Nearest point of Relief

Nearest point of Relief

Used as a reference point when taking relief from an 'immovable obstruction' or from an 'abnormal ground condition' (see definitions).

A player may take relief from an immovable obstruction or an abnormal ground condition, without penalty, when their ball lies in or on the obstruction, or when the obstruction interferes with the player's stance or the area of their intended swing.

However, when an immovable obstruction intervenes on the intended line of play that is not in itself considered to be interference under this Rule. Also there is not any relief to be afforded for mental interference by an immovable obstruction, such as when a fence is close to, but not physically interfering with the intended stroke. 

When a player is taking relief from an immovable obstruction or abnormal ground condition, they must first determine the nearest point of relief.

The "nearest point of relief" is the point nearest the original ball position which:

1.  is not nearer the hole
2.  Provides "complete relief" (lie, stance, and swing) from the original obstruction or condition.
Note:  The nearest point of relief is a hypothetical "ball position", not a stance position.  Even when taking relief from casual water which impedes a player's stance,  the nearest point of relief is the 'ball position' which allows for the stance to be free of the casual water.
(Generally, there exists only one "nearest point of relief" for any given situation, and that point MUST BE USED if the player chooses to take relief.  Emphasis is on 'Nearest'.  When determining the nearest point of relief, the player is NOT to consider what position is the most or least 'advantageous')
Relief dropping procedure:
The ball must be dropped (strike the ground)  within one club-length of the nearest point of relief.  When dropping:
a.  All of the area defined by the one club-length must provide for complete relief and none of the area can be nearer the hole than the nearest point of relief.
b.  The ball must strike the ground within that one club-length.  The ball does not need to come to rest within that one club-length.  The ball may roll up to a maximum of 2 club-lengths from the point where the ball strikes the ground.
c.  After the ball comes to rest, the ball position must provide the player "complete relief" from the original obstruction.  Complete relief means the original obstruction cannot impede ball lie, stance, or area of swing.

For example, in the photo above, a player’s ball was lying on a cart path. They correctly identified the nearest point of relief, at point X, and dropped the ball there. However, the ball rolled to point Y and, instead of re-dropping the ball, they played it with the heel of one foot just touching the path. The reason why it is so important to take complete relief is that the player incurs the penalty for playing from the wrong place, if they fail to take relief that totally clears the interference; they will incur a penalty of two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play.

Another situation where you have to take complete relief is when a Committee has introduced a Local Rule giving fee relief from young/staked trees. Such a Local Rule is established to protect the trees and it is usual that taking relief is mandatory, not optional. Therefore, if a player drops away from the tree and they then touch any part of the tree (including overhanging leaves or branches) with their club or person while making their stroke, they incur the penalty of two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play, for breaching the Local Rule. 

Taking complete relief is a tricky concept, but it is worth taking the time to understand it if you are to avoid incurring unnecessary penalties.


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