolls out of and comes to rest outside a hazard; (iii) rolls onto and comes to rest on a putting green; and (iv) rolls and comes to rest out of bounds.
But perhaps the one that is most misunderstood among the remaining three sub-clauses is Rule 20-2-c(vi). This states that the ball must be re-dropped without penalty when it “rolls and comes to rest more than two club-lengths from where it first struck a part of the course.”
What this, of course, means is that you don’t re-drop just because your ball has come to rest beyond the tee peg that many golfers will put down to mark the extent of the available dropping area. The purpose of such a marker – which is not compulsory but highly recommended – is merely to highlight where the ball must first strike a part of the course when dropped.
But once it has been dropped, provided that all the other conditions of Rule 20-2c have been met and the ball has not rolled nearer the hole, you are only allowed to re-drop the ball if it comes to rest more than two club-lengths from where it first struck a part of the course.
So next time you spy someone about to pick their ball up and re-drop when it has rolled beyond their tee-peg marker but not beyond two club-lengths from where it first struck a part of the course, step in quickly to prevent them incurring either a one-stroke penalty under Rule 18-2 for moving their ball in play that was at rest, or a two-stroke penalty under Rule 1-2 if the ball is still moving (taking an action to influence the movement of the ball).