Rules Guy: What do you do when taking relief no closer to the hole is impossible?

Ball in puddle

What do the rules say about taking a drop you aren't able to find an area no closer to the hole?

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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.

Playing after a severe downpour, my second shot rolled into a shallow bunker and was submerged in temporary water. Since the bunker was long, narrow and pointed at the green, and since the ball was in the back end of it, there was no location where my ball could be dropped in the bunker no closer to the hole and not be in temporary water. What are my options? — Bruce Erath, Sherburne, NY

They are these, per Rule 16.1c: Play the ball as it lies (splash!); take free relief in the bunker using the point of maximum available relief (sounds implausible here); or take one penalty stroke and drop behind the bunker using the back-on-the-line relief procedure using a line from the hole through where the ball lay in the temporary water.

Other suggestions include waiting until the course dries out to play next time and not hitting shots into bunkers. You’re welcome.

For more drop-related guidance from our guru, read on …

ball at impact
Rules Guy: I hit my ball with a practice swing, after taking a free drop. What now?
By: Rules Guy

Due to marshy conditions at my club, an area was declared Ground Under Repair and a drop zone was established far behind it. Do I have the option to play my ball from the GUR, or must I use the drop zone? —Mohammed Suleiman, via email

As a general rule, you can play from GUR — unless the committee has declared it a no-play zone. (Rules Guy, and Rules Guy alone, refers to this as an NPZ.)

This is sometimes done to protect flower beds, for example. A drop zone (DZ), it’s worth noting, is generally given simply as an option, in which case you’re also free to play from the nearest point of complete relief (NPCR), but the committee can require players to take relief from a drop zone. So, in summary: Check if the GUR is an NPZ. If so, check whether the DZ must be used; if not, you can also go the NPCR route if you prefer. FWIW. LOL.

Need help unriddling the greens at your home course? Pick up a custom Green Book from fellow 8 AM Golf affiliate Golf Logix.

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

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