By: Richard Todd
The rule addressing putting a ball back into play has gone through several changes in the past two hundred years, and will go through more soon!
Starting in 1908 the rule stated, a golfer would reintroduce a ball into play by dropping it over their shoulder.
“The player shall face the hole, stand erect, and drop the ball behind him over his shoulder.”
A revised procedure, implemented in 1984, is the current acceptable process. USGA rule #20-2 covers the steps to be taken,
“Stand erect (no slouching), extend your arm at shoulder height, and drop the golf ball within a designated area. The drop area varies between one club length or two based on why you are dropping a ball.”
Always remember to drop the ball no nearer the hole than where it was last deemed to have been. Plus, when re-dropping, the ball, it must not strike a person or equipment, nor roll out of the drop area, into a hazard, onto the putting green, out of bounds, or into a condition that the relief is currently being taken from.
Note that only the player is allowed to put a ball back into play. If another person performs this task a one stroke penalty is accessed.
The USGA has announced that this rule will be changed again, in order to make the process easier, remove randomness of the drop procedure, and help with pace of play.
Beginning January 1st, 2019, a golf ball:
- must be dropped from at least 1 inch off the ground, and
- must be dropped and come to rest within the relief area, which will be either a 20 inch or an 80-inch arc (depending on the reason for the drop).
The USGA and The R&A are trying to make the game more enjoyable and easier to play. This new proposed process is definitely faster, with fewer steps to consider.
Hopefully this will help you with the correct ball drop procedure both now and in the future.