When is it acceptable to put the ball in instead of throwing it? Rules guy

By Rules Guy March 28, 2023

What do the rules say about when you can put the ball down and not throw it?

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The rules of golf are complicated! Fortunately, we have a guru. Our guy by the rules knows the book from cover to cover. Have a question? He has all the answers.

When you can ease your shot by being close to the ball playing surface, do you place the ball or fall from knee height? More generally, when do you put in and don’t put down? — Jesse Trapp, via email

Jessie, do you remember the old advice you learned in school in case of a fire: “stop, drop, and roll”? It really has nothing to do with it – it just occurred to us.

In any case, except for preferred false position (Model Local Rule E-3), you place a ball when taking free relief for interference due to abnormal course conditions when the ball was originally on the putting green, even if the nearest point of full relief off the putting green (see Rule 16.1d).

Under Rule 14.3d, you will also receive a spot if two drops in a valid relief area in the total area fall outside of that relief area. Throw, throw and bet!

For more guidance from our guru, read on…

I got on par 3 with a tee behind an immovable structure and was given a free drop. I made a shot, then I did a practice swing and accidentally sent the ball into the penalty area (more precisely, into the pond). With a new ball, I subsequently rose and fell to par … or 5? Should I have been fined? Does the free fall matter in this situation? — Russell Nath, via email

golfer in the bunker

Rules Guy: If you make a mistake in a bunker, can you pick up a non-playable item and search the area before dropping it? Author: Rules Guy

Actually, Russell, you made a rather fancy 4. Under Rule 9.4, you get a 1-stroke penalty for accidentally moving the ball and must replace it.

That it happened after a free fall is irrelevant, and indeed you didn’t need to fish the ball out of the penalty area if it couldn’t be retrieved quickly and easily. And the Right Guy is too polite to correct the old golf joke about standing too close to the ball… after you hit it in line with your pre-stroke… but consider taking a half step back, huh?

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