The player may deem his ball unplayable at any place on the course, except when the ball is in a water hazard. The player is the sole judge as to whether his ball is unplayable.
If the player deems his ball to be unplayable, he must, under penalty of one stroke:
- Proceed under the stroke and distance provision of Rule 27-1 by playing a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played (see Rule 20-5); or
- Drop a ball behind the point where the ball lay, keeping that point directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind that point the ball may be dropped; or
- Drop a ball within two club-lengths of the spot where the ball lay, but not nearer the hole.
If the unplayable ball is in a bunker, the player may proceed under Clause a, b or c. If he elects to proceed under Clause b or c, a ball must be dropped in the bunker.
When proceeding under this Rule, the player may lift and clean his ball or substitute a ball.
Penalty for Breach of Rule:
Match play – Loss of hole; Stroke play – Two strokes.
Often times, when you’re playing or competing you find your ball in a spot where you don’t think you can hit it. The first thing to remember is that you are the only one who decides if your ball is unplayable, not other people in your group. As the rule states, you have three choices:
- Go back to the spot that you hit it from that got you in trouble. Same as you would do if you lost a ball or hit it out of bounds.
- Draw a line from the flag through your ball and drop on that line behind your ball. Go as far back as you want.
- The most often used choice is this one. Drop your ball within two club lengths from the spot it lies unplayable. Don’t drop it closer to the hole.
Remember, if your ball is in a bunker and you choose option B or C, you have to stay in the bunker.
I always tell my students when talking about how important this Rule is – ask yourself, can you confidently hit your ball into a better place than you can drop your ball using one of these three choices? If the answer is ‘no’, then take the safe choice and use this Rule. Many times I have seen players take two or more swings to advance their ball to a place they could have dropped it for one penalty stroke. Make the smart choice.