Rules Guy: Can you switch to a lefty (or righty) swing in order to get free relief?

What do the Rules say about swinging as a lefty to get free relief?

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The Rules of Golf are tricky! Thankfully, we’ve got the guru. Our Rules Guy knows the book front to back. Got a question? He’s got all the answers.

During a recent Myrtle Beach trip, a member of our group found his ball up against a boundary fence. A right-hander, he had no shot whatsoever right-handed; however, if he decided to play the shot left-handed his stance would have been on the cart path. Can he get a free drop by declaring he intends to play the shot left-handed, and if he does, must he then in fact play the shot left-handed, or can he do an about-face and then play right-handed if the drop permits it? —Derek Yoder

Can you be a registered Democrat and vote Republican, or vice versa? Yes. Can you change religions on your deathbed? Sure. Can you get free relief by saying you want to play lefty when you’re righty, or the reverse? Actually, maybe.

golfer behind tree
Rules Guy: Are you entitled to free relief from an immovable obstruction in your line of sight?
By: Rules Guy

The question is, how would the player play the stroke if the cart path weren’t there. If the left-handed stroke is reasonable under the circumstances, then you can take free relief for that stroke. Once you’ve done so, you’re in a new situation and can play the stroke in whatever manner you see fit.

Don’t believe Rules Guy? (How dare you!) Look up Rule 16.1a(3), which notes that you don’t get free relief for a clearly unreasonable way to play a stroke or, better yet, Interpretation 16.1a(3)/1, which talks through a very similar example to yours involving a movable obstruction. A parenthetical and a slash — you think the Rules are sufficiently thorough?

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Got a question about the Rules? Ask the Rules Guy! Send your queries, confusions and comments to rulesguy@golf.com. We promise he won’t throw the book at you.

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