Relief - Free drop

That’s a relief – free drop’s in golf

Rules & Regulations

After speaking to a few amateur golfers it seems they may not really know the rules of golf.

Now i’m not talking about rules which penalise you, there are quite a few rules which are designed to help you as well.

A good knowledge of these rules can save you some valuable shots around the course.


There is some great information available from the R&A in their quick start guide.

Relief is a general term which means you are allowed to re position your golf ball without penalty.

In pretty much all cases this will involve marking where the ball was, lifting the ball and then dropping it in a new location.

When do i get relief

Man made obstacles

Man made obstacles - Bench, path, etc...
You can take relief from a variety of unpleasant situations, the first and probably most common is man made obstacles.

This applies to rakes, yardage markers, green keepers equipment, benches, fences, walls – the list is endless.

If you find yourself in a situation where you cannot address your ball as you usually would you may be entitled to take relief.

Standing water

Standing water - Casual water
You can also take a drop from standing or casual water.

This is a bit of a grey area, what exactly is standing water, if you find your golf ball in a puddle you can take relief.

No water? Soft ground can still give you a free drop, but its a bit more complicated.

You can still take relief if, when you stand in the area water rises around your shoe.

Young Trees

Staked tree - Protected tree
Young or protected trees are another reason to take a free drop.

These trees are marked either with a stake or some kind of wrapping.

If you find yourself near a protected tree and you cannot complete your normal swing you can take relief.

When can’t i take relief?

Local Rules

The local rules of any course override the R&A rules of golf so always check the scorecard for any local rules!

Some golf clubs allow you to take relief from paths, others however do not and you must play the ball as it lies.


You may find yourself in a stream up against a man made bridge.

Previously the man made bridge would allow you to take a free drop, however! Once you enter the hazard all bets are off you must then follow the rules for hazards. That means no relief in hazards!


Unlike other hazards you can take relief in a bunker.

This may be due to a rake or a flooded bunker, before you celebrate though your free drop must remain inside the bunker!

How do i take relief?

Movable Obstacles

If you can move the obstacle, do so.

Try not to disturb your ball and always place the obstacle back where it should be.

This could be as simple as moving a rake or taking a stake out of the ground.

Play your shot and then replace whatever you moved.

Immovable Obstacles

You must mark the position of the golf ball, normally with a tee or something similar.

You then find the nearest point of relief. This is the nearest area which is acceptable to play from, this doesn’t mean go to the fairway and pick a nice flat lie.

The nearest point could be knee deep rough.

Taking relief will only move you away from an obstacle it will not always give you an easy shot.

The point you choose cannot be any closer to the hole, you must always be equal or further away.

Find the nearest point of relief and measure an area 1 club length to take your drop, mark the area with another tee.

Drop your ball within the area, you are now ready to continue your round with no penalty.

Leave a Reply