2019 rules changes to know: The new procedure for dropping a ball

December 18, 2018

On Jan. 1, more than 30 changes to the Rules of Golf — some small, others significant — will take effect. To get you ready, this holiday season GOLF.com is rolling out a series, “The 12 Days of Rules Changes,” to ensure you always play by the rules, starting with your opening round of the year.

The Topic: The new procedure for dropping a ball

The Old Rule: When taking a drop, a player must stand erect and hold the ball at shoulder height and arm’s length when dropping. A drop in any other manner is a one-stroke penalty.

The New Rule: The new rule states that a player’s only requirement is that the ball must be at knee height when dropping and must not touch any part of a player’s body or equipment before hitting the ground. There’s no need to keep your arm erect or worry about that pesky posture, just hold the ball by your knee and drop. This proposed change originally said players could drop from any distance  recommended to be at least one inch above the ground  but that was later revised to knee height. That, we think, was a good change, if for no other reason than thinking of how foolish golfers might look by getting on their hands and knees and dropping a tiny ball merely an inch. There’s also been a revision to the rule regarding where a dropped ball must come to rest. A ball must only be dropped in and come to rest in the relief area, and if it fails to stay inside the relief area it may be dropped again. If still outside the relief area after the second drop it will be placed where it first touched the ground on the second drop.

A golfer drop's a golf ball at his knees.
A golfer drops a golf ball at his knees, which is the new procedure for a drop starting in 2019.

Why It Was Changed: The new way to drop will increase the chance of a ball staying within its relief area, but dropping a ball (instead of placing it) still doesn’t guarantee a perfect lie. As for the changes to a dropped ball coming to rest, it is now more likely the ball will be played from close to where it originally came to rest.

How It Can Help You: Dropping from a lower point should give you a better chance to secure a desired lie. The lower height of the drop also limits how much a ball might be embedded (in the sand, for example) after a drop.

I diagram of how the ball must be dropped and come to rest.
This diagram shows how a ball must be dropped and come to rest.

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