Rules Guy: My shot from the drop zone went back in the penalty area. Do I *have* to hit from the drop zone again?

Jordan Spieth drop zone

Jordan Spieth hits from the drop zone at the 2023 Wells Fargo Championship.

Getty Images

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.

A player hits into the penalty area and proceeds to the drop zone. His shot from the drop zone goes back into penalty area. Question: Is he required to return to the drop zone, or may he take back-on-the-line relief? —Stuart Horne, San Rafael, Calif.

Ah, the penalty area as magnet—Rules Guy knows this feeling all too well.

We also know that the player would be allowed to use any of the available options for relief from the penalty area.

The dropping zone is provided as an additional option for relief under Rule 17.1d by the Committee, and using it for relief once doesn’t tie the player to using it again (and again, and again) when the other options are still available, such as back-on-the-line or lateral relief for red penalty areas.

golfer tee shot over water
Rules Guy: Is it legal to avoid losing a ball by taking a penalty off the tee and heading straight to the drop zone?
By: Rules Guy

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

On a par 3 over a pond, your ball falls short of crossing the water. The drop area is a more forward tee with less carry to clear the water. Because that drop area doubles as a teeing area, are you allowed to tee the ball? — Dennis Rautmann, via email

Why are you bringing me into this, Dennis? Rules Guy always takes an extra club and never (fine, rarely) hits into a fronting pond. Nor would RG break the rules by teeing up a second time.

While the dropping zone may be on a different player’s teeing area, it is not your teeing area. You must drop and play a ball from the dropping zone sans teeing it. Were you instead to tee it up, then you’re playing from a wrong place, and the Committee would have to determine whether it’s a serious breach or not. So, in a word, don’t.

Need help unriddling the greens at your home course? Pick up a custom Green Book from 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.

generic profile image