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Proper Method Of Taking A Drop

Posted: 11/20/2012

What is the proper method of taking a drop during the course of a round?

Dropping a ball during a round of golf is not uncommon. Whether taking free relief from a cart path or under penalty after hitting into a water hazard or deeming a ball unplayable, dropping is frequently the required method to put a ball back into play.  Regardless of the reason for dropping, it is as much a part of golf as actually making a stroke. In fact, an entire Rule is dedicated to who, how and where to correctly drop a ball (Rule 20-2: Dropping and Re-dropping). 

During the second round of the LPGA Tour’s season-ending CME Group Titleholders, first-round co-leader Sun-Young Yoo hit her drive near a bush on the 14th hole. After a failed attempt to move her ball down the fairway, Yoo decided to deem her ball unplayable, take a one-stroke penalty and drop the ball within two club-lengths of where the ball originally lay (Rule 28c).

When Yoo dropped the ball she held it at arm’s length and at a height somewhere between hip high and shoulder height.  Rule 20-2a states that, “A ball to be dropped under the Rules must be dropped by the player herself. She must stand erect, hold the ball at shoulder height and arm’s length and drop it.”

While shoulder height allows for some latitude in where a ball may be dropped -- somewhere between the top and bottom of the shoulder – Yoo’s drop was clearly made from below where the Rules required, and since she did not lift the ball and correct her mistake (Rule 20-6) by re-dropping before playing her next stroke, Yoo was penalized one stroke under Rule 20-2a.

The current language requiring a player to drop from arm’s length and shoulder height was introduced in 1984. It was a simplification of the somewhat awkward previously required method of facing the hole, standing erect, and dropping the ball behind the player over the shoulder.

However, both methods were designed with the same intent: to standardize the method of dropping so different methods could not be employed to manipulate how much or how little a dropped ball might bounce and thereby either stay near the spot on which it is dropped or roll farther away from that spot.  A player dropping from a lower height might find it easier to drop on a specific point and improve the chances that the ball will remain on the spot where it lands. Likewise, dropping from a higher point might allow the ball to bounce harder and roll further from where it strikes the ground.

While it is difficult to know whether Yoo actually gained any type of advantage from her lower-than-required drop, and she made it clear in her post-round comments that she had no intent to try to gain an advantage, the one-stroke penalty was still applied because dropping other than in accordance with the Rules could result in a player gaining an advantage.

 

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